Even though it was only a little after 2pm, I was exhausted. I'd just returned to the office from a battle at SGH Industries, the company I was working with. It had ended up being quite productive, at least from my perspective, because Mr. Oh, the CEO, had sided with me on a lot of issues. It was nice that he was trying to work through his personal issues by helping me out but if he got any more obvious, I was sure that there'd soon be rumors about us.
"Nice flowers," I said, walking over to Michelle at the receptionist desk. There was a bouquet of lilies sitting on her desk begging to be sniffed. So I obliged them.
"I'm glad you like them because they're yours," she said without looking up from the computer.
"They are yours."
I picked the card up and read it.
For Kim Hee Soo. Let's Talk.
I read those six words a few more times over then put the card back on the bouquet. I knew that they'd be repercussions from my actions from the previous night but flowers? I hadn't quite expected that.
"Are they from Yong Ki Won?"
I hissed and shook my head. "That's not even his name."
She laughed. "I figured it wasn't especially when he was like, "So what name should I use?""
"Michelle!" I really couldn't believe her. "And you still let him in?"
She shrugged. "Hey, it's not like a lot of amusing things happen here. So I enjoy them when I can."
I tsked. "Anyway, I'll see you," I said as I walked away.
"Don't forget your flowers," she called.
"I don't want them. You can have them if you want."
I knew I couldn't waste any time so I dialed Ji Tae's number the second I got into my office. "I got your flowers," I said the second he picked up.
"Cool. Did you like them?"
I didn't have an answer. I knew I couldn't exactly act pissy and yell at him for sending them to me after all, I was entirely to blame for him getting the wrong idea. I'd actually succeeded in not thinking about it but now that he'd decided to do this, I knew I had to face it head on. "Ji Tae, you said that you wanted to talk."
He didn't answer immediately. "Yes. Can we talk?"
"I think we need to. Can we meet today?"
"Today?" He hesitated for a moment. "We can definitely meet. When will be best?"
I glanced at my watch. "How about 7? Can you come to my office? Let's go for some drinks."
We'd gone to a nearby bar and had been sitting at a table for a few minutes with barely any conversation when he put his drink down and turned to me. "Okay, it's cards on the table time," he said. He tried to appear calm and confident but I could tell that he was nervous.
I took a sip of my Amaretto Sour then swiveled the ice around my glass. "Go ahead."
"Well, I guess I just need to know what's going on in your head because I'm not quite sure," he said, moving his hands around for emphasis. "I know we haven't been together for a while but I still have feelings for you and I think you still have feelings for me." He paused and waited for a reaction but when he didn't get any, he continued. "So what I think is that we should try again." He placed his palms face down on the table and waited for a response.
I took another sip of my drink then dropped my glass on the table. "Is that all you wanted to say?"
He nodded. "Yes."
"Okay, well, I've had an interesting last couple of weeks but I'm really not interested in us... or you." I looked directly in his eyes and repeated the words in my mind and nodded. It did feel alright saying those words. My life made so much more sense before I ran into him and I was not ready to risk being hurt again even if I did sometimes feel like I missed him. Just like he'd returned to my life, he'd leave again and I'd go back to not remembering our times together and I'd finally be able to let go of my high school memories. Yes, it was the right thing to say.
I got up from my chair and smiled down at him. "So take care of yourself, Ji Tae. And I really mean that." Without waiting for a response, I turned around and walked out of the restaurant.
It was only when I was approaching my car and about to reach in for my keys that I realized that I'd left my purse at the restaurant.
A random guy walking towards his car gave me a weird look but I didn't care. Did I want to immediately go back to the restaurant and risk running into Ji Tae thus ruining my grand exit or did I want to wait a little and risk having my purse stolen by an opportunistic patron? I was still debating this when I heard Ji Tae call my name. I turned around to face him.
"The waitress called me back because you'd left your purse. Here it is," he said, handing it to me.
I thanked him then turned around and started walking towards my car.
"Hee Soo yah, hey, wait and hear me out."
I picked up my pace and kept walking till I reached my car. I'd already opened the door when he caught up with me and jerked me around. "Hee Soo."
I leaned against my car and folded my arms. "We've already said what we wanted to say. What more is there to say?"
"Look, I know you're mad about how things ended but I really regret that."
"Whatever," I said, shaking my head. "It's all water under the bridge." I was about to turn around when I decided to just ask him something I'd been curious about over the years. "Ji Tae, before you left for America, I wanted to break up with you and you refused. Did you just do that so that you could break things off first?"
"What?" he asked incredulously. "Of course not! How could you think that?" He walked a few feet away from me, put his palm on his forehead in frustration and started pacing around. Then he suddenly stopped and turned to me. "When I left, I honestly thought that we could make it work even though you kept saying we couldn't. But I really wanted to try. But then it got so hard. You were always upset and I felt so helpless that I couldn't do anything about it to make you feel better."
I shook my head and looked away. He sounded sincere but I really didn't give a fu.ck.
