NOTHING like a pandemic to shake up the marital tree.
During enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the husband unexpectedly returned home for his forgotten pass. He rushed inside our home, only to stop abruptly and sniff the air.
What have you been up to? His slitted eyes already condemned me even before I could cover up my mistake.
The man I married has a nose that any K-9 species would envy. If anyone can smell illicit love in the air, that’s the husband. This department, though, skipped me in their recruitment.
Did I fart? Married this long, we are intimate with each other’s odors.
Did I eat kimchi directly from the jar again? Without taking my eyes off the husband as I’ve seen Indiana Jones freeze in a pit full of rattlers spitting with anger, I returned the lid and closed the jar. Tightly. Grimly.
Marriage IS enhanced couple quarantine, without presidential extensions and absolutions. Close friends still wonder what the husband saw in me, or I in him, given our swerving passions.
We managed to sleep in the same bed for 29 years because it is too narrow for us to bring baggage. I don’t sleep with books; he doesn’t bring in power tools.
ECQ put our complacency to a test. Our half-a-duplex home became suddenly too small for personal space.
We step gingerly around the marital minefield of enforced togetherness. We appreciate the bubbles of domestic quiet and placidity, rewards of long-time companionship. We know, too, how bubbles work.
The Great Puncture came with kimchi. Tolerant of the health benefits from this side dish of fermented vegetables, the husband bought a jar for a wife who eats anything she does not have to cook.
Love, even one that comes with a contract witnessed by God and family, has limits called the Chinese cabbage or the Korean radish. Or the cabbage AND radish.
Instigated by a third party—say, fish sauce or shrimp paste—an innocuous vegetable can engage with another plain green leafy creature to release a reek of unholy pungency.
To keep olfactory peace, I promised to finish the kimchi while keeping the lid always in place and sealing the bottle in a zipped bag.
And then the day our home smelled familiarly like a sewer. How did we reconcile the irreconcilable?
Kimchi bombs pale to the time I chose our budget date on the strength of this restaurant’s wall-sized TV playing “Train to Busan” (our pork steaks were anorexic compared to the flaps of skin hanging from the zombies trying to nibble at Gong Yoo), and the unmentionable period I aspired to imitate the NoKor women collectively making kimchi in giant basins on “Crash Landing on You.”
In marriage, the poison becomes the glue. Or exchange the partner.