Friday, January 16, 2015

Bad Dreams are Only Dreams

2007. February. Recently separated, divorce papers filed, lawyer hired. Waiting. Had to get a job at a hagwon because I needed an apartment. Because, despite the -- cursory, unsympathetic -- advice of my lawyer, I had to leave the apartment my ex, daughter, and I shared for fear of my own safety. I was the victim of domestic violence for several years. Having the opportunity to look back nearly eight years later, I'm confident that I made the right choice. I think my ex-wife would have murdered me had I stayed.

I was hired at a language school and worked hard, as I always have (well, at least in adulthood; I was a pretty big slacker as a teen), while the slow process of the divorce took its time. I lived in a one-room apartment with a single bed, a small CRT television, a pinewood desk, and little else. It got good sunlight, though. I swapped a basement apartment in which I'd originally been placed in the same building with a fellow teacher for it. That place was dark and dank (and the previous tenant hadn't paid his water bills, so I had to shower, in winter, in freezing-cold water. That makes you reevaluate some things). But some people prefer to live in the dark, god knows why.

I had support during that time, but not a lot, and it's curious to 2015 me how I was able to make it through a period that, today, I can't fathom tackling. I'd email my mother and give her updates; Kmork, that beautiful bastard, gave me a laptop; I'd chat on the phone with my now-wife*, who was in Australia, every night; the teachers at the school I worked at were good friends, and eventually I explained the truth of my divorce after months of lying that my wife and daughter were in Canada.

2007. June. Arbitration. The arbitrator suggests that I relinquish child custody and all of my earnings. My lawyer is furious and cancels the hearing.

2007. July. Arbitration. Having requested joint custody of our daughter and half of our total savings, I am granted the latter. My ex-wife is given full custody and I am to pay 300,000 Korean won monthly, which I will gladly do because it is for the support of my child. I am given bi-monthly visitation rights. My lawyer tells me this is a victory of sorts. He can chew on a car tire.

Five minutes later, I'm sitting on a stiff wooden chair more fit for an interrogation room than a courthouse. My ex-wife's lawyer emerges and explains to my counsel that I have been granted full custody. It takes interpretation and a little longer for me to comprehend this change of events. When it finally clicks, I am ecstatic. I could punt-kick a skyscraper.

I reenter the arbitration room. I am told by my ex that the reason she has given me full custody is because her daughter looks too much like me. She can't stand to look at her. So much for motherly love.

I have remained here in Korea in the years since. My parents (and siblings, and more relatives and friends than I can name) have taken great care of my lovely girl, for which I'm eternally grateful. I will always find time to go home, to be with my rainbow. Hopefully, someday, it will be a permanent stay instead of a vacation.


* That sounds terribly reductive, and I apologize. Pineapple, as she will pseudonymously be called henceforth, is my dear, precious wife and love.

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