Last Sunday my wife Jina taxi-jacked me to the house of God (or HOG, for short), where we had to sit on the floor of the balcony behind bulletproof plexiglass rendering the pastor as unassassinatable as God Himself. While she listened to the interminable sermon, I read from a Very Short Introduction to the Bible by John Riches from the series of V. S. I.’s put out by Oxford University Press. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Very Short Introductions, I highly recommend them in a BeeGeesesque falsetto, as they are remarkably well-written, erudite, and brief.)
I was distracted by an attractive parishioner and friend of Jina’s who’d come in even later than we had by herself. She sat down not too far from us, and I jokingly whispered to her to let me know if she had any questions. (The offer was patently absurd as the “service” was in Korean and I had no idea what the benighted ignoramus in charge of the distribution of self-serving lies was talking about. That’s why Jina alwas translates what she can for me into English in a little notebook, not that I give a shit deep down.)
We sang the closing hymn, the words to which I groan-mumbled since: a) I can’t read hangeul fast enough to keep up with the tune; and b) I don’t want to brainwash myself with third-hand nonsense.
After the rest of the flock shuffled out of the building, Jina unctuously insisted once again that I see the light and let Jesus possess me like a used car or Mary Magdalene. So as to avoid an argument, I grunted that I’d think about it, even though I knew I wouldn’t, as gay necrophilia has never been my bag (not that I’m here to cast stones).
The night before, on our way home from a pizza joint, before getting on the bus, Jina asked herself out loud if we should go to a cafe or just head home. As the question remained unanswered, I asked her what we were doing when we got to the stop near the cafe. As we stepped off the bus, she raised her voice and said it stressed her out when I was indecisive. I asked her to chill, redundant as the request was, considering it was already freezing outside.
In fact, it’s been cold just about everywhere in Seoul for the past two weeks. The cold is inescapable, whether I’m at work, home, or the little after-school school where Jina teaches elementary school kids. It’s even colder standing under a hot shower in our apartment, since the bathroom’s adjacent to the balcony, and we’ve got to open the window for ventilation. The only place that’s warm is bed, and you can’t stay there all day.
I’d promised Jina I would help her teach the kids on Monday, even though I didn’t really want to as I finally have a few weeks off from work and for the time being I’m sick of teaching English to anybody.
On Sunday night I’d also made the mistake of promising Jina I’d wash the dishes for a change, then blew it off, thinking she probably wouldn’t mind. I rationalized by telling myself I could do them in the morning.
On Monday morning she denounced me as lazy and washed the dishes herself so she’d be able to cook us breakfast, muttering various oaths in Korean as I meekly watched her back from the dining room table (the kitchen and the dining room are actually one big room). She’d neglected by belated offers to do them finally, and when I slunk into the laundry room to check my emails, she threatened to get rid of the computer or even throw it away.
She had to go to the school early to set things up, unless she had to stop off at the church and flagellate herself first for being a miserable sinner unworthy of God’s invaluable love.
I told her I’d catch up with her. After she left, I drank some coffee and read for awhile. Then I got up from the table, shaved, and took a shower.
Luckily, when I got to the school, she didn’t get mad at me in front of the students.
That would come later.
Before the events described at the end of the last paragraph, and after the meal alluded to at the beginning, while we were waiting for the bus to take us home, I pointed out a high school girl wearing a uniform that included a skirt, and said her legs must be cold. Jina frowned at me and glared.
“Why are you looking at other girls instead of me?” she asked.
“What do you mean? I am looking at you.” I leaned close to her and whispered, so the young woman standing behind us wouldn’t be able to hear, “Besides, we stopped having sex with each other a long time ago. What difference does it make?”
“Cheugeulae?” she asked (Korean for “Do you want to die?” but said jokingly).
When we got back home at night, after having a nice Italian dinner and reading in a civilized fashion at a cafe around the corner from the restaurant (actually, I think she was checking out merchandise on the internet, as we’d brought the laptop along), she renewed her demand that I finish doing the dishes, asking why I hadn’t boiled the water and finished the job after she’d left for work earlier in the day. I didn’t really have an answer for her, and sorry wasn’t good enough.
She cranked up the volume and threw a handful of spoons and chopsticks across the room. They landed on the kitchen floor. (I was in the living room at the time, but she’d thrown them in my general direction to get her point across.)
I crossed into the laundry room. She followed me, eyes blazing, voice enlarged by self-righteous rage.
She was also carrying a knife–not a big one, but sharp.
I had a knife of my own, the one I keep in my mouth.
I said: “I hate your guts, you fucking bitch. I want a divorce.”
She tried to stab me with the knife, but I was far enough away to defend myself by picking up a chair and pointing the legs at her like a lion tamer.
“Get out!” she said.
“Fuck you! I’m not going outside. It’s freezing out there!”
“I don’t care! Get out!”
I refused again.
“Do you want me to kill you?” she asked, swinging the knife at me again. “Do you want me to kill me?” She turned the blade towards her stomach.
“No, don’t do that,” I said. “Please put the knife down.”
She said she couldn’t kill anyone anyway–including herself–as her religion forbade it. Still, I was far from convinced, considering how zealously she’d just swung the weapon at me, and more than once.
(The following morning she’d ask me if I was scared of her. “Sometimes,” I replied. Then she looked down guiltily.)
She said that all I did was read and write. I told her it’s my religion.
“It’s not a religion,” she said.
“Yes, it is.”
“Why can’t you let Jesus into your heart?”
Oh brother, I thought. Here we go again.
She alluded to the remark I’d made at the bus stop on our way home, and I apologized. I also said I was sorry I’d called her a bitch. She said I was cold.
“Why are you so depressed?” she asked. “Why do you hate your life so much?”
I couldn’t have answered the question without breaking her heart.
After we’d had a few minutes to cool down in the freezing room, I asked her to give me a hug.
“Why? So you can take the knife away?”
“No, come on.”
I took the chance and hugged her.
“Sorry I’m sometimes cold to you.”
“No, you always are,” she said, returning the hug.
Since she asked me to, I went into the next room, picked up the cutlery scattered on the kitchen floor, and dumped in on the floor of the sink.
And they all lived happily ever after.