from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #60: A Slow Roast

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After the Army, one of more minor reasons I stayed in Korea was because it seemed that everyone back home in Seattle was married or on their way to getting married. While in grad school (here in Korea), I’d be sitting at the bar with my friends and think to myself, “This is perfect. These guys are never getting married.”

Six years later, I’ve been proven horribly wrong. Hole got married back in December and is now a proud father with a wife who for some reason doesn’t like it when he abandons her with their newborn son to go out drinking, and this past Saturday, Sang married Annie in the typical Korean fashion although there is nothing typically Korean about them.

“I’m so happy for Sang,” Kotona said to me as we had a smoke in an empty noraebang room.

I didn’t reply. I just nodded and smiled and took a drag from my cigarette.

Not that I wasn’t happy, but I thought the wedding was really just a logical progression of their relationship and not much more than a formality. Instead, I’m happy for them because they’re together, married or not, because I think Annie is the only person who could make that relationship work.

Any more laid back and the two of them would be found months later, their desiccated corpses needing to be unearthed from under piles of dirty laundry and old food containers. Any more active and their relationship would be fraught with repetitive fights and heartbreaking disappointments. As they are, it works, and the wedding was a way for me to celebrate their relationship.

After the wedding and dinner, we moved the reception to Nakseongdae Park and camped out in front of the convenience store. As the night went on, we went around and shared stories about Sang and Annie in a kind of wedding roast. There were more than a few stories shared about vomit and unsanitary living conditions and neither of the newlyweds monopolized either of those topics.

Annie asked me to share something and I declined. I’ve never been comfortable at speaking in front of a large group of people. Three or four is my maximum. I wasn’t able to share anything so I’m using this post as my belated wedding roast speech.

I met Sang and Annie during my first semester in grad school. I think the first time I talked to Sang, he was half-passed out in the bushes in front of Texas Palm. There were some guys who practically idolized him and I couldn’t figure out why. But I went through a relationship that went horribly wrong—he actually knew it would happen, telling her not to hurt me when it first came out that we were dating—and I quit my part-time jobs and just lied in my shithole of a room, drinking whisky and smoking and wasting away. But every single day, my phone would ring and it was Sang. “Come out.” “Come to Texas Palm.” And every single day, along with Hole and GK, we would drink until it was clear I could pass out the moment I stumbled home.

When I got kicked out of the shithole room by the owner of the house who had come to despise me, Sang let me crash in his room at BK. For five months. He was the best roommate I ever had because he was as messy if not messier than I am and never wanted to do anything except drink and smoke. At the beginning, I’d feel bad for imposing on him and offer to do the laundry and he’d give me a look of utter confusion and say, “Why?” (I later found out that it was because his aunt would come and clean up and do the laundry. She’d also take us out to have beef and she even gave me allowance.)

He always comments that I’m the quietest person he knows, but I feel that he’s quieter than I am or at least at a similar level. The nights that we headed to Texas Palm before GK and Hole, we’d just sit and smoke and drink and there was almost no conversation. Maybe an occasional head nod. Most of our communication is done with the least amount of talking. A tilt of the head to the side always means, “Let’s smoke.”

It was around this time that I noticed that he was spending a lot of time with Annie. One of my favorite stories of the two of them was at this time. I was passed out on the cot when they walked in drunk in the middle of the night. I feel back asleep and when I woke up in the morning, I was clutching a can of beer. They included me in their drinking even when I was fast asleep.

When I finally got my own place at BK, they’d come up to my apartment together although I’m not sure why. Sang would be working on something on the computer and Annie would pass out in my bed and I’d be sitting there, smoking and wondering why they had to come up to my place to do so. But of course, they were always welcome.

The first time I met Annie was in Comparative Methodology. She was the TA for the class and she mentioned in her introduction that she was from Chicago, like me. At the end of class, as we were packing up our bags, I said, “You’re from Chicago?” She said, “Yeah.” I said, “I’m from Chicago, too.” She said, “Okay,” and then walked off.

Despite that very apathetic beginning, Annie was one of the most supportive people I got to know in grad school. I rarely get company when I’m at the coffee shop writing but she probably stopped by the most often. She also was the person who introduced me to other writers in Korea. She was always encouraging me to do things which I needed because I was unable to motivate myself.

The two of them like to talk about my poor choice in women. It’s strange how often they bring it up. I make bad decisions but I don’t think I’ve made any worse decisions than the people around me, mostly because I don’t make many decisions at all. I haven’t had a girlfriend who cheated on me with five other guys or who wouldn’t let me stay out past eleven for no apparent reason. But I can understand them in one capacity—they made the right decision. They found the one person who they can be themselves with, who they are supremely comfortable with, and who they can respect.

Congratulations, Sang and Annie.


Written by Young

August 17, 2013 at 1:40 am

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