Defending the Lady’s Honor
by Mr. Motgol
Ha-bin was always a messy drunk. Every time she went out she got catastrophically hammered. British chick wasted. A weaving, incoherent puddle of babble and drool. But unlike a British chick, Ha-bin wasn’t tall and brawny, with ancient, boozy Viking blood pumping through her veins. Instead, she was a small Korean woman with zero natural tolerance for alcohol. As a result, every time she touched the stuff she turned into a chaotic wreck. You could set your watch to it.
This night she had been particularly indulgent. We all had. We had just closed a show, an English language production of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. It was a reasonably big to do, with plenty of attention from the local press, and decent crowds of both foreigners and Koreans showing up for the limited run. I played the main role and Ha-bin was the producer. She had put the whole thing together and it had been a resounding success, so after the show the cast and crew headed down to Ol’55 bar to drink until we all fell down and saw in triplicate. We were in Korea, after all.
Ha-bin cornered me in the bowels of the club. She was dressed in her usual regalia: tinted round glasses, army fatigue pants, and a black fisherman’s cap over cropped hair. The getup gave her the look of a hipster Bolshevik lesbian.
I was literally leaning up against the wall while she mumbled on in slurred and hopelessly broken English, something about “foreigners together… Koreans… you know… beautiful… hip-hop… musical.” She seemed to be pitching her next project and after thirty minutes of this circular, one-way conversation, I grew restless and excused myself.
I found Big Brent at the bar. He was high school buddy who had also moved to Korea to try out the waters. Brent was a monolith of a man, tall and thick, whose glasses, gentle manner and quick wit undercut his raw, physical power.
“I’m getting kind of hungry,” he said, taking down half a mug of Cass in one gulp. “Wanna grab some food?”
“Good idea. It’s past three and nothing good can come out of staying here. I know a meat place around the corner.”
We were just walking out the door when Ha-bin grabbed me.
“Yaaaa…” She swayed, holding onto my shoulder. “Wherrrrre you going?”
“Uh… we’re going to get some samgyupsal.”
“Ah, mashiketa!” She said. “I come too.”
“Uh, sure… okay.”
It was only a five minute walk to the little restaurant, but somehow we lost her.
“Did you see where she went?” asked Brent, as we sat down at our table. The place was dark and smoky, jammed with customers eating, drinking, and jabbering loudly over the constant sizzle of meat.
“Well maybe it’s for the best,” I said, waving to the server. “She’s pretty wasted. Hopefully she just jumped in a taxi and went home. Last time we drank together she ended up passing out in the street.”
Two bottles of beer and some side dishes arrived. As Brent went to fill my glass, my phone rang. I checked the screen. It was Ha-bin.
“Wherrrre you?” she asked. I could hear garbled voices in the background.
“At the restaurant. Where are you?”
“Family Mart. Come get me! So hungry…”
The Family Mart was a convenience store just around the corner from Ol’55, part of a Japanese chain spread throughout Asia. It was open 24-hours, and served as a magnet for the drunkest scumbags of Busan’s expat community. Like many convenience stores in Korea, plastic tables were set up outside, and it was perfectly acceptable to buy beer, wine, soju—anything really—and then proceed to sit down and drink it right there. The result, during the warm weather months, was a boozy pack of expats guzzling well into the dawn. The later it got, the sloppier and rowdier they became. The place was always a molten, shameful mess, ground zero for the stupidest drunken shenanigans by the city’s foreigner set, and this steamy June A.M. would be no exception.
As I approached the brightly lit store, I saw Ha-bin seated at a table with a group of Westerners. I recognized my friend Matt, along with a young, dark haired woman and a wiry white guy with a scraggly beard and dreadlocks.
Ha-bin, was half slumped over, mumbling. A skinny cigarette burned in her right hand, more ash than tobacco.
“Hey, Ha-bin! Let’s go eat. Come on. You’ll feel better.”
“Ees zees your beech?” a voice stabbed out. The accent was strong and unmistakably French.
I turned to the source. “What?”
“I said: Is zees your fucking beech?”
Before we proceed, I must come clean: I hate white guys with dreadlocks. Can’t stand them. One look makes my skin want to rebel. This is a visceral, irrational prejudice, and while I’m sure there are and have been very decent, upstanding white men with natty dreads, I have yet to meet any. And even if I did, I probably wouldn’t give them a chance. I’d have hate them just on principle.
I let go of Ha-bin’s hand and addressed the mouthy Frenchman.
