I’m fairly certain there is mold growing in my ceiling. My ceiling has the texture of a melting bag of ice cubes, and it has a pouch of papyrus white paper that’s coming up like a shirt that’s shrunk too small at the bathroom wall. A long pipe into the protruding phone booth of my bathroom, and after a few months of trying to figure out who was pissing in the alley behind my house each night, I realized there was a hole in the ceiling boards that was dripping water.
I ignored it at first, but the dripping kept coming like an impatient businessman in wingtips clicking on the sidewalk. I’d wait up at nights and pretend that it wasn’t the dripping pipe. “It’s just someone walking by,” I’d tell myself, or, “Someone just turned on their stove upstairs and the ignition just won’t turn over.”
I didn’t want to tell anyone. I didn’t want to move from my quiet building. The only other option was the frat house of teacher across town where Julian blasts his music drunk at three in the morning from Friday to Monday, Koreans have a church gathering with choir music at six in the morning every day, and there are constant rumblings and arguments between the teachers on the stairs. I saw my solitude at first drifting into nights clutching my pillow over my ears and rocking back and forth in my bed to stop myself from throwing a chair into the hall and charging at anyone yelling in the cavernous stairway.
But the dripping became persistent. It bothered me late at night like a girlfriend with too many thoughts and no job. “What do you think about Aliens?” it’d drip at two in the morning. “Do you think Korea would be called Korea if it weren’t filled with Koreans?”
I had to try to fix this. I told Tommy that my ceiling won’t stop dripping. Tommy is like the foreign teacher’s bitch at our Hagwon, any problem we have Tommy has to take care of. He would be better at his job if he wasn’t constantly sucking his lips, scratching his head, and showing up to work with hangovers.
The next day a man came with a plunger and a coiled, metal snake. He bowed, slipped off his shoes and ran past me before I could point to the ceiling. He moved so quickly I really thought I had clogged the toilet. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at the ceiling, and then he sucked his lips and got on his cellphone. He pulled a chair over—he had the slouched shoulders and small build of a mole in glasses—and squinted at the ceiling. He got down from the chair, mumbled something into his phone, and then said to me, “Upstairs.” He bowed and ran up the stairs. He never came back.
For a few days the pipes were quiet, and then they came back. The dripping became louder, and after talking to some of the other teachers I realized the patches of green were probably mold. I told my boss about this, and asked why no one had fixed it. Her reply was, “Tommy said if you don’t say anything not to worry about it.” She smiled. I thought again about moving, and told her to forget about it. You can’t read Mark Twain in a Frat house.
As the months drew on I became curious about the changing bruise in my ceiling. I began spraying bleach mixed with water over the bulging hematomas of fungus growing through the ceiling paper. Everything was going fine, I had suffered a few colds but nothing serious, until I wondered what it felt like. I pressed my index finger into the dry oatmeal board and made a bullet hole through the wood and paper. Water began pissing out, and I ran to the store to get duct tape. The only duct tape they had was bright green. I bandaged the ceiling, and sprayed bleach over the duct tape. Next, the paper began to pull back, and I fought this by spraying more bleach on the paper. I thought several times about telling Tommy, but I really don’t want to move into a noisy building filled with all of the people I work with. I like them, but they tell stories about the noise. The Korean church group apparently has an organ of some sort, and they liked to clap a lot.
I spend most weekends staring at the wound in the ceiling. This weekend I finally decided to look up what diseases I might get from long term exposure to mold. The most common disorder is ODTS and it just resembles the flu—itchy eyes, runny nose, fever. I could also contract bronchitis, which I already had, but I think I got it from someone at work. The last illness I could contract is pneumonia. Nothing in my research—I looked at least three webpages—said there would be long term effects. Also, I became certain that if I continue spraying bleach on the ceiling, everything will be fine. Anyways, at this time, I have bigger problems, yellow dust—toxic dust from the Gobi Desert in China—is invading the city like tiny snipers hiding in Oxygen particles. I wanted to air out the smell of bleach from my apartment, but I didn’t want the yellow dust to get in. My solution: I’m wearing a surgical mask and running the air conditioner. I feel this is the best route; my only other option is to have maniacs yelling outside my door. That just sounds horrible.