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The Doldrums

Leopold-Loeb book is written. Having MS Word read it to me is making this first once-over very easy. I LOVE YOU, BOOK. Clever as shit, this thing, my entire MFA crew could read this without rolling their eyes in artistic contempt (all eye-rolling would be affectionate, I truly believe that). It's called Homo Superiors: A Modern Leopold & Loeb Distillation. Their new names are Noah Kaplan and Raymond Klein. I'm starting the next book on this upcoming three day weekend (it's Buddha's birthday, that's why), I need an immediate rebound this time.

I, um... I hate the fuck out of work. I still get monitored a lot (I guess I'm a high risk variable now or something), which just makes my classroom feel like a panopticon prison cell. Two of the Korean co-workers are leaving the job next week, and tonight was their going away dinner. It was sushi at a place my sister wants to try by her house. I could enjoy nothing about that. They were not the company I wanted, I had no ability to taste anything but the upper edges of wasabi, I was stuck talking to head teacher for two hours (managed to get a lot said about my stance on circumcision, that'll be a special memory--cut nothing off of a human body that isn't broken goddammit!), and it took like two extra hours after work when I could have been home with my cat (but, you know, free dinner).

Someone on my Facebook feed mentioned Marilyn Manson's latest album--I forgot that he was still doing stuff. I started listening to The Pale Emperor and latched onto a song with birds in the title and lyrics ("Birds of Hell Awaiting") to finish the Leopold-Loeb book, and now I've got to listen to five albums of this stuff because that's how long I've been away. The songs seemed to have mellowed out a bit over the last decade, more depressing than 'shocking' or whatever, I like it. I'm either still a fan or I'm feeling exactly the same way I did when I was in freshman year of high school (don't know which).

I leave you with this: head teacher's opinions on the stories I write (from tonight alone). Number one, when I said this latest book ends just before the murder, she said, "What?! You can't do that." The fuck I can't! Number two, when I said my next book is a sequel and I'm breaking up my main couple for a bit, she said, "What?! Why? No!" What some people don't know about art fills every great book you've ever read. These idiotic opinions from someone who appears to think writing a book is like finishing a paper mache hobby craft, and watches only the worst TV as if it is good. When a story isn't about a murder, it's about the journey, you skip the murder. When a couple is as endearingly dysfunctional as my Disorder dudes, you make sure they figure that out the hard way. When someone who has to write something three times to barely get a passing grade has opinions on my novels, she just better hope I'm too tired on my last day of work not to stop and say all that I actually think of her. I'm good with words, I bet my insults could really hurt her.

I accidentally stayed up until sunrise.

Secret Optimist

Tomorrow's the last Leopold-Loeb book section. A quick read-through after that (like a day, because I'm proctoring tests that day) and it goes to my publisher. A week from now I'll give a copy to my training week friend for editing notes and fan-girling. The Tuesday after that, I begin my fourth Disorder Series book. It's called Compulsion, I'm going to bring so much new pain to those kids, mmm! I can write half of it in the next two months at work if I stick to the L/L schedule, but these books have less rigidity of section, I can maybe go over a thousand words a day, and I'll be two weeks at my sister's house and one week in Dallas before my institutional learning starts up again. Let's see if I can finish it before my first day of PhD classes! Place your bets.

I am officially mentally checked out at work. I no longer smile and nod through the song and dance of management--I now only engage in meetings until I get explicit instruction for what they actually want me to do, which is make it look nice regardless of meaning or purpose, and then I cut the discussion after that and go do what I'm told; nobody is allowed to pretend this is educational in motive anymore, not to me. I'm not trying to expand any young minds either, I'm done. Some kid put her finger in my ear today because for some reason no one has explained to her that people outside her family don't want her touching them that intimately (she means well, whatever, someday somebody will flinch and yell at her, that'll clue her in). A different class decided to call some student gay, tell him he wanted to kiss the other boys and marry them, and he decided to prance around rather than argue... I did nothing. I've been told again and again to stick to the script. There's nothing in the script about socializing or humanizing the kids, and certainly no one's a fan of critical thinking in this particular sphere, so once more, whatever. Just say English at them and avoid parental discomfort. If everyone else is comfortable being distasteful, I can be comfortable with that too. I'm an artist, it's all a fascinating observation for me. And don't forget, I'm still physically deprived of my sense of smell and taste for over five months now. Go ahead and be disgusting: I've been conditioned to no longer care.

