Monday, October 17, 2005
Maria — had the name not come into use on its own, balladeers and playwrights would have surely invented it. I’ve loved a Mary, I’ve nursed a crush upon a Marie, but until now I had not known a Maria. For Americans, it’s a moniker steeped in fascination. For this American standing on a porch with a Canadian girl bearing both a Portugese surname and given name, it’s the only word I can think of. Although, periodically, the words “brown eyes” also creep in.
It’s our last night together in Seoul. We’re missionaries who left homes and jobs in North America to come here and teach English and Bible. Before I came I heard the snickers from those who thought the mission was to find a spouse and/or get laid, rather than to do a good deed. I shrugged it off, because I knew there was something much bigger at stake, something they weren’t seeing. And yet, here I am, struggling to tell her how I feel, and knowing I must before stifling these emotions sends me ulcers and a possibly early grave.
It’s 9:30 p.m., and we both have to pack for bus rides in the morning, mine for Suncheon on the southern tip of the peninsula, and her for another location in the area of South Korea’s sprawling, teeming capital. I’ve scratched her back when her eyebrow betrays stress, jabbed her delicately in the arm or gut when it looks like she’s about to fall asleep during orientation. She puts her hand on my shoulder when thoughts of the year ahead overwhelm me in ways I can’t see but are visible to her. This night we’ve promised to exchange e-mails and see each other on vacations, plus we’re now exchanging our first, actual hug.
But she has to know that’s not enough.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” she says, after unwinding those arms covered in long, soft blue sleeves from around my shoulders.
“Yeah,” I say, before placing my feet one step lower, so six-feet-four-inches of me can look five-feet-nine inches of her in the face. For a moment neither one of us says anything. I can’t tell what she’s thinking; since I’m busy biting my lip and mustering the will to speak. I extend my left hand and take hold of the right side of her waist, and my eyes finally meet hers.
The conversation I’ve been anticipating for days begins with: “What are we gonna do?”
These words may determine whether I begin a new relationship. These words might also get me cut off entirely, causing her to avoid me rather than foster a vain hope.
The response I get is much more nuanced than either of those.
It begins with, “Uhm, right…”
The good news is that I seem to have been doing a lot of things right in the last week. The bad news is that there’s another guy in the picture. However, “he’s not meeting my needs,” she tells me.
We move away from the porch, into the parking lot and I place my gallon of bottled water and the carrying case for my laptop aside so she and I can talk this out. The nice-guy approach that I have attempted numerous times, only to be branded a “friend” has paid dividends here. However, she needs time — time to find out if the other guy will make more of an effort, time to adjust to this new environment.
And time to decide if I’m what she really wants.
It’s now 10:30 p.m., and I should be going. My new friend who happens to be a beautiful girl is about to step into her apartment again. My pop culture knowledge is asserting itself, and must be let out. It has manifested in the form of a certain blonde bane of the undead, her vampire paramour and their doomed love.
“In the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel shows up to help her kill...” I know the character’s name, but “some bad guy” comes out instead.
“Some bad guy?” she says, snickering.
“Yeah, but he’s not important. The point is, afterward they start talking about their relationship and she tells him, ‘I’m cookie dough.’”
In the show, of course, she went onto explain the metaphor, meaning that she wasn’t done “baking.” Maria needs no further explanation, evidently, because she’s already begun rolling her eyes.
“Well, Angel starts to walk away and then Buffy calls after him and says that she might be done baking sometime in the near future. Angel says, ‘I’m not getting any older,’ and then strides confidently into the darkness.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stride off into the darkness.”
“Okay,” she says with a smile. “Just grab your bag and your water bottle before you start striding.”
“Okay, I’ll see you in the morning,” I say, before beginning my amateurish David Boreanaz impersonation.
Walking down the first of several hills that lead to my temporary apartment, I begin thinking, Nice guys don’t always finish last. Sometimes they get an honorable mention.
Gotta love Joss Whedon.
I'M EXTREMELY HAPPY FOR YOU, and its a wonderful blog entry.
you better be bringing me back some kimchi, that's all I'm sayin'. you ponce.
Troy A. Ondrizek
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