Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Decrepitude Of Ivana Ilychovna

This week I have felt like a female version of the protagonist of one of Tolstoy's most famous novellas, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Tolstoy wrote the story of the decline and demise of a middle-aged man when he himself was in his 20s. It is a masterpiece. All is normal at the outset and then small things start going awry, the physical and mental decline of the title character accelerates, and he ultimately loses his ability to function. I had a bad fall last Sunday. I was out cavorting on the volcanic rocks by the seashore – we'd had lunch with a group from church at an art cafĂ© on a nearby hilltop, and June and I decided to walk down to the water for fresh air and exercise. While she sat in a swing and read, I clambered around the tide pools and hunted for sea glass. I eventually slipped and crashed down inelegantly, my linen skirt in a tangle and my suede-shod feet airborne. I broke my fall a bit with my left hand and the gold class ring I always wear thereon, and both were scraped, though only my fingers and wrist were bent. I thought my main injury to was to my pride, and rotated all my joints to make sure nothing was broken. The bad bruises started appearing a day or two later. And I contracted a sore throat. And exhaustion. If I could have stayed in bed all week, I most certainly would have. I felt wretched.

On Wednesday afternoon I was hit on the side of the head by a shoe, courtesy of one of my first graders. He was not attempting to be malicious – this was not a deliberate attack on my person – but he had been throwing his tennis shoes around the room and I was unfortunately in the middle of one's trajectory. He and all his classmates looked appropriately horrified. I admit to being slightly stunned. One little girl beckoned me over and carefully blew on my cheek to make it feel better. I kept teaching, but I did march the miscreant into the faculty office after class to get a dressing down from a Korean adult. He apologized, and we shook hands. He said he was hot with his shoes on. I told him it was fine that he take his shoes off, just so long as he left them neatly placed and didn't start tossing  them. I don't want to break his spirit – he's a very bright little boy – but he does need to learn to behave in a civilized manner.

I am gaining weight. My skin is sagging, and I look like a hag. A hag with zits. I was thinking during that same first grade class that I'm not much younger now than my own first grade teacher was when she taught me, and at that time she was preparing for her daughter's wedding.

Last weekend, prior to my seaside tumble, June and I walked more than 15 miles. I don't understand how I am becoming so wide. On the upside, while we walked I did finally learn how to count in Korean (Sino-Korean, actually--there are two numbering systems here, and this one is that which is useful for transactions). That makes seven languages, including English, in which I've got the rudimentary numbers down. Now if my communication skills exceeded this by much, I'd be dangerous. As it is, early one morning this week when I went to work, I couldn't remember the Korean word for "hello." I could remember the Polish word, but not the Korean word. I know less Polish that I know Korean.

The consignment shop in Bethesda where I worked for a year before joining the estate sale company in DC is permanently closing at the end of the month. The owner is retiring and moving north. I met so many fascinating people through that shop, including my old coworker who had been kissed by Clark Gable back when they were both staying on the same divorce ranch in Nevada in the early 1950s. She told me how they'd spent much of the day together--on the sly, so word wouldn't get back to his soon-to-be ex-wife--when he chose to put the moves on her in an elaborately staged seductive technique that involved flirtatious banter while calmly circling the room, extinguishing the lights one by one, then leaning in for the piece de resistance. She said he was a good kisser. It didn't go any further--if it had, she would have relished the tale, as she was a nonagenarian who occasionally wore a gold ring in the shape of a well known four letter word beginning with F.

A lot of my classes this past week were obsessed with asking me if I am married, if I have children, and how old I am. They were really shocked at the whole middle aged single childless female thing. My boss's daughter is getting married next weekend, and all we faculty members are invited to the church wedding. The bride has been trying to persuade male acquaintances to bring their single friends in hopes of matching them to the young single teachers, of which there are almost a dozen. I expect there aren't too many potential options for femmes of my vintage. I have ordered a pair of stockings for the event, because my battered legs really can't be shown bare, but they haven't yet come. I will start to panic about this next Thursday.

My two-hour adult class this past Thursday was the best class I've ever taught, I think. My CELTA instructor would have been proud. I talked very little, I got the students to work in groups on the vocabulary, and then I set them up with realistic dialogs to practice. They were so engrossed that they didn't even notice that it was time to end the class. It was awesome. Several of the students then invited me out for lunch – shabu shabu – on the 27th. I am looking forward to it!

No comments: