It was in the teacher’s lounge of my travel school that I finally talked to the highly regarded 6-2 homeroom teacher. Yana had spoken highly of him for turning around the behavior of the homeroom class– compared to the zombie-like apathy of 6-1, 6-2 is a delight.
I only knew him to be young and aggressively polite; outside of 안녕하세요 we hadn’t spoken. Until this day.
I scooted by him to fill up my paper cup with water and he greeted me in English. It was a miracle I didn’t drop everything in surprise. No one willingly speaks to me in English.
Realizing that he had already passed the first level, I pushed to see how far I could go.
“Is that an iPhone?” I asked.
“Oh, yes it is.” He answered in crisp, clear English.
Level 2 cleared.
The first seal holding back the dam of all my unsaid conversations clicked open. I told him that my other students always think I’m some rich person but that the truth is in America my iPhone was cheaper than a Samsung. He reacted with appropriate surprise and the second seal was broken.
“There’s a question I always wanted to ask you,” he said.
I startled in surprise but sent him the go ahead.
“Where are you from?”
Seal number three was blown off the hinges and the flood burst forth. I can’t tell you what all I said, I temporarily blacked out from the overwhelming joy of speaking freely.
I just know that I concluded with a parable about the dangers of releasing exotic pets into the Everglades.
“There’s a picture of an anaconda that ate an alligator.” I said into his shocked face.
He didn’t stop my tirade and he laughed at all my jokes. My whole body pulsed light and I thought, I think… I just made a work friend.
While Yana is kind and Jenny is accommodating, none of my coworkers are on the same wavelength. “Anthony”, as the 6-2 teacher himself told me to call him much to my surprise (never met a Korean “Anthony” before), is around my age, younger I think, and also shares my single brain cell. He is also better at speaking English than all my English teaching coworkers.
It feels like a thousand years since I’ve had a friend I could tell ridiculous stories to for laughs. There’s usually an age barrier, or a language barrier.
Most of the time, I have to tailor my English to varying simplified levels for the other people in my life. It’s an unspeakable delight to let my mouth run off without facing blank stares; there’s nothing so depressing as wanting to laugh with someone only for them not to understand your joke.
There’s only so much laughing I can do for two.
I ran into Anthony again ten minutes before quitting time and couldn’t help but talk his ear off. I didn’t even get around to printing what I had come in to print.
“Do you like sashimi? If you want, you, your coteacher, and I can all go to a famous restaurant near the school.”
Thank you, Anthony, for being considerate enough to invite another female coworker.
I spent the rest of the day plotting how I can hang out with him often but without sending any romantic signals. Platonic friendships rule in this house!
No hetero, Anthony, but can we be best friends?