This is one of my many failed attempts to write a novel before I started getting serious about it. I can write much better now, thank you.
A Novel By Shelton Bumgarner
To Annie and Venus
Chapter 1 : Zero to Hero
Just as Topher walked into New Phillies and greeted Lorelai, everyone on one side of the bar jumped up and raced out the door. Topher looked out the door and into the night. He was shocked at what he saw — fire was coming out of a second floor window of a bar just down the street.
Without thinking, he joined the crowd racing down the hill to the site of the fire.
“Someone call Korean 911!” he yelled as he ran down the hill.
Topher bounced up the stairs to the bar and instantly realized the door was locked. Grabbing a orange fire extinguisher, he began to smash through the glass door. He was about a third of the way through the glass — reinforced with a lettuce work of thin steel — when he felt a sharp pain shoot through his arm.
He looked down and saw a jagged cut on his wrist, a little too close to the blue veins of his wrist for his liking. Without thinking, he turned and walked back down the dark staircase into the street. Blood was dripping from his wrist and he soon found Lorelai worriedly waiting for him.
“Are you ok?!” Lorelai said, running up to him.
“I gotta go to a hospital or something,” Topher said, trying not to show how much his wrist hurt.
Within moments, he and Lorelai were in the back of an ambulance.
During the trip, Topher was obviously upset.
“What is it?” Lorelai asked. ‘Why are you so upset?”
“I didn’t put the fire out,” Topher said. “If I was my dad, I would have put that damn fire out. But I quit. I quit like I always quit.”
“You didn’t quit, you got hurt so you stopped,” Lorelai said.
“But if I was my dad, I wouldn’t have stopped. I would have kept going despite the pain. I would have put that damn fire out!”
Once they got to the emergency room, the nurses refused to do anything for his wrist besides putting it in large, makeshift bandage made of cotton. They told him because he was drunk they couldn’t do anything to help right then.
“Welcome to Korea,” Topher said in frustration.
“Come on, you’re a hero! Come back to my place and have some soju. We haven’t even had a chance to talk about the magazine yet,” Lorelai said.
“Soju would be nice,” Topher said. “And I do want to talk about the magazine.”
The two of them slammed passionately against the door of her small rooftop apartment within moments of reaching it. Topher had felt the sexual tension as they walked up the steep hill that lead to her place, but he didn’t know if it was the residual excitement from the fire or something real.
When they got to the door, something went click and they were all over each other. Lorelai fumbled with her door and started taking her clothes off as Topher did the same. Topher hopped naked into her bed, which was a simple mattress on the floor. She straddled his waist while Topher fumbled with the back of her bra.
“For once, being old comes in handy,” Topher joked, trying to ignore the pain of his hand.
“How old are you, anyway?” Lorelai said as her breasts were released from her bra and into Topher’s waiting mouth.
“How old are you?” Topher asked back.
“Oh boy, I’m 34.”
“You’re not that old, and you look a lot younger than your age,” Lorelai said, getting comfortable as Topher got in between her legs. Topher had just taken his black glasses off, the last thing he always did before having sex.
“What’s my name,” she said suddenly, stopping him cold.
Topher was taken aback. He remembered that he’d come up with a mnemonic for her name, but he couldn’t remember it at first. She reminded him in appearance of a young Justine Frischman, the lead singer of the 90s Britpop band Elastica,, but he knew her name wasn’t “Justine” or “Jesse.”
Then he remembered the mnemonic, “It’s all a whory lie.”
“Lorelai,” Topher said at last. “Your name is Lorelai.”
“Don’t fall in love,” were her last words as Topher’s mouth made it’s inevitable progress down the length of her naked body.
Lust kept the two of them awake most of the night. The two of them would occasionally laugh as Topher tried to keep his wrist out of the way or tried to prevent his glasses from being crushed. During a lull in their lovemaking, Topher found admiring Lorelai’s naked body in the dark. The two of them were spooning and Topher was cusping Lorelai’s belly. It wasn’t much of one, but he smiled at the notion that his new love might have a beer gut. He took in a deep drink of her sweat and it seemed like some strange, earthy perfume.
Suddenly, Topher felt the need to confess something.
Kissing the nape of Lorelai’s neck, he brushed her short hair away from her ear and kissed it. She seemed awake enough for such a confession, so he went for it.
“Lorelai,” he said softly.
“Yeah, what is it,” she said, sleepily.
“I’m bi-polar,” he said with a deep sigh. “I vowed to myself I wouldn’t keep it a secret to any woman I slept with and so I had to tell you.”
Lorelai turned around so her nose was deep in his armpit. She made a face and turned back around. Obviously, she did not have similar feelings regarding the smell of his sweat.
“It’s ok,” she said. “We’re all a little strange. Dream of the magazine.”
Topher went to sleep, but didn’t dream of anything.
The next morning, Topher awoke to the smell of pot. Lorelai was nude and sitting cross legged next to her ratty mattress smoking a joint and staring at him.
“Hi,” she said with a smile.
“Hi. Wow. Did you rock my world last night,” Topher said after a moment.
“Yeah I did,” she said, rocking back and forth and laughing silently as she scrunched up her face.
“So, about the magazine,” Topher said. “You’re in? We really didn’t get to talk about it much because of the fire.”
“Yeah, I’m in. I’ll be the layout person and you be the editor and publisher.”
“So it was either this or a band, huh,” she said.
“Yeah. Waygook just stopped publishing so that’s what tipped the balance. And I start DJing at my favorite bar in Sinchon come Friday. So that would have made it more difficult to be in a band,” Topher said.
“How much start up money did that woman from Mike’s Cabin give you, if you don’t mind me asking?” Lorelai said.
“1 million won,” he said. One million won was about $1,000.
“That’s not very much,” she said.
“It’s enough to get us going. I see it as our ‘float’ money that I’ll use to keep us going in a crunch,” Topher said.
Topher put his glasses back on so he could get a better look at Lorelai’s nude form. What he saw impressed him — he could get used to seeing her naked on a regular basis. And her smell. It was the best perfume he’d ever smelt. Just being around it turned him on.
With his glasses on, he was able to take a good look at Lorelai’s apartment. It was a complete disaster. A pig sty of epic proportions. Dirty clothes were everywhere and there seemed to, at least from the titles, a large selection of classic porn next to her TV.
“Uh, you’ve managed to assemble a nice little stash of porn there,” Topher said.
“Yeah I did,” Lorelai said, again slightly rocking back and forth as she scrunched up her face and laughed silently.
Lorelai’s door slammed open suddenly and a woman with a ruddy face looked at the two of them agape.
“Lorelai Goldman, who the FUCK is that!” the woman said, in a tone of voice that reminded Topher of his mother when she was angry with him.
“Posot, Topher, Topher, Posot,” Lorelai said flatly as Topher scrambled to cover his naked form.
“I came up here to tell you about the fire at the Orange Tree last night. Mr. Kim is looking for some guy who saved the day,” Posot said.
“Almost saved the day. I almost saved the day,” Topher corrected. “Posot, what kind of name is that?”
“It means ‘mushroom’ in Korean,” Posot said.
“She talks about taking mushrooms so much her students named her that,” Lorelai said, finishing her joint.
“Oh, do you think that’s the smartest thing to do? I mean, that could get you in a lot of trouble,” Topher said, wishing it was just Lorelai and him again.
“Well, so can smoking pot,” Lorelai said, defending Posot.
Topher hated pot. He did, however, like booze — maybe a little too much. His favorite tipple was soju, the local rotgut liquor of Korea. It typically came in a little green bottle and was cheaper than high-end water at some stores. His body had first not known what to do with soju when he first started drinking it two years previously. He had blacked out and thrown up more from soju than he dared admit to himself. Nowadays, he was able to drink at least three bottles of soju before bad things started to happen. Topher didn’t get hangovers so there was no punishment the morning after a hard night of drinking.
“Anyway,” Posot said brusquely, “Mr. Kim wants to help you out since you didn’t get stitched up last night.
