Thursday, February 01, 2007

Arthur: Sometimes the other life overwhelms you

Jeff talked about it, and I imagine it must happen to all of us who stay at the Trading Post and come away changed at one point or another: The immersive experiment of living someone else's life, 24/7, there are going to be times when a person just gets locked in. In some ways, that's a good thing; when that happens, I respond to Liz's name without making her appear half-deaf, I can deal with the bathroom without feeling gross, and I just don't spend a lot of time questioning what I'm doing.

I don't know if that's healthy, and I don't want to be in Jeff's situation, where it eats at your insides until something violently snaps you out of it. It seldom lasts more that a day with me, and when I am jolted back to reality, I feel a little frightened, like I've escaped death. That's melodramatic; at most, I've come out of a fugue state, and even that's not really the case - I'm totally aware of who I am and what's going on around me, and able to make decisions. Still, there's a mental component to the curse, and while we think we've got a handle on certain parts of it - thirteen people in a certain building at 2am will have their bodies reshaped to the form of the last thirteen to be hit by the curse - the mechanism is completely mysterious. Sure, we've got some indications that the inability to get people to believe us may wear off in time, but what if that's counteracted by us accepting our new lives and not feeling the need to tell anyone any more? We don't know, and I hate not knowing.

The past week has been too hectic to allow me any chance to not be Liz, anyway. Last Tuesday, right after I posted that letter (I hope my skepticism didn't scare anybody away from writing us with their experiences), Liz's sister Tara calls in a panic, saying that there was a fire at her son's day care center. It didn't burn down, but it would be closed for the rest of the week and maybe a little longer and neither she nor Dae-su can miss any work. I say it's a good thing that Billy's got grandparents, but she reminds me that "mom and dad" are visiting friends out west. Besides, he loved the week he spent with Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Ray last summer...

So I wind up spending last week babysitting, which is not something I have often been called upon to do. After all, no siblings, and the male freelance writer who also has to look after his sick mother is not the first friend most parents call when in need. It was fun, though. He brought over his favorite games, I got us into a movie for free, leading him to opine that Aunt Lizzie's job was way cooler than mommy's, and sometimes we'd sit lay on the floor and watch cartoons while he settled in for his nap. Kids are cool, or at least this one is, in that they have few expectations beyond the basics - he wanted to eat, and play, and he didn't ask questions about anything.

It wasn't totally smooth sailing, of course. "Sis" was always thankful when she came to pick him up, but her husband gave me a mean look on Thursday when he saw that we were using English while playing. "We're trying to make sure he can speak both languages fluently," he says, "so it's important that you give him a chance to practice his Korean." I say I'm sorry, I forgot, but I'm so rusty that I'd just be teaching him bad Korean. I get the stinkeye again and the next day we watch a Korean-language DVD with the subtitles on for me.

Speaking of Korean-language movies, I saw a bunch of them over the weekend. Ray is, apparently, still serious about his promise to spend more time with his girl, and he bought a bunch of tickets for movies at the Museum of Fine Arts, where they had a Korean film festival last week. We'd already seen The Host, but he'd read good things on the internet about the other films playing. He also remembers how Liz apparently tries to keep up on the Korean film industry in case roles that require someone bilingual come up, so he was sure I'd like to come.

Most of the films were pretty good. It was a bit unnerving how a couple of them had themes that struck close to home for me - Time by Kim Ki-Duk is about a physical transformation, for instance, and King and the Clown features a male character who appears disturbingly female. As in, he's hot, and the realization that I was thinking that made me really uncomfortable. In fact, I suspected it was an actress until Ray pointed out that either Jun-gi is a boy's name or Liz has seen him in something else before.

The festival only ran about five days, but combine that with work and babysitting and let me tell you, there was just no time to even think of myself as Arthur Milligan, much less act like it. I feel awful about that - Jake called me a couple of times to try to get together, but there was just no time. I'm probably being a lousy friend, but there's just been no chance to get away and be a better one. I'll try to change that as soon as possible.

-Art

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