Worst Girlfriend Ever

Good Man called me at work. I was stuck in a meeting and let it go to voice mail. An hour later, I found out he’d hurt his leg when he went to a cafe and he needed me to come get him.

I felt so guilty.

Worst Girlfriend Ever over here.

He Knows America

Good Man mumbles into his pillow. “I know how to make money in America.”

“Hmm?” I ask.

“Make junk. Sell junk.”

I laugh and point you, “You forgot ‘convince people they need junk.'”

“No, I don’t need that. If you make it and put it in stores, many American people will buy it.”

“Don’t Make A Baby.”

“Did your mom just call?” Good Man’s mother has been calling daily. She called me at work earlier, worried that Good Man hadn’t answered the phone, worried that he would starve to death. Worried.

“No, Dad.”

“What did he say?”

Good Man says, very matter-of-factly, “He says it’s OK to live together but don’t make a baby. Later it would be good to make a baby, but not now.”

“Chairs Are Ugly, Too.”

“Hon, I’m not sure if we can have a satellite or HD receiver or whatever the hell that thing is.” Good Man is doing research online and I still don’t understand this HD switch. (Feel free to enlighten me in the comments section.)

“But I can put it on the balcony.”

“I’m not sure if they—the condo management—will let you, that’s my point.”

“But it’s not a weapon. We can have it.”

I laughed, “But it’s ugly. Sometimes homeowners’ associations and condo groups and apartments don’t like ugly.”

Good Man looks at me very seriously. “Chairs are ugly, too. And other people had those on their balconies.”

$500

“I need $500.”

Good Man slowly turns to look at me. “Why?”

“I had to do emissions—pollution—testing and a safety inspection before I can get my car registered here. I passed emissions, which is great, but I need to replace a cracked taillight and three tires because they’re in really bad shape.” I had suspected the tires would be a problem. I had completely forgotten I’d backed into a trailer classroom at my first school in Atlanta, cracking a taillight. “And I need an oil change.”

“OK. But America is complicated,” Good Man replies.

***

The mechanics at the garage I use (across the street from my school—drop off in the morning, pick up after work, could it be any more convenient?) are friendly guys who don’t talk down to me. They came recommended from a bunch of staff at my new job.

When I went to pick up my car, I was told they couldn’t get my spare out to use it as the fourth tire. I knew Mom had shown me how to do this… I hunted around for the spare lock key, and found it in the glove compartment. Because I am not in the habit of releasing the spare, the lock was jammed with dirt. After spraying some WD-40 and hitting the key end with a mallet, the lock came loose.

My mechanic then asked me for that jack thing to lower it. He lifted up my hood, pointed to the metal rod that props the hood open. “It looks a little like this.”

“Oh! I think it’s behind the seat.” Indeed, it was. Mom did a good job of telling me how to change a tire, but I’ve never had to do it before.

The mechanic then showed me how to change a spare tire. Seeing is a lot different than hearing.

I hope I never have to change a tire myself, but it’s nice to have a refresher on how to do it. And I’m glad that spare lock was unjammed…

Check, Check

Go to America
Move across the country
Get a job
Pick Good Man up from airport

Find an apartment together
Find a taekwondo studio
Get car titled and registered and change license within 30 days, stay on Mom
Find a bike because driving to work when you live a mile away (literally) door-to-door is stupid
Call elec, cable, inter
Quit eating out because tipping is too expensive
Go to HR orientation
Change bank. CC, etc info

Roll GA retirement over
Talk to Grandpa about buying stocks…
and so on.

Korea was—in some ways—easier.

Mother Says We Can Live Together, Problem Solved

“My mother said we can live together. Yeah,” Good Man nods.

I whip my head around to look at him. “What?”

“She didn’t say it alone. She said that rent is very expensive. Maybe I should get student housing, maybe I should live with other people, maybe you. She didn’t say just to live with you, but many other things.”

“She. Said. We should live together?” We were going to live together and lie about it. It is, after all the Korean way. But this is shocking.

“Not ‘should.’ Just…OK.”

***

“What did you eat today?”

“Cereal,” he says.

“Just cereal?”

“Yes. Will you cook me ramyeon? I think the salt will be different because it’s American,” Good Man uses his puppy-dog voice.

I go to the pantry, and sure enough, the Korean ramyeon is made in America. As I’m cooking it, we continue to chat.

“I only ate cereal all day…I am hungry.”

“There’s food in this house,” I laugh. I look at him. “You really don’t know how to cook, huh?” He shakes his head. “You really would starve if you didn’t have me to cook for you.”

He nods. “But the new apartment has a dishwasher. So problem solved.”

***

Mother

Son, Clearly

I know this face. I’ve seen it, elsewhere. I show the photos to Good Man. “You look just like your mother.”

“I know. I am not orphan.”

Repatriating Expatriating Tips

While watching TV, Good Man says, “Why is she calling the baby ‘pumpkin?'”

Mothers in the Jeollas tend to call their sons “puppies.” I learned this from Good Man when I asked why some guy in an ad was wearing a giant dog head. “Remember the puppy commercials? It’s the same thing.”

***

I teach Good Man a bit of Spanish so he says “poyo” instead of “pollo” and “fahita” instead of “fajita” at the Mexican/El Salvadorian restaurant we’re at. Each time she stops at our table, our waitress starts speaking Spanish before apologizing and switching to English.

“So,” Good Man says after our meal, “we need to tip here? How do we do this ‘tip?'”

I had totally forgotten about tipping. And tax, for that matter. I miss Korea. Standing in front of the register with the slip, I ask the waitresses how much tax is.

“Five percent.”

“OK, so you take this $1.99, make it $2. Now triple that, so $6 is the tip.”

“Fifteen percent,” he asks, “not ten?”

“No, ten if it’s really bad. Well, nothing if the service is horrible, but fifteen should really be standard,” I answer.

“Twenty percent. Twenty percent is what you should tip. Always,” the waitresses giggle.

“Yeah, twenty percent if it’s really good.”

The waitresses are eying us. “Where are you from?” one of them asks Good Man, kindly.

“Korea. It’s my first day here.”

“Oh! Welcome to America!” they say in sing-song accented English.

The Mexican/El Salvadorian restaurant is sandwiched between a Vietnamese pho place and a Chinese restaurant. Across the street we find a plethora of shops, including an American deli, an Indian place, and another pho place. Across the other street there’s an Asian market, a Thai place, and yet another pho shop.

Inside the restaurant, we are the only non-native Spanish speakers. I am the only native English speaker.

The United States has no official language.

I like that.

***

Good Man falls into bed. His voice is muffled by the pillow. “Your country is too large.”