Topher and Lorelai got dressed and went with Posot to Indigo, the restaurant below the Orange Tree, where Mr. Kim was waiting for them. While Indigo had been spared in the fire, the Orange Tree was gutted. In America, it would have taken months for the Orange Tree to be up and running. Topher knew enough about “dynamic Korea” to know that that would not be the case here. He estimated the Orange Tree would be back in business within two weeks.
“Here’s our hero,” Mr. Kim said, patting Topher on the back.
“I’m not a hero. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t even put the damn fire out,” Topher said.
“It’s ok. You tried, that’s all that matters.”
Mr. Kim took the group of them to the hospital in his truck. Topher was squeezed between the two women and it took all his willpower to keep his hands off Lorelai. Once they got to the hospital, Topher did not acquit himself very bravely as his stitches were put in, saying “ouch” a half dozen times and all but squealing in pain.
“Topher and I are starting a magazine together!” Lorelai said to Mr. Kim.
“Really? What kind of magazine?” Mr. Kim said, honestly interested
“Well, it’s called ROKin Magazine and it’s about rockin the ROK!” Topher said, painfully making the “Rock on” sign with his injured hand.
“Is it a music magazine?” Mr. Kim said.
“It’s not a music magazine, it’s just a general interest magazine for expats. But one you’ll actually want to read…”
“…unlike Waygook..” Lorelai said.
“…unlike Waygook.” Topher agreed.
Waygook Magazine had been the only mainstream magazine in Seoul until it had abruptly ceased publication for mysterious reasons. Some people said it was because the owner owned a lot of money, but no one knew for sure. Waygook was a corruption of oegugin, which meant “foreigner” in Korean.
“You’ll need a Korean to incorporate it for you, you know,” Mr. Kim said. “Otherwise you’ll be violating your work visa.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Topher said. Topher worked for a newspaper for children learning English. He was really bad at it, but his employers kept him because he could drink more soju than any foreigner they’d ever met and they saw him as more of a wayward child than a fully functioning adult. Topher was always getting in trouble at work for doing things during company get togethers that would have gotten him fired in any American company. One time he had gotten so drunk that he’d blacked out, only to discover that he’d sexually harassed nearly every woman in the office. He felt horrible for doing it, but it didn’t change his behavior.
Topher, in fact, wasn’t that good of a reporter. He had been something of a drunk back home in America and had only come to Korea out of sheer desperation. He had lucked out with his current job because he wasn’t that good a teacher, either, and he knew it.
Mr. Kim dropped the three of them off in Lorelai’s neighborhood, which he learned was called Haebangchon, or HBC. HBC was the center of the expat community in Seoul. The Orange Tree Phillies and The Local were the three main bars in the community and there were two different types of people in the community — those who frequented Phillies and those who frequented the Orange Tree, or OT as it was also called. The Local was a “neutral” bar that both types of people felt safe visiting. Phillies had quiz nights, while the OT had more beers and was larger. Phillies was a very small bar and at one point had had a pool table.The Local was own by a Korean woman and a Canadian man and was more of a hipster hangout.
Chapter 2: Rock DJ
Topher and Lorelai managed to ditch Posot — whose real name apparently was Ursula Swartz — and made their way back to her apartment for another round of lovemaking. The next afternoon, which was Sunday, Posot met Topher and Lorelai for Sunday brunch at Indigo which was amazingly open given the disaster one floor above it.
“So when is the magazine going to come out,” Posot asked over breakfast.
Topher looked at Lorelai as if to double check before proceeding.
“I get paid on the 15th, so that gives us less than two weeks. I’m going to chip in a few hundred dollars to start off with and use the money from Mary of Mike’s Cabin only when needed,” Topher said, holding up his hurt wrist because it felt better.
“I’ll chip in some money,” Posot said.
“So will I,” Lorelai said, touching Topher’s hand. Topher liked it when she touched him, especially in public.
“Ok, great. I just want the damn thing to come out. That’s my goal, so I’ll take any money I can get.”
“I’ll contribute a cover, too,” Posot said. “See that painting over there, that’s mine.”
“Posot, it looks like a vulva,” Topher said, grimacing.
It did, in fact, look like a very red, very engorged vulva. Topher wondered why Mr. Kim allowed such an obviously sexual painting to be in placed in a public place like a restaurant, but kept quiet.
“Posot, thank you very much for the offer, but Lorelai and I will make the decision of what the front cover will be. Right dear?”
“Don’t call me ‘dear,’” Lorelai said. “In fact, I don’t want any term of endearment from you. Got it?”
Topher was taken aback a little bit. There was so much to learn about this new lover, so many mysteries to be unraveled. Topher frequently slept with women he knew nothing about. He thought that was part of the adventure of life, finding out what the luck of the draw had handed him when it came to matters of the heart. Lorelai had already provided him some of the best sex he’d ever had and yet she didn’t want even a minimal amount of emotional intimacy.
“Say, are you coming to see me DJ for the first time on Friday?” Topher, said, almost bouncing out of his seat with excitement.
“Maybe. You should come to Dawn’s 80s Prom on Saturday night,” Lorelai said.
“Who’s Dawn?” Topher asked.
Posot and Lorelai looked at each other strangely.
“A friend,” Lorelai said with a grin, digging into her eggs with sudden gusto.
“Dawn is a major party planner in the expat community,” Posot said. “How do you not know this?”
“I don’t know much about the expat community in Seoul right now,” Topher said.
Topher had been in Korea for two years, but because of where he lived he had not been very well connected to the goings on in Seoul among expats. He had spent most of his time the last two years hanging out with Koreans and he had had a lot of fun. Topher’s first months in Korea had been some of the funniest in his life, even though he’d lived in faraway Incheon on the coast and only come into the center of Seoul on the weekends. In was during those first few days in country that he had learned about Nori in Sinchon. Nori was the coolest place in Korea, at least to him, and
Part of the reason why he was starting the magazine was he wanted to make expat friends. Lorelai was a gateway to a new world for him.
It was Friday evening and Topher was nervous. It was his first night DJing at Nori and he wanted to make a good first impression by doing well. If it was possible for someone to be in love with a bar, Topher was in love with Nori. When he first came to South Korea, Nori was one of the first bars he had been taken to. Something about the place, despite it’s reputation as being a “dirty bar” and a pickup joint really appealed to
He had never been a DJ before, he just knew a lot about music and had been able to prove to the owner of Nori. While not as prestigious as the Saturday night gig with the bar was the most packed of the week, working at Nori as a DJ was a big deal to someone like Topher.
Topher left work with his blue North Face backpack secretly containing his CDs. He didn’t want his real job to know about his DJing job just yet because he was afraid they would ban him from doing it. Even though Nori had a wide selection of CDs and vinyl to choose from, after he left work Topher spent a few hours downloading and then burning music onto CDs. Despite having a computer with an Internet connection, Topher didn’t want to chance any technical difficulties on his first night.
Topher had just moved to Sinchon from the Gimpo Airport area and was thankful that he had done so, despite the complications. His landlord was John Lee, a man who owned a bar nearby and up until recently had been a close friend of his. Then something happened, something bad, and Topher found himself wanting to extricate himself the relationship as much as possible. It was with that in mind that he walked passed John Lee’s bar, Lee’s Retreat, and headed straight to Nori.
By the time Topher got to Nori, the bar was slowly beginning to fill up. He was scheduled to play music from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. that night. He had also told the boss, who he just thought of as the Boss because his Korean name was too difficult to pronounce or to remember, that he would work Wednesday nights as well.
“You’re late,” the Korean behind the bar said in a thick accent.
“What are you talking about? It’s barely past 10 p.m.,” Topher said.
Topher looked at all the CDs and vinyl he had to choose from. There was an entire wall of them, in fact. The only place he knew that had greater selection of music on hand was the bar Woodstock which was in the same neighborhood.
