The turn out at Ji Tae and his mom’s farewell party was pretty surprising. Other than all of Ji Tae’s friends, we also had his mom’s co-workers and a lot of the kids from the Institute. In addition, somehow, a few of her old friends got wind of it and in the end, my parents didn’t even have to pay for much because a hotel owner friend of hers let us use two of their conference rooms for free. The first one was where the official farewell party was held with the dinner and long boring speeches about how they were going to miss them blah blah yawn blah blah and the second room was the fun one which had a DJ and hors d’oeurves where the wrinkle-free bunch could have fun without being under the watchful eyes of their parents.
We were all in a circle dancing when I saw Ki Won standing at the hors d’ouerves table so I excused myself and went over to him.
“What’s up?” I said, smiling. My last day of school had been particularly emotional because it was the first time all five of us had lunch together. After we got over the initial weirdness, we ended up having a good time so I did regret the fact that we didn’t patch things up much sooner.
“Nice party,” Ki Won commented, swaying to the music.
“So why don’t you join us?” I asked, beckoning for him to come over from the other side of the table.
He shook his head. “I am a little hungry so I’ll join you when I’m done.”
I arched my brow. “And that’s going to be when? In another hour?” I teased.
He rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
While we were laughing, Ji Tae came over, exchanged pleasantries then left.
“Was it worth it?” Ki Won asked softly, shortly after.
I turned back to him. “What?”
“You and him. You start this thing and he’s already leaving.”
I shrugged. “What can I do?” It’s not like I had any control over it.
“You could have been with me. Think about it, by this time, we would have been like Kyung Min and Yun Ah,” he said, looking at them on the dance floor, “and I’m not traveling thousands of miles away.”
I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not so I decided it was the latter. “In your dreams, Yong Ki Won,” I chuckled, “but speaking of which, where’s Hye Jin?”
He shook his head in exasperation. “She’s busy.”
“Oh, that’s a shame. It would have been nice to see her.”
“Yeah… but she said she couldn’t cancel her date.”
“Yep. Apparently, she just wants to be friends.”
I laughed. “Well, that sucks.” I shook my head. No wonder he was taking a trip down memory lane. “But seriously though, how is it that a kingka like you can’t even keep a girl? All this time, I thought you were dumping all these girls, could it be that they were… dumping you?” I tapped my lips for added effect.
“No, they wish. And don’t call me that. I’m not a kingka. Besides, it’s not my fault. I believe that you girls were sent on earth to torture poor men like me.”
I laughed. “Ki Won ah, you’ve got jokes.” I made a big show of looking him over. “Poor men like you? You’re not poor and you sure as hell ain’t a man. Alright? Now, let’s dance.”
Since it was our last day together, Ji Tae and I decided to enjoy the most we could of Seoul, including its public transportation. Our first trip of the day was a visit to Gyeongbokgung palace.
I looked out the window of the moving bus. “Do you remember the first time we saw this road?”
He leaned forward to peer out of the window and see if he could recognize the area. He shook his head. “No.”
I frowned. “Okay, let me give you another clue: we were on the bus together.”
He smiled. “Well, considering that this is only our second time on a bus together, I guess I can figure it out.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, remember how you got us lost?”
“Maybe I did that on purpose?” he whispered, leaning into me.
I pushed him off. “Yeah, right. You can’t try to make every single thing you did seem planned and romantic. Nope, you’re not going to get away with it. You got us lost. Admit it. Accept it. Own it.”
“But since we are on the topic, I’ve been meaning to ask this. You said you never hated me, right?”
He took my hand and started playing with my fingers. “Yep.”
“So why did you call me ugly and laugh at me in front of all those people?”
His face became a huge mask of confusion. “What?”
I reminded him of our encounter shortly after I'd cut my hair but the confused look didn’t leave his face.
“You don’t remember? How typical. After all, only the victim ever remembers.”
He looked at me and thought about it. “I swear, I don’t remember that.”
“You don’t remember me with short hair?” I showed him my hair. “Come on. Shortly after we moved?”
He angled his head, strained his face and regarded me carefully. “You… with short hair? Oh!” he exclaimed before cracking up.
I frowned. What a stupid ass. I pushed him even further away from me. “Now you remember?”
“I swear, I don’t remember this incident but I remember you with short ha…,” He obviously couldn’t contain himself so he kept on laughing.
