Yesterday after I was so abruptly interrupted by my wife, who wanted me to help her prepare cookie batter for our young students (the nerve!), we assembled everything we needed for the project and took a taxi to the school where we work. When we go there we started rearranging the furniture in the classroom, as we do every day. Jina (my wife) hectored me like a woodpecker and in an overzealous moment I shoved one of the desks a little too forcibly and it flew into the wall, dinging a dent in her beautiful blue-green paint job. Luckily, she didn’t notice (wouldn’t want to give her fresh ammunition), and I didn’t point it out to her.
Later on I did draw our benefactor aside from preparing her math class in the teachers’ office; she’s the woman who was kind enough to let us use the room in the first place. Jina and I initially reciprocated by helping to paint and wallpaper the place, a procedure lovingly described in the pages of my other blog, which were lost in a computer glitch that claimed forty pages of writing or so, proving that the Grim Reaper has ultimate primacy over cyberspace along with everything else (shhh! don’t tell the sperm cells and ova! wouldn’t want to discourage them).
Anyway, Mrs. Lee was kind enough to say, when I showed her the damage (which Jina had noticed by then and overheard my confession; luckily, she’d cooled down enough not to behead me with a machete), “‘To err is human; to forgive is divine.'” She’s a proper Christian, as one of Dylan Thomas’ characters in his immortal Under Milk Wood would say.
“That’s a great quote,” I said. “I just didn’t want you to think one of the students had done it. I guess teachers can act like children sometimes too.” One of the hazards of the trade (field), as it turns out. I asked her if she knew who’d first said those words; when she replied that she didn’t, I said I’d look it up on what George W. Bush called “the Internets.” (Maybe he was thinking of a more cosmic phenomenon outside the ken of the rest of us; as president, he may know a few things we don’t, despite the damning weight of appearances.)
The cookie-baking party was a great success, even though I’ve been trying to dissuade Jina from insisting on the monthly food-including festivities for the children, primarily for selfish reasons, since they always bring out the worst in her (admittedly, along with the best). To help make up for any words of love she may have thrown my way recently, she waxes vicious and calls me “stupid,” “lazy,” or “selfish,” sometimes in front of other people. To avoid causing a scene, I usually keep my own fiery replies internal, or to practice Mrs. Lee’s advice for the sake of smarmy moral superiority or out of cringing cowardice (oh yes, she also calls me a coward sometimes, generally as a rejoinder to insufferable complaints about one of my myriad tedious ailments) rather than any genuine innate virtue.
The other day she got on my case about not having prepared the necessary forms to renew my visa at the immigration office (something she’d taken the initiative to do the night before, unbeknownst to me; I’ll admit that in this case the indictment of laziness is/was well-earned; suffice it to say that it’s hard to motivate yourself to stay on in a country, no matter how much you love it, when you’re immured in such an abusive relationship; from her point of view, you might say at least she has what she sees as a valid excuse for abusing me). She asked me when we were outside our apartment building if I’d remembered to bring my laptop. I said that I hadn’t and asked for her to wait for me while I ran upstairs and got it.
She didn’t wait for me, and I couldn’t see which way she’d gone, as she must have advanced up the street at jackrabbit-speed; a marvel considering she usually drags her feet, determined as she is at times to wear uncomfortable shoes in order to keep up appearances.
I tried to reach her on my mobil phone but she didn’t answer. She hadn’t said which way we were going to go, and had mentioned something about dropping the computer off at the school on the way to the immigration office, so I went towards the bus stop where we usually go, which entailed walking down the other side of the hill (we live at the foot of a small mountain). I called her again and she said she was in front of the bakery at the top of the hill. I shlepped back up in the unseasonable heat, panting like a fat dog (I am fat, by the way; otherwise, I wouldn’t make fun of fat people, or fat dogs, unless I was an asshole, which I also am, at least according to my proctologist, but he may be exaggerating). Didn’t see her at the bakery, so I walked to another bus stop near by. Called her again; she said she was at the town office, next to the health club, sports club, or whatever it’s called, across the street from the bakery. Trudged back that way, went to use the toilet at the sports club.
When she chewed me out on the phone, I threw the device I was holding against the floor, something I’d resisted doing for a long time, although I once threw it against a wall several months ago, as some of you may recall (it’s in a post entitled “May I Please Explode?”). I’ve got to hand it to the company that manufactured the cell phone; they did a hell of a good job in making it indestructible. And the thing was free!
Got a text message from a woman seeking private English lessons to prepare for a job interview and agreed to meet her the next day.
Excuse all the digressions.
In the middle of our trip to the immigration office, we had a quarrel in a subway station after I admitted I didn’t remember which way to go (she was testing me to point out my own morbid and pathetic lack of self-sufficiency). I ended up banging my head against the wall a couple of times, which elicited a look of horror from a Korean woman passing us on her way down the stairs. Jina told me to stop–surprisingly. She could just as easily have said, “Go ahead.”
What could I do? I needed her help, and in order to secure her cooperation, I had to be nice to her, even though we were both livid. It took us both a while to cool down. We stopped for coffee and baked goods at a place in the subway station nearest our destination and sat down on an underground bench to eat and refresh ourselves with the coffee.
By the time we got to the immigration office, we were both fine. Madness!
The funny thing is that she gave our students strips of paper yesterday with a Bible quote from Proverbs for them to memorize over the weekend, saying that God has “abounding love” for us and is “slow to anger.” I haven’t brought up to her yet the discrepancy between God’s putative cool disposition and her own volcanic mushroom cloud of a temper. Perhaps God isn’t so much a role model for her as an idol to be worshipped, envied instead of emulated.
My own boiling rage promises to destroy me–soon. Although she’d probably prefer it if I murdered her (since I can’t humor her by bringing a poor, helpless baby into the mix), as TV’s Breaking Bad‘s Walter White would say, “Murder is wrong!” It would also entail going from one prison to another, reinforcing a pattern of redundancy and futility with an inexorable exclamation point. Besides, for all her infinitely annoying foibles, she deserves to live. Despite all I’ve said, she’s a good person. She’s just uncomfortably nuts.
If one of us has to go, it might as well be me–one way or another. Let’s hope I can defy Jim Morrison’s menacing threat and get out of this stupid, frightening situation alive. Otherwise, you might as well roast me with a flamethrower, as long as you give me a minute to apply sunscreen first.