The evening started off slow. Topher started to get nervous that no one would show up. Soon, however, he noticed people taking notice of the songs he was playing. Topher decided to start playing “dirty” songs like “Pussy Control,” by Prince, “Pussy” by Lord of Acid and “Fuck the Pain Away” by Peaches just to see if he could get a rise out of people. It worked. By the time Lorelai, Posot, a third woman and a man entered the bar people were beginning to dance.
“Hey! How’s it going?”
Topher was secretly pleased — and a bit surprised — that she had actually showed up.
“Topher, this is my friend Dawn,” she said, placing her head on Dawn’s shoulder and smiling.
Topher’s subconscious mind screamed at him to take notice of this, but all he did was take a sip of his free beer and shake Dawn’s hand.
“And this is my friend The Wanderer,” Posot said introducing the man. He was an older man with salt and pepper hair and wearing a purple knit hat that in Topher’s opinion made him look like a fool.
“This bar is a shit hole,” Posot said. “I like FF a lot better.”
FF was a bar in the Hongdae area of Seoul. The few times he’d been to FF, or Funky Funky as it was also called, he had thought it was a poor rip off of Nori. He did have to give the place credit, however, for having live music as well as a DJ.
“Posot,” Topher said, standing up and taking a deep swig of his beer, “You suck.”
“I don’t know man,” The Wanderer said, “I agree with Posot. This place is kind of nasty.”
Topher took another sip of his beer, hiding his eye roll with the glass.
“What kind of music do you like, Lorelai,” Topher said. Topher wanted her to say Britpop so bad.
“Well, Radiohead is my favorite band of all time, I guess.”
It took all of Topher’s willpower not to lean over the bar and give her a hug. Radiohead was Topher’s favorite band as well. He was really beginning to dig this girl. Not only did she smell great, but she had great taste in music as well.
“What else,” Topher said.
“I really like The Velvet Underground and The Slits,” she said eying Dawn and drawing out “Slits” salaciously.
“So you’re going to tomorrow’s 80s Prom, right?” Dawn said, changing the subject.
“Yep. Sure am,” Topher said. “It’d make a great feature for the magazine.”
Lorelai smiled and had a special little twinkle in her eye that Topher would do anything to see again. This magazine was his baby, it was their baby and he would protect it like a father would protect a child in danger. This child, like any child, would be in danger of dying if there was no money left to feed it.
Topher was heartbroken for two reasons that night. The first one was when Lorelai left with her crew for parts unknown. He assumed they were going somewhere like FF where all the hipsters hung out and Posot would feel more at home. Even though it was obvious that Lorelai was a hipster and he hated hipsters, he was willing to make an exception of her. He continued to think about the way Lorelai had looked at Dawn. He suspected they were lovers, but he had no proof.
The other reason why he was heartbroken was he just didn’t feel like he did a good enough job DJing. People danced, but not the way he remembered it on Friday nights previously. The only reason why he had even gotten the job was that the previous Friday night DJ had left the country.
Topher had noticed that Friday nights at Nor had become kind of dull and he had bothered the owner until he got the job.
It was just after 6 a.m. when a disheartened Topher began to packing up his stuff. He was wired yet drunk. The energy of the night had got his juices flowing, while all the free booze he had drunk had him wasted. And he had the sense that he’d failed everyone by not being a good enough DJ. He was pulled aside by a Korean staff member.
Topher’s heart sank — they’re going to fire him.
“You’re meeting us, right,” he said in broken English.
“For what?” Topher said.
“Come with me,” the Korean said.
Picked up his backpack and followed the Korean out the door and to a nearby galbi, or Korean BBQ restaurant. Topher was shocked, a large group of people seemed assembled and he was the guest of honor.
Among the gathered was the Saturday night DJ, Phil and his longtime Korean girlfriend, Carrie.
“You did a pretty good job tonight,” Phil said in his characteristically droll manner. Phil was a master rock DJ, but he claimed to hate the vast majority of what he played. What inspired such awe in Topher was Phil’s ability to slip in really good music while people were so worked up dancing that they didn’t notice what was going on. For instance, Topher once saw Phil play a Radiohead b-side at the height of a Saturday night’s dance time. It blew Topher’s mind. The owner of Nori saw Phil as a son. Topher barely knew the owner of Nori, he just knew the guy looked like an older version of Chaka from Land of the Lost.
The small group drank and talked until about 10 a.m. Topher, for once, felt a peace. Things were beginning to fall in place for him. He just wish Lorelai had been there.
Chapter 3: Gaia
Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” was playing the moment he spotted she and a friend walking briskly past the bar Vinyl in Hongdae where Topher was waiting for Lorelai and Posot. Topher was on really good terms with the owner of the microscopic bar and had hoped Lorelai would be greeted by the song when she arrived. Topher was warming to the idea of having Lorelai in his life, despite what he realized might be some complications. But she was worth it. It seemed as though with Lorelai the singer’s call for someone to love had been answered.
Besides playing great music and being the smallest bar Topher had ever been in — barely six people could fit comfortably in it at any one time — the bar was known for something else: ziplock booze. One could order from any number of mixed drinks and go about your merry way, getting drunk as you walked around Hongdae. Topher’s favorite drink of choice was a screwdriver. He had developed a recurring stomach ache that was aggravated whenever he drank booze and he was afraid it was because of all the soju he’d consumed.
Hongdae itself was “party central” for the entire nation of South Korea. Located next to Hongik University and neighborhooding Sinchon, Hongdae was third favorite place in Seoul after Sinchon and Itaewon. Itaewon was the “American district” of Seoul and next to the Yongsan Military Base.
Before Topher could give much thought to casing after the woman to chat her up, Lorelai and Posot showed up. Lorelai was mysteriously wearing a trench coat, while Posot was wearing
a pink prom dress and a huge corsage. Where she had managed to find these things in South Korea, Topher could only begin to guess.
“How’s my little wood nymph,” Topher said, hoping that term of endearment would pass muster. During the brief amount of time he’d known Lorelai, he had realized there was something magical about her. She didn’t seem real. But she was real. She was a real live girl and he was a real live boy.
“You’ll see,” Lorelai said, with what could only be described as a smirk. Topher took a deep sip of his screwdriver-in-a-baggie and walked with the women to Club Ta where the 80s Prom was being held. Within moments of walking down the stairs that led to the bar, Topher saw the woman he’d seen at Vinyl. She was wearing a purple wig now and chatting with a friend. For a moment Topher stopped thinking about Lorelai or the continued throbbing of his wrist and just gazed at the woman. She seemed to sparkle in the darkness of the bar.
Topher was completely smitten.
Dawn was came up to them and told Topher there was someone he should meet.
“She’d be a perfect photographer for the magazine,” Dawn said.
Within moments, Topher found himself introduced to the two women he’d seen walk past Vinyl.
“This is Amanda,” Dawn said. “And this is her friend Gaia.”
“Like the goddess. Cool,” Topher said, hoping his eyes weren’t bugging out his head.
“Yes, like the goddess,” she said with a smile.
“Where are you from? You don’t sound like you’re from North America,” Topher said.
“South Africa,” she said.
“Wow. That’s pretty cool,” Topher said.
The small group of them chatted about the magazine. Amanda agreed to help the magazine out as a photographer, while Topher peppered Gaia with questions.
“So are you doing the Seven Minutes of Heaven thing,” she said between Topher’s questions.
“You know — just you and your crush in a dark room for seven minutes,” she said, seemingly sizing him up. Topher had been sizing her up all evening. She was tall and more beautiful the closer he got to her. She made a living as a voice actress, but she also did some modeling on the side. She and Amanda were also had an “arts collective” — whatever that was — called Utopia. The two of them were also drum and bass DJs.
“I don’t know, I’d have to ask Lorelai,” Topher slipping up and violating his number one rule of chatting up women — never mention another woman.
Gaia flinched ever-so-slightly as if she’d heard something she didn’t like.
At that point, the bands began to play and Topher felt dread in the pit of his stomach. He hoped he hadn’t screwed up too bad. He found himself having all these mix emotions. He was falling for Lorelai, hard, but he really liked Gaia.
