It was the sizzling, furnace-hot summer of 2014 and times were tough for your boy Fred here.
Kim Mi-Yun, my knockout sexpot of a twenty-two year-old typist/secretary/masseuse at Colton International Group had repeatedly refused to marry me, despite my Gangnam penthouse, despite my platinum-plated helicopter, despite the fact that my underwear had my initials stitched into them, and despite the grand spectacle of my daily proposals (with marching bands and red rose bouquets the size of asteroids).
She’d always just say, “No thank you, Mistah Kohl-tun. Here is your coffee.” And then the awkward shuffle would commence as the band members and florists vacated the complex. See, Kim Mi-Yun was technically taken, dating some broke beanie-wearing graffiti artist who apparently spent all his time spray-painting shit in Hongdae. This guy, Kim Mi-Yun? THIS GUY?!
On top of my romantic trials, the creative well was dry. I’d already struck gold twice, with two fantastically lucrative business plans. But (spoiler alert) I’m only human, and I have all the same flaws you do. I wanted more. I wanted to innovate, to once again come up with the Next Big Thing. But it wasn’t happening. No more eureka moments, no more flashes of brilliance.
Once you’ve stood up on that mountaintop and stretched your arms to the sky and dared to proclaim yourself equal to the gods, that feeling becomes all you can think about. Once or twice or thrice is not enough. Ask LeBron, ask Tom Brady. You’ve spoiled your dinner. Normal life will no longer thrill you, enough money to buy Poland will no longer satisfy you.
I was stuck in a dark funk, showing up to CIG’s Seoul skyscraper bright and late at 2:00 pm every day in sunglasses and my panda-patterned bathrobe. I was half Howard Hughes/half Dark Knight Rises Bruce Wayne, stalking around my corner office on the 100th floor with a terrorist beard, mainlining soju and storing my urine in glass Coke bottles as I used binoculars to scope out the windows at the Han River, where my test pilots were doing prototype flights on the new tech. See, I thought commercially-available jetpacks were going to be the next big thing. I’d sunk nearly two billion won into R&D on the project, but we couldn’t get the damn things to hover right and my pilots kept crashing into bridges and swan boats.
Little did I know that I was about to do it again. The Next Big Thing was, again, just over the horizon.
It started as a ploy to project a more stable, domesticated, family-man image so that Kim Mi-Yun would reconsider my proposals. (Which kept coming, daily, but at this point I was so lazy and frustrated I was just Skyping into her smartphone to pop the question.)
So, I bought a chain of hagwons (private after-school English academies) and even shaved and started teaching some classes. I made sure to have my photographer with me at all times to update my Instagram feed (which Kim Mi-Yun is contractually obligated to be a follower of, see: Terms of Employment) with pictures of me tutoring the students, giving them piggy-back rides, and refereeing their rock-paper-scissors tournaments.
But that was just Phase One of my battle plan. Phase Two entailed calling up my guy in the Seoul Metropolitan PD and having Kim Mi-Yun’s artist boyfriend arrested on false drug charges, earning him five years in prison—but she said she’d wait for him till he got out. This guy, Kim Mi-Yun? THIS GUY!? God, apparently I need to learn how to spray paint.
My plan was coming apart at the seams and I relapsed back into the doldrums of depression. I was slumping about one evening, knocking back shots of soju in glass given to me by the president when a young mother dropped by my office at the skyscraper. Her young son Ji-hu was a problem, you see. He was an obnoxious little shit I was going to have to kick out of the hagwon for unruly behavior. At the age of six, Ji-hu already had a disproportionate dose of testosterone raging through his bloodstream. He was a pint-size hardass, a bully-in-training who once nut-tapped me for daring to ask him if he liked the color blue. He had the bully gene and needed no instruction; he’d figured out what a toilet bowl swirly was all by himself and had started giving them to the other kids.
