A boy, his conquest and a drawing.
Let me tell you a story about a little boy who thought I was ugly!
We had been in Busan, South Korea, for a few days when a fellow traveller from Austria finally managed to get us out of the hotel for some walking and hiking. Robert really enjoyed getting out and about to see the city and surrounding area and I think he got a kick out of pushing his body because a daily 10km walk seemed like a piece of cake to him. We’ll have to try and channel more Rob awesomeness into our walks!
On one of his previous walks Robert had met a local working at one of the subway stations and got to chatting to him. Turns out TaeSung likes meeting travellers and had offered to take him to one of the many mountain treks that surround Busan and Haeundae Beach, where we were staying.
On that eventful day where our paths would cross this boy, we had an awesome trek but I will leave the details of that story for another day. Today’s story focuses on the subway return trip back to our guesthouse.
We managed to push hard to really give our legs a beating and timed the return to perfection with dusk catching up with us as we got to the base of the mountain. For that reason, and a few others, we were in great spirits as we sat on the subway, just enjoying the memories of the day in relative silence.
Across the carriage from me was Lisa and Robert amongst a row of commuters, with our new friend TaeSung sitting next to me. The boy was right across from me, one commuter over to Lisa’s right. He was maybe 4 years old and had some great cheeks that, hopefully when you see them later in the post, you will agree makes his smile genuine and very bright.
While he was not exactly still in his seat neither was he loud nor a burden on the ambience. He was just enjoying himself and chatting lively with his mother (for the purposes of the story, that is what I am assuming she was). Because both of us seemed in high spirits and our eyes had met a few times, eventually I could not help myself and said:
“Hello” as I waved and gave him my best disarming smile.
His mum, smiled down at him and encouraged him to reply. Taking the cue, and I guess to better deliver his line, he got off the seat and stood between us and uttered something, with gusto and conviction. Then returned to his seat, to amused chuckles from the rest of the carriage. I too smiled, confident in our mutual enjoyment of the moment and casual respect in our small interaction.
Still smiling from what the kid said, TaeSung leaned over to my ear and asked me if I knew what he said. Since my Korean is non existent I had to admit my ignorance.
“He said that you are ugly!” TaeSung said as he delivered this surprising news, with a possibly bigger smile.
Respect my arse! This cheeky little bugger had just insulted me to general communal amusement. I found myself looking at his mother for confirmation that her kid was being cheeky, maybe hoping for a small reprimand. Nothing but smiles and more general chatting. And not so much as a smile from the kid.
I was way too happy to let this get to me and I continued to smile at him. I know I said something but cannot remember what. It could have been “Well, that’s not very nice” or “Aren’t you cheeky” or “Thank you very much!” Any are as likely as the other and I’m not sure it matters. What matters is that it was enough to elicit a further response from the boy. So off the seat he came, and still holding his mother’s hand, took a podium like pose and once again delivered a line.
Since this seemed to get more laughs from the rest of the commuters I did not wait and immediately asked TaeSung what he had said that time.
“He’s still calling you ugly!” I think the smile had gotten even bigger.
Why, you little…
“That’s it, thems fighting words” I thought to myself as I sprang into action. Reaching into my shoulder bag where I carry my sketchbooks and art materials I quickly asked our group how long we had before our stop. 10 minutes, 15 at the most.
“No worries, I can work with that!” I got out my bleedproof paper sketchbook that I got the guys at Tilly’s Art Store in Rozelle, Sydney to put together for me and furiously started sketching a portrait of this kid. Considering it was in cartoon style and very quick, I think it’s fairer to call it a caricature and it was probably what the situation called for.
While I was drawing, a new facet to the story was developing without me really being aware of it. As Lisa tells it, the boy had noticed a young lady, probably about 15, and was making plans to get acquainted with her. She was standing, a bag on her back, and this situation seemed unacceptable to our young would be Casanova. Before he was able to make a move, I had his attention once again.
I was ‘finished’ with the drawing and ripped it off the sketchbook and showed it to the boy. After he had a look at it, and I had signed it, naturally, I offered it to him. Once again with his mum’s blessing he came down from the seat and moved in my direction. In one quick fluid movement he reached over, slapped the drawing away, nearly knocking it off my hands and got back on the seat.
My jaw dropped and the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down. I was damned if was coming off this epic battle of wits as the loser. I took the drawing back and reassessed it. What was wrong with the sketch that could have gotten such a negative response? In my mind, it was within my power to win this exchange and improvements in the sketch would help me reach my goal. It simply was not good enough to win his approval and I knew why. In my rush to finish it, I had left his hair as an empty outline instead of the jet black hair the boy had. Deciding his criticism had been more than fair, back to the drawing I went with my thick Copic Multiliner Brush Pen to give him his proper hair colour.
And back to the young girl he went. Having successfully gotten the attention and love of the rest of the commuters, and thoroughly enjoying himself while doing it, he began his move on the ‘poor defenseless’ girl. Shuffling closer to his mother he pouted and with masterful eyelash-batting he looked up at the girl, while patting the seat next to him. In a foregone conclusion, the girl happily accepted the offer of this small denizen of the subway.
I was once again ‘finished’ with my drawing, having evolved it from a sketch with some masterful moves of my own, I once again supplied it as an offering to the Lord of The Carriage. Having deemed it worthy of his time, he once again made the journey off his throne and down to my level. And once again came the whiplash of refusal, delivered with a quick arc of his arm. When he sat back down, he was noticeably further from his mum and closer to his conquest, the gracious girl playing along with his eager attention.
“You have got to be kidding me!” I thought and may not have been able to stop myself from also saying it out loud. By now we were the only show in town and cameras had come off their hiding places and we were centre stage. I believe Robert captured the historical moment on video.
It was just me and the boy and this was the do or die round. Time was running out and I was afraid of hearing the bell before I was declared the clear winner. “Fine, you asked for it! Time for the finishing move!” Looking once again at my opponent, to make sure he knew his time was coming, I reached back into my art bag and pulled out a Pigma Micron #8.
Next to his head, I drew a word balloon and employing TaeSung as my translator to repeat the same message below mine but in Korean, I wrote in big fat letters:
His reaction to the final product, as captured by Lisa, I hope you agree was a fitting end to a worthy battle. We both got clapping and nods of approval on our noble bout. I think there were more than two winners in that carriage and it was the best possible end to an already awesome day.