The Invisible Referee

After my wife Jina and I finished our shouting match on Friday night and she finally let me go to bed without setting fire to all my books, Hernando Cortez style, she crept into the bedroom unarmed and lay down on top of me.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“That’s okay.”

She was crying and I could tell she meant it.  She lets the crocodiles monopolize the insincere tears.

“I didn’t mean to get so angry at you.  Jesus says I should always love Stew.”

“Everybody gets angry.  So do I.  It’s only natural.”

As she got up and prepared to snuffle out of the room, she said, “But I have been waiting a long time for you to get rid of that stuff.”

“I know.  I’ll take care of it before I go on my trip.  I promise.”

And I will.  That’s what I did last year.  I left a replica of one of the Twin Towers in the kitchen to be recycled before I flew away for a month last August.  I stopped short of making a paper airplane to fly into the stack, thinking it might seem disrespectful.

Jina stayed up all night Saturday while I fitfully slept.  When I woke up at five in the morning she was cleaning the bathroom.

“How come you never clean the bathroom?” she asked.

“I’m sorry.  I’ll clean it next time.”

“How many times have you cleaned it?  Twice.”

She meant “twice” in eight years, I think, though I know I’ve cleaned it more times than that–at least four.  That’s nearly once for every place we’ve lived in since I moved to Korea.

She finally went to bed as I got up to do some writing.  She doesn’t like it when I get up while she’s in bed (even though we usually end up sleeping in shifts so we can take turns snoring); she likes to be included in as many of my conscious activities as possible.

When her alarm clock went off two hours after she’d gone to sleep, I tried to wake her up, but she was held down by the power of fatigue.  

Later her phone rang and she answered it in Korean.  I gathered it was one of her church friends calling to give her instructions on what to do.

As I sat in the kitchen eating a bowl of brown rice anointed with sesame oil and bedecked with kimchi and pickled cucumbers, she barged in and asked, “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“I tried to but you were fast asleep.”

“Why didn’t you try harder?”

“I made two attempts but you didn’t budge.”  (That’s not a lie–I forgot to mention the second attempt to you before.)

“Don’t come to church,” she said.

“Why not?”

“All you’re going to do is sit and read your book anyway.”

“What else am I supposed to do?”

I can’t understand the sermon as it’s in Korean, and I refuse to go to an English-speaking service because at least when the whole thing is in Korean the nonsense remains indecipherable.

The funny thing is, as vehemently opposed as I am to organized religion (and, increasingly, organized anything–although that’s not true–it makes sense for certain things to be organized), I actually like going to church because at least it’s a social outlet.  Since nobody there talks to me about God, I can make small talk with them without feeling proselytized to.  I guess since I’ve fooled them into thinking I share their beliefs, they figure they don’t have to bother, which suits me fine.

Eventually Jina relented and let me come with her, as I knew she would.  (Besides, much as I would have liked sleeping in for a change, I knew if I didn’t go I’d never hear the end of it.)

We took a taxi there and blessed the driver.  Since we were too late for the nine o’clock service, we sacrificed our role as Sunday school assistants in order to attend the one at eleven.  Jina hadn’t told me that she had to go help prepare lunch in the kitchen (I guess that’s what the phone call was about), so as she scrambled around in the cafeteria, I tacitly excused myself to go buy two cups of iced coffee, an egg sandwich, and a chocolate-covered doughnut (artificially delicious).  I decided I wasn’t already fat enough and needed to augment my breakfast.

During the service I worked out some anagrams on several folded sheets of paper (see?  I don’t always read while the pastor’s conducting his sermon), which I may share with you tomorrow even though some of them are probably too silly to bother recording.

Usually I fake my way through the hymn we all have to stand up and sing at the end, but this time I read along to the lyrics written in Korean, projected on a big screen to the left of the garrulous pastor, who’d finally shut up in the name of the Lord so we could add our voices to the traffic jam of hallelujahs cluttering the clouds of heaven.

Since when it comes to Korean I’m an incredibly slow learner, I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the flock and was several beats behind.  I was also too busy just trying to pronounce the letters correctly to bother with the melody.  I “sang” loudly–or rather barked–a canine hip-hop version of the unforgettably interchangeable hymn.

At lunch Jina apologized to me for sometimes acting like a drill sergeant.

“But don’t worry,” she added, “because Jesus always loves you.”

“Thanks,” I said.

It’s nice to be loved by a dead guy who probably never even existed.  I can’t think of anything more special.

Now if I could only somehow seduce Zeus.  That lightning-fingered playboy is always playing hard-to-get with me.  At least if I ever get raped by a swan I’ll know who it is.


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