Octopus Friends & Spicy Soup
The Second Chapter
He tried to speak but his lips quivered, distorting any desperate attempts of speech into an incoherent babbling of salvia and secrets. Across the table was Hanmi’s friend, and between them a pot of spicy bubbling octopus and fish egg stew. Usually Hanmi would be talking up a storm, but something was different about this particular Tuesday evening, maybe because Hanmi’s friend was a girl or maybe because he hated octopus, Hanmi wasn’t quite too sure. The way his body was trembling was not the same food shiver he would typically experience when he was consuming any sort of culinary dish (aquatic or otherwise), making it clear that he had something on his mind other than seafood for once. “We didn’t have to order the octopus, you know.” She said haphazardly. By then it was too late, the red stew was boiling to it’s fullest capacity and cute little cephalopods had everyone’s full undivided attention. Hanmi caught a glance at one of the octopi peeking it’s head out of the pot, smirking a coy greasy smile and enjoying the awkward silence that his bulbous body seem to cause. There was no choice, Hanmi either had to tell her what was on his mind or let the octopus win in this struggle for attention, power, and the glory of satisfaction.
Dan Sung Sa, or porno house in Korean, is a restaurant that is plastered with soju advertisements and plastic models looking overwhelmingly excited to pour cheap Korean beer on their bodies. A young waitress with red orange lips asked if the food was alright, Hanmi didn’t have the chance to taste anything so he quickly lied with his broken Korean to maintain the little privacy they were allowed. Hanmi knew that this wasn’t a date, they were not the type of friends to be romantic, not even in the slightest. In fact, the repulsion of each other’s body is what prompted their continual intimacy with one another. She like a small chestnut, too small and too slippery. Hanmi like a squash, awkwardly shaped that only allowed the body to be the occasional festive decoration. Any form of cuddling or hugging (let alone humping) would be incestuous, not only because of their incompatible shape but because of their strange feelings of friendship for one another. Hanmi always thought that this feeling of total un-attraction is what gave this friendship security, no matter how ugly or fat he was, she would be there ordering strange things in sketchy restaurants. Despite their platonic chains shackling their virginities into some dark cave of tradition, Hanmi and the girl found themselves in a situation that neither of them could deny as being anything but a date.
Unassuming and a bit plain in appearance, her looks reminded Hanmi of a block of firm tofu. An off-white mass of soybean curdles, a block of tofu comes in an equaling humble package and jiggles when plopped on to a cutting board. That’s what she looks like, Hanmi thought. He would never tell her that she reminded him of tofu, but he couldn’t think of a more appetizing way to describe her. There she was sitting across from him, a jiggling block of tofu, and he realized that this was what a craving felt like. Soft yet firm, pale but full of texture, Hanmi could only describe this feeling as love. Hanmi never fell in love with tofu before, but at this moment he realized that all he wanted to do was too eat her. Not eat her per se, although biting was something Hanmi secretly wanted to do to people who had delicious looking cheeks, but too consume everything about her. Her face, her personality, her broken konglish. Bit by bit, Hanmi wanted her inside him. Hanmi was startled by this sudden hunger, and quickly shoved a heaping spoon of rice into his mouth. He looked at her to see if she noticed anything unusual, he was safe for now and continued to attend to this insatiable desire. Hanmi panicked because he knew what happened the last time he felt this way, he became an octopus.
Hanmi doesn’t have many friends, only a few here and there, sprinkled throughout his life like a spontaneous rainstorm. As life passed by, Hanmi found himself in situations being surrounded by a whole handful of unappetizing people. It didn’t help that Hanmi went to college that was primarily comprised of computer scientists, but his life was not characterized by extreme aesthetic sexyness. Despite the lack of visual harmony in his life, Hanmi found himself being attracted to a small and eclectic menagerie of people. He would crave them in the same way that he craved the girl sitting across from him. A hungry hungry hippo wanting to deep throat people into his heart and keep them hidden where they can’t escape.
The most recent time when Hanmi was struck by beauty, was when a guy that he thought was cool caught his attention at a nearby café. The way he talked about politics, and how he described the rain as it’s own ephemeral entity, and the way that he ate his bread with fervent gusto fascinated Hanmi. Just like now with the girl, Hanmi wanted everything to do with this man, every part of Hanmi’s body wanted to be a part of his. Hanmi knew that this craving for people was strange since no one publicly expressed this kind of yearning and to the same degree of intensity that Hanmi felt. Gripping this unassuming man with his psychological tentacles, Hanmi drew himself closer into the bread man’s life. Every time he would see him on campus he would intentionally stumble his way into a conversation, knowing that organic discourse was one of the key ingredients to friendship. However there was no use, no human is meant to be food for an octopus no matter how delectable they seem to be. The cool guy managed to be just another cool guy, and Hanmi’s tentacles did not have the suction necessary to engulf this stranger. It’s strange to equate starvation with sadness, but Hanmi knew what loneliness and rejection felt like because he was never able to be full. People was his food and an octopus he had become.
The girl almost half way done with her meal looks up to Hanmi and asks if something is wrong. Hanmi blinks out of his consciousness and realizes that he hasn’t eaten much since they arrived. Thinking about the guy he met on campus and facing this new hunger he had for her, Hanmi picked up his chopsticks and began to eat. The stew was mediocre but because he was hungry, the food was anything but ordinary. Hanmi’s friend smiled and put a slice of kimchi in his bowl, he smiled back to her. Looking back at the center of the table, Hanmi plucks an octopus with his chopsticks body and all, and chews on it with unrequited resentment. The body bursting in his mouth and the tentacles popping to the grinding of his molars, Hanmi knew that he would never be able to get rid of this hunger that was deeply rooted in his heart. Hanmi continued to chew on the creature and smile to his friend as it slipped deeper into his throat.
“See I knew you would like it.” His friend said with a beaming glow.
If only she knew that it was hardly the octopus that made him hungry, Hanmi thought to himself that rainy Tuesday evening.