On Leaving Korea: Hands Off My Mayo, Punk
The broccoli in Korea has vanished. I’m not sure where the hell it went, but it’s gone. For the past two weeks, the area of my grocery store that used to be home to the broccoli has vacated, as though the broccoli packed its things and headed West, in search of a new place to live where it won’t always have to play second fiddle to kimchi. It didn’t go alone, either. The broccoli apparently convinced the salsa and green olives to go with it. Everything in the grocery store seems to have disappeared. There’s no chicken and I can’t even find the brand of tuna I like. Sometimes I walk into the grocery store, throw my arms up in despair, and leave with the hope that the loss of my business will encourage the little Asian lady that works there to hire some private detectives to go get my broccoli back.
In about one week, I’ll be gone too. I thought about that as I scanned the shelves for mayonnaise. “Get the smallest container you can find,” I said to myself. In a few days, I’ll be out of my apartment and some new guy will be taking my place. He’ll teach my students and sleep in my bed, which I guess were only ‘mine’ for a limited time to begin with. “Don’t buy a big thing of mayo,” I continued. “Get something you can finish in a week. I’m not stocking this next fucker. He can go buy his own damn mayonnaise.”
I don’t know why I’m so against leaving things for the new guy, but I am. The ironing board and toaster oven I bought will be going to my girlfriend as slightly used presents. I look at the new toilet seat I recently installed and shake my head, “That lucky guy doesn’t know how good he’s got it.” The new toilet seat is amazing. It’s like a throne. It’s so good, sometimes I pee sitting down just for the luxury. And now it will be his, whereas, when I arrived, I was handed over something vastly inferior. I inherited a pink bed and a half-eaten cake in the freezer.
If you’re curious, I replaced the bedding and no, I didn’t finish the cake.
Leaving a place where you’ve lived for any amount of time can be a lot like breaking up. When I got to this apartment, I found it ridiculously small and shabby. A couple months later, I didn’t even want to be in this country anymore and I certainly didn’t have much fondness for my job. But now that I’m leaving, I’m only able to see all the good qualities in everything. I’m filled with regret. “I love this place,” I find myself thinking. “I love this apartment and I love Korea and I love all my students. Oh my God, what have I done? I’m leaving the best thing I ever had!”
It’s exactly like how, after a breakup, the girl quickly goes from intolerable to amazing, and suddenly I don’t want to part with anything. Get rid of the pictures of us together? You’re crazy, man! It’s almost the same way I won’t let go of the toaster oven. That shit is mine, and it’s going to my girlfriend’s apartment, so I can come back in six weeks and, I don’t know, make toast I guess. Lots and lots of toast…unless the chicken and the broccoli are back by then.
Similarly, just as the first person you date after a breakup doesn’t seem good enough, my next step – backpacking around Europe for a month and a half – seems tedious. I go through the Lonely Planet book, jotting things down, going, “Yeah, I guess I’ll go to Stonehenge…it’ll pass the time until I come back.” No one has ever been as melancholy about going to Europe as I have been. The Louvre? Oktoberfest? Nah, I just want to sit in my little apartment. On the toilet seat.
Maybe before I leave, I’ll write a short letter to my replacement. “You’re getting a tiny apartment,” it will say, “a job that will exhaust you, and a grocery store that doesn’t stock any food. Congratulations, you lucky son-of-a-bitch.”