It’s morning rush in the spirit-filled streets of Seoul, at the corner of overpriced hotel and shoe repair guy. In the corner coffee shop the cup is held close in both hands, fingers of hot, steamed aroma gently massage my face. I pause to solemnize the moment before taking the first sip. No other taste of coffee the rest of that day will be its equal. My early-hour grogginess and that very first slurp run toward each other in slow motion across a meadow, jump into each other’s arms and tumble as one into the waving wheat as the violins reach a crescendo.
People who want to live to be a hundred and ten never eat chocolate-filled croissants, but I heard on the bedside radio that today is National Self-Sabotage Day. I’m always good for a holiday. People have written whole chapters in cookbooks about the natural harmony of coffee and chocolate. You would instantly trust the intentions of a country that had a steaming cup of hot coffee and a chocolate-filled croissant on its national flag. That would be a nation that knows peace.
At a back table of the coffee shop by the window, my attention is drawn to something unusual outside and I briefly touch the glass because I want to assure myself that at least something, the window, is tangible and real. I am watching spirits plod along. Spirits usually know they have died when they naturally cross over. These folks I am watching may not have gotten the memo. They appear to be earthbound spirits, marooned between here and there, and for about twenty seconds I can see them. There are hundreds of them walking along, still going to work, as they must have done for decades during their lives.
They look less distinct to me than the living. They are dull and slightly faded. The living walking past the window, and the dead, pass among and through each other without noticing. As a group, the spirits look less hopeful or expectant than the living commuters. The spirits look as though they have exhausted their to-do lists. There is nothing new to accomplish, no new appointments or meetings, no calls left to return. Not a one of them looks content. A few are obviously anxious. Perhaps they know something is amiss, but what?