Wednesday, October 15, 2014



Mars, the god of war, wears many masks. Amidst the bloody grimaces and sardonic grins, the anguish, pain, and horror, there is occasionally a glimpse of humor, compassion, and hope. So, after the barrages of bombs, shells, grenades, bullets, and mortars had ceased; and the clouds of smoke and gas been swept away by merciful winds, there was one two-story building left standing in Yongdongpo. Strangely, it had become a brothel for American troops, in spite of the area's U.S. commanding officer, quartered across the street, who preached that "trafficking" with Asiatic women was tantamount to treason, and an insult against American women, living in indifferent comfort thousands of miles away. (The house was electrified at night via wires we had secretly tapped onto the born-again Christian colonel's generator.) Well, this "traitor" wandered into the place on Rest and Recuperation leave, and met Myong-ja, as delightful a source of comfort as can be imagined. I had already ridden, and fallen frequently in lust-love's rodeo, so I could maintain perspective about the "meaningfulness" of our relationship, but to many of our soldiers their brief trip with the "comfort ladies" would be the best sexperience they had had, and in many cases the best they would ever have. On my next visit I brought her an amethyst necklace, because I had noticed that most of her jewelry and trinkets and clothes were that color. Wearing nothing else, the beads matching her nipples, she was an unforgettable vision of what it should all be about. Her room and shrines to a vast pantheon of gods and goddesses, and her altar of a bed, were on the second floor. At one point I told her, "I have to pee." She took me by the hand, led me to an open window, indicated that that was where one did it. Well, when in Rome... (even though I heard voices from below). The next time I visited, knowing it would be my last, as the 1952 truce was sending me home, I brought Myong-ja a bundle of amethyst-colored goodies, even a jar of grape jelly. (She was not allowed to accept money from anyone except the establishment's Mama.) This time, when I "had to go," she took me energetically by the arm and pulled me down the hall, where she opened a door and exposed a gleaming, snow-white porcelain Crane urinal mounted on the wall. All this time she was exclaiming, with exquisitely proud giggles, "Just like stateside! Just like stateside!" When I felt a warm dampness on my feet, I looked under the urinal and discovered that there was no plumbing, just a hole punched into the floor. I didn't have the heart to say anything negative. So, we celebrated the event, with chocolate and red wine, and the sweetest of all our entwining. As I embraced her one last time, I could feel the cold already taking over her flesh: the country's Myong-jas, when peace came, and the "enemy" left, were mostly ostracized and driven from their homes--hundreds committed suicide. Believe me, my tears are real.

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