The clank of the air conditioning unit. The footfall of my steps on the marble staircase. At the glass door the local stray moggie strolls across my path, dirty with yellow dust. Across the street an old woman in a fluoro vest and visor pulls a metal shopping trolley behind her. She wears a towel over her head to protect from the sun, despite the smog on the mountains giving the sky a grey pallor.
Past a vegetable truck, the trampoline room where children gather after school to bounce to the latest k-pop music. A himone has cultivated a vegetable patch next door, filled with lettuce and spring onions. Across the street she is growing something with wide green leaves in an abandoned lot full of worn wood, rubbish and overgrown weeds.
There’s a man staring at me now. The chilli turd restaurant, named after the giant flaming poop on the sign. The Rome pizzeria, the fruit shop’s roller doors in yellow, blue and red stripes. The Baccus Hof. The sound of a piano tinkles above as young students rigorously play Bach or maybe Mozart.
Two middle-aged men, one in a green polo laugh next to the ATM. A young mother in a flannelette shirt crosses the road with her daughter. The little girl’s pants read “Sample” on the backside. The bright orange sign of Cham Mart, the smell of petrol as cars idle at the intersection. Brown unpeeled onions in baskets out front.
Inside the air-conditioning feels cool on my skin, dance music hangs in the air. An icy fog rises from the lettuce chiller. Chocolate, strawberry, Seoul, Busan, 1A, 0.8% milk. I pay for the milk and bananas, the cashier an overweight woman wearing the bright orange vest of Cham Mart.
On the way back the himone closes the mesh gate to her garden. She raises her head. “Ayonghaseo,” she says and I return the greeting with a slight nod of my head. When I pick up my mail I feel the residue of yellow dust from the Gobi Desert.