"Looking for me?" asked a voice I'd once forgotten.
I glanced over at Ji Tae then back at the huge padlock that was in my hand. "Were you supposed be in here?" I asked, pulling the key out and showing the padlock to him.
He looked like he was searching for some kind of comeback but couldn't so he stayed silent.
I almost laughed. Actually, I did laugh. I just hid my face and made sure the sound wasn't quite audible.
I was at the site of the proposed building to take a few more photographs. I unlocked the padlock, put it in my bag and when I started to unwrap the chains holding the gate shut, Ji Tae bent over and helped me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked him. It had been two days since I'd last seen him and against my better judgment, I'd been keeping one eye open expecting for him to turn up somewhere. The thing about hoping not to see someone is that you were always on the look out of them and that of course meant that they were constantly on your mind. And the more I tried to tell myself to get him out of my mind, the more I remembered him and thus the vicious cycle continued. So seeing him there, crouched over the gate and pulling the long chain out brought both relief and anger, neither of which I wanted to feel about him.
When we were done, he stood up, turned around and pointed at a building behind us. "I live over there."
I looked at it but didn't say anything.
"So what are you doing here?" It was his turn to inquire.
"Work." I kicked the chain out of my way and pulled the gate handle. I hoped that my obvious lack of interest in having a conversation with him would make him leave but he kept standing there. Still ignoring him, I opened the gate and stepped into what used to be the parking lot. When I turned around to shut the gate behind me, he quickly stepped in and stood next to me.
"What are you doing?" I asked, sending him daggers with my eyes. Why couldn't he just disappear?
He must have missed the message because instead of turning around, he furrowed his brows and said, "Is it safe for you to be in here alone?"
"Am I not safest alone? Or do you expect me to hurt myself?"
He frowned. "I mean that you don't know who might be in an abandoned building."
"It's empty but not abandoned." I hit the light switch. "The lights won't be working if it were abandoned." I tapped my foot impatiently. "I need to lock the gate."
"So could you leave?"
He shook his head. "No, I'm not leaving you alone here," he said firmly. "There's no way it could be safe for you to be here on your own. What kind of company do you work for? Shouldn't you work in teams? Even if it's not a person, what if something falls or… " He started going on and on about workplace hazards.
What the fcuk? He sounded like he'd swallowed twelve Public Service Announcement ads. Ignoring him, I locked the gate then walked towards the elevators.
He jogged to catch up with me. "Since the building is empty, why do you still have electricity and keep it locked?"
I hit the elevator button and it opened immediately. "If we turn the lights off and all that good stuff, we would get squatters and when it's time to demolish it, some human rights organization would get involved and complain about us displacing people from their homes and it'll become much messier than it needs to be. So it's best to just spend the extra money for electricity and security so that we don't have to deal with that."
"Cool," was all he said.
I couldn't blame him. I'd even bored myself with my little speech.
I was taking photos from the second floor when he said, "With you working so close to my office, we must have walked past each other a thousand times." When I didn't say anything, he continued, "I think it's cool, though. When this building is finished, I can look out of my window and say that I know the person who designed it."
"I doubt it," I said from behind my camera.
"Because from what I heard, the owner of your building is trying to sell it and it'll probably get demolished. They are really trying to revitalize the area so this place is going to look very different in a few years." I pointed out of the window. "As you can see, they've already started construction on two buildings here."
He nodded. "Yeah, the noise can really be annoying but the rent is cheap."
I nodded. I was mildly curious about the sales of his first game but I didn't want him to know that I even remembered it. Or that I cared. Not that I did care or anything. I moved around the room and took a few more photographs when he inquired about what I was doing.
I explained the importance of natural light and its effect on work productivity. "My first office was designed so badly so I had to keep my blinds drawn because the glare made it impossible to see anything on my computer screen. And if I'd chosen to turn my desk around so that I'd be facing the light, it would mean that my back would be to the door which is hardly ideal. I bet some monkeys designed that place."
He smiled. "You seem passionate about your work."
I shrugged. "It's work."
"But what made you pick architecture?"
I put my camera down. "I don't know. I knew I didn't want anything to do with too many words so I tried Technical Drawing. I did well in that class and that led me to another and here we are."
He chuckled. "And there I was thinking that my love for Graphic Design had somehow rubbed off on you."
A few minutes later, when he saw me struggling with my both my legal pad and camera, he offered to help. And since he was standing there doing nothing, I allowed him to be useful. I gave him the pad and told him to note down the room coordinates as I took photos so that I could keep track of them.
We were on the fifth floor when I asked him to hand me the writing pad so I could see where I was. I took one look at it and laughed. I'd actually forgotten how bad his handwriting got sometimes. "What the fcuk is this? I can barely read this!"
He took it from me. "It looks fine." He grinned and nodded. "Yep, makes sense to me."
I hit him. "What difference does that make? I'm the one who has to read it. It has to make sense to me."
