Look up the phrase control freak in the dictionary and you’ll see my wife’s picture. (It’s a selfie, naturally.) She’s a control freak controlled by control freaks leading all the way up to God, the ultimate control freak of them all, the remote control freak. Okay, I promise I won’t use that phrase for the rest of this entry, except to say that who knows? Maybe I’m a control freak too. As Jesus Christ, the man I’ve been cuckolded by, would quip, “How can you point out the mote in the other guy’s eye when you can’t even see the beam in your own eye?”
I’ve got a beam in my eye? No wonder my neck hurts so much.
On Saturday night after Jina and I had dinner together at the same Italian restaurant where I’d eaten with my student a couple of days before, she insisted we go to the supermarket to do some errands. As it was an unseasonably hot day and my trousers were sticky from dried sweat, I asked if I could go home and take a shower first. She said that would be okay, and I could come and meet her in half an hour at the little school where she tutors elementary school kids.
I thunk her and went back to bathe and change into some shorts and other informal garb. Once we were reunited, we hopped on the bus (not recommended unless you want to sprain your ankle) and got off (figuratively speaking) at the subway stop connected to the superb market. When I went to use the loo, I was annoyed by a voice-over announcement delivered in English by a preternaturally white-sounding American male, or else a Korean guy doing his damnedest to sound like one, about the benefits of the supermarket to newcomers that went on for several tedious minutes.
Jina, meanwhile, gathered an array of plastic items for use in her hagwon (school). Frankly speaking, as my students like to say, I didn’t pay much attention to what she accumulated in her shopping cart. As usual, I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I’d been up since five in the morning, blogging, writing questions to give my students, and teaching, and I wanted to go home and crash, preferably in bed.
Our mission accomplished, we went out and waited seventeen minutes for the bus and got home shortly after midnight. I took a shower, read for about twenty minutes, then went to bed.
At seven-thirty the following morning the alarm on Jina’s phone jolted me out of bed like a cattle prod.
“Time to get up,” she said.
“We have to go teach the Sunday school kids.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake.”
Jina has a way of roping me into commitments by asking me to do something when my guard is down or I’m not really listening to what she’s saying. When I balk later on, she cries foul and rakes me over the coals with her accusatory voice. This was one such commitment.
I got conned into going with her to church years ago, just as she also wheedled me into letting her commandeer my bank account. As I don’t trust myself with a credit card, that means she also gets to manage the procedure of buying plane tickets for my annual visit back home and reunion with my family. She can always use this for leverage as a way to threaten me during arguments that happen in midsummer, before I get to escape from her clutches for a few weeks before she (almost) invariably joins my folks and me to cut the festivities short. This also gives her something else to complain about later, lamenting that it was too expensive for both of us to take the trip. But if I go alone, of course I’m being selfish.
In other words, I can’t fucking win. Ever.
At least she lets me change my own diapers. (I must say I’ve gotten awfully good at it. I no longer jab my thumb with the safety pin–or “close pin,” as Korean people call it–as I used to.) But it’s my own fault. I’ve dug my own grave. And what a lovely plot it is. I hope I didn’t maim any maggots with the shovel in the process.
If I ever decide to put a gun up to my head, she’ll probably say, “No, let me pull the trigger!”
Being a gentleman–er, spineless worm–I will.
Sometimes I feel like a horse who’s been made to wear one of those silly colorful get-ups (have you seen the things they have to wear on their heads? It makes them look like gay Klansmen) and made to race until the time comes for him to end up on the buffet table at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Anyway, the Sunday school class proved relatively painless aside from the twit who led the children through a series of gestures intended to reinforce their budding faith in the church and its steely clutches, at least in contrast with the idiotic service upstairs, in which the minister cited a passage describing in Yahweh’s words how He would destroy the Egyptians for not believing in Him and rescue the Israelites who toed the line (sorry I couldn’t decipher the Korean heading for you; I’ll try to look it up later unless I forget, which I will). The service closed with one of Jina’s favorite hymns, “Trust and Obey.”
Also during the class with the kids, I helped some toddlers cut out pictures that they folded into a little house. The outside panel featured a man who needs no introduction, Mr. Jesus Christ Himself. When you opened the door he represented, you beheld an automobile (what else?). Lifting the opposite flap revealed a still life of a stack of greenbacks held together with a rubber band and a serpentine necklace slithering beside it (the Lord’s loot?). Then you saw a happy family–people! actual human beings! I thought we were supposed to be the point. Sorry, guess not. And the final frame showed the same people squabbling with each other (I must say the artist captured my wife in cartoon form beautifully).
