“Hey, be careful,” Ji Tae’s voice startled me, waking me up from my daydream. Even though he hadn’t spoken to me in years (okay, three weeks in real time), I hadn’t forgotten his voice. Not that I could if I’d wanted to, after all, the last conversation we’d had seemed to be etched into my memory.
I looked at him with widened eyes. “What?”
He pointed at the ground in front of me. “Yun ah ssi…”
Which was when I remembered that I wasn’t walking alone. I glanced at her and saw that she was even more shocked at what was happening.
“…some idiots were out here playing with bottles so they made a mess…”
I looked at the ground and saw large pieces of glass scattered all around. School had only just let out and Yun Ah was in one of her generous moods so she’d agreed to wait with me till my mother picked me up. We’d planned on convincing her driver to get us some pizza.
“… so be careful,” Ji Tae finished.
“Thank you,” Yun Ah carefully said as she looked to me for guidance.
“No problem. See you around,” he said before turning around.
I stood there with my arms folded and watched him leave. How nice. Was I wearing an invisibility cloak without my knowledge?
Yun Ah put her arm around me and when he was no longer within earshot, said, “Dang girl, I see what you mean.”
I shrugged. “Fcuk him,” I said, playing with my fingernails. Enough was enough! If I ceased to exist to him then he ceased to exist to me. Ignoring bastards was my favorite pastime. As far as I was concerned, Park Ji Tae was dead.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t say anything to her.”
“Ji Tae, stop lying. Come on, stop lying!”
Even though I was trying my best not to listen to their conversation, I couldn’t help but hear them because they were screaming at the top of their lungs. Wasn’t lunch meant for eating? Was it about talking about some extremely unfunny stuff that happened at school?
“Look, I was trying to be nice. That was why I asked So Yeon to discreetly tell her. With emphasis on 'discreet'.”
“But like the dummy she is,” the friend continued, “she put her hand up and said, “Mrs. Oh, there’s something on your dress!” the entire group of about five boys finished in unison.
I rolled my eyes. Why didn’t they just get a blow horn?
“Hee Soo,” Yun Ah said, catching my attention. “Aren’t you hungry?’
I scrunched my nose. “Why?”
“Because you’ve barely touched your food.”
Wasn’t it funny how life turned out? A few months earlier, Ki Won would have force fed me if he’d seen me neglecting my food but this time, he just smiled at us and continued eating. His freaking permanent smile was beginning to get on my second-to-the-last nerve.
“How come you decide you’re not eating on the day I’m treating? If you knew you weren’t going to eat, why did you get food? I could have saved my money,” she complained. It was funny how the richest people were also the stingiest.
I stuffed my mouth with noodles then made a face at her.
“Poor woman. I wonder how she’s going to face us next week,” some idiot from behind us said.
I looked around my table; from the uninterested Ki Won to the grumpy Yun Ah to the… to the, well, Kyung Min was just there, which was no different from how he normally was. But it was different and since it wasn’t the good kind of different, not for the first time, I wondered if I fcuked up by changing our dynamic.
We were at Si Won’s soccer match and for the first time in a long while, I was actually watching the game. Ji Tae was nowhere to be found –not that I looked- and that served my purposes well because how can you forget someone you keep seeing?
I was watching the game and giggling to myself about the Ass-Anal name when I noticed that Si Won had gotten hold of the ball. I turned to my side, expecting to see Ki Won going crazy but to my surprise, he wasn’t even looking at the field! I followed the direction of his gaze and lo and behold, there stood Lee Hye Jin in all her glory. She was dressed in dark jeans with her black jacket unzipped, revealing a loose fitting red t-shirt. As usual, her face stole the show which had been accentuated with long dangly earrings and pink lipstick.
I stared at her dark eyes and wondered how many lambs her parents had had to sacrifice to get a child that looked like that. If they weren't too many, why couldn’t my parents have done the same?
I looked back at Ki Won and saw that his eyes were still trained on her. If she moved left, so did his eyes. I wondered if his eyes would bounce out of their sockets if she picked up a jump rope and started skipping.
The most interesting thing was, he wasn’t being a pervert and leering at her or anything. And it wasn’t so innocent that it was like a child looking at his rubber ducky. It was more of a look of adulation mixed with some longing. Not in the sexual way (although a bit of that was thrown in) but it was a look that combined a lot of things but said only one: I want to be with you.
