안녕하세요


Annyeonghasaeyo.

That means, are you at peace? And the answer would be a big fat, NO!
(not that anybody really wants an answer to that rhetorical question)

I’m trying really hard to just live a life, but here in Korea I’m an adoptee.

Pear makkolli is really good, btw. Did you know I have four ceramic makkolli cups now? One for me and three for the other three kitchen stools.

One stool is occupied by my kids. Another stool is occupied by my absent lost love who sent me music to remind me of him so I have something to cry over my makkolli about. The third stool is occupied by my adoptive parents mom. And sitting on the table mocking me is a mad, angry adoptee gone berserk, who sent me a photo memorializing Harry Holt, which is like sending photos of Hitler to Jewish people, or dismembered fetuses to the aborting.

I’m afraid.

Berserkers were Norse fighters who went insane during battle, losing all perspective and could not discriminate between friend or foe, attacking everything in their path, oblivious to self destruction.

Also at the table is an adjosshi who knows for certain Kim Sook Ja is not my sister who wanted a six year dating plan and a gyopo who wanted a ten minute dating plan and a violent neighbor who just wants a punching bag.

The table is groaning.

In Sang-Shil Kim’s Land of the Not So Calm blog is this fortune cookie:

Aunt Carmen described how, at the turn of the century, they didn’t have envelopes but folded their letters into self-containing envelopes. She went on to describe several of her long-term correspondences, and how embarrassed she was, after-the-fact, for having used the pronoun “I” too much. But when you live alone, and you’ve only yourself to talk to, and where you live nobody speaks your language but you and three others who don’t live in the same town, how can you not write “I?” How can you not speak to yourself all the time?

Aunt Carmen made me eat in the kitchen by myself. With the dog. How many ways must the tree be reminded?

“Teacher! You are so beautiful! I want to marry you!” It’s true. I think I’m getting more beautiful every day. At the turn of the century, they said that about women as they got consumption, just before they wasted away.

I’m teaching the children to talk English to themselves. I know no one is going to practice with them. I know we’re all essentially alone. Part of me thinks I am preparing them for life.

Outside my window is the tulli-shaped building. I watch the farmer, his wife, and his mother tend their homestead. He feeds the rabbits. She feeds the fire to warm the floor. She must always smell like camp fire, as she’s always squatting in front of a puff of smoke. The mother gathers things and breaks ground by pitchfork. The dog barks at the chickens and can’t chase them, because he’s too stupid to not wrap his chain around the tree he’s tethered to.

I ask Dongja, “Does anyone live in those mountains?” She knows one person’s mother who lives alone in the mountains. She has a beautiful view. “Why don’t more people live up there?” Because it’s too hard. Too cold. Dongja later asks me, they all ask me, “Are you learning Korean?” Dongja prays before every meal. She prays for a husband.

Today it was 4 degrees Celsius with a biting wind. It’s mid April. I lose weight, just shivering.

Several years ago, a thousand miles away in China, a Buddhist monk was found in his hermitage cave in a trance and woken up by visitors. He offered his guests some dinner, but the dinner had been sitting uneaten for a week: burned, cold, and rotten.

Here in my room, I eat images for dinner. It takes days to digest them. In my consumptive trance-like state, I don’t move. Somebody please wake me. No. Don’t wake me. Let me stay here forever.

On my floor are pieces of joey. I’m assembling a kangaroo baby to symbolize the family bond that shouldn’t be broken. Our kangaroo costume was missing the joey. The joey is missing the kangaroo. I’m sewing as best I can, but the fabric wants to unravel.

The adjosshi reveled in his bachelor melancholy. He said love weakened men. We danced a blues sway to Piazzola, with the city lights beneath us and he gasped how romantic it was. And when are you going to learn Korean? Maybe if somebody here loved me I’d learn Korean. There has to be a reason. There has to be someone to talk WITH, or what’s the point? English exhausts him, so I must learn Korean. Stalemate. The bandoneon is silent.

I am very nearly reaching that point: that point where I only exist as vapor. This is the point where nothing really matters anymore, where sadness and loneliness are unintentionally image-enhancing. And, maddeningly, that is the point where suddenly you become interesting: because you are on the cusp of knowledge of the unknowable, near the revelations of death, and everyone wants that. Where Marlene Dietrich’s indifference and Betty Davis’s hysteria combine into something infantile and erotic. And Jean Paul kisses my legs and begs, begs me to let him be my boyfriend. And the artist gives me jewelry I didn’t ask for. And the foreman brings me prime cuts of beef I don’t want and the co-worker mows my lawn unsolicited and…only this time I am older and in Korea. And not willing to go through another nervous break-down and never, ever, willing to play Korean dating games.  I hate games.

Oh lord, what’s to become of me in this place?

A boy says “hi” to me. I say back, “An Yeong! (waaay too casual) Ha! Say YO!” (a mockery of formality) Please God, let me be cool. Let the students save me this year.

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