I tried to help the children peel the backs off the stickers made to look like clothing for these pious cartoon characters to wear, but it was absolutely impossible. I’d just cut my fingernails the day before and I had to give up and let the women in the room take over.
(Something I’ve at least had a lot of practice with.)
Since I’d gone to use the rest room during the young junior apprentice preacher’s spiel to the children, after briefly becoming a whirling dervish and spinning some toddlers around until I got dizzy instead of following our young host’s Simon says-like, ridiculous directions, I got separated from Jina for several minutes. Thinking the class was about to wrap up, I went from the rest room directly to the cafeteria. (It turned out the class went on for another half hour–to ensure Sunday school follows the ancient rule of being just as boring as church.)
At lunch I was greeted by a friendly woman I couldn’t place. It was weird. She looked so familiar. She was armed with a small child. When her husband finally appeared to join us at our table, my memory snapped into place. They were the same people who’d invited Jina and me over for lunch about ten days ago.
“Thanks for your hospitality the other day,” I finally blurted out.
When I was finally able to escape after the church lunch, I napped for twenty minutes then went to meet some friends at a used bookstore. We proceeded from there to a Greek restaurant where all three of us ordered felafel wraps. They were tasty but filling–a barrage of starch. Just in case we hadn’t had our fill of carbs, we adjourned to a local watering hole and drank several pitchers of beer over the next several hours. My friend’s wife surprised him with a friendly ambush, having the server present him with her, his wife’s, business card. She’d been sitting at a table near the back with some of her friends and none of us had spotted her when we came in.
Between games of chess he went back and forth between the two tables to chat with her. Sometimes she came over to join us. All in all, a delightful time.
Until I got home, that is.
Jina was livid. She hates it when I drink. I used to be a bit of a lush, especially several decades ago, but these days I hardly ever actually get drunk, and I didn’t last night, despite the liberal intake of suds. The problem was that my breath stank to her, apart from the pizza I’d eaten to camouflage the stench of beer. I should have known it wouldn’t have worked. Not with her omnivorous nose.
I’m married to a bloodhound.
She said, “Get out!”
I felt like John Lennon being evicted by Yoko Ono and going on a bender for several years with Harry Nilsson and Keith Moon. Too bad all three of them were already dead; otherwise I would have looked them up and joined them. (Maybe I’ll be joining them for too long anyway. A man can always dream.)
Since the class I’m teaching at lunchtime today is going to be observed by my recruiter and I’ve yet to prepare anything, I didn’t want to stray too far, even though Jina threatened to change the combination on the door lock of the apartment. When she gets mad, she’s convincing enough to make these threats sound real.
So I trundled off like Oscar Madison to a nearby playground, pulled my long-sleeved shirt and trousers out of my backpack, assembled them into a pillow, rolled up into a ball like a pillbug, and tried to sleep.
About fifteen minutes later my phone sang its jingle. I answered it. It was Jina. She sounded a little less Godzilla-ish, but reiterated her threat about changing the secret code on the lock. I didn’t say much, clinging to my Miranda rights.
She asked me to call her back after I’d had time to reflect. I made an abortive attempt to sleep for a few minutes, sketched out what to say in my head, then called her.
“I understand why you’re mad at me. You have a right to be. I know you hate it when I drink. I’ll really try to avoid it from now on. I know it’s bad for me and I need to lose weight.”
That’s an abridged paraphrase of my statement, but you get the gist.
She said I could come back home. Yippy.
Having entered the domestic sanctum, I humored her by brushing my teeth again and gargling with mouthwash, even though she’d taken up her position on the sofa. I offered to sleep there instead as an act of contrition, but she was too serene and subdued at that point (or else just enervated from the demands of rage) to require that I do.
The good news is that at night when I lie down in bed, my heart beats so fast I wonder if it’s powered by hummingbirds. I may be too much of a chickenshit to get out of this hazardous marriage (it’s much easier to fuck yourself than anyone else), but if the dream I had the other night involving a funeral that might have been mine, though the pale-faced corpse didn’t ring a bell, is any indication, I might finally have drawn a Get Out of Jail Free Card.
Please drag me from this cell and drop me in my coffin.