His mom was feeling the heat. Single parent, tight income, and she knew her only ticket to a semi-comfortable retirement was Ji-hu growing up on the straight and narrow and getting a job with a decent salary. And at the rate he was going, he was more likely to wind up a convicted felon or mob enforcer than anything else.
“Maybe…we can try…Forrest Gump-uh?” she asked me.
I looked up from my smartphone, which I’d been staring at for two hours as I played with the wording on a “have a good night!” text to send to Kim Mi-Yun. It was only at this point I actually processed what this young mother was wearing. A skirt almost as short as the belt holding it up, and black blouse as tight as—no, wait. That’s no shirt, it’s a lace push-up bra.
OH. Forrest Gump-uh. She was talking about the scene where Forrest’s mom sleeps with his principal to get him advanced up to the next grade. This woman thought that was an option in this scenario, since I was an American, and that’s an American movie.
And then the light bulb above my head clicked on. Folks, Fred Colton was back. I had my Next Big Thing. No more hagwons, I’d have Shagwons instead. Me and my crew of lovelorn fellow expats would welcome the embittered, poorly-adjusted kids that couldn’t make it to the next grade without a little patience and help. And we’d give it to them. Mothers would be grateful. Very, very, truly, deeply grateful. Single mothers only, please. Age 30 (Korean age) and under preferred. (Please attach a verified copy of your birth certificate with your child’s application.)
This was it. In the short time I still had on the clock before my liver exploded, I’d drown my sorrows in flesh, engaging in meaningless dalliances while I gave these misunderstood, disadvantaged kids a shot at life that no one else would. I’d leave my net worth in trust accounts for any and all half-Asian love children that would inevitably come searching for me when they turned 18. Don’t let anyone ever tell you Freddy C didn’t leave this world better than he found it.
I stood and slowly swaggered around the desk. “On second thought, Mrs. Park—Ji-hu has never been anything but a little cherub. He can stay.”
As my hand grazed her cheek, Kim Mi-Yun pushed her way through the heavy oak doors.
“Mistah Kohl-tun!” she panted. “Yes. I will marry you. I have changed my mind. My boyfriend is the stupid man! He’s in jail and I won’t be a foolish girl and wait for him!”
I tried to play it off like I’d just been brushing lint off Mrs. Park’s collar—but Mrs. Park wasn’t wearing a collar, remember. It was already far too late. The damage was done; the ship had already hit the iceberg.
Kim Mi-Yun straightened up and smoothed her skirt. “Excuse my interrupting. Have a good evening, Mistah Kohl-tun.”
By now this much was clear: Fate would continue torturing me. I’d already consumed more than my share of happiness and satisfaction, and that’s all I was gonna get.
In that moment, and only in this moment, I had the perfect courage necessary to pull the plug and off myself. I threw my desk chair at the window, which exploded in a spray of glass. I made a furious sprint to the edge and pitched myself into the Gangnam night, arms spread, eyes closed.
Fifty stories down—what the hell!— someone caught me. One of my test pilots was flying around, with a jetpack strapped on.
“We figured out how to make the hovering work, Mr. Colton!” he shouted.
I threw him a jab with my elbow and he let go of me. I fell free again, cackling madly as I tumbled and twirled down fifty more stories to where sweet, sweet death awaited me in the form of the hard sidewalk. I’d crash into it and leave a body-sized imprint like a Loony Tunes character.
But I didn’t hit the sidewalk. I landed on the asteroid-size bouquet of flowers from today’s proposal as it was being wheeled out of the lobby. Plumes of rose petals fluttered about in the night breeze.
So, that was that. I had taken my shot and, somehow, incredibly, it hadn’t worked. And I didn’t have the balls to attempt it again. If you’re looking for you boy Fred these days, he can be seen drunk-flying a jetpack through the city canyons of Seoul, en route to his next shagwon appointment, feverishly attempting to fill the Kim Mi-Yun-sized hole in heart.