I folded my arms and frowned at him. What a loser. How could my misery bring him so much joy? I started pushing him off the seat. He had to hold onto one of the poles to keep from falling off. “Hey. Stop that. STOP IT!”
I dramatically turned away and looked out the window. I really ought to consider a career on the stage.
“Look, I don’t remember that but you were so mean when you first moved in.”
I flung my head back to him. “I was not!”
“Yes you were. I would smile at you and you’d just look through me,” he said, with an obviously fake pained expression on his face.
“No way. I never did that- I was just shy. Don’t try to blame your meanness on me.”
For the rest of our journey, I reminded him of all the times he'd been mean to me and he sat there with a straight face and denied each and every one of them. The whole time, I prayed that God wouldn’t strike him dead or worse, cut his lying tongue off.
“You know I will give….”
I jumped off the couch and hit the stop button.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Ji Tae asked, reaching over my shoulder to turn it back on.
I pushed his hand away and turned around. “Dude, can I not hear that song today?”
He shot me an inquisitive look. “Isn’t it your favorite song?”
“So? Does that mean that I have to sing it every time? Besides, that song now has too many memories for me. Do you want me to cry every time I hear it? You know what?” I said, pushing him on the couch, “why don’t I sing instead?”
He found a comfortable spot on the couch while I went through the song list and picked a song.
“Sororul nukkyogamyonso jogumshig soro aragamyonso…”
He made a face. “What the heck is that?”
I shushed him and started dancing.
Then he got up, took my hand, grabbed a microphone and started singing very badly to Bi. What the hell? No more karaoke for Ji Tae! Hot guys like Bi didn’t deserve to have their lyrics bastardized by people like him. So I pushed him back on the couch and sat on his lap to keep him from getting up and wrecking my performance. But the dumb ass didn’t even fight back. He just sat back in the couch with a silly grin on his face and watched me perform the song.
“I do I do yongwonhi hamkehagedanun gu…”
“Pull out some old school Marvin Gaye and put it on repeat…”
“What are you doing?” Was he honestly rapping in public? What the fu…?
He ignored me and kept on dancing. We’d already been waiting in line for almost 35 minutes just so that we could get into the elevators and go up to the top of the Namsan Tower.
“Show me you can take it boo…”
“Will you stop?” I begged, giving him my puppy dog eyes.
But all he did was laugh and do a twirl… a manly twirl, might I add. He laughed at the expression on my face. “Gosh, you’re too shy. Why do you worry so much about what other people might say? Huh? What will you do if I kissed you right now?”
At that moment, I noticed the large group of people stepping out of the elevator.
“Hey,” I said, grabbing his hand. “We’re next.”
About five minutes later, we were at the top of the tower, admiring the view. Since it seemed like the entire observation deck was filled with other couples, even one that I swear was made up of middle school kids (seriously! There was no way they were older than 13), I didn’t have any problem holding on to him.
“See what you’re missing by leaving. See how beautiful it looks.” Seoul was definitely beautiful at sunset.
“There are towers in America: The Sears tower, the Empire State building… hey, I can even go to the Statue of Liberty.”
I’d planned to groan but it came out as a grunt. I wiped my nose to make sure there was nothing there then said, “What’s your point? When you look down will you be able to see the Namsan park?”
He shook his head.
“What about the entire Seoul skyline? Will you be able to see that?” I’d adopted the voice of a stern second-grade teacher.
“No,” he said, pouting like one of my students.
“So what’s your point?”
“I have none, Ma’am,” he said before he moved his arm closer around my neck.
“Ugh, you’re choking me,” I joked as I wrapped both arms around him.
We stood in silence and took the view in for a bit longer and I just wanted to stand there all night. It felt so beautiful and peaceful that I wished I could capture that moment and trap it in a little jar.
“Hey,” he said, poking me in the belly.
I jerked back because it tickled a little. I frowned. “What?”
“It’s time to go home.”
I looked at my watch and saw that it was almost 7pm, which was about 23 hours before he got on a plane and left me forever.
I rested my head on his shoulder and exhaled. It’d pondered about it for a while and standing there so close to him, I knew I was about to make the right decision. No, the only decision that made sense for us. “Hey, do you have money?”
He looked down at me suspiciously. “Why?”
“It’s a simple question. Yes or no?”
“I have some. Why?”
I exhaled again. It was time to take the plunge. “Let’s get a room.”
