“I don’t know. My brothers are always failures,” said Koka. “They don’t know how to make money so they are always going to my father and asking for money.”
That didn’t sound good, as I was now working for one of her brothers.
“And my brother’s wife hates my father and called him and told him to die. She said, ‘die, old man, die.’ So it is their fault.”
I asked how she knew this. How could she know what transpired before her father’s death. She gave me a look a little like a young child being discovered in lie. It was small a frail and could have been broken with a breath.
Then she said, “My mom told me,” as if she’d figured out a way out of my trap.
I couldn’t tell Koka what I really thought. I couldn’t tell her that I thought she was so wrapped up in her own guilt that she was throwing it out to everyone else. She was placing it anywhere she could because she knew her father, her family disapproved of her sexuality. Of course that was just another part of this tragedy.
Some weeks later the block of school was over and we were giving tests to the students. I was responsible for conducting the conversational aspect of the test. I looked up an interesting picture and showed each student the picture and asked them questions about it. At the end of each conversation I’d ask, “What will you do after this?” I wondered how they would take such an ambiguous question. “After this,” could mean after this conversation, after school, or after they aren’t studying English anymore.
One student told me, “I will go to different Hogwan (academy) because Koka call my mother and say Jong-Hwa and you can not teach me English.”
It took me a moment to figure out what that meant. But later that night I understood what was happening. Koka had left the school, Jong-Hwa was a businessman, but not a teacher, and Esther wasn’t even that accomplished at English. I couldn’t carry the school on my own. Especially if Koka was calling parents of the kids and telling them not to send their children to our school.
Then Koka would call me in the evening and ask me how the school was doing.
“Not so good,” I told her. “A lot of kids are leaving for other schools.”
“Yes, I know it,” she said, but how she knew she didn’t reveal.
I realized I was in something of family feud and it wasn’t anything like the game show. Koka was actively sabotaging the school I was working at and so now putting my work visa at jeopardy. Without the job I couldn’t stay in South Korea. Despite these acts I didn’t hold it against her. She was so wracked with pain and guilt she was acting out of rage toward the world and we continued to talk and I continued to stay on her good side, as I didn’t want her as an enemy.