“I look at you and get so angry,” M’s husband tells me Saturday night.
“Why don’t you have someone?” he asks as I rest my head on his shoulder. We’re in the apartment after my dinner with Zach, reclining on the stiff orange sofa and eating sliced pineapple with chopsticks.
M had tucked in a while ago, most likely bored from our discussion on Catholicism in Third World countries. A World Cup match is on the telly but I can’t recall who was playing.
“I’ve seen so many bad-looking women here with boyfriends,” Y says as I turn my attention to the pineapple on his plate. “Some so ugly–you’d look at her face and wouldn’t eat from her hand.
“Really. You are such a pretty, innocent girl. What do you want in a man? Who are you looking for? Nationality, race, body type?”
“I’m not specific with the physical stuff,” I tell him between mouthfuls of fruit. “Especially with ethnicity. I pride myself on being an equal-opportunity employer.”
“I’m going to find someone for you.”
“That doesn’t sound very romantic,” I mumble sadly. Anyway, I’d heard it before: all my (taken) girlfriends want to set me up.
“You’re in Korea. Love is different here.”
He doesn’t have to tell me that. After only four months of dating, Y and M had married in City Hall a week ago, in an effort to speed up the paperwork for his green card.
The couple don’t consider each other as husband and wife, since a priest wasn’t involved. But Y is definitely happier as a newlywed.
“Excuse me for still being a pathetic romantic,” I tell him, pinching his arm. “But I’d like it to happen on its own. Spontaneously.”
“You don’t want a boyfriend?”
“Of course I do. I mean, at first I was all gung ho with independence and shit. I was really proud of myself for doing this on my own.
“But all my friends here are busy with their boyfriends and girlfriends, having these intense affairs and having sex and falling in love.
“I must be a real nut-job,” I concluded, staring at my empty plate, “because nobody wants me.”
Y shakes out my hair. “There is nothing wrong with you, sister. But you’re always so busy. You have Wonderland, you always have some mission in Seoul. You do Taekwondo most nights.
“And M tells me you’re in love with your Taekwondo instructor.”
I grin sheepishly. “I wouldn’t say love-love. But, yeah, I like him. He’s tall, and nice, and smiley, and sweaty . . . and, uh, sweaty–”
“Pia, you’re never going to get what you want out of a Korean man. A Korean man raised out of Korea, yes. But men are different here. You’re too Western for them.”
“But they are so beautiful,” I sigh. “Like, seriously? Sometimes my chest aches just looking at some of the college boys in Seoul.”
“You just need someone. You just need to date. I’d set you up with my boys, if I was certain they wouldn’t fall in love with you.”
“Maybe I want to fall in love.”
He eyes my face and considers this for a second. “No, you don’t.”