For some reason my wife Jina said we had to go back to the supermarket the night after we’d just gone there, but not before buying her a couple of new pairs of glasses and me a pair of reading glasses. The optician must have had a few thousand pairs on display, and I went with the pair he suggested for me right away. I must say the guy has a good eye, just as I have two bad ones. Jina’s glasses made her look pretty, so I gave them the thumbs-up.
What happened at the supermarket is a blur. One thing that stands out: Jina asked me if I wanted to buy a bottle of wine. The night before (Christmas night) we’d gone out for dinner and eaten barbecued pork, despite having had steak for lunch–gotta keep killing and eating those ruminating mammals–and I’d suggested we order a bottle of soju in order to cut the grease and liberate our otherwise sure-to-be-clogged blood vessels. Jina balked, naturally, being the type of Christian who thinks that all alcohol is always evil, despite Jesus’ legendary gift of spontaneous red wine creation for his alcoholic disciples.
So you can imagine how stunned I was that she actually initiated a wine purchase, even though she couldn’t stop bemoaning her choice afterwards.
As usual, I pointed out to her the time as it was getting late, but she still had some last-minute things to buy. Luckily, we managed to catch the last bus at 11:35, then transfer to the subway, then catch the other last bus that took us all the way back home.
Whew! That was a close one.
I don’t know if I surprised Jina in turn by not having any of the wine we bought before going to bed. She didn’t seem to notice that I hadn’t opened the bottle.
The following night Jina called me from her school and said we had to go back to the supermarket in order to pick up my new coat. (They hadn’t had the color I wanted in my size when we’d gone to buy it a few nights before.)
“Why can’t we just go during the day tomorrow?” I asked, figuring since it would be Saturday, we’d have plenty of time.
“Let’s just go tonight–please?”
I looked forward to another harrowing adventure of trying to beat the clock. I agreed to meet her there so we wouldn’t have to mess around with waiting for each other at the freezing bus stop. When she saw me coming out of the men’s room at the supermarket, she greeted me with a glare.
“Why did you turn off your phone?” she asked.
“I didn’t want to irradiate myself.”
She sighed with a harumph and led me down to the lower floor where they sold food (the upper floor is a department store).
Jina said her stomach was bothering her, so she bought a cup of black coffee as medicine (I know–it wouldn’t have been my first choice either). Then we invested in some ice cream at the nearby Batman-Robin’s ice cream parlor, served by a fresh-faced young woman who transported me momentarily to heaven. Jina wanted to try some sort of blueberry car wreck, while I went for pistachio; we combined them in the same bowl, although I would have preferred mine in a cone (she had the last word).
We sat down at the food court at one of the interchangeable tables on chairs that were either green, yellow, or orange, near a shiny display of painted steel red-blinking Angry Birds for children to ride on. They played an incessant electronic ditty that did its best to pulverize my nerves.
I was underwhelmed by the nebulous blueberry & vanilla ice cream, finding it exceedingly bland. To her credit, Jina was able to detect some flavor in the doubtful formula with her keener taste buds. She heightened the excitement by pouring a little coffee in the bowl, making an affogato. Almost immediately she told me not to have any more of the coffee-flavored ice cream broth that was forming around the melting domes of mush.
She got up to buy us another bowl of ice cream yin-yang–this one with jamocha fudge and dark chocolate. It had a little more pizzazz than the former choice, much as I like pistachio, but she chocolate was too sweet, and its cloying, clinging taste made me have to go get an envelope of water.
Now that she’d miraculously cured her stomachache–at least for the time being–Jina asked me to wait for her while she went to make some final crucial purchases, and pick up my coat upstairs.
Dylan Thomas kept me company as I digested the cold sweet mass in my gut. I moved to another seat to try to get away from the Angry Birds theme song, but the music was pervasive. I also noticed the same middle-aged Korean man I’d seen the other night, still sleeping with his head bent over his newspaper so that his bald spot stared at me again.
Jina came back with some sashimi and the coat. We dug into the fish with our fingers. I admired the smooth stripes in the flesh of the salmon that reminded me of the patterns of neckties and wood (or wooden neckties). The wasabi did its sinus-clearing thing and the soy sauce soaked into the strips of fish as they slid down our tongues like happy kids on a water slide to hell.
Jina wanted to buy some more mandarin oranges, so I told her I’d meet her upstairs in ten minutes. When I said that, I hadn’t been paying enough attention to the time. It was 11:23. That meant we only had twelve minutes till the last bus came. But since she didn’t say anything to correct me, I took off my thinking cap. Call it the dark side of co-dependency (or symbiosis–whichever you like).
Anyway, I went to use the toilet again, leaving the shopping cart with a store clerk for safe-keeping. Jina called my name from outside the door and I rushed out to join her, rounding up the stuff and getting my cap, gloves, and scuffler (it’s a cross between a scarf and a muffler) from the locker. She had packed some things into a box she asked me to carry, while she lugged the bag with my old coat in it, along with the laptop in its carrying case.
When we got outside I put up the hood on the new parka but couldn’t see as the lining blocked my vision. I felt like an old English sheepdog. Luckily, I didn’t get run over as we were crossing the street.
We arrived at the bus stop in time to see the bus pulling away, then shlepped to the subway instead. Two stops later we got out. Since the box, though small and not that heavy, was bulky and its corners were cutting into my arms, Jina and I switched loads and made our way to the exit.
Up on the street we waited in vain for a taxi. I told her to go wait on the cross street to increase our chances, but she went out of earshot and I was unable to summon her to come get in the cab I saw with three passengers getting out. The driver escaped before I could flag him down, and trying to explain the situation would have been too complicated anyway.
“Why did you turn off your phone!” Jina said for the second time that night.
“I didn’t realize you were going to go so far away.”
“That was a really bad idea.”
Note to those considering marriage: no matter what happens, everything is always your fault.
She said she’d decided to walk home and stormed off in a huff. I tried to get a taxi for myself for a minute, thinking to hell with her, then thought better of it (but mainly because the prospects of catching a cab looked useless).
I trudged after her, loaded down with the bags and the box (she’d left without carrying anything). She had paused at the corner of the next block and was keeping an eye out for available taxis. She crossed the street and tried to flag one down over there, but the driver who stopped for a moment refused her offer.
I finally gave up and opted to walk home with all three items weighing me down, figuring I might be able to make it without having a heart attack if I put my mind to it and used the force.
Deus ex machina–a taxi rolled up beside me and I got in as Jina moved over. She’d gotten another driver to give her a ride and make a U-turn, and even though the fare for our ride was only 3000 won (which is, I think about US $2.50), she gave the guy 10,000 won for the favor.
I carried all of our things the rest of the way and when we got home rewarded myself with a glass of red wine before going to bed.
The following morning Jina complained about her stomach again. I guess coffee and ice cream before sashimi isn’t the way to go.