Sunday, December 18, 2011

Showing a Foreigner How to Be

Margueritte invited her father to visit for a weekend on his way through to China but he misheard, or mis-decided, and put down a hotel deposit for a week. She cried about it into her pillow the night before he arrived. What was she going to do with him for seven heat-soaked days? He hated the heat. She hated the heat – no, she didn't, she hated him in the heat. Sweat would gather in angry dens above his eyebrows and he wiped it like he was organising a bank job. And he bitched about it.

She put bottled water, apples, milk and a melamine mug in the room's fridge, then wondered if he'd prefer a bowl. She told him there was cereal over here and he'd said, I don't want any of that fish porridge shit. She replied, no Dad, they have cornflakes, and then he said, 'cause I hate that fish porridge.

His plane was due at five in the afternoon and she made sure she was late. He was standing underneath the McDonald's arch with a bag of fries.

'They have something called a bul-gog-i,' he said as she kissed his chin.

'How did you buy those?'

'A woman behind the counter told me I was handsome.'

On the train he pointed out how many people were using their phones. She explained that they were watching television and he leaned over a boy's shoulder to see and the boy inched away and he followed until both of them were squeezed in the doorway.

He didn't like the pavement. Of course he didn't; it had the nerve to be broken and uneven, making his wheelie suitcase (beige because he found black dramatic) bounce into his ankles and trip him.

'What's all this rubbish outside for?'

'It gets picked up every day. You just put it next to the road when you want it gone.'

'It doesn't look very good.'

She remembered how much he hated rubbish. Recycling in particular. Plastic bottles most of all. He hated spending money but he always bought expensive lemonade because it came in glass.

Margueritte installed him in his room the way she would put a book that had disappointed her on a shelf. Perhaps a book written by a great author who had, with this story, missed the mark.

He picked up a pillow and smelt it. She showed him the shower with its swivel head and massage spigots; remote for the A/C and TV (the same one); and the goods she had packed into the fridge. He asked what the mug was for and she put it in her bag.

'What are we having for breakfast?'

'Whatever you want. There's a bakery down the alley.'

'Do they have cereal here? You know how much I hate-'

'I know, Dad.'

He wanted her to show him how the TV worked and the first channel she found was porn. He watched for the longest moment like he didn't recognise what he was seeing. Then he asked if there was any sport. She said, baseball. He said no.

She told him they would visit the river, fish markets, palaces, BBQ restaurants. She wanted him to try live squid and rice cakes because it would make him part of what she had built. If he got food poisoning he might leave early.

He took off his polo and his torso was already glistening.

'Are you hot?'

'I just can't stand this kind of humidity. How do you do it?'

Margueritte turned on the A/C. 'Just keep this on.'

'It's like stepping into a rainstorm.'


'Does it get better at night?'

'Not usually.'

'It doesn't get better?'


'Jesus Christ, how do you do it?'

She pointed at the A/C.

Lara has never had a bulgogi burger. It's all about the little things...

No comments:

Post a Comment