My sister tells me my face is easier to read than I think it is (I don't think I try to hide my emotions from my face; I like attention, and having an animated face gets me that in strange and interesting ways). If my sister is right, everyone around me at work ought to know I'm displeased. That is fine by me.

A student today asked me if he could kill his irritating classmate. "Not here, not without getting caught, there are cameras." There's your lesson and mine, sonny!

Pomp and Circumstances

I've just taken the time to figure out how to make my Word document read my own text back to me. I'm going to use this during my next edit, why not? I feel like a douche reading aloud, this and headphones are the solution to that.

The verdict is in: my last day of work is July 24th, I have to move out of my apartment on July 25th, I'll be staying with my sister for two weeks after that (they're putting the remodel off until after summer since the summer is peak rental time in Busan), before flying to Texas on the 7th of August or thereabouts. I'll have at least a week to settle and nest in Dallas before TA orientation and classes start up. Interesting.

The week after I'm done working is a paid vacation week. They're going to let me have that ("let me" like it's a gift and not their last dangling carrot), but only if I don't stop actually doing my job in the final week just because I'm leaving. Thanks for infantilizing me one last time! You shouldn't be surprised that employees act childishly if that's how you're going to treat them. For example: I accidentally picked up one of the boss's pens while I was phoning students from her desk. She has now painstakingly labeled the rest of them, and when I was using a labeled one to take notes this evening, she came to the desk, picked it up, and replaced it with a different pen. My friend from training week thinks I should steal all of them. I might make it a mission to take them out in the world and start leaving them around town, just to make a cosmic point: tsk on me? NO, tsk on YOU. You and your pens and your literal request that I lie on the "report cards" the parents can see because mommy might get huffy if she's told the truth, that her son won't stop talking about vaginas and pointing at his crotch like he's only vaguely aware of what he's saying (what I actually wrote in the report was "inappropriate joking" and still that's too much for them). Or, more likely she might take her obnoxious son and her money to another English program that would lie to her better. I'm so much more of a hippie than I've ever even known. Goddamn costly integrity! So useless in the real world. Lying is my calling, my comfort, and my art; you can't pay me enough to do it if I don't want to. Deal with it!

A student I had to call at home today asked me where I was, I said the front desk at school, she said, "Wow it is so late, you are very sad." You're smart as hell kid, and that's no blessing.

Anyway, speaking of hippies, I was expecting the final episode of Mad Men to make me want to die, but it didn't, I actually feel better. I'd rather snort a laugh than sob tonight, it was good timing.

Fun stuff in my future: get pension money back from Korea, close bank account, close phone account, vet visit for health certificate, etc. I'm babysitting my sister's cats some upcoming weekend so she can go to China with her husband--that just means spending weekend days at her house long enough to feed them twice. She trusts me with this because her youngest street cat likes me and only me (besides her). I'm a niche taste; very choosey creatures often choose me, and nobody else is into it.

My MFA school made a lot of excuses about my diploma being redesigned and thus delayed (bull. shit.) but they are going to mail it to me soon because it's finally graduation, and that's when they mail everyone's. MY GOD, how I hate these lying machines! Hurry up, revolution!

I have graduated so many times and never worn a mortar board. I would like to continue this tradition of fucking off from pomp and circumstance.

Saturday Serendipity

Friday was a mixed bag--it ended with movie night at co-teacher's house with head teacher. Co-teacher told me about Richardson (that is where UT Dallas is, his hometown suburb). He's been teaching in Korea for seven years, but he's given me his home address and his parent's phone number and is asking around his friends to see if anyone needs a roommate, he's that kind of Christian, the good kind, helps when he can be helpful and never feels the need to tell you why. If I can find a roommate, I can land and arrive at an apartment that already has utilities set up, and maybe not even just an apartment--there are three story townhouses near campus that would make a fantastic living situation with a roommate. That might happen.

