Monday, May 21, 2012

The Stink

Mikey was a farter. Most children at the age of six are. They love to spray their fog around and just laugh because listen to that sound! Farting was proof that life was funny. As we grew older, the candy and steak and cottage cheese started to rot inside our swelling little bodies and things began to change. We still thought the sound was funny, but the joke was on us as the smell of our own dead bellies began to follow and engage in open mockery. At the dinner table, our parents talked about terrorism. We didn't know the word, but we knew exactly what it meant. In middle school, I danced in front of a girl and farted. I was in a Pinocchio costume. There was rouge on my face. I'll say this again because it needs to be said again: In middle school, while wearing a Pinocchio costume and makeup, I danced in front of a girl and farted. She is attractive and we will never get married. I'm now an adult and less afraid. 

The son has become like the father. It is now beautiful.

As adults, we love farting, because it's a release - because we have to strain and concentrate ALL THE TIME in order to keep from sounding like someone's pinching and pulling the ends of an inflated balloon. I'm amazed we all don't suffer from a rectal prolapse. Don't do it in front of your boss, or your wife, or your dentist, but find an empty bathroom and find peace, find that brief glimpse of enlightenment. The outpouring of emotion becomes the awareness. Catharsis transforms into kensho.

Did you ever watch 80's pro-wrestling? Neither did I. But if you were alive on either side of the 80's, you are aware that there was a pro-wrestler named Hulk Hogan and that before a wrestling match he would do something manly. One of the things he did to prove his worth was to rip his shirt apart with his own hands. You might think that this alone did the job. You would be mistaken. Find some old footage of him doing this and LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES AND DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THIS ACTIVITY. Those aren't eyes. Those are the very fires of hell and in them you are captive and chained for eternity. This is how I feel when I pass gas. The legs of my soul bound towards calamity, its eyes unwavering and gleaming as it rends its shirt and I rip the very fabric of space and time. 

But I digress. Mikey was a farter, and the first word I ever taught in Korea was the word flatulate.

At the time of this writing, I have been in Korea for nearly four years. Most of this time has been spent teaching elementary students, but I did have a hagwon gig my first year in the country. 

At the other end of the country, on a small island, there was a hagwon that Mikey attended. 

At a small rectangular table, in small, dark-blue plastic chairs with steel legs, we had class in Chicken room. Megan sat to my left and she had eyes like Mr. Miyagi.

A disappointed Mr. Miyagi holding chopsticks looks exactly like a disappointed Megan holding chopsticks .
Directly across from me sat David. In a class of three students, he was the cool one. 

Last was Mikey, who sat to my right. This seat was nearest to the door, because as I said before, he was a farter. I'm not saying that pushing air out of his ass was his only quality. He had black hair, too. And puffy hamster cheeks. No, that's not right. They were more like ass cheeks. Ass cheek-cheeks. I once saw Mikey eat chocolate and I regret it.

Mikey never passed gas audibly. It always crept into you the same way a nightmare creeps into a dream. Mikey had a smell you could cut, but couldn't kill. It was a smell that clawed back at you, because his day was spent laughing, and eating, and running, and laughing in the bathroom, and 10 minutes went by, and he's out of the bathroom now, but he's sweating for some reason and it's winter, and then - oh, look, he's found some candy.

And yet, despite all this nonsense, I'm absolutely certain it wasn't the food at the hagwon that did this to him. He was definitely eating something at home that was going to kill him...or just make him that much stronger.

Keep in mind that those three children were the brightest for that age group at our hagwon, and because they were always together, they were really close, so they were most likely used to any and all scents Mikey could muster. I, however, was not, and one hot, humid summer's day, I had had enough.

I was teaching, I don't, maybe, and the sun was bearing down on the windows. The air felt tight. Megan found it first. She wrinkled her nose and looked at me like I did it, and then at David. He squinted and rubbed his nose on his arm. Mikey looked sweaty and slack-jawed, like this was an exercise in not releasing everything. I looked back down at the ESL science book as his fart snaked its way up the back of my chair. It curled itself over my shoulders and and gently swept across my nose. The unrelenting sun beat through the room, pushing my face into it. I winced. I sniffed again, hoping it was an odor that would drift away momentarily. It did not drift away. My eyes began to water and my tongue felt unhealthy. Before I had the sense to bring my head away from the science book, I thought, "This is going to make my nose bleed. God Jesus, this hurts." 

I finally leaned back and glanced at Mikey who was smiling. I must have looked hurt, because he started laughing. David was upset and Megan was holding her nose, her eyes on the verge of tears. The culprit was still chuckling when I raised my voice.

"Mikey, that is terrible. That is the worst smell I've ever smelled in my life."

He sobered up.

"Mikey, do you know what that is?"

"Yes, Teacher. It is a fart."

"No - yes. Yes, that's what it is, but don't say that."

I should admit here that I do not like the word fart. Obviously, I'm using it many times in this story because I do not know enough synonyms to replace it. But I just don't think it's an honest word. It doesn't sound at all like the action. Fart sounds more like a hairy bird, or some kind of small cherry. Human flatulence is too complex to assign a word like fart to it. So I taught Mikey another word - a big word.

"Say this: fla - chu - lay -te."

He repeated it three times at my instruction.

"Mikey, if you have to do this again, please say, 'Teacher, I have to flatulate.'"

"Yes, Teacher."

Eventually I learned that not even a step outside the door helped, because he didn't stay outside long enough. 

I eventually had to force Mikey to walk to the bathroom, towards the opposite side of the hagwon. And somehow, it still followed him, like it stuck to his clothes.

Everybody loves to fart. Mikey loved it more than anyone else and that's how he got his dream.