“She’s not ‘my’ bitch. She’s nobody’s ‘bitch.’
“No. she is a motherfucking beetch… Sitting here and talking sheet. Take your fucking beech away.” He waved his hand for full effect.
Already heated by booze, my blood turned to fire.
“She is my friend. Who the fuck are you to talk to her like that?”
“She is a fucking beech!”
“And you are a white dread shitstain!”
“What? You are tough guy, huh?” He stood up.
“Eat my ass you Trustafarian bag of cunts!!!”
“No, fuck you man!”
“Come on! I’ll pound your ass into the dirt!!!”
“Oh, you will keeck my ass??? You want to go! Let’s go! Come on motherfucker!!!”
He kicked his chair to the side and stepped. It was on.
The dark haired girl screamed in French as he came at me. He was smaller and sinewy and like me, very drunk. He threw a couple of ineffectual punches and missed. I immediately got inside and, remembering my wrestling days, took him to the ground, where we scuffled and rolled around on the filthy pavement. I managed a couple of blows to the side of his face, but could get no real power at such close range.
His girl waved her arms and shrieked some more. I tried to subdue him and get another shot at his face, when suddenly I was grabbed from behind and dragged up from the ground. Another guy got a hold of him and pulled him away.
“All right, break it up, guys!.” Matt yelled, stepping in between.
Chests heaving, we stared at each other over Matt’s shoulder.
“Okay okay.” I threw my hands up and was released.
“Fuck this… let’s get out of here Ha-bin.” I waved to her, turned and walked toward the restaurant, expecting her to follow. My head was reeling. I needed a smoke and a beer.
“FUCK YOU MOTHERFUCKER!!!” echoed the voice of my nemesis as I walked away. “COME BACK HERE!!! I KEEL YOU!!!”
Brent was seated where I left him when I returned to the restaurant, tending to the fatty strips of pork in the small grill in the middle of the table.
“You won’t guess what just happened,” I said, plopping onto the stool and lighting a cigarette.
“Oh? Do tell…”
A minute later my phone buzzed again.
“Wherrrrrare you???” Ha-bin’s voice moaned through the speaker over obvious shouting.
I hung up. “Fuuuuuuuuuck. I’ll be right back.” Brent, shrugged and continued grilling the meat.
The scene was much the same as I left it, though now Matt was now restraining Ha-bin, who was now in berserker mode. She unleashed a banshee’s wail of invective toward the Frenchman and his girlfriend.
“YAAAAAAAAA!!! Shippalnom… CHUGEOLAY??? AAAAAAHH??? Shippal michinyeo… YEOT MEOGEORA!!! YAAA!!! MICHINNOM GAESHEKKIYAAAAAAAA!!!”
As soon as I approached I as spotted by the natty Gaul, who pointed, eyes ablaze: “You! MOTHERFUCKER!!!”
He was on me before I knew it and knocked me off my feet. I felt the sharp scrape of the pavement against my shoulder as he pressed down. Now on top, he jumped from side to side as I attempted to scramble out from under him. Finally I made it back to my feet, staggering. We squared off, throwing sad, drunken punches that never hit their marks.
“Knock it the fuck off!” Matt screamed, pushing me away with his meaty arm. “If you don’t stop the cops will be here.”
Once again I threw up my hands.
“Just get out of here!”
I turned away and grabbed Ha-bin by the wrist, dragging her along. She jerked and screamed, swinging her free fist toward the couple.
“You walk away???” the French guy yelled back. “I find you motherfucker! WE ARE NOT FINEESHED!!!”
Back at the restaurant we joined Brent, who peacefully dug into his meal and chuckled as I recounted the latest round. Ha-bin could barely sit. She leaned on an elbow and puffed on a skinny smoke, muttering to herself.
We ate and drank for fifteen more minutes. I was relieved to be out of the action. I had only been in a few fights in my life and hated them. And this asshole was hardly worth the effort.
Just then I saw him, outside of the restaurant, walking past with his girlfriend. Our eyes met and he stopped.
“MOTHERFUCKER!!!!” he screeched, bursting through the door and tackling me at the table. Bottles, plates, silverware and glasses crashed to the floor around us, as we grappled in the greasy floor of the restaurant.
Big Brent sprang into action. He was lethally quick for a man of his size, and immediately he seized the raving pseudoRasta and, club bouncer-like, fucked him out the door like a bag of wet laundry. The French dude hit the pavement but was soon back on his feet, pacing back and forth and screaming to me.
