The Airbnb’s balcony overlooks the Yellow Sea. Crystal blue waves crash against Jeju’s volcanic black shore. The breeze is soft, the weather idyllic. A fisherman is just setting up on the rocks. It’s a postcard perfect scene, completed by a pair of deck chairs, some coffee, and two somnolent, happy tourists.
“Well, this is me today,” Erin says. She salutes the ocean with her coffee cup and closes her eyes.
“I know, right?” I reply. I glance down at the fisherman. “I’ve never understood that sport.”
“Just seems really boring.”
I’ve pre-positioned a bag of croissants between us. Without looking, Erin fumbles it open and pulls out Korea’s interpretation of the French classic. She picks it apart slowly, serenely, utterly unconcerned by the crumbs piling on her shirt.
Of course, I’m not much better. It’s the definition of a lazy Sunday, and I’m not sure I could move even if I wanted to. Our real apartment is uninhabitable, thanks to a few startlingly large nighttime visitors (followed immediately by a liberal application of anti-roach spray). We had to go somewhere while things aired out. And this is a semi-tropical island. It’s not our fault if we picked a room with a view.
But my coffee cup is empty. And it’s been that way for most of the last twenty minutes.
This is a dilemma. I do not want to move. But I want more coffee. What to do…?
“Erin, you wouldn’t want to-?” I start.
“You didn’t let me finish.”
“Didn’t have to,” she replies.
“Fine.” There is now a very long pause. “I guess I’m going to get some more coffee.”
Erin holds up her cup. “Get me some, too, okay?”
I glare, but the effect is lost on her. She still hasn’t opened her eyes. But I do spot a hint of a smile.
“You’re lucky I love you.”
She shakes her empty cup. “Um, hmm.” The smile widens.
I snatch it from her hand and go inside. Minutes later, I’m back, settling into my chair. “What’d I miss?”
“Damn,” I reply. “That would have been fun to see.” I hand over her steaming cup.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure it’ll be back around.” She takes a sip and sighs contentedly. “Thank you.”
Down below, the fisherman looks ridiculously picturesque perched on the uneven rocks like an ur-outdoorsman conquering creation anew. I watch from the balcony as he sets up his line, ties on the hook, attaches weights and bobbers, and then carefully adds some bait. His first cast is a study in grace, the bright orange float dancing on the waves like a promise.
“I just don’t get it,” I say.
Erin cracks an eye to see. “What, the fisherman?”
“Yeah,” I say. I’m strangely captivated by the bobber, watching it roll up and down. “Yeah,” I repeat, more clearly. “It’s just… I get that some people really love it, but I’ve never understood the allure, myself. It always sounded so tedious.”
Erin grins. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it looks like a lot of fiddly stuff with lines and bait and hooks, after which you stand around and wait—”
The orange bob vanishes under the water. The fisherman jerks his pole skyward, hands flying on the reel. The bob reappears, skimming the waves now, leaving a wake. But there’s nothing on the end. The bait’s been stolen. Carefully, oh so carefully, the man resets his line and sets up for another cast.
“…and then from the looks of things, the fish just get a good meal out of your stuff,” I finish.
“You're right. Sounds boring,” Erin agrees.
“Yeah. I mean, nothing against the guy. He obviously loves it.”
“And you know that because…?”
“Well, from here it looks like he spent roughly the gross domestic product of Rhode Island on his gear.”
Erin waves a hand, unimpressed. “Tiny state. Should aim higher. Try Delaware, next time.”
I snort. “Connecticut.”
“Let’s not go crazy.”
Time passes in comfortable silence. The fisherman’s routine becomes almost hypnotic. The line goes out, settles into the vast blue, and waits. Tension rises until some subtle sign causes the man to pull in his line. Most often, the hook is empty. Rarely, there’s a small fish, barely longer than his finger. These he throws back with a deft flick. Then the line is meticulously baited once more, and cast back out into the waves with all the grace and beauty of a poem.
“Just so... boring,” I repeat uncertainly.
“Uh, huh,” Erin says.
“I mean—he’s got something!” I lean forward, surprised.
The orange has vanished into blue waves once more, and the man jerks his line back. Except now there’s a wake following the bob. It struggles left, then right. The fisherman is patient, but quick. After a short battle, he pulls up a small fish, big as his hand. I see his head cock slightly. Then a dextrous move unhooks the catch and tosses it back into the sea.
“Guess it wasn’t big enough,” I say, settling back.
Erin sighs. She reaches down, pulls out her phone, and checks the screen. “It’s almost nine.”
She settles back on her chair and closes her eyes once more. “So I just wanted to point out that you’ve spent the last two hours watching a man fish.”
“I…” I frown. “Well, yeah. I guess I have.”
She shakes her head and smiles.
PS: We are back in our apartment. It is momentarily free of nocturnal visitors. FINGERS CROSSED!
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