I’ve mentioned before about the interesting people I meet as I socialize in the bars of Itaewon. In fact, I actually enjoy the company of almost everyone I meet. But inevitably there’s always the exception to the rule.
Friday evening I was on the back deck of Shenanigans with a friend from work and these two 20-something guys came out and sat in our proximity. It was early, maybe 5:30 or so and they were already in a highly intoxicated state. One of them (his name is Mike as I recall) out of the blue asked me to tell a joke. The request struck me as somewhat odd, but I have accumulated a rather large repertoire of humorous (admittedly, that’s a matter of opinion) anecdotes over the years, so I let one fly. He laughed hardily, but then drunks are a pretty easy audience to please. He reciprocated with a “joke” so horrible that I immediately erased it from my consciousness. Suffice to say it was some sick and twisted thing involving infant pedophilia. My friend had the same reaction. We gave each a what the fuck look, and hustled back inside the bar wanting nothing more to do with our new found “friends”.
So Monday evening I’m sitting at the bar in Shenanigans and Mike comes into the bar. He fiddled around with his phone for a bit, asked someone how to spell “psychiatrist” and then to my chagrin he plopped himself down on the bar stool next to mine. He asked me if I remembered him and I reluctantly admitted that I did. He then said “do you mind if I tell you something?” I shrugged and said go ahead, thinking odds were high I’d regret it. And then he laid it on me.
“There’s something wrong with me. I mean inside my head.” Mike told me solemnly. “I need to see a psychiatrist and get on some meds or something.” Despite our brief acquaintance I found myself nodding in agreement. All those years of HR training kicked in I suppose because I felt an obligation to ask him if he was thinking of hurting himself. He told me yes, and said that he had beat himself up that morning. And then he showed me his arms covered in fresh bruises. So then I gave him the speech. “How old are you? I asked and he responded “27”. I said “Dude, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, and whatever is going on with you right now, is going to pass. It may not feel that way now, but if you get some help you will get through this”. He told me he had quit his Hagwon job that morning (pretty scary to think of him around kids, right?) and that his parents would be so disappointed in him. I told him that if he did something stupid and irrevocable like suicide they’d be a lot more than disappointed. I asked him what his plans were, and he told me he was flying to Thailand on Wednesday. I’m not sure how good that plan is, but he said he has a friend there, and now that he is jobless in Korea he doesn’t have many options I suppose. So, I made him promise that he’d visit a shrink when he arrived and I advised him to stay away from ladyboys (I refrained from saying “and children” given the circumstances).
It was time for me to leave for darts and he thanked me for hearing him out. I took a piss and came back and asked him what his money situation was. “I’m dead broke” he told me. I gave him a W50,000 note, wished him luck, and left. And yeah, that was probably stupid on my part, but I felt better for having done it. The rest is up to him. I don’t expect or particularly want to ever see Mike again, but I also don’t want to read about another expat suicide. I’ve been in those dark places myself so I hope he finds his way out.
And I’m ok with that. When you get to be my age you realize that possibilities are no longer limitless. And that is sometimes depressing. Which to me makes wanting to kill yourself at 27 insane. As we used to say back in the day “keep on truckin'”.