One of the joys and wonders of aging is you can’t remember a goddamned thing. On New Year’s Eve I lost a new pair of ski gloves my wife Jina bought me (even though I haven’t been skiing in twenty-five years) and a wool cap I used to wear in our freezing apartment as a way to expedite encroaching baldness. (It’s easier to let your hair down that way. Sorry to disappoint you, Hair.)
I think I left them on a shelf behind the toilet in the subway rest room, unless I put them on top of another shelf at the bookstore. It wasn’t worth trying to track them down afterwards. At least I still have my scarf, along with a spare pair of gloves and an extra cap.
As the Gloria Gaynor says, “I will survive.” Temporarily, of course.
On the bright side, although the new gloves were warm, they also chafed my knuckles and made me have to use stinky hand cream. Now my hands are free, if frozen.
Another great thing about getting older and more set in your ways is you become less observant. At least I do. Or maybe that’s because I’m always in a rush. City life makes you that way. While my wife tells me to chew my food twenty times before swallowing it, these days I tend to choke on my rice so my throat becomes ragged.
Regarding unobservant-ness, if you’ll excuse the coinage (sorry I can’t give you dollarage instead), it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I alighted on a shortcut to my workplace, after teaching the class for over nine months. Until then I’d been going the long way around the block, passing through a cafe before entering the main lobby of the building where I work. All I had to do was take a right at the entrance to the parking garage halfway down the block, then hang a left at the entrance of the building. A few days later I found an even shorter way, walking past the glass doors to the mall and taking a left past the smokers’ oasis.
Damn, I felt dumb! Still do, now that I think about it. I’ve got to cut that stuff out–thinking gives me a headache.
A few times on my way to teach these silent, impassive businessmen whose interest in English rivals that of mine in baseball statistics (in other words, it’s nonexistent)–either because it’s eight o’clock in the morning and too early to be alive, or else because they don’t have to pay for the lessons and probably have no incentive to learn the language whatsoever, which is often how I feel about learning Korean, if only because, as I mentioned before, I can’t remember a forking thing anymore–
–Anyway, twice on my way to work I’ve nearly been run over. Maybe I should pay more attention to those “no jaywalking” signs. Too bad they’re written in Korean and I’m illiterate. Another time as I was on my way to get coffee, a driver honked at me because I was in his way. I turned my head and yelled, “Fuck you!” I’m not a morning person, and I object to people driving cars in a city that’s already lousy with smog. Besides, if he’d waited a millisecond, I would have been out of his way.
In fact, the other day I got up and threw my coat on over my pajamas, stuffed my feet into my boots, and went up on the roof to check out the weather. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. The wind of the previous day had blown all the crap out of the sky so I had permission to breathe for a change. I surveyed the vast urban landscape, the land festering with cement and cluttered with concrete rectangles that appeared to have been dropped out of a mammoth cloth bag by a colossal toddler, and thought:
“Man, this city is fucking ugly!” Make that fugly. Come to think of it, it’s probably the ugliest place I’ve ever seen. (Granted, it probably looked a lot better before my country bombed the shit out of it during the Korean War.) And I live here! Maybe that’s why I’m becoming so ugly! And the uglier I get, the more beautiful women become.
Getting old is a ridiculously protracted punishment for a crime that happened so long ago you can’t even remember when or whether you even committed it. As that old, misogynistic asshole King Lear would say before he finally becomes wise (when it’s too late), “I am a man more sinned against than sinning.” At least it sometimes feels that way, so you can lavish in the luxury of being a victim instead of an incorrigible shithead (something my wife is all too happy to remind me of on a regular basis).
As for Lear’s misogyny, anyone who can refer to a woman’s vagina as “hell” has a serious attitude problem. From a fetus’s perspective, it might be the entrance to hell, or else to heaven, depending on the cards you’re dealt and how you play them. But as far as being able to return there, it’s always been heaven to me. Of course, if you’re a woman and your vagina is in pain, that must be hell.
Let’s see–where was I?
On the morning of New Year’s Eve I flagged down a cab and took the short trip to the subway station. I handed the driver, an old Korean man, a ten thousand won bill and he gave me several singles as change. I gave him a thousand won tip–even though this isn’t the preferred practice in the culture–got out, and as I boarded the escalator into the bowels of the subway, counted the change he’d given me. It turned out he’d only given me six thousand won instead of seven (it was a 3000 won ride–the lowest possible fare), so in addition to the gratuity I gave him, the guy had ripped me off.
Maybe that’s why his “thank you” smacked ever so slightly of insincerity. I hope he wasn’t so guilt-stricken and blinded by tears that he plowed into an oil truck. That would have been sad.
Later the same day (this was also the day I lost the cap and gloves), I almost left my laptop in another cab, failing at first to recall it under my distracting backpack. That wouldn’t have been the first time it happened–I did lose one about five years ago and never got it back.
While having dinner with my wife and one of her church friends last night, I daftly asked Jina what we were supposed to wrap in the leaves provided for us on a large plate. Instead of mocking my stupidity, as she’s usually all too happy to do, albeit in Korean for the benefit of eavesdroppers, she shrugged off the stupid question; I was able to answer it myself a moment later: we were having shabu-shabu for the second time in a week, and we were meant to boil the leaves in the pot of broth at the center of the table, as I should have recalled.
Remember how I told you before how I’m always in a hurry? Well, Jina’s worse. She sometimes pulls open the door to the microwave oven before it’s finished cooking something without pressing the stop button first. Now when I open the door to the oven to cook something, the motor starts running and I’m met with a radioactive blast. I have to put whatever it is I’m heating up in damn fast and close the door so I don’t end up with a second head growing out of my face.
There was something else I wanted to tell you, but I’ve forgotten what it was.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!