Had a great time at my first wine and cheese party. It wasn’t as “adult” as I feared–everybody brought their own coffee mugs.
I donated a beautiful, plum-colored, fruit-covered cake from Crown Bakery. I should have taken a picture of it, because everyone was sorry to cut into it. We ate it on paper towels. Such is the life of an expat here in Korea.
But just because it was low-key didn’t mean I was going to show up in my yoga clothes. I wore a white, knee-length dress with blue print, a white braided belt around my waist and coral slingbacks. My mother’s diamond earrings (a gift from my father on one of the anniversaries, which I had shamelessly swiped prior to my departure) hung from my ears. I felt young, chic and eager to meet new people.
It took only one glass of fruity wine to loosen me up, as I pressed the virtues of country music to Canadian hipsters, big-city Americans and bewildered Koreans. “Like, the Dixie Chicks just speak to me,” I drawled after the hostess downloaded a few of their songs. “Play ‘Sin Wagon.’ Shit that’s a sweet song.”
I spent most of the night speaking to a young Korean man, who was particularly interested in my views on his country’s pop scene. Or maybe he just wanted to hook up. Who knows–but the more T watched me, the more I talked, my hands flying, my grin growing, my head swimming until I was sure I was going to pass out.
Parties always exhaust me, because I tend to get claustrophobic in large groups. I prefer small gatherings, in groups of four (at most) at familiar coffee shops or restaurants, where I can nibble at food if I don’t feel too charming or interesting.
A little past midnight I suggested we hit a karaoke bar. T stayed behind to catch some sleep. I belted “It’s Raining Men” with all my guts, swinging my arms about, rocking my hips, shaking the the tambourine. “I’m gonna go out,” I wailed, “I’m gonna let myself get / Absolutely soaking wet!”
After the song finished, I sat back and swung back a beer. “T’s a pussy for missing out,” I told Z.
“He has a date tomorrow.”
“Motherfucker!” I shouted the next morning, wrapping a new autumn dress around my waist. “The guy says he won’t give up on me, and then he gets a Korean girlfriend.”
M and Y snuggled on the sofa and laughed as they watched me step into my green heels, bounce on my toes a little, slip into my sandals, bounce again, kick off my shoes, shriek and throw myself between them. “Why am I so fucking short.”
“My poor darling,” M cooed, hugging me.
“How long has he been seeing this Korean girl?” Y asked, picking excess threads from my dress.
“Two or three weeks. Z introduced them. I guess T likes her a lot. Mothahfuckah!”
“You haven’t been very nice to him,” M reminded me.
“But it is good, you’re getting over that Korean,” Y said. “I just don’t know if you should be with a white boy who is weak for the Asian girls.”
“I don’t think I like him-like him,” I mused, leaning against M’s shoulder and resting my legs across Y’s lap. “I just like that he likes me.”
“Why do you have to hate on the white boys?” M asked her husband. “They’re in Korea, who else are they going to date. Besides, Pia isn’t even Korean. She’s a white girl who looks like a Chink.”
“True. But I’d like to talk to him before anything happens between him and Pia.”
“Oh, Dad,” I groaned, rolling my eyes.
“Don’t ‘Dad’ me. If you don’t like him, why are you getting dressed up again?”
“Don’t be too tough on me. I didn’t get that much sleep . . . All that cheese gave me diarrhea.” I laughed, raising my arms as they swatted at me. “Ah, not too hard, I still have gas.”
“You’re lactose intolerant, why did you eat so much cheese?” M asked.
“I always eat too much when I socialize. And, I have my period.”
“You are getting too comfortable around me,” Y sighed, distancing himself and shaking his head. “Remember, you are a lady.”
M and I grinned at each other and rolled our eyes.
Z and T met me in front of my favorite Mexican restaurant in Seoul, eating chocolate. “That is one huge chocolate bar,” he said, taking it from me.
“They sell them cheap at this Indian market near What The Book. Do you want some?”
Looking a little surprised, he shook his head.
D joined us later, as we sat near the bar, chowing down burritos and slurping large glasses of lemonade. “Who’s the girl?” I teased, glancing at T and licking my fingers.
He wrapped one arm around the back of my chair and cleared his throat. “She’s nobody.”
“You’ve been seeing her for three weeks and she’s nobody?”
“What I mean is, I don’t like her that way. We’ve been on a few dates. It’s nothing.”
I scoffed and turned to Z and D, who were watching this exchange and looking exhausted. “You don’t have to act so cool around me. You’re crazy about her.”
“I’m not here to date. I’m here to work and travel.”
“And if you get laid, that’s a bonus, right?”
He laughed and removed his hand from my chair. “She’s okay. She doesn’t mean anything. I mean, we can’t really talk about anything. And, I want someone, but if I can’t talk to her, it isn’t going to amount to anything.”
“Wow, that’s so . . . nauseating.”
“Then join us today, if you’re so sure about how I feel.”
I smirked into my glass. “No thanks. Nothing would make me gag more than the sight of you acting like a lovesick puppy.”
“If I’d known he was coming, I wouldn’t have joined you,” D sighed after we sent the boys off in a taxi. “You are so mean to him.”
I was surprised by how disappointed I felt. When he’d invited me to come along, I was hit with the idea that this new girl was taller than me, better-dressed, smarter, funnier, nicer, prettier. I didn’t want to see him hitting on another girl, paying for her ice cream, trying to make her laugh, and trying to impress her with random cinema trivia.
Also, I was disappointed in myself.
I linked arms with D and rested my head on her shoulder, biting into my chocolate bar. “I know I’m a bitch to him. But I can’t help it. When I’m with him, I want to hit him, but at the same time, I don’t know . . . I guess I’m starting to like him a little.”
She rested her head against mine as we headed back to the station. “You scare me sometimes.”
“You’re still hung up on your Sabunim?”
We stopped at the station, and I let go of her. “It’s great that T’s seeing someone,” I said. “I don’t think I’m ready for anyone.”
“Nobody’s ever really ready for a relationship. I wasn’t ready for L,” she said, referring to her boyfriend. “I mean, we met on Myspace. I didn’t think anything would happen, and well, look at us now.
“I just think . . . Maybe you have this idea in your head,” she said after some hesitation. “About who you’re supposed to be with, and how it’s supposed to happen.” Pause. “And maybe you’re just going to end up hurting yourself.”
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