Between acts, Lorelai came on stage wearing only a white slip. Topher was in shock. His anger only grew as Lorelai spoke.
“Is everyone having a good time?” Lorelai said, slurring her words a bit as the crowd let out a collective yell. Lorelai had told him previously that she didn’t drink because “the Buddhist monks wouldn’t approve” (she claimed to be a devout Buddhist) so Topher found this curious. Maybe she was high.
“I’m having a good time,” she said crumpling up her slip near the crotch as if in the throes of passion.. “But I seem to have lost my dress. This is a prom after all. And you know what they say about prom dresses on prom night…”
Topher was so angry that he tried to shut his ears to what she was saying as he made a beeline to the bar to get yet another screwdriver. He wasn’t supposed to be drinking at all because of the medication he was on because of his wrist, but he didn’t care.
He kept his eye on Lorelai the rest of the night, hoping she would come to him to explain why she had done what she did. He also secretly hoped that she would want to do the Seven Minutes of Heaven with him.
So Topher was doubly heartbroken when he saw his worst nightmare come true — Lorelai heading to the Seven Minutes of Heaven room with a random guy in one tow. Topher was so mad that later he imagined a string of condoms in Lorelai’s hands as she and the man walked past him.
While he waited for the two of them to leave the privacy of the Seven Minutes of Heaven room, Topher did a few tequila shots to make himself feel better. The fire in his heart was overwhelmed by the fire in his belly by the time the obviously rattled man opened the drapes of the Seven Minutes of Heaven area, followed by a very smug looking Lorelai.
Topher saw Gaia eying him from across the bar and summoned up the courage to talk to her.
“Gaia,” Topher said, “You interested in doing the Seven Minutes of Heaven? I promise I won’t bite…much.”
She seemed to give the idea some thought.
“But what about Lorelai, won’t she mind?” Gaia said.
“I’m not dating her, she won’t care,” Topher said.
“Ok,” Gaia said.
The two found each other on a black leather couch in the dark with Seven Minutes to spare.
It was Topher, drunk as a skunk, who made the first move, kissing Gaia full on the mouth within moments of getting comfortable.
“What about Lorelai? Are you sure you two aren’t dating?” Gaia said. “That would be rather hectic if you two were dating and we hooked up.”
Topher liked how Gaia used “hectic” in a sentence.
“Lorelai and I are most definitely not dating,” Topher said, still steamed over the night’s events. “There’s something special about you Gaia.”
“Do you have a condom?” Gaia said without missing a beat. Topher thought about all the condoms he was sure Lorelai was going to use that night. That slut!
“Nope, I don’t have any on me, sad to say,” Topher said kissing Gaia again and putting his hand in her warm crotch.
“It’s ok, there are other things we can do,” she said, unzipping his pants and putting his member out.
The next morning it took Topher a moment to figure out where he was and whose amazing body his was entangled with. Whoever she was, she was the best looking woman he’d ever seen naked in person. Topher didn’t get hangovers, but his stomach was killing him as was his wrist. He knew he self-medicated with booze, but it seemed to work so he didn’t think about his mental illness much. Except times like this when he knew he’d have to confess — again — to someone that he had a problem.
The events of the night before began to filter into his waking mind He remembered going to a noraebang, or singing room, at some point during the evening before they had gotten a taxi for the short ride to his place in Sinchon.
Topher’s place was microscopic, expensive and his landlord gave him the creeps but its location was perfect for what he was doing with his life.
Gaia began to untangle herself from Topher’s body as she slowly awoke. Topher was still in a little bit of shock that someone of such beauty would be interested in him, but he was trying to go with the flow. He kissed her full on the lips despite his bad morning breath. She seemed a bit shocked at this, but didn’t say anything.
“Thanks for the good time last night,” she said.
“No, thank you. My mind is so over stimulated that I’m having problems making complete sentences,” Topher joked.
The two chatted a while. Topher lived next to a church and they could hear people entering the church for Sunday morning services.
“Topher, do you have any water?” Gaia said.
“No, all I have is soju,” Topher said, sheepishly.
Gaia seemed a bit annoyed with this answer.
“I really like your name,” Topher said, kissing one breast then the other. “You’re a goddess.”
“Topher, we need to talk,” Gaia said, in all seriously.
“No good ever came of a woman saying that,” Topher said. And he hadn’t even told her about his mental problems.
“Topher, I really like you,” she said. “But you’re friends with Lorelai and…”
“What does that have to do with anything,” Topher said. “I think…I think I’m in love with you.”
“Topher, we barely know each other, you can’t possibly be in love with me. And don’t say it’s love at first sight. It was great, it was electric, but I think you need to reflect on what’s going on with you and Lorelai.”
“Gaia, don’t dump me. Please. The sex is amazing, you’re beautiful and you have heart,” Topher said grasping at words. “We’re perfect for each other.”
“Topher, you don’t know anything about me or my friends. I’ve heard a lot about you from Posot and not much of it was complementary,” Gaia said.
“That bitch!” Topher said.
“Posot said she thinks you’re in love with Lorelai and I have every reason to believe her,” Gaia said.
Topher found himself reflecting on that. Was he in love with Lorelai? He sure didn’t feel like it after her slutty behavior last night. Topher decided to hold off on telling Gaia about his bi-polar disorder. He was afraid he’d lose her forever if he did.
Gaia got up and started to get dressed.
“Hold on,” Topher said. “I want to remember this moment. Turn around.”
“Don’t be weird Topher,” Gaia said, but did as he asked.
“I’m not being weird. I just want take a picture of you with my eyes so I can remember it,” he said.
They got dressed and were about to open the gate that went to the common area of Topher’s small apartment complex.
“Topher, is that you?” John Lee, his landlord said through the gate.
Topher motioned Gaia to be quiet, putting his forefinger to his lips.
“Yeah, it’s me,” Topher said.
“Haven’t seen you at the bar in a long time. How’s the magazine idea going?” John Lee said.
Topher grew exasperated, but tried not to let on.
“Um, should be coming out this month. I’ll give you a copy when it comes out.”
“Great,” John Lee said, leaving.
“Who was that?” Gaia asked.
“That was John Lee. He’s the Devil. At least in my opinion.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s a long story.”
In fact it was a very short story, but Topher was in no mood to tell anyone — least of all Gaia — the details of what John Lee had done to him to cause him to think of John Lee as the Devil. Topher didn’t really think John Lee was the Devil, but since the Incident, Topher had felt a cold chill of dread whenever he was around the man. There was something, well, off about John Lee and the less he had to do with him the better.
And he definitely didn’t want the women in his life involved with John Lee.
Topher got Gaia a taxi and walked back to his apartment, deep in thought. He felt something special with both Lorelai and Gaia but in different ways. The two were so different and yet both so special to him that he hoped he never had to make a choice between them.
Chapter 3: The Devil and the Maiden
Mr. Kim took Topher to the doctor to get his stitches out. The two talked in Mr. Kim’s truck as they drove there.
“Do you like that Lorelai girl?” Mr. Kim said in an avuncular way.
“Yeah, I like her a lot, why do you ask?” Topher said, worriedly.
“You know she…she likes girls,” Mr. Kim said.
Topher sighed deeply.
“Yeah. I kinda figured that. How do you know, though?” Topher asked.
“People talk. Lorelai has a reputation. You should be careful,” Mr. Kim said.
Topher got his stitches out and was dropped off at his apartment. He took a deep breath and decided enough time had elapsed for him to visit John Lee’s bar in Sinchon, Lee’s Retreat. In an ideal world, Topher thought, he would never visit Lee’s Retreat again, but he had been a regular customer of the place and had made a lot of good friends through it so he felt an overarching need to visit it every once in awhile — out of habit, if nothing else.
Besides, John Lee had just become his landlord and he needed to drop his rent off.
“Oh, look who’s here, if it isn’t my favorite fag,” Rick, the bar’s Australian bartender greeted Topher.
