My bag was heavy to hit the floor despite packing light. Marie Kondo says to always greet your home, especially after a month of travel. I said, “Fuck you, house.” I was drowning in mismatched floral wallpapers and unnecessary ottomans. Ugh. I flopped onto my bed face first. I couldn’t summon the energy to smoke a cigarette. It was midnight and I had work in the morning.
Though I was exhausted, I woke up feeling the warm embrace of my morning routine. I filled my electric kettle with premeditated filtered water. My alarm clock in the morning is jazz, but the real Myles Davis of my morning is my first cup of coffee. I shuffled from the kitchen into the bathroom, where I slurped the saliva from my mouth guard. Disgusting. That’s why I cherish living alone. I patted dry thy sacred night guard and put it in its house. I could probably own a dog, I thought. I left my house at 8:12 AM screaming on the inside.
Expats here don’t really talk about culture shock. Maybe it’s because it’s so constant that we are all stunned like fish bouncing from aquarium to aquarium. It was shocking going home. Cheese is on everything and strangers were asking me about my wellbeing. It was equally shocking coming back to Korea, a familiar alternate universe. The cold, dry air on my skin and the spicy food were a bombshell on my jet-lagged body. I’ll never adjust to Korea. It’d be so much easier in America. I already felt burnt out from keeping up appearances. Maybe I had the blow dryer on too hot. I brought my coworkers banana bread from Japan. As they gathered around and ate it, they came to the consensus that I looked tired. Sure, the flight was long. But what really made me exhausted was the thought of being here another year, a life filled with miscommunications and cultural barriers. I reached out to Boyfriend, but it only reassured me that this barrier is impermeable. I made a mistake.
The comedy show was the exact momentum I needed to keep this bicycle that is my sanity upright. Inviting Boyfriend to watch was an indirect vulnerability that I thought he was craving. After the show, he called me a comedy genius. He understands me.
“Is your boyfriend ok?” Jared already knew the answer because he was the one feeding Boyfriend Long Island iced teas. “We’re going to Slime’s, you coming?”
“No.” It was midnight and I was coming down from the adrenaline rush. It was time to go home. Boyfriend stumbled down the stairs and laughed as he caught himself. His eyes were glossed over as we hugged goodbye. I wondered if he blacked out. I sunk into the backseat of the taxicab, alone, and looked up the location for the next AA meeting.
Sitting on the toilet, it’s snowing outside but the window is open. Either the bathroom smells or you freeze while shitting. It’s the perfect metaphor for how I’m feeling on this particular day, which happens to be Valentine’s day.
I searched the term ‘relationships’ on my favorite online sober community until I heard from him. He slept all day to avoid nicotine withdrawal. Two days prior, he told me he had to quit smoking. He had to change and he couldn’t handle it, I could tell. I put on my war helmet on, ready to support him. He said he didn’t seem like himself. I felt like he was holding back from lashing out at me. I’ll admit, I wasn’t acting like myself either. I was preoccupied, trying to squeeze into the skin of the perfect, supportive girlfriend that I imagined he wanted. The thing is, he never communicated what he wanted. I was blindfolded walking around with my arms straight in front of me. Marco? Am I the perfect girlfriend yet? I got an answer. It just wasn’t Polo.
I sat on the toilet after work. I stared at the scissors on the table just outside my bathroom door. I hadn’t looked scissors like that in a long time. I looked back at my exposed leg. I had goosebumps and the skin was ashy from the dryness of winter. It’s just like a chunk of ham, it doesn’t even matter. I looked back at the scissors, this time with longing. It will make feel so much better. Better than a cigarette.
My doorbell rang. It’s this stupid, loud song. The phone screen lite up with the terrible video quality of who is waiting to be buzzed in. I could see a Coupang logo embroidered on his shirt. The delivery man was there to pick up the package that I accidentally ordered twice. I left it waiting just outside my door. I whipped my tears and ass, pulled up my pants, and buzzed him in. I listened to him come up the stairs, grab the package, and leave. I crouched down with the relief that I didn’t cut myself. And that I was getting refunded for that superfluous order.
This was everything I’ve been looking for. It’s 100% linen. The ivory color will discourage me from eating pizza in my bed when I feel depressed. The model room had a book abandoned on the bed alongside an empty cup of coffee. There was almost no furniture. The story behind the imaginary person who lives there is just like mine — they live to write.
This isn’t just bedding, it’s a marking of my territory. I assured myself as I typed my bank account information. For two years, I have thought of my home as a temporary stage in my life. That’s why I just lived with the two ottomans that nourished the passionate hatred I now feel for functionless furniture. Redoing my apartment gave me the ownership and control I thought I lost by signing a contract for the third year. You can see my apartment here.
It’s been a while since the breakup and I’m doing ok. Actually, I am doing way better. I can definitely see why people don’t recommend dating during the first year of sobriety. Especially dating someone who drinks in excess! My god. I thought that he was just Korean, but after being his girlfriend/ therapist for a couple of months I realized how common it is to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It also made me realize so many people don’t think twice about it, and I am happy to change that aspect of my life. It was a fun dating experience that I don’t regret. However, being with the wrong person is detrimental, whether you’re sober or not. It was a hard lesson learned, but hey, at least this time I wasn’t left cleaning flakes of dead skin.