Head teacher, however, let out some news. They've found a replacement for me, someone who taught in Korea once and is returning, so on Tuesday I'll find out when my official last day of work will be. Head teacher says she's making sure I'm still keeping my paid vacation week at the end of July, but there will be "stipulations" surrounding that. I predict it has something to do with training my own replacement, or vacating the apartment but still coming to work--something that isn't exactly fair but might still work since I have my sister to rely on (although she and her husband are about to do a remodel on their apartment, meaning moving out for a month this summer, and moving back in just before I'd want to rely on them, so... not fair to me and not fair to her, but still probably how it's going to go down--I'll help with the organizing or something to make myself feel better, but I'm no help to my sister compared to how much she's helping me right now). So: on Tuesday I get the last surprise this job will give me, hopefully it won't be too butt, and it sounds like I'm getting a week's vacation and a week of time between my last work day and when I'd have to show up in Dallas. One last vacation!

Saturday, though...

- my sister and I went out for pizza at a place she likes. We each ate half the pizza we ordered, picked at each other's food and realized we wanted to switch, then switched. Probably two people usually share one pizza there, we shared two with no sense of personal boundaries; we're Americans and proud and kind of gross.

- then we returned to her house to watch this debate about the Catholic Church featuring Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. What a fucking awesome dinner party those two would make, right? My sister, like all decent people, really likes Stephen Fry. Who else has this kind of relationship with their sister? Move to a foreign country together and spend Saturdays enjoying debates? Days like that are why I refuse to die if I can avoid it, because you never know when another one's coming around.

- friend Michael is in Seoul, about to go through training week, friend Jenn from my training week has a train ticket for May 30th to come visit, and friend Dana in Japan gets internet (resulting in phone call time!) on the same day. Yay, human contact! Not that bar schmoozing shit either, but humans I've vetted and already know are worth my time. The best.

- sister fried me up some cheese to eat (that girl just gets me), and gave me a zebra suitcase she got in Seattle so I can take all the start-up supplies and souvenirs I want, and then her husband said he'd give me a ride to the airport the day I leave and upgrade my flight to business class. So I pay the price of an economy ticket, he buys the rest through the travel agent his business uses. Business class means I get a little cubicle to myself, plenty of room for my cat, free alcohol, and the space to stretch out and sleep it off. This is the cushiest move abroad anyone has ever had, I like it.

- I ended the night calling one of my oldest friends (we've been friends since middle school, fifteen years) and getting a lot of compliments. This move abroad is going to make people think better of me for the rest of my life for no other reason than it's something they can't see themselves ever doing. You would if it was the only gig you were offered! Fail more, and then save yourself by doing this! She liked hearing my anecdotes, we talked about the power-trip moments of teaching, she confirmed what my sister said: I am starting to look very impressive on paper. Good! What else have I been trying to do this whole time? Now she's reading my thesis, since it's what I used as the critical portion of my UT application, and might be what got me in. More compliments are down the road!

Appreciate this!

Even though I shouldn't even bother searching for Dallas apartments until July, I seem to be set on fucking up May and June with worry that can't help. That will be particularly stupid of me if I magically get campus housing, and certainly dumb since even a local apartment finder can't help me until a month before my move-in window. Sit the fuck down, anxiety! If you're going to worry about roaches and black mold and transit and crime maps, do it later!

I was particularly anxious and irritated by my students yesterday (Hump Day, apartment searching, start of my period--which, you know, good to have it around and everything, but the doldrums it brings, yeesh). One of my students can cry whenever she wants and uses it to manipulate people (co-teacher and I are onto her; I saw her 'crying' and looking up to check if I could see her yet out of the corner of my eye, and when I didn't engage she immediately dried up--she wanted to draw on the white board, but tough shit). One of my students is an actual pencil-biter (way delayed in every task he has, chews real pencils and a rubbery pencil-shaped pencil case he also likes to drop on the floor). I saw another student just straight-up wipe his nose on the front of his t-shirt (the outside, not even on the inside like a gentleman). I would like to be sterilized, please.