“One beer please,” Topher said.
“A Cass-uh?” Rick asked.
“Yeah,” Topher said, ordering the Budweiser equivalent of South Korea that most expats called “Ass” in derision but Topher actually liked.
“Well, Rick, have I got news for you,” Topher said, taking a big drag of his booze. “I banged not one, but two — two! — beautiful women since I saw you last. And one of them is bi-sexual.”
Topher was like a different person at Lee’s Retreat, with his baser instincts taking over.
Rick leaned over the black bar as if he was about to pounce on Topher.
“One of them likes girls, huh,” Rick said with a leer. “Maybe you could get the two of them to fuck in front of you!”
“Only you would think of that,” Topher said.
“Fag,” Rick said.
“Which one of these bitches are you starting the magazine with?” Rick said.
Sometimes, Topher didn’t understand why he was friends with Rick given his crassness. But they were friends, nonetheless. Topher knew that under all his asshole behavior was an actually pretty nice guy.
“The bi-sexual one, Lorelai,” Topher said.
“Which one is better in bed?” Rick asked.
“Both of them were great,” Topher said after a moment’s reflection. “Lorelai did this thing with her tongue and my ear that drove me nuts.”
“It shouldn’t be your ear that you’re worrying about, mate,” Rick said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Topher said, growing a bit frustrated. “Sometimes, you should just shut up.”
At this point, John Lee came in. John Lee was one of the least demonstrative people Topher had ever met. Originally from Minnesota, he was now something of a mystery man in Topher’s view. John was a business “consultant” whatever that meant and had been in South Korea for 20 years.
“Topher’s fucking a lesbian,” Rick said like a little boy tattling on his older brother.
“Do you even listen to anything I say?” Topher said. “She is not a lesbian. She’s bi-sexual.”
Rick just smiled his lizard smile.
“Where’s the rent?” John said. “And where have you been? It’s been weeks since you came to the bar.”
“Around. I’ve been around. Here’s the rent,” Topher said, sliding a paper packet full of won across the bar.
“Thanks. When is the magazine coming out?” John said, getting to the point yet again.
“I’ll come out the first of the month, so it’ll be soon after that. I recently discovered that I need a Korean to incorporate it for me so I can accept money legally without violating my work visa,” Topher said.
“I could have told you that,” John said blankly.
“Then why didn’t you?” Topher thought, but did not say.
“You could get kicked out of the country if you get caught,” John said. “Be careful.”
Topher reflected on what John did not do. John Lee was a zero-sum game kind of guy. Topher was sure John Lee knew plenty of potential business partners who could help him out, but Topher would have to ask. But given the Incident that recently took place, Topher was in no mood to get any help at all from John. Any help he got from John Lee would come at a price that Topher was not prepared to pay.
Chapter 4: New Recruits
As the magazine grew closer to coming out, things continued to fall into place. Topher managed to recruit two of Waygook Magazine’s best writer’s, who went under the names Jack Daniel and Lady K. Jack Daniel was found at his favorite bar, Debut, at the bottom of the notorious “Hooker Hill” in Itaewon. While Itaewon in later years would clean up its act, at this time it was a lot like Times Square in the late 70s — seedy and a little bit scary. Topher loved it, though, because so much English was spoken there. Whenever he needed to get a taste of American life, he would go to Itaewon and just listen to the chatter of English in the background. It did wonders for his state of mind.
Debut was a crappy little bar, but it had a character so Topher liked it. He met Jack Daniel at 2 a.m. on weekday night. Topher had to work the next day, but he would do anything for the magazine, so he agreed to the time when Jack suggested it.
“So you’re starting a magazine” Jack said in a thick British accent.
“Yeah, you interested? You were always one of my favorite writers for Waygook,” Topher said. Topher resisted the urge to tell the truth: Topher had never actually read anything Jack had written for the magazine all the way through. He just knew Jack was a “name brand” in the expat community and hence needed for the credibility of the magazine.
“Sure,” Jack said in a grunt, without hesitation. Jack was an older man who wore a black leather jacket all the time and played guitar for several expat bands. The jacket gave him the appearance of an washed up rocker. Topher kept that information in the back of his head for when he decided to start band, should something happen to the magazine. Topher couldn’t play an instrument, but he was a damn good singer and he knew it.
“What exactly happened with Waygook Magazine, anyway,” Topher asked. He looked around the small bar. It had lots of old, weathered pictures of patrons past and funny little sayings written on scraps of paper all of over the walls. The bar seemed to have seen better days, but Topher just soaked up its personality.
“We don’t really know,” Jack said, leaning back. “I was pretty close to the owner and even acted as business manager at one point, but he was pretty tight lipped about it all.”
“I’ve heard two different stories — one was you guys were in debt up to your necks while the other one was you were shamed out of existence when one of your classifieds ended up on the The Tonight Show,” Topher said.
The classified in question had been one about a “friendly expat” club that was looking for new members — except Canadians. The notion of “shame” is as opposed to “guilt” is a fixture of Korean culture so Topher figured it was within the realm of possibility that the magazine could have, in fact, been shamed to the point that the publisher pulled the plug.
“Let me tell you something about Waygook Magazine, kid,” Jack said. “I wrote most of those classifieds. In fact, I may have written that one. We were doing so well advertising-wise at one point that we needed stuff to fill the space, so we did what we had to do.”
“Huh. Very interesting. But you don’t know why the magazine collapsed? None at all?” Topher said.
“No, sure don’t,” Jack said, ordering the two of them shots.
Topher met Lady K at a Thai restaurant near his office on Yeouido, the island in the middle of Seoul.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said hurriedly. Topher was taken aback by her beauty and her resemblance to Lorelai. The two of them could have been sisters. They both had a unique shade of light auburn hair and hourglass figures that were pleasing to the eye.
“You remind me of a woman named Lorelai Goldman,” Topher said as they ordered.
“Really? I work with her,” Lady K said.
“Ha! That’s too funny. Lorelai will get a kick out of that,” Topher said. “How come you’re called Lady K?”
Lady K laughed silently just like Lorelai would have done in such a situation.
“You know, like a K-hole. My last name starts with a ‘K’ and I’ve had my fair share of ‘K-hole’ experiences….so Lady K,” she said.
“Oh…ok,” Topher said, not really knowing what she was talking about, but playing along nonetheless.
“Tell me about this magazine,” she said, sipping her water.
“Ok, here’s my vision — it’s a monthly, has the best pictures it can possibly have and the best writing. It’ll be cool and edgy and you’ll want to read it…” Topher said, stopping himself before he said “…unlike Waygook Magazine.”
Waygook Magazine was just a bad magazine. It was cheesy and the layout was horrible. One of Topher’s friends quipped that Waygook Magazine was “What a Korean believed an expat magazine should be, not what expats really wanted.”
“I like the edgy part, but I see problems,” Lady K said.
“Well, you can’t both be edgy and mainstream. Advertisers won’t hack it. And the name, ‘ROKin Magazine?’ Sounds like a music magazine,” she said.
“It is most definitely not a music magazine. Our big feature this month is going to be about the 80s Prom Dawn had. You know Dawn, don’t you?”
“Everyone knows Dawn,” Lady K said.
That was something that Topher had come to learn about the expat community in Seoul. It was so small that everybody knew everybody and there were “spokes” that connected the community together. He was also getting the sense that there was a lot of bed hopping going on, more than he could possibly imagine. Topher would come to think of all that sex as the “sticky glue” that kept the expat community tight.
“So are you in?” Topher said, as their food came.
“Yeah, I guess so. It sounds like an interesting idea,” Lady K said.
Chapter 5: “Friends”
Topher hated pot. He hated everything about it. He hated the what it did to you and he hated everything associated with it. But because of Lorelai he found himself hanging out with potheads a lot more than he ever imagined he would.
He really wanted to see Lorelai in person to talk about their relationship — they talked online using GTalk for hours every day but mostly about the magazine — and so he was willing to hang out with a bunch of potheads to do so.
