I’ve written about heaven before. Jesus showed us that heaven is a place on earth. Or was that some rock band I wasn’t allowed to listen to in the 80s? The 90s? Whatever.
The thing is, there exist on this earth special places where I am sure, if God or the prophets were walking barefoot on the earth today, they would be compelled to gather and pray. Or have a dinner party. Pot luck, if I know my Jesus.
Roger’s apartment at Oldfield Castle in Yeoksam was one of these. Where a thin, satin covered cushion on the floor felt like a throne. His battered and broken guitar – sole survivor of the infamous incident of the sinking houseboat – provides ample entertainment when paired with a dog-eared songbook and its selection of 20 great hits of the 1970s. Especially in the hands of Uncle Peter, who doesn’t really care much for sheet music or chord charts anyway. Work a groove up and the music writes itself, doesn’t it?
Whatever event we had imagined was taking place (just come over for one drink, we’ll order pizza… a bottle of whiskey is the only cure for a cold when you have three shows tomorrow… I don’t care if you have a boyfriend stashed away in your room, it is rude for you not to drink with my old friends…) would inevitably escalate into a party, and break out onto the rooftop. That carefully tended patch of green in the shadow of one of Seoul’s largest cathedrals. If we were lucky, Rog would have fireworks on standby. If we were super lucky, we would get to light them before the police were called. Either way, they would arrive and we would go back downstairs. The Nikko pens would come out and Roger would play the part of Michelangelo, his brain leaking onto the fuse box, sprawling over the beige wallpaper, taking up half the wall behind the carefully tended bamboo grove on the coffee table.
Heaven on earth – just don’t shit in the toilet if you value your life.
But Roger is gone, and so has our perpetual lease on those three little apartments in Yeoksam.
Gone too are our friends Chesuk and Minkyu and with them, Dadamgol – their little restaurant around the corner that was our own private playground. It was our classroom too, the site of post-lunch cooking lessons, English lessons, dinner-time lessons in how to order in Korean, how to grill beef and pork and, once I let myself be corrupted, post-dinner lessons in drinking soju and beer and bumming cigarettes off your seniors. Their little family is in Brisbane now, living the life that Roger dreamed for them, but took far too long to pull off.
This time last year, my best friend went back to Korea for a few months. Sometime between his language classes and late-night escapades, he stumbled upon a mansion. Maybe it is one of the ones we have been promised in the next life? It certainly has many rooms. Room with doors bearing the names of the special people that have lived there. Between the river and the bright lights and beer soaked streets of a party town, it is a grass-lined sanctuary with a clear line of sight to the sky and a deck that makes any Queenslander feel at home.
Our brother and our sister made it:
She is a wanderer, making the most of her time with us with Chinese wine smuggled in her luggage. When that runs out we drink gin and tonic laid out on a silver tray. Then vodka. And once everything else is gone, we crack open the left-over beer and pour it into plastic cups that we will wash and dry later. She is kind, and smart, and enthusiastic about everything.
He is tall and dark and handsome and it is no secret that I love him. I think everyone has at one point. Come to think of it, he is not particularly tall, but makes up for it with impeccable grooming and an astounding knowledge of music, and a liver of iron. Many nights we have carried each other through the back streets, falling asleep in a heap, only to wake, run the riverfront and do it all again.
In their mansion, we trade friends and make a family that meets to eat and drink under the stars, and when it gets too cold, inside on the heated floor. Dancing and singing and kissing and sneaking away. A house with many rooms. New lovers and old lovers and lovers to be, working and playing together, whispering in French and Japanese and Korean and English.