Tomorrow is Teacher Appreciation Day in Korea, and I'm already getting gifts for it. An affection letter and this body wash gift set thing. Tomorrow is Friday, contains more students and probably more gifts, so that'll be nice. My older students tried to give me and each other nicknames (I didn't understand mine); I told two of them that their names are already English words--Sally (sally forth!) and Ally (alley) did not like them. Too bad! I'm their teacher, I got to speak the truth.

Today is section 6.8 of 6.10 in the final Leopold-Loeb book chapter. This time next week I'll tell the internet its full title and the new names I've given the boys (get excited, shriek and faint, throw undergarments, it's going to be a big deal). Today's research included this list of bird group words (party) and a bunch of boring street view and Google image searches for the setting. Just because you've been to a place with your own two eyes doesn't mean you're exempt from obsessive double-checking research! If you're a professional of any sort, that is.

Morning Observations

I still hope Mad Men ends with Don's suicide. Metaphorical or hopeful or crushing, your call show, but he's been putting it off for a long time.

I think I have a phantom smell that's triggered by anxiety. Every time I think about moving and starting up again, it smells like having a cold and taking a big whiff of hay and animal feed. That's what fear smells like when your real senses don't work. I hope my lack of smell and taste gives me a Daredevil-like ironic power--it would be nice to be able to smell fear, lies, emotions of all sorts. I could be a very wealthy and mysterious coporate fixer with an ability like that.

The Leopold-Loeb book is officially happening in real time now. One week until the 21st for them, one week until the 21st to me. It's all planned out now (I'm even excited about the bird-words--I've saved the best one for last), the twice a week sit-down sessions never fail me, I've managed to amuse myself with even the most utilitarian sections, this is going to be the easiest cross of the finish line I've ever experienced. I've even settled on the long version of the title (this one's going to have a subtitle!), and I'm already trying to shift into slowly thinking of the next book, so when Tuesday the 26th rolls around, I have work to do.

My buddies converge: Michael from Chicago arrives this weekend, and lands at his job post the same weekend my buddy from training week comes down to talk Leopold and Loeb stuff with me. My sister invites me out all the more purposefully now that she knows I'm leaving again. It seems to keep surprising her (she can't imagine me in Texas, but I can't imagine me in South Korea for much longer, and we both like the idea of me being a doctor). My coworker is from the UT Dallas exact location, he's going to help me out with ideas on where to live, my friend in Japan is due to get internet any day now, that means phone call city! My best friend is moving away from Texas as I arrive, but that just means we get to share moving stress messages. I can tell that I'll look back at these days super nostalgic eventually, but hopefully I won't want to do them again. It's tiring.

The months go fast, but the days go slow.

Work is incredibly long these days. I read a book every two weeks, I'm writing a book two days a week, I do all their paperwork, all the grading, all the phone calls, and still have time for a snack and a flash game on my phone. I have too much time in the present and I can't even be that proactive about the upcoming move because everything's too far away at the moment.

Mostly what I do is conjure up little horror stories for myself. If not campus housing, I'll end up in the world's crunchiest apartment. I'll arrive alone to an empty room and have to venture out into the wilderness for sustenance and cat litter, stuff like that. I soothe myself with research--I land with the cat, there are always cabs at the airport, there is a cell phone store and a Walmart an hour's walk from about where I'd have a dorm or an apartment. Get the cell phone, go to Walmart, buy a little laundry cart and supplies to go in it, walk home and shower because it'll be fucking Texas in August, you'll have slept on the plane so you'll be rested, shut up, Self. Groceries can seriously be delivered the next day, you can't get lost on a grid with English street signs everywhere, you can print a map of the neighborhood in Korea--memorize it even!--in case of total lack of internet... You'll have about a week of time between TA orientation and classes, you can drink off the stress then, stupid.

I used to worry that having a satisfying life would ruin me for fiction. Like, if you enjoy your own reality, why bother to live in a book? But luckily (pretend that it's lucky), even getting what you want feels weird. My current project is a calming touchstone, and you know I've set a story in Texas already (it's called "Groom," it's in Countrycide, it takes place in Groom, TX, a class of mine in Chicago seemed to like it). A sustaining goal related to moving there: go see that big Jesus installation! See the leaning water tower of Groom, touch the original Route 66! It took me all four years living in Chicago to finally get to those Leopold and Loeb related graves, visiting a place it feels like I practically made up can be the next thing I chase. It's all part of one life, it shouldn't be too impossible.