Things didn’t go the way that he’d wanted, but it got things going.
“I heard you had a great time at the 80s Prom. Someone told me you were seen leaving with Gaia of all people,” Lorelai said once he’d gotten a beer and settle down into a couch next to her.
Topher was beginning to believe that Lorelai didn’t see him as serious relationship material and that she was sleeping around anyway, so he told the truth.
“Yeah, she fucked my brains out,” Topher said frankly. “Could barely put a full sentence together the next morning.”
Without saying a word, Lorelai got up and sat in a chair across from him. She put her hands together so the tips of all her fingers touched and her palms were arched away from each other. She took a deep breath, but said nothing.
Then she took off.
Topher, realizing he may have hurt her feelings followed her to the kitchen.
“I’m sorry, Lorelai, but I have no idea where we are. Are we dating? Because you sure don’t act like it…and yet you get mad when I fool around with other women. What is the deal,” Topher pleaded.
“We’re just friends,” she said, not looking at him.
“But Lorelai, I feel a connection with you, something special. And when I saw you on stage in a slip, it…it made me furious!”
“I do what I want to do, with whomever I want to do to it with,” she said. “i told you not to fall in love.”
“I want you to be mine! You’re the most interesting women I’ve ever met. We’re starting a magazine together, it’s our baby.”
Lorelai left the kitchen and went into the bathroom, slamming the door in Topher’s face.
Topher saw a bunch of potheads passing a joint around in a circle and in anger sat down and joined them. If he couldn’t get Lorelai to talk to him, he could at least get high.
Topher got high, but hated it. He was still angry when he noticed the time and realized he needed to get home. Having calmed down, he decided to see where Lorelai was. He found her, naked from the waist down, playing True or Dare with Posot, The Wanderer and a Korean American named Charlie. Charlie was wearing the grey attire similar to what a Buddhist monk might wear.
Topher tried not to get angry. If there was one thing he hated more than pot, it was Truth or Dare. People inevitably did something they regret, even though the more he knew about Lorelai the more he realized there probably wasn’t much she regretted. Seeing her there, leaning back so everyone could get a clear view of her hairy crotch, Topher also realized he loved her unconditionally.
Chapter 6: ‘Crazy’
Topher got drunk with his co-workers at the EduJournal. A lot. He loved soju and he drank so much that he called himself ‘the Ironman” even if no one else did. He frequently blacked out and lost things, but generally everyone involved had a good time.
Topher, as publisher, set the time and place of staff meetings. The first few ones were at the now opened Orange Tree, but Topher, despite himself, decided to have one at Lee’s Retreat just so John Lee could see the staff and see how serious he was about the magazine. Topher was hoping John Lee would be an advertiser.
It was a Friday night before Topher went to Nori to DJ when the small staff assembled. Topher immediately realized he’d made a mistake when John Lee came in. Lorelai eyed John Lee curiously and Topher felt his stomach drop — Was Lorelai interested in John Lee? What would happen if they got together? John Lee had manipulated him once into doing something bad, he could do it again.
“Where did you go at the party?” The Wanderer said. “You missed Posot kissing Lorelai.”
Topher figured something like that would happen. It always did with a game of Truth or Dare.
“Wow, Posot, I didn’t know you were bi,” Topher said, teasing.
“I’m not, I’m completely straight,” Posot said defensively. “It was only because of the game.”
“Anyway, on to the book,” Topher said, using the publishing term for a magazine. “In the front we’ll have short stories of no more than 500 words. Then things will grow more serious as we get towards the back. Then we’ll have some commentary at the very end.”
“What about the front cover?” Posot asked.
“Amanda took a great shot of Gaia at the 80s Prom that we’re going to use,” Topher said, looking directly at Lorelai as he said it. She stared back at him, not saying anything. She did look at Posot in a strange way. Topher realized Lorelai was expressing her disapproval with the idea to Posot just using her eyes. Topher tried not to get angry.
“I don’t want artistic renderings of the female gentalia on the front cover of the magazine,” Topher said. “We want to be edgy, but not that edgy.”
“Sellout,” Posot said.
“So, Charlie, Lorelai tells me you’re interested in helping us incorporate,” Topher said.
“Yeah. I have dual citizenship so I’ll see what I can do,” Charlie said.
Topher was pleased at these developments.
The first production night of ROKin Magazine happened at Indigo in HBC. Topher was stressed out, like a father expecting a newborn child. He even smoked a cigar. As Amanda and Lorelai huddled over a laptop, Topher chomped on a Cuban cigar that he’d bought in Itaewon. Cigars provided Topher the type of high he could appreciate.
The cover was of Gaia in a purple wig holding a guitar. It was perfect. It summed up the spirit of the magazine perfectly and he didn’t care how much Lorelai or Posot disapproved or did the “eye thing” as he had come to call it, he was pleased.
Topher mulled over the magazine. Even though he was editor and publisher, he hadn’t really gotten a chance to look over the contents of the magazine. But it was coming out, that’s all that mattered. His baby was about to be born and all he wanted was it to exist and be healthy.
The next few days, as they waited for the magazine to come back from the printer, were extremely stressful ones. He couldn’t concentrate at work and he found himself pacing a lot.
He was at work sitting at his desk when something very weird happened — he could have sworn he saw a Lorelai staring at him in the corner of his eye before he turned, seeing nothing.
Topher had lost his mind before because of undue stress, but this was the first time he had had visual hallucinations. But maybe Lorelai was trying to reach him telepathically, maybe she was trying to tell him she loved him, that she loved him back.
Topher, Posot and Lorelai found themselves in front of Indigo, waiting for the magazine to be delivered. Using a printer from the Chungmuro area of Seoul Mr. Kim had told him about, Topher had bought 3,000 copies for about $1,200. He had chipped most of the money himself, with Lorelai and Posot putting some money into the fund as well. Topher was just glad to have the extra dough at this point, he didn’t care where it came from. John Lee had an ad for Lee’s Retreat, but he didn’t pay for it.
“Topher, why did you lie and say you’d had sex with Gaia,” Posot said out of the blue as the three of them waited.
Topher looked hard at Lorelai before answering.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t lie. I did have sex with her,” Topher said.
“Topher…Gaia, really? She would never have sex with someone like you. She is one of my closest friends in Korea and she’s just not your type.”
“If you think I’m such a liar, why don’t you ask her yourself?”
“I did,” Posot said.
“And what, pray tell, did she say?” Topher said, growing angry.
“She said you two were just friends,” Posot said, smugly.
“Just friends? Really? What is it with expats and being ‘just friends.’ Is everyone who’s ‘just friends’ in Korea having sex? If so, Lorelai, you have a lot of explaining to do.”
Lorelai did nothing but take a deep breath.
The truck with the magazine came and out came and Topher eagerly grabbed a copy. He immediately noticed errors in it, but he didn’t care — it looked beautiful in his eyes, mistakes and all.
“You did a good job, Lorelai,” Topher said, hugging her.
Topher grabbed a bunch of copies from a pile and started handing the magazine out to strangers who crossed his path in front of Indigo. He was having the time of his life. He had thought up something out of thin air and now it was in his hands and he could give to other people a smile on his face and a glow in his heart.
He noticed that Lorelai and Posot were not amused by this behavior, however. The two of them were doing “the eye thing” at an alarming rate and seemed almost ashamed of him.
“Let’s go to a noraebang to celebrate!” Topher said with glee.
On their way, Topher stopped by a convenience store and bought some soju to sneak into the noraebang. He wanted to get blitzed. Tonight was going to be a fun night, no matter what. He was feeling a bit sad at what Gaia had told Posot so when they arrived at the noraebang he was in the mood for some Radiohead.
The noraebang was dark and dank and smelled like old memories. Topher took an instantly liking to it. It was just his kind of place. He heard something scurry by his feet and smiled. “Wow, this place is great!”