My heart suddenly hurt as I realized that I was the main reason that they weren’t together. Not that she’d even glanced at him once so I didn’t know if his feelings were returned, but I couldn’t deny my own role in the entire mess.
I groaned as I bent over in shame. Why the hell did I do that to someone I claimed to love? What the fcuk was wrong with me?
“Ki Won ah, we need to talk.”
The game had just ended and Si Won and the rest of his teammates were taking their showers. We’d been walking to his car in silence when I spoke up.
He smiled at me. “What about?”
I inhaled. How exactly was I going to start this?
“Did something happen?” he asked worriedly.
Yes. Something humongous.
I shook my head. “No,” I said darting my eyes away.
He put his hand on my shoulder. “What is it?”
I took another deep breath and decided to be a woman. Yes, it was time to, what did they usually say? Yes, kick the horse in its balls. I looked up at him. “Let’s break up.”
From the look on his face, I could tell that I’d somehow fcuked that saying up.
I stood at the bus stop and waited. According to the customer service rep from Seoul Transit, I only had a few more minutes to wait for the bus that’ll take me to the second bus that would eventually take me home.
The entire thing with Ki Won had been a bit of a blur. He went from being shocked, to begging me to change my mind, to cursing me out, to taking his brother and driving off without me.
I knew that I should have been feeling both miserable and extremely guilty and although I did feel those things, mostly, I was relieved. Relieved that I didn’t have to keep lying to myself about how I felt about Ki Won. Relieved that I no longer had to try to be part of something that didn’t exist. Relieved that I didn’t have to keep ignoring the inner voice that had been screaming that I’d made a mistake. Relieved that….
“Do you need a ride?”
I looked over to see Ji Tae standing a few feet from me. And he was looking… cuter? Wasn’t winter supposedly bad for your looks? Why so much life in his face? Oh, I remembered – he no longer had to deal with me.
What a stupid fcuker, I thought. There I’d been, counting off the numerous ways I’d been relieved, all ready to write a thesis on it but the one person who spelt the opposite of relief – whatever that was- had come to interrupt my flow.
“Hyung’s wife is feeling better so they both came to watch their son’s game. They’ve all left now,” he explained.
Hmm… okay. So why are you telling me? Or was he so confused that he'd started talking to air? How many weeks had gone by with you avoiding me like I was the most contagious type of leper? Just when I’d decided that I was going to forget you, you decide to talk to me? Whatever.
The sound of the bus approaching my stop interrupted my mini-rant. I looked over at Ji Tae and hissed. I really couldn’t deny that he looked good. Luckily, he was wearing a cap so I couldn’t really see his eyes but the street light was shining in such away that I could still see those soft lips. Did shock therapy help eliminate memories?
I shook my head. “No thanks,” I said as the bus driver opened the door. The sooner he left, the better it would be for everyone. But freakity freak, this was only going to make me miss him even more.
“Hee Soo,” someone called from behind. I’d just gotten off the first bus and was walking to wait for the next one which was on a road adjacent to the one I was walking on.
When I turned around, I saw Ji Tae running towards me. What the hell? Had he followed me?
“What did you just say?” he asked when he was stopped running.
What the hell? Had he been injected with some kind of serum? What was with all the talking to me?
He moved closer. “What did you just say?”
Oppa’s talking to me, I thought as my heart started beating faster.
“What did you just say?” he repeated. When he got closer, I could see a spark of anger mixed with confusion in his eyes.
I cleared my throat. “About what?” I asked, pushing down my scarf from my nose.
“Before you got on the bus. What did you say?”
Okay, so maybe not a serum but was he suffering from some sort of dementia? “Park Ji Tae ssi, all I did was thank you.”
He shook his head and stepped dangerously close. “After that.”
What the heck? When I tried to back away, he quickly grabbed me and kept me in place.
The temperature had dropped but my palms were sweating anyway. I was running the gamut of emotions from confusion to anticipation to excitement to well… fear. What was going on? “Op… I mean, Park Ji Tae ssi, I didn’t say anything.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did,” he yelled, moving even closer so that our noses were almost touching.
I could smell what he’d had for lunch but I wasn’t disgusted. His breath on my face was welcome heat. I tried not to look at his lips for fear of where my mind would wander.
I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be forgetting him so I pushed him away.
“Just repeat what you said.” Even though he’d let me get a few inches from him, he was still holding onto my hand.
