I had a really lazy day today.
It was only the lack of food and water in my apartment that finally forced me out of bed to go to the shop, but the thought of showering, dressing, drying my hair, and generally making myself look presentable enough to be acceptable in the outside world just seemed like a huge, impossible amount of effort. Sod it, I thought to myself, I’ve lived in this area for years, and it’s not like I ever run into anyone I know on these quiet little back streets. I’m leaving in a few weeks – I can cope with the judgmental looks of the ajummas in the corner shop.
And so I pulled on a pair of sweatpants I normally use as pajama bottoms, and scavenged a worn Beatles t-shirt from the top of the overflowing laundry basket. It had a stain on it, but sure you could hardly see it amongst all the wrinkles and creases anyway. I scraped back my tangled hair into a ponytail and threw on a baseball cap to complete the full-blown Waynetta Slob look. Adding to the overall effect was the fact that I hadn’t even taken off last night’s make-up, but I decided to ignore the smudgy mascara around my eyes and the inevitable zit on my chin. One quick excursion, just 2 minutes down the street, and I would have supplies to sustain me to the end of my day of Utter Sloth.
I pulled on a pair of flip-flops and scurried downstairs, where I ran smack into my landlord. He looked mildly concerned, but I think he is of the “foreigners are weird creatures whose ways we shall never understand” persuasion, so after a few curious glances he decided to let me pass without comment.
I jogged to the shop and was beyond horrified to hear someone calling my name. Horror turned to complete mortification when I identified the caller as the guy I had a bit of a crush on when I first got here. Haven’t seen him since 2009, but there he was now, of course, larger than life and looking like the sort of ruggedly beautiful creature they use in commercials for Gillette razors and Lynx body spray for men. I didn’t even have my phone with me so that I could hurriedly pretend to be receiving a Very Important Call and thus avoid speaking to him. With a forced smile, I responded to his greeting, did the awkward small talk, and cringed at the thinly-disguised pity in the gaze he gave me. You could almost hear the “Wow, you really let yourself go, huh?”.
A few minutes-that-felt-like-hours later, I was in the safety of the shop. Filled my basket full of veggies for my soup, picked up some bottled water, and then, on impulse, grabbed a bag of very unhealthy potato snack things. Obviously that was the moment that three – count ’em – THREE of my former students came in with one of their mothers, and promptly started shrieking my name, running to me for hugs, and bringing the entire shop to a standstill as everyone turned to see what all the commotion was about. The mother tried some polite chit-chat with me in Korean after I’d made a fuss over the kids (while quietly dying inside), and finished with a hesitant question in English. Are you OK? Oh, dear lord.
Finally, finally, my groceries were in bags and I was leaving the shop, hanging my head in shame by this stage and swearing never again to leave the house unless wearing a sparkly evening gown, and that’s when I met one of my ex-colleagues. For Pete’s sake. She had just finished a full day’s work and looked all sensible and healthy and grown-up and productive, and meanwhile my biggest achievement of the day was squinting at daylight with my bleary eyes framed by streaks of yesterday’s make-up. Had another awkward conversation while wishing the earth would open up and not just swallow me but preferably give me an instant makeover and spit me back out to do the last 20 minutes differently.
I was just saying goodbye to her when a car honked its horn behind me. I jumped and spun around to see my old director rolling down the window to reveal an entire carload of my former colleagues, looking as dainty and pretty and Koreanly perfect as ever. They were smiling and waving and saying hello, but I swear I saw them exchange Looks. Um, yeah, I’ll come over and see you next week, OK? I said desperately to the director, practically backing away towards my house at this point. When she drove off, I sprinted for my building and did not stop running until I was in my safe little kitchen, slamming the door shut behind me.
I have decided that the Universe hates me, and I am going back to bed.