My machine guns say it's time for you to leave


Out of the frying pan and into the fire is a common saying we all know. I had jumped from the heat of the mobster situation. I could have found myself dead in a Korean ally, if I had chosen poorly. Instead, I was jumping into a freezing hell.


When I got to Incheon airport it was empty. I believe it was around 9:00 or 10:00 PM. I found a comfortable seat and was determined to stay there until the next morning when my flight was scheduled to depart to Tokyo. I didn’t have a cell phone or social media to pass the time. Those things hadn’t been invented yet. Instead, I read a few magazines then a few pages of a book. The deeper I got into the book the more it seemed like the pages were dipped in opium and I fell soon asleep. I have no idea how much time passed from the moment I closed my eyes to the moment I was ripped from sleep. The voice came to me in my dreams at first. It was angry and violent. I opened my eyes to one officer screaming at me and two others with their machine guns trained on my head. Their weapons looked heavy and properly menacing. If one of those dudes got a tickle in his nose and sneezed that would have been the end of my story. I couldn't understand anything the yelling man he was saying but his body language and the rifles told me that I was not welcome. Although Incheon airport is open 24 hour now, it wasn’t back then. My choice was leave or become and abstract painting of bulleted flesh.


I grabbed my bag and I found my way to the exit. It was the middle of winter. I had absolutely no place to go nor did I have money to hang out in a pub as I had originally planned. Near the airport there are very few pubs. The temperature outside was about zero degrees Celsius. I could feel the numbness creeping into my fingers and toes. Nothing was open. I had no place to go. I saw a neon cross floating above the dark rooftops. It was a church. I thought it would be a place of refuge where I could wait till morning out of the harsh cold. Just like the airport, it was closed. I had 8 hours until the airport opened up again. As I sat on the stoop of that church like a homeless bum, one man came to speak to me. He didn't speak any English but tried his best to communicate with me. I tried too but I could not understand anything he was saying. The only thing I could hear was the repetition of the word wan? I now know that wan was the Korean word for money. Back then, I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. The more he repeated the word wan, the more I wondered what it meant. “One what?” I asked. Eventually he gave up and left.


About and hour later, another man happened by my wretched stoop. He spoke perfectly fluent English. It must have been odd for him to see a foreigner shivering on the church steps like a homeless man. “What are you doing here?” He asked. “Finally,” I thought, “Someone to rescue me from the cold.” I explained to everything that had happened to me that day. I told him about how I just wanted to go home and was waiting for the airport to open so that I could get the morning flight back to Tokyo. It seemed like he was really concerned until I saw his schadenfreude smirk. My pain was amusing to him. He paused for a few seconds then said, “Huh! Well good luck with that.” and walked inside of the building next door.


I sat on the steps of the church without the mercy of God to warm me. I lost most of the feeling in my fingers and all of the feeling in my feet. The biting pain of the cold had turned to numbness. My feet had become two frozen blocks of cement. When the sun rose, I stood up. I thought I would fall over because it felt like I no longer had feet to stand on. Somehow, I made it through the night and past my icy hell. Inside Incheon, new guards were on duty but their machine guns look identical to the ones that threatened me the night before. I was a grateful for the warmth and shelter of the airport. I had been so miserable on the church steps I had forgotten I hadn’t eaten the entire the day. My hunger would have to wait. In a few short hours, I would be on a plane. I didn’t know it at the time, but a third hell was waiting for me at Narita Airport.


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