“My bus is soon going to be here. I don’t want to miss it.”
“Just repeat what you said and I’ll let you go.”
“Dude, I didn’t say anything! All I did was thank you. Anything else was your imagination.”
He shook his head. “I heard you distinctly.”
“Really? So why don’t you just tell me what I said?” Leave me the fcuk alone. What the fcuk?
“You said you're going to miss me more.”
I said… ? I looked up at him in shock. The freaking mind reading thing was back again. How’s that fair?
He inched closer. “Is that true?”
“What’s it to you? You hate me, remember? You want me out of your life, remember? I am now invisible to you, remember?”
He kept moving closer. “But is it true?”
“It shouldn’t matter to you.” My voice was getting all choked up. I didn’t recognize his cologne but it smelled good.
He was now holding both of my hands which were still at my sides.
“Ji Tae, let me go,” I said, turning away as he moved his body into mine.
“Answer me and I’ll let you go,” he said. Because of the way my head was turned, he practically said it into my ear.
“Just answer me. Do you miss me?”
ARGH!!!!!!!! I snapped my head around. “Yes, I miss you okay? I miss you. What are you going to do about it? Tell me how incredibly pathetic I am for having these feelings? Laugh at me for having feelings for someone who hates me? Throw a parad--”
My words were cut short by his mouth on mine. I was shocked for a few moments till it sunk in that Ji Tae Oppa was actually kissing me! Did that mean that I didn’t have to forget him? That I didn’t have to think about not missing him? That I actually had him? Yay!
As I kissed him back, I noticed that his lips were even softer than they’d previously been. His hands slowly traveled up my arms and my skin tingled at his touch. I slowly shut my eyes so I could get the full experience of the kiss. I parted my lips so that I could taste his lips from a different angle. It was weird but even though I could feel the softness of his lips, I could still feel the hardness of his kiss. I pushed my mouth even closer so that…
What the fcuk? Why did it stop? Shortly after I opened my eyes, he took his hands off me like he’d just remembered that I did have leprosy.
He looked disgusted with himself then turned around and started walking away.
What the…? I chased after him. “Oppa!”
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” he grumbled. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
I ran ahead so that I could block his path. I put my hands on his chest to stop him from walking. “What wasn’t supposed to happen?”
“I promised myself that it was over. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to ever do this again. What the fcuk is wrong with me?” he mused, knocking his head with both fists. It was like he didn’t even notice that I was standing in front of him.
What has he saying? Was he trying to go back?
“No, I deserve better, no I--”
It was my turn to shut him up with my lips. I didn’t know where it came from but I grabbed his face and kissed him. I saw the shock in his eyes and almost giggled into his mouth.
“What was that?” he asked when we broke apart a few seconds later.
I laughed. “What did it feel like?”
He gave me a sidelong look.
“What? You’re not convinced? You want me to do it again?” I dared. Instead of waiting for a response, I kissed him again. This time, he didn’t seem so shocked and instead, kissed me very softly and methodolically, like he’d kissed me so many times that it came naturally to him.
For my part, I put my arms around his waist and matched every movement he made. I wasn’t a kissing expert but I could already tell that kissing Ji Tae would be fun. It was a good thing that his two best features were on his face.
When we finally broke apart, he said, “I’m not quite sure I know that’s going on.”
I laughed. “What’s there to understand? Apparently, I miss you.”
He raised his brow. “Meaning that you like me?”
“Meaning that 'I care about you',” I said, mimicking his voice.
“You really do?” he asked sincerely.
I nodded. It was definitely different from what I felt with Ki Won. I kissed him and wanted to kiss him even more. Surely that had something to do with liking someone, right?
“Are you still taking the bus?” he teased when we heard the bus approaching.
I playfully punched him in the belly.
He put his arm around me and led me to his car. “You realize that you’re being let off easy, right?”
I rolled my eyes.
“The way you acted wasn’t so… nice.”
I pouted. Was I about to get a scolding? “I’m sorry.”
“And I hope you realize that I’m not a punk for accepting you so willingly. It’s just that we don’t have much time left and despite my better judgment, I want to spend it with you.”
“Your better judgment?” I repeated incredulously.
He looked down at me. “Heck, yeah!” A smile was tugging at his cheek.
I pushed his hand off me and stood in front of him, frowning furiously. “Well, judge this!” I said right before I pulled him closer and kissed him. Yeah, kissing Ji Tae rocks!