Topher flipped the noraebang book open and found just the song to fit his mood — Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees. Topher killed Radiohead songs and he was pleased that the noraebang had the Ziller book of songs. Ziller was “young people” music and included a lot more Radiohead than the other book called Kumyoung.
During the song, he thought about how he felt about Gaia and Lorelai and how he couldn’t have it all. He couldn’t seem to be able to have love and a magazine at the same time. He really got into it and it showed.
Both Lorelai and Posot seemed a bit taken aback by his performance.
“Wow, Topher, I didn’t know you could sing so well,” Posot said, honestly impressed.
“Gee, thanks,” Topher said.
Posot said a song or two in a voice that would have been perfect for musical theatre.
“You’ve got a very ‘Up With People’ kind of voice,” Topher said, dating himself.
Topher suddenly noticed that Lorelai was sitting close to him and seemed ready to snuggle with him if given the chance. This gave Topher a raging boner and he decided to take a risk and pull out all the musical stops.
Topher was something of an expat when it came to seducing women with songs in a noraebang. He had gone on what seemed like hundreds of dates with both Korean and expat women and nearly every time they’d gone to a noraebang. Topher usually made an ass out of himself because he got so drunk on the date, but in the darkness of a noraebang he usually got to at least first base.
With that in mind, Topher sang “I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi, hoping the lyrics would inch Lorelai closer to hooking up with him. It seemed to do the trick because after he was finished, she put her hand on his leg and her head on his shoulder.
The sexual tension in the room grew so thick that even someone as self-absorbed as Posot had to notice. If Topher had been on better terms with her, he would have pulled Posot aside and asked her to leave, but he didn’t feel like it.
When it was his turn again, Topher decided to go for broke. He selected, “Crazy” by Aerosmith. Just as Lorelai stood up and held his hand as he sang the song to her in the darkness, he could hear Posot storming out of the noraebang in anger.
Their sex that night was slow and, for once, intimate. Topher didn’t want to share Lorelai with anyone else. He felt himself growing more and more worried that Lorelai and John Lee would hook up simply because they both knew him and the momentum of the magazine might push the two of them into each others arms.
The next day Topher awoke early for work. Lorelai offered him a random tie that she found her floor. She did it in a cute way, but the underlying message was clear — other men had been there before him and he had better get used to the situation.
Chapter 7: Come What May….
Topher found himself in Sinchon, handing out copies of the magazine to any expat he could find. He all but bounced up the stairs to Lee’s Retreat after he was finished. He found Rick reading the magazine at the bar.
“So your slutty lesbian doesn’t think you’re very good in bed,” Rick said, pouring Topher a Cass as he approached the bar.
“What are you talking about?” Topher said, honestly curious.
“Someone asked this fag Jose a question, ‘I have a new lover but he sucks in bed, what should I do?’”
Jose was one of Lorelai’s gay friends. Topher had insisted that the magazine have a sex columnist. “All the good sex columnists are either gay or a woman,” he told Lorelai. She promptly found Jose.
“And who’s this bitch who used the magazine to break up with her boyfriend? Do you really think this should be in a magazine that everyone is going to read?”
Topher’s heart sank.
Maybe he should have read the magazine after all.
“But what do you think of the layout,” Topher said, “It’s pretty good, isn’t it? I thought Lorelai did a good job.”
“It’s not bad, I have to say. It’s pretty professional. I’m impressed,” Rick said.
John Lee came into the bar.
“There’s the man of the hour,” he said. Topher was a sensing person, so he could tell that John was honestly pleased with what he’d seen in the magazine. “Your magazine has potential.”
“Why thank you,” Topher said.
“I gotta run,” Topher said, not really wanting to talk to John. “I gotta give a copy to Mary over at Mike’s Cabin.”
Topher had never slept with Mary, who owned Mike’s Cabin, but that didn’t stop him from daydreaming about it whenever he saw her. She was single since she had divorced Mike’s Cabin’s namesake and Topher found himself thinking he might get lucky when he presented her with the magazine and the glowing review of the bar that he’d gotten Jack Daniel to write.
Sadly, this was not to be the case.
Things went horribly wrong the instant Mary flipped open the magazine to the review.
“What is this! Why is there no picture! I gave you a 1 million won and I can’t even get a picture!”
The rest of what felt like a 20 minute tirade was in Korean and Topher all but ran out of the bar, about to cry. He felt so bad. He was beginning to realize that being a publisher was not all it was cracked up to be. It was work.
Chapter 8: Relationship Wide Closed
Topher found himself confused and flummoxed about his life. On one hand he was smitten with a women who could only be described as promiscuous, while on the other hand he was also interested in a certain dark haired beauty from South Africa. And yet neither one of them seemed to be interested in a serious relationship.
He was still smarting over what Mary had said and he needed emotional intimacy. He thought of the song “There There” by Radiohead and realized it might be better to talk to Gaia about his problems than Lorelai. Yes, the last time he’d had sex with her he’d felt a connection unlike any he’d felt with a woman before, but he feared it was just him feeling it and that it was not mutual.
Besides, he wanted to talk to Gaia about what Posot had said.
Topher met Gaia at Indigo and sat his favorite spot, one that allowed him to see the entire restaurant as well as both exits with his back against the wall. Topher was growing a little paranoid that he was being watched since the magazine came out, and he liked the perceived privacy the spot afforded him.
“You wanted to see me, honey?” Gaia said, giving him a hug. Gaia didn’t mind terms of endearment.
“Yes, I got problems and you seem like the best person to talk to,” Topher said, leaning back in his seat and getting comfortable.
“What kind of problems?” she asked.
“First of all, why did you tell Posot we were ‘just friends?’” Topher said. “Are you ashamed of me? Are you too cool for me?’”
“Oh, baby, don’t talk like that. We are just friends, aren’t we? What we had that night was special, but we come from different worlds. And I’ve heard a lot about you from Posot. She really doesn’t like you.”
“The feeling is mutual,” Topher said glumly. “I still have feelings for you, but if you just want to be friends I guess I’m going to have to accept it. If we’re really just friends, then I can talk to you about Lorelai.”
“Sure, go for it,” Gaia said.
“I’m afraid I’m in love with her….and yet I’m beginning to fear she’s a big slut.”
“First of all, you just got done telling me you’re in love with me. You can’t be in love with two women at the same time. It’s just not possible,” she said.
“Really? A lot of art comes from such conflict…”
“Give me a break. You’re confusing lust with love. Also, think about the terms you’re using. She does have a reputation, but I would call her more of a ‘sexual butterfly’ than a “big slut.’”
“Ok, you’re right. That was a bit harsh. She does seem to have a lot of ‘friends’ in the community is all I gotta say. It’s really beginning to get on my nerves.”
“If you were to have to choose between me and Lorelai who would you pick?” Gaia said.
“It’s apples and oranges. I love…I mean like..or whatever…both of you equally but in different ways. She has my head while you have my heart, if that makes any sense. But I don’t have to see you all the time like I do her, so it’s easier for me to distance myself from you,” Topher said.
“You really need to have an Integration session with me sometime,” she said, smiling.
“Integration, what’s that,” Topher said.
“That’s a good question. It’s better for me to ease you into it than to tell you outright,” she said taking Topher’s hand.
“Uh, ok,” Topher said. It sounded weird and he was afraid the woman who held his heart in his hand was involved in a cult.
“Anyway, I have to go. It was great talking to you, babe. Let me know if you want to have an Integration session.”
Topher was focusing on what a nice Gaia had as she left when his eyes focused on a couple talking intently at a nearby table — it was Lorelai and The Wanderer.
Topher got up, greeted the two and realized they were talking about how Posot had effectively broken up with The Wanderer using the magazine.
“Topher, we were just talking about you,” The Wanderer said. “Did you even read anything in the magazine before it was published?”
“Man, I’m really sorry about that,” Topher said. “If I known she was going to use the magazine to break up with you, I wouldn’t have let her put in it in there…”
Topher noticed something weird going on with Lorelai as he talked to The Wanderer. She seemed to be moving her head around a lot. From Topher’s angle, Lorelai did not look nearly as attractive as usual. Then it hit him — was it possible she was trying to seduce The Wanderer and wanted to show him the best angles of her face?