“You come out and with wiz mee, motherfucker!!!”
I had to give the guy credit for persistence.
At this point the owner of the restaurant was heatedly holding forth with Ha-bin as the smattering of other customers gazed on in semi-disbelief.
The Frenchman paced and raved outside of the door, ignoring his girlfriend’s pleas to move on. It was now very early morning, and the glow of the day’s first light began to seep down the building sides surrounding us.
I took a breath and walked out the door, ready for round three.
He came out swinging, grazing my cheek but landing nothing. Again I took him down. I wanted to end this thing once and for all, hoping to use my size advantage for the old “ground and pound.” But he was a slippery son of a bitch and before I knew it, he was behind me, with an arm over my throat, attempting to choke me out.
He wrenched down tightly, and I gasped for air, but nothing was coming in. He had me good. My mouth moved and gulped like that of a goldfish that had jumped out of its bowl. I couldn’t let this happen; unless I did something, now, I was done. So I mustered all my strength and flailed my body while pushing up with my arm. This seemed to work. I felt him release and leaped back to my feet, sucking in the clear morning air. We stood there, staring.
“Are we finished?” I asked.
“No we are not fineeshed. We are never fineeshed!”
He came at me again, but never made it.
Big Brent had had enough of our pathetic spectacle. With amazing speed he flashed through the door, past me and went straight for the Frenchman. With his huge left paw he grabbed the guy buy his nest of dreadlocks and forced him onto his knees. The dude’s girlfriend screamed for him to stop, but Brent was in total control. Brent then balled up his left hand into a fist, and bore it down like a warhammer on the top of Frenchy’s head: BAM! He repeated this three more times: BAM! BAM! BAM!
This managed to stun our Jamaican Pierre, who stood up and staggered, his eyes now black holes.
“That should take care of him for a while,” said Brent, just in time for the cops to arrive.
They kept us separated at the police station. Brent, Ha-bin, and I were on one bench, the Gallic couple on the other. Ha-bin was an exploding, rage-filled hairball the whole time. She screamed, cursed, wailed and repeatedly bum rushed our foes on the opposing bench, only to be grabbed by intervening cops, who she clawed, slapped, and even bit at. I was amazed at their ability to handle such abuse. They gently took control of her, holding her back and quietly asking her to calm down. They were obviously used to such goings on. Just another night at work for a Korean peace officer, it seemed.
After a few hours—enough time to sober up—they let us all go with a warning. I’m sure they were more than happy to have us out of their hair. Frenchy’s ire had not yet cooled. Unsatisfied with the outcome of our melee, h repeatedly offered to continue it at a time and place of my choosing.
“Any time! I weel be there! This is not fineeshed, motherfucker!!!”
He even shouted out his phone number, three times, lest I have trouble tracking him down.
I never saw him again. It turns out he was an international student at the end of his stay. And though he was clearly out-of-line–an obnoxious, arrogant, champion drunken shithead–I had to grudgingly grant him one crumb of respect: the guy driven. He didn’t give up.
How much fighting does alcohol cause? Too much too count. It’s the primary fuel much of human aggression, though there can be an upside to fighting dead drunk. Sometimes both parties are just too wasted to do any real harm to each other. This was certainly the case with us. Had we been a little more sober, somebody would have probably got their ass kicked.
A few weeks later I ran into an Irish buddy of mine who had witnessed part of the fracas. He was none too impressed with either of our prowess. In his musical Cork brogue, he only had this to say:
“You looked like a couple a Polacks dancin’.”
Brent moved back to America. During a recent visit we recounted the story over steaks, beers, and cigars, laughing at its patent absurdity and praising Korean cops for their unbelievable powers of forbearance. Silently, I recalled how nice it was to have him on my side.
As for Ha-bin? Her drinking days are long behind her. Soon after this incident she found God. That’s right, she got right with Jesus and become a born-again-Christian. Today she runs a Christian café/bookstore with her similarly devout husband. No longer does she slap dudes and bite cops: her passion is reserved for a higher power, though I’m sure her Bible is often and vigorously thumped.
I haven’t been in a full-on fight since (if you don’t count the Casino Incident of 2009, see my book for details). And it should come as no surprise the experience did little to temper my disdain for white dreadheads. If anything, it’s exacerbated the bias. It’s made it to where I can barely travel in Southeast Asia anymore. Just picture it: There I am, trying to relax in paradise, wanting to murder every third backpacker I see.