I'll just bug administrators with emails about paperwork and timelines (sorry, but it's happening), and start researching faculty to see who looks like they could stand to be my adviser. That'll keep the paranoia busy for a bit. I'm really going to have to start another book about five days after I finish the Leopold-Loeb one. If I make it my job to write another Disorder book in a three month summer like I did the first two, that'll keep me just focused enough to avoid an existential crisis. Oh, and if I can finish two books in nine months between moving to and from a foreign country for a full time job, I will never issue an extension on a college assignment for anything short of traumatic illness or injury. Oh, you have feelings and depression and stuff? Fuck your feelings! Let the work console you or get out of my cubicle! I transferred to a new high school the day of my mother's funeral, good luck trying to soften me with a sob story.

Short version: staying positive!

The Pre-Nostalgia Kicks In

I'm on the wait list for campus housing in Dallas, but the good news of that is: off campus housing. Thirty minutes walking or like fifteen on a bike, and rent is cheap as fuck. I can get a place of my own with laundry and a gym and a pool and cats allowed and everything for around $500. Part time TA budget is hella doable like that, and the more I look at real estate the more I like my future. I'll have spare money every month for furniture and fun and stuff. I don't have to do anything but read, write, and roll my eyes at students for the next four years! I'm going to flourish there.

Last week after getting the annoying news that quitting my contract means they aren't paying for my flights, I was at work with all that spare prep time, watching comedy videos on youtube, giggling and texting, making the best of it. My head teacher heard me laughing, messaged me on the work messenger, asked, "What's so funny?" I told the truth: comedy, online. Then she clicked into middle manager mode and said, "Did you prep for your projects?" Here's what's funny about that: there is nothing to prep for those projects, nothing to print, nothing to do. Unless you want to look at them all and strategize, which, no, I don't need to do that because it's elementary school and they mostly just draw pictures and write a paragraph about it. The sound of joy angers the mediocre, yo. I've literally seen her try to criticize how quickly I get my reports done, but she isn't creative enough to figure out how, she just knows she doesn't like it. I continued giggling and texting. Now that I've seen through the matrix of their scare tactics, knowing for sure they won't fire me unless they have to, like if I'm violent or drunk on duty or something, they can just fucking blow me with all the song and dance. They don't even have time to give me another bitchy reprimand letter, why should I pretend I don't know that? I'm not going to screw any kids out of their education, but I'm no longer listening to company proscribed nit-picking. I'm unprofessional like that, sorry.

When I'm feeling particularly smug, I remind myself that me and head teacher are the same age, but I'm way ahead of her in degrees, experiences, and opportunities. I relish the memory of her telling me she almost didn't receive her Bachelor's degree because her writing was so bad, of the way she couldn't understand that I only had to read the Leopold and Loeb trial once to take in its information, and how my book was almost done even though I was still imbibing research. I'd be jealous of me if I were her too; everything she works hard to do I can do better, half drunk and distracted. I love that feeling. That feeling is how I put up with high school. I'm going to make a great Texan PhD person, I'm that big of an asshole at my core.

The 4D theater lets you print card tickets with a picture of your choice on it for a souvenir, my sister's husband likes that and does it a lot. My sister hates that--hates having her picture taken 150 times a month by her husband, hates pictures of her own face staring at her, hates reminders of her past, hates the angle on every picture he likes, she's great. So I kept the ticket, since he used a picture of me and sister as kids in our Tae Kwon Do uniforms. I have a huge trophy and smile, sister has a small trophy and smile, we're covered in thick bangs, and the message her husband chose for the card says: "We are avengers ^.~" Now I have a picture of kids in my wallet like a normal grown-up, but with a tricky twist! I like it.

I'm pretty sure I've got aunties on call for help and aid when I land in Dallas. I keep getting lucky with moving, I've never once done it without support. Someone is always there to do the groundwork before I arrive, I really want to keep that pattern going. After getting that PhD, I'll probably want to land a job in California, so everybody I know should get on that, prep accordingly, meet me there.