He laughed. "Okay, I'll rewrite the ones that are a bit difficult to read."
"No. Rewrite everything in block letters, numbers whatever. Write like you're typing. I can't believe you messed this up!"
I took another look at his gibberish and laughed even harder. Dang, his handwriting was worse than Jin Soo's! I was about to mention that little tidbit when I realized that I was actually about to tease him. As in laugh and tease him like I used to. What the bloody blazes? I wiped all the humor off my face and cleared my throat. "You know what?" I said, reaching for my writing pad. "Don't worry about it – I'm sure I'll figure it out on my own."
He held on to it and started to crack a joke till he took one look at my face. "I'll fix it first then give it back to you."
I stretched my hand out. "Don't worry about it. Just give it to me."
"No. I know it's important to you so let me fix it."
I shrugged. "Suit yourself."
Instead of fixing the mess he'd made, he stood there and stared at me like he used to.
Dang. Memories suck.
I spun around and hoped that he hadn't noticed my cheeks redden.
"Who are you seeing?" Yun Ah asked, walking into the kitchen.
"What?" I looked up from my bowl of cereal. Since it was pretty late in the evening, cereal was the only thing I could have so close to my bedtime otherwise I'd spend the next three hours rolling around in bed pissed off that I couldn't sleep.
"Who are you seeing?" she repeated.
I blinked a couple of times then squinted. "I believe I am seeing you right now. Am I supposed to be seeing someone else? You're not some kind of shape-shifter are you?" I joked.
She rolled her eyes. "I'm serious. Your friend, Park Ji Tae, wanted to know."
Hearing that wiped the smile off my face. "I'm sorry? What did you say?"
She looked upwards and nodded her head like she was trying to remember. "He called me a few hours ago and asked me who you were seeing and how serious it was."
"Is this a joke?" I silently prayed that it was.
She raised three fingers up. "Scout's honor."
Why couldn't this guy just leave me alone? "What did you say?"
"Well…," she said, sitting next to me. "I was kinda put on the spot."
Her expression spelled trouble.
I put my hand on my chest to prepare myself for the inevitable. "What did you say?"
"I said that I didn't know if you were seeing anyone."
I hit the table in anger. "What the fcuk, Yun Ah? How can't you know? We're roommates so you're supposed to know."
She put her hands up in mock surrender. "Sorry, you should have warned me. If I knew you were supposedly seeing someone, I'd have known what to say."
What the hell? I put a spoonful of cereal in my mouth but the stupid thing was already soggy. I threw the spoon back in the bowl in frustration.
Instinctively, Yun Ah grabbed my bowl to protect it. "Don't break it. Do you know how much it cost?" She waited for a response but when she didn't get any, she continued. "And what's the big deal? If he's asking about you, then he wants to go out with you. Just go out with him. It's really not a big deal. You guys were happy once." She spat the words out all at once like she'd prepared it beforehand.
"You and Kyung Min were happy once," I retorted. "Why don't you go back to him?"
"Wow, you're so funny," she said sarcastically. Kyung Min had cheated on her and after the third time, she finally decided to get rid of him.
"But on that note," she said, "what would you think if I invited Kang Han Bi as my date to Ki Won's party?"
I arched my brow and sat up in my chair. "What?"
"You know Eun Hye is one of my kids…," she started.
Since Yun Ah still hadn't given up on acting, she'd picking teaching as her interim career because it allowed her time to work in local theatre. Even with all the vacation days that came with it, I'd been a little surprised that she'd chosen to teach elementary school since she'd never seemed particularly fond of kids. But she'd been at her school for over two years so it was either she'd grown to love them or perfected pretending to.
"… so," she continued, "we've been hanging out a bit and well, I think he's pretty cool."
I tried to think back to the few times I'd seen them together to try to remember if I'd ever noticed any sparks. Was I really that blind or was it something new? But then again, the visits he made to our place were usually short because he was only dropping Eun Hye with me on the days I was babysitting Jin Soo. Since his wife had died two years earlier, I tried to help out whenever I could.
"So what do you think?"
I shook my head in mild disgust. "What about Paul?"
"Who is Paul?"
"Your boyfriend. You know, the last guy you introduced me to." The reason I'd run into Ji Tae again. "Ring any bells?"
"Oh, you mean Phillip," she said, playing with her fingernails. "That's all past tense."
I sighed. It still wasn't right. "Isn't it unethical to date your student's father?"
She eyed me. "So does this mean you don't approve?"
"No. Just be careful with Han Bi Oppa. You know his situation so he's not one of those guys you can just play around with."
Her face became a mask of innocence. "Whatever do you mean?" She batted her non-existent eyelashes for effect.
"I'm dead serious, Yun Ah. If you mess things up and I have to choose sides, I'll pick his," I warned.
"Okay, Umma. Oh, and by the way, I invited Ji Tae to the party."