I sat on the bed and waited for him to come out of the bathroom. I held the box of condoms in my hand. God. Was I really ready for this? Yeah… sure, right? There was a reason the word “consummate” was used when a married couple finally had sex. We weren’t married but I wanted to complete our relationship. For the rest of my life, I wanted to feel that what I’d shared with Ji Tae had been full and complete. And it wasn’t supposed to hurt if you did ‘it’ with someone you cared about. RIGHT? RIGHT??
I was about to call Yun Ah for verification when my phone rang. I looked at my caller-id and saw that it was from home.
“Hello,” I said hesitantly into the phone. Did she somehow know what I was about to do?
“Hee Soo, where the hell are you? You were supposed to be home an hour ago,” my mother yelled.
“Umma, please don’t yell. I don’t think it’s good for the baby.”
“What do you mean? It’s great for the baby – it lets him or her realize that I am not to be trifled with. I obviously didn’t yell enough when I was carrying you.”
“Where are you now?”
Did she know or didn’t she know? “What do you mean?”
“What do you think I mean? Where are you?”
“Ehm… ehmm… eh,” I stammered.
“Where’s Ji Tae?”
“He’s in the bathroom.”
Argh, sh.it. How the hell did that pop out my mouth?
”You mean the toilet?” she asked.
“Yes.” Phew. Good save.
“Alright. When he’s done, come home. If you’re not here in 30 minutes, you’re in trouble.”
“Okay Umma, but….”
“What?” she asked gruffly.
“How badly does it hurt when you first have sex?”
“What now?” Ji Tae yelled in frustration.
I reached over and switched the light on. Then I sat up and used the blanket to cover me and my bra. “I’m just wondering something.”
“If there’s blood on the sheets, would we have to wash them ourselves?”
“What?” he said with the most disgusted look on his face.
“Okay, sorry,” I quickly said before switching the light back off. But what was with all the disgust? Like what we were about to do wasn’t disgusting in and of itself.
We started kissing again till another question popped into my head. “Oppa….”
I could tell that he was getting more frustrated with every question but I just had to ask. “What happens if I get pregnant? Since you’re leaving tomorrow, will you come back?”
“You’re not going to get pregnant. We bought something. Remember? We went to the store together."
Well, I'd stayed outside.
“I know, but what if I do? I read that it’s only about 97% effective. What if I’m one of those three percent? What will you do?”
“I don’t know,” he said. He was back to kissing me and obviously not playing any attention.
I switched the light on and pushed him off me. “You don’t know? So you might not come back for me?”
He sighed. He glanced at my body then at my face. “I’ll come back for you, okay? I’ll come back for you.” Then he looked at me intently like there was something at the tip of his tongue.
“What?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Nothing. Any more questions?”
I shook my head.
“Cool,” he said then turned the light back off.
About a minute later…
“Hey, why are you yelling at me?” I switched the light back on. “Don’t yell at me.”
“Sorry. I’m not yelling. Now what?” He’d begun to sound tired.
“Oppa, will you call me tomorrow? You know in all the movies, the girl always worries that the boy won’t call her the next day.”
He looked at me like I was a complete idiot. “Are you coming to the airport tomorrow?”
“So I’m going to see you, right?” He sighed. He moved up and knelt on the bed. “Do you not want to do this? Is that it?”
I shook my head. “No. I definitely want to do this,” I said before turning the lights back off. I definitely wanted to consummate my relationship. Yes, we had to consummate our relationship. Consummation was imperative.
About two minutes later….
“Let’s just cuddle.”
I stood with Ji Tae as he hugged my parents goodbye.
“Be a good boy,” my father said, hugging him.
“You’re coming back to marry my daughter, right?” my mother asked, frowning furiously at him.
I could feel my entire body turning into the color of an extremely ripe tomato. “Umma, how many times will I tell you that nothing happened?” I couldn’t believe she was saying that in front of my father.
She scoffed. “We’ll find out in 9 months! Ji Tae, I can’t believe you disappointed me like this.” She shook her head at him like he'd turned out to be a wayward monk.
He bowed to her. “I’m sorry Ummuni.”
My mother turned away dramatically. “Don’t call me that. Call me Ajumma.”
She turned back to him and smiled sadly. “Be good to your mother, okay? And thank you for everything. You really saved Mi Soo's life. Otherwise, she’d have had to drop out of school and marry early.”