Transitioning Me

Stiffing Me
Fun fact about leaving this contract three months early with plenty enough warning time and a willingness to work right up until I leave like a decent human adult: I don't get a month's severance pay that I would have if I stayed until November (seems fair), I don't get a thousand dollars to help out with the flight home like I would if I stayed until November (kind of shitty, but okay), and I have to pay back the first thousand bucks they reimbursed me for the flight over here last year (fuck you too, then!). So that's about a four thousand dollar hit for quitting early. My head teacher was like, "Maybe you can defer grad school until January?" Um, no, and I probably couldn't do that and keep my TA gig, and drop the hell dead. I'm not really surprised, a business is an inhuman machine, I get that, but the people trapped in that machine who act all brain washed about this dick treatment? That makes them liars in my book, and I hate liars worse than machines.

Stalling Me
Anyway, they literally can't fire me now, it's such a huge to-do just trying to get a substitute in between me and the next teacher for one week. We're going to be watching a lot of Youtube videos in my classes, doing half an hour of word searches every day. I'll leave this country with about the amount of cash that I also have in student loan debt, and sure the debt doesn't have to be paid while I'm school, but it does accrue interest, and the cash has to be used for the flight home, the mattress I'll need, cat and human supplies, etc. That extra four thousand dollars would have really flipped this coin. Oh well. Maybe I'll do some illegal moonlighting, or online editing work, or start making better money from books, or after one year of TAing get a better gig, ooh or a grant. Sugar daddy, fairy godmother, whatever.

Bugging Me
I'm still doing my annoying job properly and faster than everyone else, ugh. I should start stealing pens, something, I'm in a pissy mood. So work is now extra irritating, and... dudes will not stop texting me--an American girl is a hot commodity over here. I'm suddenly glad I'm not hugely attractive to everyone, that shit is a thankless hassle. Looking good to yourself and fair-to-meh to others is a place I'm happy to be. Fucking, so butthurt these guys are too! This one dude I talked to for ten minutes, he wasn't even the one-night-stand, called me three days in a row, then sent me a pathetic little message about how I'm ignoring him. BLOCKED, STOP IT. I take rejection better than this, and I suck at taking rejection. I can't even be nice because it only encourages them. I say I'm moving in three months and don't have time to socialize, he writes back, "I would still like to meet up again, I'll be moving to America soon too." All the more reason to ditch you here.

Discouraging Me
Ew, I just got an email saying someone who only publishes short stories in places with Review in the title got some other Fellowship over me. All the academia in the world won't convince an academic writer is better than a free agent writer. You're a hothouse flower, I'm a weed; I'm stronger than you, and I'll last longer, but you enjoy that attention (goddammit).

Encouraging Me
My Leopold and Loeb characters have had the closest thing to sex they're ever going to get in this book. They're finally about to hit the optimism that spurs them into actually committing the crime. As of next week I'll be writing the book in real time--the last three sections are the week leading up to May 21st (it was Wednesday back then, this year it's Thursday, but I'm on future time here in Korea, so it's actually perfect). True love like this turns the volume down on the whole rest of the world. Thank god I've got a buddy from training week visiting for that three-day weekend, because I'm going to feel all weird and lost and empty after this one.

Becoming Me
M'kay, so all I need is that campus housing (exactly on campus, utilities covered, pets are okay, washer/dryers in some of the apartment units, groceries can be delivered), and then to close out here. One long flight, a half hour cab ride, order a mattress, find some kitty litter, get back into the student saddle. By the time fall weather comes to Dallas I'll be perfectly happy--work I don't totally despise doing, a short commute, living frugally enough to put dents in that blasted debt, continuing to write and publish and feel superior to all. It'll be easy to take my cat home, her tests are still good, the US isn't that strict, I'll pick up a cell phone account somehow along the way, it's gonna be okay.


L.A. Fields
L.A. Fields
L.A. Fields is the author of The Disorder Series, the short story collection Countrycide, and My Dear Watson, a queer Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Her work has appeared in anthologies of horror, erotica, and academia.

She has a BA in English Literature from the New College of Florida, and an MFA in Creative Writing - Fiction from Columbia College Chicago. She currently teaches English in South Korea.


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