"And yes, I was wrong. I should have called you and told you everything straight up but I was afraid of your reaction because I knew that you'd be hurt and since I wouldn't want you to be hurt, I'd change my mind and not end things. But our relationship couldn't keep going the way it was. You have to have seen that, Hee Soo."
I kept shaking my head at the crap he was spewing. Yes, it was because he cared so much about me. Whatever.
"Ending it was the best thing for us at the time. It had to end because we were both so miserable."
"But in the end, I was the only one miserable. So you only cared about yourself. Stop trying to make it sound like you made some huge sacrifice for me."
His mouth hung open like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. He quickly walked over to me till he was standing directly in front of me. "Do you honestly think it was easy for me? It wasn't but I knew it had to end and I didn't want to change my mind after hearing your reaction."
I smirked. "Whatever, Ji Tae. You could have sent me an email or letter. Heck a freaking telegram would have been better. 'Hee Soo. Full Stop. It's Over. Full Stop.'" I paused to catch my breath. "Don't you understand that anything would have been better than not knowing? Do you know how long I wondered if something had happened to you? I made Umma call your mother just to make sure you were okay and will you believe what your mother said?"
"'Oh, he's doing well. He just called me about an hour ago.' Do you know how that made me feel? I think that was really when I started to give up on you. It took me a while but that was the turning point."
"Then what was the kiss about?" he snarled. "It's over and you've given up but you kiss me? What the fu.ck was that about?"
I almost laughed when I heard the curse word. Ji Tae was cursing at me? But I was a little glad that he'd started to get angry because at least that meant that he could feel a little of what I felt.
"Hee Soo, why did you kiss me?" he asked, looking directly in my eyes like he'd suddenly turned on a lie detector.
"I don't know." I stepped away from him and put my hands up in surrender. I was tired of thinking about us. I was tired of the damn conversation. I was just tried. "Think of it as a goodbye kiss."
"Really? Why do you keep lying to yourself? It wasn't a goodbye kiss. But I'm sick of this. If this is how you want it," he said, turning around, "that's how it will be."
"Oh, and by the way, how's Sandra?"
He stopped in his tracks and turned around. "Sandra?"
"Yeah." I threw my purse in my car, shut the door then smirked at him. "You know how you have those birthday reminders on your email? So for some reason, I never deleted your birthday and you know what," I said, laughing without much humor, "I still haven't deleted it. Funny how some things are."
Since there really wasn't a joke to laugh about, he didn't.
"So anyway, I think maybe like 6 or so years ago, a day before your birthday, the reminder popped up. I mean, I obviously wasn't going to try to contact you or anything but I guess I was curious about what you were doing with your life. Or bored, I don't know. So I went online and googled you. At first nothing really came up till I decided to search for David Park then pop! Pop! Pop!"
I looked up at him but the only emotion on his face was curiosity so I continued. "There were a whole bunch of pointless links but I finally clicked on the University of Pennsylvania's Korean Students Association page. I scrolled down the page till I found you smiling at me with your arm slung around this smiling girl in a black spaghetti-strapped gown. It's funny but I remember thinking that she had like the best eyebrows I'd seen in a while – like the arch was perfect."
"Is there a point to this story?"
"Yes, I'm getting to it," I replied. "Be patient," I said, smiling sarcastically. "So I tried to read the caption but I wasn't quite getting it. Something about book, party, I didn't get it. Even after all those years of English class I still couldn't understand like 3 simple lines." I chuckled. "So I went to those online translators and of course it spat out gibberish but I got the general gist of it."
" David Park and Sandra Choi, the Vice President of the school's chapter of the National Organization for Women. Interesting, isn't it?"
He looked at me in disbelief. "That was so long ago. Sandra and I haven't been together for such a long time. That can't be what's holding you back." He looked me over like I was crazy.
I rolled my eyes. "You're obviously not getting it. Every single girl that I know you've been interested in has been some kind of do-gooder activist. Before me and after me. If that's not a pattern, I don't know what that is."
"And what does this have to do with us?"
Did I have to explain everything to him? I pointed at myself. "I am just not your type. Don't you see that? So don't go around feeling that you have feelings for me and I have feelings for you blah blah blah. Oh and Hee Soo is being pigheaded blah blah blah. Feelings fade. We are not meant to be together so let's just get over high school and move on. So just go to the next rally you hear about and find yourself a girlfriend and I'll find myself a man who loves me. And the next time we run into each other, we can smile and talk and not have it mean anything. Okay?"
He nodded like he finally understood. "Alright then. So I guess that's it."
I nodded. "Yes, pretty much."
"Then take care of yourself," he said before turning around and leaving.
For the second time in my life, Ji Tae had turned around and walked away. As I watched his figure get smaller, I wondered why the weight I'd been carrying around for the last few weeks hadn't been lifted. I opened my car door and slipped into the driver's seat. It will be all okay in a matter of weeks, right? Because as they say, time heals all wounds.