I woke up a few minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off so I wouldn’t be startled awake by its insistent shrieking beep.
The advent of my long-awaited annual trip back to the American States of Unity felt even harder-earned than usual. Not that I’m a workaholic by any stretch of the imagination on the most innovative torturer’s rack or Procrustean bed, but this has been a stressful period for me indeed. As if attempting to find common ground with a group of twelve Korean three year olds I’ve been teaching in a kindergarten class weren’t enough of a challenge, I also had to deflect my wife Jina’s hectoring attacks, feeling like one of the human protagonists in Hitchcock’s The Birds.
(Wouldn’t it have been funny, not to mention ironic, if the soundtrack to that film had been provided by the semi-psychedlic late-sixties American pop group The Byrds? Don’t forget to get back to me with an answer to this rhetorical question.)
Often these days after laying into me with undue harshness or vitriolic joie du vivre, Jina will apologize in a show of genuine contrition that it makes it hard for me to sustain any fleeting homicidal fantasy of caking the walls of a butcher shop with her remains or adorning a Christmas tree with her glistening viscera.
But then the harangue will start all over again several hours later, so that I end up in a permanent emotional quandary, befuddled by extremes that range from pity for her painful physical ailments–which, for all I know could be as psychosomatic as many of mine probably are–to the aforementioned blinding rage that would be all but impossible to contain were I not already thoroughly enervated by years on the receiving end of peevish mistreatment, so that I’m more inclined to put myself out of my misery than to inflict pain on her in kind, finally bringing to an end the karmic feeding frenzy of insatiable yet disgusted bulimic piranha fish.
Please keep in mind that I’d been looking forward to this vacation for a long time–basically since the last one ended nearly a year ago–but the recent flare-ups in my chest and left arm–though as likely as not caused by anxiety as by hypertension–had me half-convinced I would keel over and croak days before I could escape, and be given a Christian burial against my will–the final insult, the coup de grace of abject humiliation and posthumous castration–as if God Himself were taking a dump on my dumpy remains.
In case you haven’t gotten the picture, my wife is perhaps the biggest control freak on the face of the earth. She makes Hitler look like Jeff Bridges as the Dude in The Big Lebowski.
In order to have any semblance of freedom or dignity whatsoever in this dungeon of a marriage, I have no choice but to hide certain things from her. Nothing major–but I have to be vigilant to preserve some boundaries.
For example, while I let her choose which clothes to pack in my suitcase (since I’m not that attached to what I wear, except literally), I wanted to choose carefully which books to bring with me on the flight back home. Since I’m still in the middle of two nonfiction books, I decided to pack them both, along with one novel just in case.
So what does Jina do? She says, “Take only one book,” as if it were cardinal law–no pun intended–and since she was back in fighting mode, I decided not to argue with her. I didn’t want to get bogged down in a quagmire of bickering and miss my flight.
I took the books into the bedroom and set them on top of one of her copies of the Bible. I put the other two books away on the shelf in the other room and added Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies to my backpack for good measure.
We continued squabbling under the pressure to get everything ready in time, then for some reason she called her mother, probably to complain about me.
I went outside to get a taxi, but decided to wait, lest she threw a shit-fit in my absence and cast a plague of frogs and locusts on the land like Yahweh in drag.
It’s a good thing I did, as she was able to direct the cabbie better than I could have, so he drove us right up to the front door to the terminal for the airport shuttle.
When I suggested we take the express train, she looked at me as if I were a newborn idiot, saying, “Where does that go?” as if I should know it wouldn’t take us to the right place.
We boarded the all-stop train and she nudged me to look at the blinking-lighted diagram above the door that showed all the stations the train stopped at. Then she asked a stranger who confirmed my hunch that the express train was the way to go.
We got off at the next station and I asked her how much time we’d save if we took the express.
“How should I know! Ten minutes.”
A moment later, she said, “Stop panicking! You’re acting like a nervous monkey.”
“What time does the flight leave again?” I asked myself and unzipped my backpack in search of the e-ticket I’d folded and tucked in between the pages of my passport.
“Oh shit,” I said. “Where’s my ticket?”
Stay tuned for Part Two. . .