Sunday night, just before going to bed, I started crying. “This is a terrible idea! Your mom likes me right now. What if she hates me in five weeks? And you’re so busy, you’re going to live off of ramyeon and bananas!”
“You are ridiculous!” Good Man said, with love in his voice. “You want to get to know my mom and sister. You need to speak only Korean with them for that to happen. If I am there, you won’t get to speak only Korean,” he said reasonably. “And I am so busy at work, I probably won’t even be home. I’ll probably be [at the other office] and there is no Korean food in that city, and the hotel doesn’t have a kitchen, so I can’t eat ramyeon.” He grinned at me.
Just a few hours later, the airport shuttle came to pick me up. Good Man worked the entire weekend and was exhausted. I didn’t want him to drive me to the airport because he was so tired. He waved to me. “See you in a month.”
I blinked back tears.
For some reason the flight attendants had told us when to close the shades, but they’d never told anyone to open them again. So when I arrived in Seoul at 3 pm, my body wasn’t even sure if it was daytime. When I got to passport control, the woman greeted me, stamped my passport, and sent me on my way. I had expected some questions about why I was there, or at least a warning that teaching English without a visa is illegal, but she said nothing. Was it my new, completely blank passport? Or did she decide warnings didn’t matter to anyone?
I easily found Mother. She greeted me, then immediately grabbed my stomach and told me I was fat and needed to diet. I rolled my eyes. “Have you been waiting long, Mother?”
In the car, Mother told me I needed to have babies. In fact, she wanted me to promise her two things: I would lose 10 kg on this trip, and I would have a baby next year. She held out her pinky, waiting for me to hook it with my pinky.
“No, I will not promise,” I said, struggling to find the Korean I haven’t spoken in so long, while simultaneously trying to think of a reason why. “In America, a promise is very, very important. Oh my, I am so tired.”
I closed my eyes. This was a mistake, I thought, I should have stayed home.