So it’s come to the point in my Business English class where I look upon my dozen fully-grown adult students as my own children; actually, secretly, I feel far more affection toward them than I ever did toward the little brats I had to shepherd in elementary school, who would try to stab each other’s eyes out with massive ungainly pairs of rusted steel scissors the moment I turned my back to marker in the date on the white board. When I looked at the faces of some of these kids all I saw was an overwhelming and equally inexplicable urge to stick their fingers as deeply inside my rectum as possible. Not so with the adults.
But in this office tower and even back in elementary school my feelings are mingled with very appropriate existential questions: What am I doing here? Don’t these Very Intelligent People realize I am a complete fool, and that my babbling, my walking, my waving hands and pleasantly shifting tones, are all just instances of the most shameless ventriloquism? That I am not a real teacher, not even a real man, but all pretense? How can they possibly dignify me with the title of seonsaegnim—drawn from the same Chinese characters as the more famous Japanese word, sensai, or master—? How can they pay so much for this unfunny ridiculousness? After all, if I am being remunerated through the roof for these services, the recruiter must be loping off into the darkness with bags full of ringing gold coins.
They were all smiles in this class, they laughed at every one of my stupid jokes, and although it was like pulling out teeth to get them to open their mouths, and although they refused to mingle with anyone outside of their social circles while we were playing a few icebreaker games in the beginning, I did not finish the textbook [which has obviously not been written or proofread by a native speaker, why, why, why, do these companies cut such basic corners?, how hard, how expensive, would it be, to get someone to proofread this??? such idiocy! such arrogance!], and now we’re two days behind, so I feel like quite the fraud, and quite the failure.
These good people may be wondering when we’re going to start learning Business English in our Business English Class.
There were strange, creepy comments from a few of them. One turtle-y fellow who wants to be CEO of the company declared (somewhat in private) that he liked a certain neighborhood in the city because it was filled with clubs. “So many girls”, he uttered, and these are not dance clubs he’s talking about, but brothels, and all I could think of is how uncomfortable this must be for the sole woman in this class, a very nice and thoroughly-pretty-in-the-Korean-sense (skinny as a mannequin, dolled up with more powder and whitening cream than Elizabeth I) lady who constantly attracts the gazes of this sausage fest. I don’t think she heard him. She was a little too busy conversing with the only man in the room who could even possibly be called attractive—yet another pleasant and well-spoken guy who likewise dolls himself up after the fashion of the Elizabethans.
Still, it is so thrilling to talk to them. I know they have a lot of trouble understanding me. I know that they all have questions which they are far too terrified to ask, even if I constantly ask them to ask, and tell them repeatedly that questions are my one true love, my lifeblood, the nectar after the hummingbird’s exile in a flowerless wilderness.
Nonetheless I am closer to attaining my dream of being a professor—one dream nearly opened among a whole gilded bestiary of caged, caterwauling fantasies. I am walking back and forth in front of adults, expounding, exclaiming, making wide Demosthenean gestures, fixing my gaze for lengthy moments on random victims—whose faces can only reply with the expression of the deer caught in the headlights.
I am still certainly a clown, a party entertainer, but I’m not jumping, dancing, or clapping my hands, to the most deranged music, in a prison full of inmates whom I myself want to jailbreak. It’s progress from Korean public school. If I ever attain that position-of-positions, to be shouting about Flaubert or Borges or Tolstoy to a theater packed with alternately rapt and dozing college students, I will certainly, hopefully, say, that this monkey business in an office tower overlooking a bay that hums with cargo ships was a step on the way to that exemplary destination.