After the nuttiness of a Friday night spent waiting for my wife Jina to finish making her purchases at the combination supermarket-department store, and having to go outside to escape from the tape-loop of commercials that kept playing over the loudspeakers, punctuated by breathless, hyperactive exhortations to shoppers in Korean, I finally got to go home and go to bed.
But not before we indulged in a rare vice, breaking down to gobble some burgers and fries together at a fast food joint, lubricating every other bite with coke on ice sipped through a straw.
Jina generously bought me a box of boxer shorts that actually fit my fat frame, so now I don’t have to do my laundry every other day.
Saturday morning we got up and I vacillated for several minutes before agreeing to join Jina on the retreat she’d been planning to make with the other members of her church. I had mixed feelings about it as I don’t like managed activities on the weekend. I prefer to kick back and relax, or go for a hike, or mosey around aimlessly to compensate for the relentlessly robotic routine demanded by the working week.
I had to take a shower to wake myself up, and made a mental note to stop and get coffee on the way to meet her friend so I wouldn’t get a headache later from caffeine withdrawal. I knew they’d probably only have powdered coffee at the church’s compound, and I just can’t drink that shit anymore. It’s nothing personal; I’m just allergic to poison (as well as church–pardon the redundancy).
We stopped at a bakery and bought some egg sandwiches and iced coffee and went to the subway station where Jina’s friend Shin Ah was waiting for us. She’s a nice, middle-aged, married woman, but usually when I see her I feel bad–not to say guilty–since she doesn’t have any kids and appears to be unhappy about it. Jina sometimes laments that she and I don’t have children either, and I have mixed feelings about it. But considering how harrowing our fights can get, and how many things we already disagree about, the idea of having children together is probably on the stupid side.
The reason I feel guilty is that I’ve deprived her of the opportunity to have that experience in this lifetime, even though I’m also relieved as I don’t expect our marriage can last much longer. In the name of sanity, it will be discontinued by either death (mine, presumably, since I’m too shy to commit murder, and too polite to commit suicide–at least not directly) or divorce. (Besides, it might not be too late for her to have children anyway if she can find a nice Christian bloke to tie the noose with.)
This is too bad, as I do love her in some ways, and we sometimes get along pretty well. I’m also proud of her for all her accomplishments. There are just too many things missing from the marriage for us to keep going much longer without things falling apart anyway.
On the subway we saw two guys sleeping side by side on the left end of the opposite bench (contoured into individual seats). The man on the left had his head thrown back and his mouth wide open, although he wasn’t snoring. His buttoned shirt climbed up above his belt buckle, revealing a bit too much visual information for some of our tastes. The other man was younger, his head bookended in earphones. While the first man had his legs crossed and the second sat with his at a forty-five degree angle to air out his crotch, their upper bodies shared the same attitude–arms folded, heads tilted over the right shoulder.
I pointed them out to Jina and whispered, “Do you think they’re together?”
She said no.
The reason I thought they might be was the man on the right appeared to be resting his head on the other guy’s shoulder. Then I noticed there was a gap between them.
Eventually the younger man opened his eyes and got up without a word, exiting the train as the doors breathed open.
The retreat was tolerable, even though I had to share a bedroom with a man who snored even more loudly than I do. I ended up having to go out for a stroll in the wee hours to escape from his stertorous breathing.
It was nice to be surrounded by green mountains and lots of foliage, along with dragonflies and cicadas (both of which creatures are also available in Seoul). I narrowly avoided being stung by a wasp when I went to use the john in the middle of the night, saying, “This toilet’s only big enough for one wasp!” Another one I had to crush to death underfoot at he was flying around on the floor, unable to take off. I apologized and asked for Christ’s forgiveness.
I missed the afternoon activities–there was a choice between swimming in the pool, hiking, playing team sports, and sitting in the sauna–in favor of a two-hour nap. I was shattered after a stressful week and needed time to rest up.
When I woke up I decided to go for a walk up the hill. My timing was dumb as I took a shower beforehand, but I wasn’t planning on exerting myself to a sweaty extent. After advancing about five hundred meters up the trail, I came to a dirt road.
I was alarmed by a sign next to the hill above the road that showed a picture of an army boot stepping on a squat cylinder that read: “DANGER: MINE ZONE.”
I kept walking along the dirt road anyway, but a moment of fear coursed through my veins like lightning when I thought, “What if there’s a mine buried in the road?”
Common sense prevailed, however, as I realized it wouldn’t have looked so well-traveled had it been replete with mines. I also noticed a refreshing absence of human corpses and branches festooned with fly-speckled entrails–always a good sign.
What were the mines doing there? When had they been planted? Were they relics from the Korean War? Were they intended to remain in case the North and the South decided to go at it again for old time’s sake?
I thought of the Paul McCartney-Michael Jackson duet “The Girl Is Mined,”* and wondered if that was the song that led a deranged fan to shoot Jackson in cold blood outside his home in Neverland. If so, perhaps his prison sentence should be reduced in the name of clemency.
I read in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine that the same company that manufactured the mines used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also made the mine-detectors. How thoughtful of them.
Short of nuclear weapons, Predator drones, daisy cutters, cluster bombs, bayonets, hand grenades, guillotines, and poison gas, it’s hard to think of a more nefarious, insidious invention than the land mine.
The sea mine, on the other hand, is both wonderful and beautiful.
Have a mineless day.
*The “girl” in this case being Mother Earth. By the way, as offensive as my parodic title of that song may sound, the possessiveness of “The Girl Is Mine” strikes me as equally offensive. Besides, I was being satirical, while Jackson and McCartney were in earnest. Silly poopyheads.