“Umma!” It was Mi Soo’s turn to be embarrassed. I found it so funny that I broke into a fit of hysterics.
After saying his goodbyes to Mi Soo, and his mother said her goodbyes to us, it was finally our turn.
He stood about a foot from me and said, “Kim Hee Soo, take care of yourself.”
Was that it? “And?” I asked, folding my arms.
“And, I’m really going to miss you.”
I scoffed. “That’s it?”
“And…,” he started, moving closer to me.
I smiled. That was more like it. “And…?” I whispered.
He moved closer and pulled me into a hug. “I’m really going to miss you.”
I hugged him back and held on for dear life. “You do realize that I’m never going to see you again?”
Without letting me go, he pulled back and did his lazy smile thing. “I’m only a plane ride away.”
“Yeah, like a freaking 50 hour plane ride.” I looked into his pretty eyes. But really, no man should have eyes like that. Did his father work on them? I mean, really.
He put his head over my shoulder and it was back to the hugging thing. “You can sleep on the plane.”
“And Philadelphia of all places? Why not Los Angeles or New York? There’s nothing in Philadelphia. I looked it up. Nothing!”
Because I was still holding him, my body shook when he convulsed into laughter. Wasn’t he laughing a little too hard? What I said wasn’t that funny. “Oppa, who’s going to pay for my ticket?” I said, continuing our mundane conversation.
He shrugged. “We’ll find a way.”
Yeah, whatever. I knew we wouldn’t see each other again because I could feel it. As they say, a woman knows.
“Ji Tae yah, it time to leave." His mother’s voice floated into my consciousness.
I could feel the pipe in my eyes getting ready to burst but I wanted to keep my promise not to cry.
“Hey, Hee Soo, I have to go on.”
The prodding tone of his voice made me notice how tightly I'd been holding on to him. “I didn’t mean to suffocate you,” I said, slightly embarrassed.
He smiled. “I don't mind.”
“Okay,” I said, waving at him, “see you.”
“See you,” he said before turning around and walking to his mom. He hadn’t taken two steps before he turned around, grabbed my face and kissed me fiercely. The kiss was a bit freaky because neither of us closed our eyes… at least, not at first. I was freaking out because I knew my parents were standing a few feet away from us, but then when those soft lips expertly kissed me in a way I’d never been kissed, I couldn’t help but shut my eyes. Yeah, he was right – talking wasn’t the only way to express how you felt. And I could feel it. It was almost a summary of our relationship – from the first time I’d laid my eyes on him till that very moment. I promptly forgot my parents and savored my last kiss. My last kiss with my first love. Surely, that was worth getting grounded for.
The kiss ended abruptly with him breaking it off then jogging to meet his mother.
My heart sunk with every step he took. Ji Tae was leaving! My Park Ji Tae was leaving. I stood there, rooted to the floor and watched him walk away.
“You!” I screamed. “You have to turn around!” I waited but he didn’t. “YAHHHHHHH!”
“What?” he said, turning around.
I laughed. I could tell that I was yelling and that other people at the airport were staring at us but at that moment, I couldn’t give a sh.it. “You had to turn around. Our story couldn't end with you not turning around.”
“Our story hasn’t ended.” He lifted his bag, slung it over his shoulder and walked backwards. “Happy now?”
I nodded. “Yes, you can turn around now,” I said, smiling.
“Unnie, look,” Mi Soo said a few seconds later, pointing at the figure of a man standing not too far away.
“YAHHHHHHH! Oppa!” I yelled.
He turned around again. “You’re not going to make me miss my flight. What?”
Ji Tae followed the direction of my finger and did a 90 degree bow to his father.
Mr. Park had been absent at his son's graduation so I was glad to see him there.
After the bow, Ji Tae turned around and started walking again.
I was still watching him when he suddenly turned around. I grinned when I saw that he’d shaped his fingers together to make a heart. I did it right back to him and we stood there for a few seconds, looking like stupid idiots with matching hearts. Then he turned back around.
Mi Soo put her arm around me and we watched him take his shoes off at Security and put them a little plastic bin. When I saw that he was next to go through the metal detectors, my heart stopped.
“Oppa! Ji Tae OPPA!” I screamed. It seemed like the only thing I could move was my mouth - everything else was lifeless.
But he didn’t turn back. He just walked and kept walking till he was through the metal detectors and out of my life. Forever