Something about such an idea repelled Topher. Wasn’t there supposed to be a grace period between when your bestfriend broke up with her boyfriend and when you could sleep with him? And, besides, The Wanderer looked old enough to be Lorelai’s father. It was unseemly. But the more he looked at Lorelai’s weird head movements, the more he realized he was probably right.
Topher decided he didn’t want to cockbock Lorelai — despite his feelings for her — so he quietly said goodbye, got up and let her work her magic. While Topher’s love for Lorelai continue to grow because of his increasing obsession with the magazine, he wasn’t the type of guy to get in the way of two other people’s sex lives.
Chapter 8. Kind Eyes….Cold Heart
The first issue of the magazine, despite its flaws was a success. People would stop him on the street and tell Topher how much they liked it. Even though things weren’t perfect in his life, for a brief moment Topher felt something he rarely felt — happiness.
One day, someone contacted Topher saying he was interested in being a business partner. Topher was still nervous about the magazine’s inability to legally accept money, so he decided to meet the man at Seoul Pub in Itaewon.
While he was waiting, he went to the bathroom. When he came out, he casually looked at the posting on the community corkboard. One instantly caught his eye. It was very small and stated in basic lettering that there was a rapist of Middle Eastern descent with “kind eyes” and if one knew anything about him to use the email address provided. Topher had communicated enough with Lorelai via email to know that was her address. A cold shiver shot down his spine.
He tucked this information in the back of his mind and waited.
Soon the guy walked in and acknowledged Topher.
“Hey buddy, let me buy you a beer,” the man, whose name was Hal, said. He was from Canada and seemed built for life in a hockey rink.
Hal brought beer to their table and started to talk.
“Let me get down to business,” he said. “I really think your magazine has potential. Its layout is great and, sure, it has some errors in it, but those can be overcome. You say you’re not incorporated yet.”
“Nope, not yet. Still looking for someone to help me do that. You can’t do that because your a foreigner…”
‘…you’re right, but my Korean girlfriend could…”
“Ok. But still, you could break up,” Topher said, concerned.
“We’re very much in love. We won’t broke up. Trust me,” Hal said.
Topher instantly grew suspicious.
“One thing you got to do, no matter what, is change the name. It seems like too much of a music magazine. You need something more mainstream,” Hal said.
“I am not changing the name of the damn magazine,” Topher said, slamming his hand down on the table. “It’s ROKin Magazine. That’s it.”
“Ok, ok, buddy,” Hal said. “But I know for a fact that another magazine is forming and it’s going to be incorporated, look just like Waygook Magazine and be a lot more mainstream than your vision for ROKin Magazine.”
And that was that.
Topher found himself yet again in HBC. He was becoming a regular in the community and frequently thought about moving there. But he liked Sinchon because it was close to Nori and he also secretly liked being an outsider in the HBC community. He didn’t like the idea of HBC being his entire world as it was for a lot of expats.
He decided to see Lorelai. He walked up the steep hill that led to her apartment and prayed he didn’t stumble across she and The Wanderer in the throes of lovemaking. He opened the gate to her place, walked up the outside stairs that led to her apartment and saw that she was sitting quietly, smoking a joint, on the large open patio in front of her apartment. It was evening and the view of Seoul was astounding. Most Koreans didn’t want to live anywhere near foreigners, so the prices of apartments in HBC were dirt cheap.
“Lorelai, is everything ok?” Topher asked with real urgency in his voice.
“Yes, why do you ask?” she said.
“Uh, I saw this thing on a corkboard in Itaewon. It said there was a rapist with ‘kind eyes’ in the neighborhood and it used your email address. Do you know anything about it?”
She didn’t say anything.
“Topher, you should have called. I’m kind of tired and have things to do. Could you come back some other time? And call ahead next time? I have a life outside of the magazine, you know.”
Topher again felt a chill. He didn’t press the issue. He said goodbye and walked down the stairs and into the dark night.
Chapter 9 Paranoia Will Destroy Ya
Topher knew he had mental problems, but he had a secret weapon — soju. Something about drinking a lot of soju calmed his mind down. The effects lasted for days and he generally felt safe that his bi-polar disorder was in check.
And yet, as the magazine began to pick up momentum and he became responsible for the “family” as he called it, the stress and strain of the magazine obviously started to get to him. Topher didn’t realize what was happened because it was happening to him and it began to warp his worldview.
Ever since the staff meeting at Lee’s Retreat, Topher had worried that Lorelai would sleep with John Lee and not tell him. He worried that the sheer emotional energy of the psychic whirlpool that was the magazine would suck the three of them into a clusterfuck of epic proportions, with John Lee using Topher’s love for Lorelai to control the magazine.
This became all that Topher talked about, much to the consternation of other staff members.
“You promise if you slept with John Lee you’d tell me,” Topher asked Lorelai bluntly at one point. “The man is the Devil and I don’t want you doing anything with him, ever.”
“Topher! How many times do I have to tell you! I only met the guy that one time. I don’t know him and have no desire to sleep with him,” Lorelai said, exasperated. “And he is not the Devil. He’s just a man.”
“Man, you really need to collect your shit,” Posot said. “What is wrong with you? She said she’s not going to sleep with him, why do you keep asking her? Do you not trust her?
Topher did not, in fact, trust her at all, even though he was in love with her. It was a contradiction that was slowly driving him nuts. He wanted to protect Lorelai when she did not, in fact, want to be protected and his efforts at protecting her were only making her angry.
Topher began to drink whisky at Indigo with horrible consequences. He would send weird text messages to people he knew while he was drunk. One of these was sent to Gaia who called him the next day after he’d sobered up.
“Honey, why did you text me that I was ‘your everything, my goddess, my galaxy.’ Is Everything ok? And what’s this I hear about you being obsessed with Lorelai sleeping with some guy named John Lee?”
Topher’s heart sank. Now he had two women to worry about when it came to John.
“Topher, you should really have an Integration session with me,” Gaia all but cooed.
By this point, Topher was growing desperate so he agreed.
Topher had never been to Gaia’s house before and he was impressed. It was a huge white house on a hill near HBC. Topher was impressed. Gaia was wearing a diaphanous, white clothes that accentuated her natural curves and turned Topher on.
“You could be a movie star,” Topher said, taking a drink from Gaia’s smooth dark hand.
“Thank you, babe,” Gaia said. “But I have no desire to move to L.A. That would be work. Besides, I’m comfortable here.”
Gaia was a very big fish in a very small pond. The more Topher hung out in HBC the more he realized why Gaia had dumped him — she was probably the most famous DnB DJ in Korea. He hadn’t known this before because he just wasn’t interested in DnB. Gaia was about as famous as an expat could get and he was just the publisher of a magazine.
“I really liked your magazine,” Gaia said. “Some people were turned off by some of the content, but I thought it was a hoot.”
“Yeah, I know. Posot breaking up with her boyfriend was a hoot alright,” Topher said. “Ok, so what is this ‘Integration’ thing all about.
They went to a central living area with a mat.
“Lie down on the mat,” Gaia said.
Topher did as she told and Gaia go behind him, putting his head in her crotch.
He got comfortable and instantly inself covered in her warm glow. He felt as safe as a child in a mother’s arms. Gaia began to massage his head as he talked.
Thinking all of this was a setup for sex, Topher slid his hand down the length of her thigh. She push his hand aside, however, obviously a little bit annoyed.
“So tell me about what’s going on with Lorelai,” Gaia said.
“You know Lorelai,” Topher began. “She’s young and a ‘sexual butterfly’ as you call her and seems to have to no willpower when it comes to her baser instincts. I have a magazine to run and she’s very important to that goal.
“Are you in love with her, though? Is that what this is all about?” Gaia said, continuing to massage his head.
“I don’t know. I worry that it’s more my obsession with the magazine than it is