On the fifth day of skiing in the land of almost right— after hearing the Voice of God, watching malevolent puppets exert Confucian order on the liftline, even after an assault by a computerized toilet—I finally experience something that truly shakes me. The twitching leg does it. It's evening. Tall nightskiing towers line Muju's icy slopes, and in their weird lunar glow a not inconsiderable crowd swarms and bumps like moths beneath a porch light in August. Except the boy. The boy, he's a blur moving fast toward the bottom of the ski hill. He makes no attempt to turn. He doesn't scream. Remarkably, he makes no sound at all as he hits a restraining fence at 20 miles an hour. He hits so hard that momentum bends his body under the fence and sends him skittering 30 feet beyond. He's unconscious and immobile when I reach him. Except for his leg. His left leg is twitching spasmodically.
It seems a very long time before the boy opens his eyes. He sits up, swats at the snow on his pants, stands unevenly and starts to gather his goggles and poles. Back in the liftline, Pom is waiting for me. Pom, a 23-year-old university student and part-time ski patroller at Daemyung Vivaldi Park Ski World, is my guide and translator as I visit three of South Korea's top resorts. After the crash, Pom told a bystander to call the patrol. There, apparently, his interest in the matter ended.
For me, on the other hand, it's the worst crash I've seen in 20 years of skiing and my heart is pounding like Tito Puente on Benzedrine. I need to talk to someone. I need, as we say in America, to "process" this. That leg. Jesus. Didn't he notice that leg? Jesus.Pom...well, he looks rather bored at the moment.
"Did you see that?" I say. It comes out like a yelp. Pom's slack expression is the face of hard-won stoicism. Maybe it's the patroller in him. Or maybe it's the fact that he sleeps every night beside a border of two million land mines. When he does speak, his voice is a shrug.
"Not very unusual," he says.