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Koreans do not tip at restaurants. Give the taxi driver a few extra coins.
“What else was in your guidebook?” Ian asks. “What about the dog soup?”
“Ian,” she says. “Only old men eat that.”
There are so many things he doesn’t know.
“We eat dinner on the floor,” she tells him. “There is cold soup in the summer.”
“Okay,” he would say.
“I don’t understand myself,” she says. “Every day, I see something new.”
“This shouldn’t bother you,” Mi-sun would tell him. “You drive the girl around. You make extra money.”
“It’s hard enough to lie down flat at night,” Chan-woo tells his wife. “I don’t want to drive anymore than I have to.”
“Only a few more years,” Mi-sun says.
“Okay. Then what?”
Chan-woo looks back at the girl. He puts on his blinker and pulls over.
“Sam-channon,” he says, stopping the meter. He holds up three fingers.
The man’s face is lost to the strange underpass, the broken sidewalk. Where am I?
“Don’t you remember?” Ian asks.
“I’ve just never seen this underpass before.”
“Call the police. Call someone.”
Jenna steps out of the cab. The sidewalk is full of holes. She walks past orange cones. Broken cement. Dirt. Trash.
“You’d get lost in your own closet,” Ian tells her. “Put you in there, spin you around— you’d come out thinking you were in another country.”
I’ll wait for another cab, Jenna tells herself, sitting down. She puts out her hand. Someone will come.
The foreigner’s skin matches the sidewalk. Her arm sticks out like a fallen sign.
That’s unsafe, he thinks. ‘The drivers—they might run you over.’
Yeon-hwa once waited for him outside the recreation center for forty-five minutes. When Chan-woo finally arrived, Yeon-hwa opened the car door and sat down.
“I had to pick up another customer,” he told her.
The streetlights lit his daughter’s blue face. He could see her black hair dripping from the pool.
Above her, there is a tiny cartoon. A girl with squinty eyes and black pigtails.
“Kwi-yeop-da,” her students would say. “Cute.”
“Yes,” Jenna agrees.
But here, the cartoon stares back. Its fist pointed up.
“Guk,” Jenna reads. “Taehanmin-guk.”
There are more characters. She reads the sounds but does not understand their meaning.
“How many more months in Korea?” Ian asks over the phone.
“Four,” she tells him.
“Come home, Jenna. Come home.”
Chan-woo drops coins into the dish for cleaning.
“That silly ritual,” Mi-sun says. “You need to stop.”
You don’t know how humiliated I am, he wants to tells her. In my own country.
“I’m always driving that cab,” Chan-woo says. “I should be able to choose who sits in it.”
“No, you shouldn’t,” Mi-sun tells him. She picks up a coin. “It’s all the same money.”
Chan-woo’s wife turns off the light. In the dark, he imagines her silk dress. He takes out his brush.
Each coin must be cleaned, he whispers to himself. Chan-woo lifts one from the jar. He imagines the face of the admiral, Yi Sun-sin.
“Your face,” Chan-woo says. “I will clean it, sir.”
The admiral smiles back at him. Chan-woo polishes the coin like silver in the dark.