i am having a surprisingly coherent dream that i am in South Korea, in about 1970. It is a society in rapid transition to shiny modernity. The dream fades in patches, as my morning progresses. As i wait for the bus, i try to hang on to bits of it.
Ancient labyrinthine alleyways are populated with washing and puddles and running children. They are wide enough for a bicycle. They vanish into darkness around corners, like the tube houses of Penang. Above and behind, are soaring apartment blocks, some still under construction. Women are photographed on foreshortened balconies. The smell of kimchi. The dogs here seem to have extra teeth.
i am in the house of a famous courtesan. She wears an elaborate gown patterned with flowers, herons and rivers. Something is strange about how the fabric moves. Then i notice - the gown is transparent and the pattern is on her skin. She is exquisitely tattooed from neck to foot. Her clients are enourmously wealthy and enourmously fat. They pose for paintings like those impossible Persian miniatures. Children run in and out, a chattering game of chase that pervades the whole dream.
In a packing case shack, a tiny girl is doing my hair. It is platinum blonde and she piles it onto my head and carefully curls some of it down the left side of my face. She clips butterflies into it. i look like a pageant contestant, or a Gypsy bride. There is no room for me to turn, in the frowsy chaos of family life blooming around me.
i wake up.