Alright, so. First some sobering news.
I flew in yesterday, to be greeted at the airport by my mother, my brother's beautiful wife and my new baby nephew, and (unfortunately) the news that my great aunt Opal may be dying, which means my grandparents just left for Alabama this morning (I'm writing this from Texas time, 5:30 am, coffee mug in hand, in big overstuffed arm chair). This is my grandmother's last living relative who means much of anything to her, out of literally a dozen brothers and sisters. They are very close, and Aunt Opal has been like another grandmother to us kids. We visited her every summer since the time we were little. And the worst part is my poor grandmother having to choose between my short visit and her sister alone in the hospital (obvious which one wins, but for her to have to go through that....).
It seems like it's always something, kiddos. Prayers and that, if you're so inclined, or positive vibes out to the universe (it's all the same to me) would be greatly appreciated.
The baby is a doll. Even though I'm somewhat awkward around kids that little, not exactly having the mothering instinct, we seemed to get along alright, me and him.
My hair is so sexy after a twenty hour flight.
So anyway, you want this story with the kid? Hang on. Let me grab another cup of coffee.
Okay. So. I give that boy all kinds of grief about being baramdoongi. The whole evening, he was making a huge deal out of the fact that it was "Liz last night in Korea," and making me promise over and over again that I would come back. After a hookah bar, and a hoff (where we teamed off and played a couple drinking game that involved approaching strangers and asking them for alcohol, after dozens of glasses of somaek, we somehow ended up holding hands in the street.
Now. If you know Liz, you know Liz doesn't hold hands. And certainly not in the street. But the romance of the "last night" (along with the soju) was going to my head. It was harmless.
Then came the moment I realized that the baby is genuine. Remember the title? "How a baby restored my faith in men" -- subtitle, "and also humiliated me in front of a significant portion of the Incheon expat community at the same time."
We headed to The Bar Tender's bar, after Smalltown's lovely girl headed home in a taxi. The baby and I wandered off during their goodbyes, to give them a chance to... well, whatever. At any rate, fifteen minutes later, Smalltown called to say that The Bar Tender's bar was where he was. When we got there, he was busy regaling some other foreigners we (sort of) know with magic tricks on the porch outside. I ordered a couple of Cass for me and the baby, and took a seat in front of a closed shop next door. This is where I screwed up.
"Oh, chimi obseo...."
"Just. It's always the same."
At this point, something happened. I don't know if it was my fault or not, but somehow the baby decided two things:
1. Smalltown is my best friend in the entire world and was ruining my life/Last Night by talking to anyone other than me.
2. The other foreign men present at the bar were participating in Smalltown's ruining of my life/Last Night by talking to him and not also being my best friends in the entire world.
Of course, I didn't realize this. What I saw was:
"[Smalltown]! You Liz best friend! Tonight Liz last night. You two need to talking. Come here inside bar. Sit here, beside. Okay now you talking. Now I go talk other foreigners."
I was pissed. You're really going to pull this totally Korean foreigner groupie move right now, after going on about how "important" tonight is, and ditch me to go talk to new foreigners (men)? I officially became not fun to talk to, and told Smalltown to just go out and talk with them, and leave me alone at the bar with The Bar Tender. Which was when Smalltown let it slip that, before shoving him inside with me, the baby had told him that I was upset and he was being a lousy friend (Smalltown thinking me telling him to go outside was a symptom of this, and not realizing that I was irritated with the baby, and didn't want to ruin Smalltown's night again by being pissy to him as well, when he had done nothing wrong).
At this point, one of the foreigners from outside wandered in. "Uh. Liz. Is there a problem?"
"...What?? What is he out there doing...?"
I hopped off the bar stool and made for the porch. All three men -- Smalltown, the other foreigner and The Bar Tender grabbed me and held me back.
The other foreigner: "No no. Like... he's fine. He's being really polite and everything, but he seems to think we're upsetting you and we should go somewhere else...."
"WHAT? Oh my god. No."
Smalltown went out and pulled the boy inside, got him sat on at a table and started to explain things to him, while I went out to smooth things over with the other foreigners. When I came back in, I pulled up a stool next to the baby. His face was a mess, nearly in tears, explaining how this is "really Liz last night and everything must to be perfect".
How can you stay angry? I went a bit serious at this point, realizing that there was something more than wind behind the baby's incessant carrying on. "Hey, hey.... look at me."
He wouldn't for more than a second. "Your eyes scary to me. I made a mistake. It's my fault.... it's my fault...."
Something changed in that moment.
I'm going to be honest. I have some trust issues. In general, and not just with, for lack of a better qualification, Koreans. But since coming to Korea, I'm even slower to trust. There must be a motive. There's always got to be a motive. I'm a foreigner. I could be any foreigner....
It was time for the baby to go home. Alcohol emotion was hitting him just too hard. We said our goodbyes to Smalltown and the baby walked me to the front of the long line of 4 am cabs. We stood there in front of them, as he held on for dear life. "You really.... oh. Oh, you really must come back to Korea. I really have hard time to say goodbye to dear friend. You really promise you must come back to Korea. You send me message. Oh, you must promise...."
"[Baby]. When my plane lands in Korea, I promise you, you will be the first person I send a message to."
"I can't to let a dear friend go..."
This waffling went on for nearly ten minutes. At which point, dear reader, I made an executive decision.
"Listen. I'm not trying to make this weird. But why don't you just come home with me?"
And so that's what he did. The poor little drunk thing spent the night there beside me, shivering in the cool pre-dawn air, and I fell asleep thinking about how surprising people can be, at times.