Milk

When the two screened windows are closed our apartment starts to smell overwhelmingly of milk. They were closed when I woke up this morning because Kim Eun Ok was freezing all last night after a fever and two separate trips to the hospital left her in a precarious state the previous day. It’s all thanks to this: the boy has been less than professional about sucking her left breast, he merely nibbles on it and then dozes off for a few minutes, during which time nothing will rouse him, not even an icecube to the foot, and if you so much as caress her beautiful motherly breast with a single see-through pantherspot-patterned veil, you engorge it with milk instantly, and firm it up until it’s painfully rock solid, and the white nourishment starts to drip out of her nipple as if it’s being fed into an IV tube. She told me she felt like she was giving birth again yesterday, she was in such pain from this.

Speaking of IVs, at the hospital on her second trip, during which she was interviewed on the subject of her spectacular but painful breasts by a very nervous male intern, she convinced a nurse that she herself was a nurse, and was allowed to carry her IV pouch home, with the long clear tube still hooked into her wrist.

She revived after popping some painkillers at the hospital, but little Harry would not be consoled: though he cooperated with me during the two hours she was out, and downed two bottles of powdered goatmilk like he was drinking for money in a Nepalese tavern, he would start writhing on his back the moment I put him down, and after Kim Eun Ok returned home in a state of semi-triumph (delighted over the intern’s nervousness: always forgetting how American men are reduced to slack-jawed yokels when they see her) he was positively beside himself, and could not be consoled. He was not my son but some rigid, rubbery, crimson larval-like creature so enraged it could barely draw enough air down into his lungs to shriek. But upon being placed in her arms the beast subsided and the rudimentary human being returned.

Supposedly he has begun to look at things. I have yet to witness this. In the morning he woke up a few times without bawling for his mother, and then fell asleep again. This in itself is a triumph of self-improvement.

For two weeks our house was taken care of by a woman we’d hired at a discount rate through the government: with a servant and a mother in a very small living space, there was little for a man to do, but she did such a good job cooking and cleaning and giving my wife a break that after she left I began to fear for the comfort of our household. At the same time I felt totally useless around the both of them. Chauvenism also goes both ways: men in Korea do not usually care for children in Korea, but it’s partly because the women don’t want them to, and think them incapable of doing so. But last night I took care of Harry and cleaned up the entire apartment and cooked a college dinner (spaghetti from the pot!), which made me feel a bit more like a member of my own house, though when I failed to sooth him out of one of his tantrums I myself was reduced to a sour mood, thinking my presence useless and pointless, wondering if my son would grow up to despise me.

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