There are times in life that make you truly wonder, “How the hell did I get here?” Circumstance or odd occurrences mount, and suddenly you question the very nature of your existence. Lots of things in Korean schools bring me to the precipice of this feeling, but I am often able to subjugate the emotion. However, there are some things which I am expected to teach–things which I must pass on to my charges as though it is not actually bizarre, inarticulate gibberish, with a smile and a flourish and the projected confidence of a native speaker. It is in these times that I move over the edge. In that vein, I bring you, “My Mom’s Story.”
It starts of with promise, with the hint of intrigue. It all started this summer. What all started? Adventure? Action? Thrills, chills, and/or spills? Eroticism, as the “she always gets more than that” suggests? Will there be explosions, or swordplay, or comically large-breasted women running across the screen with automatic machine guns? Will there be dragons? Will the dragons also have breasts and machine guns? I sat in wait for the following weeks, so that I might enthrall my young charges with whatever this story held next.
What kind of love, I immediately wonder, and for how much? Is this a sort of postmodern look at prostitution in bucolic, unassuming Italy of 1934? What of her son? Why is she telling him this? And is this story really appropriate for my grade fives? Alternatively, if it is not physical love which mom hath bought, what the hell is she talking about? Are we in a sort of future fantasy, where love can be simply acquired by economy… or even included simply as a gift with purchase? Or if it’s not any of these things, why are the writers of this story trying to fool my students into believing that the flower lady also gives her love with her wares? The flower lady cares nothing for you. She wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire.
Did she remove it manually, I ponder? Did she torture him before she tore the smile from his lips, as the horrible, bloody O of his expression seems to declare? What did he do to her, to inspire such wrath? Did it have something to do with the grapes? Was there a war between opposing orchard families? Is mom a mafia assassin? I can see no other answer.
The woman carefully holds her son, as she fires giant magic leaves into the sky and projects his memories into the ether. Is she initiating him into their order of earth magi? Informing him of the kind of vengeance he must enact upon those who do them wrong? Telling him that the customer is always right, and that one should always expect extras when deigning to dole out your hard-earned money?
I try to attach these storylines, because otherwise, I realize that I am expected to tell a story that is not actually a story at all. That the national government declared this crucial, and that my students will be tested on the material, and thus it is my duty to try and install it within their brains. My mind cannot help but attempt to bend it with plot, to attack it with logic, to try and force it into the confines of narrative. But it cannot be forced. It is beyond comprehension, or belief, or understanding. We are through the looking glass, on the other side of the mirror, in the land of make believe. Nothing makes sense here. Nothing has to.We are here now, and I must act as the guide, the sherpa through the wonderland. Through the land of nonsense.
My mom buys a thing.