She’s heavy; how can a woman be this heavy?
My mind did not trust my eyes when I saw this dark figure splash into the water like a walrus.
My first reflection was to say damn, go, and kill yourself somewhere else; this is my spot. And then I saw her fighting the water; this made me doubt the person’s resolve to die. So, I decided to save her, and right now, I regret not having past my way.
I pull, I haven’t played lifeguards in years, and it’s a pain. Perhaps I should just let her to her fate. No one told her to dive, and the idiot can’t swim.
Tell me, who jumps in cold water when they can’t swim?
These thoughts accompany me as I regain the shore. The police are already there, CCTV is magic, and you’re telling me a hit and run possible in this country where we are under surveillance 24H a day.
It’s when I lay the stranger on the ground that I notice the girl is a foreigner. Her face is as white as magnesium carbonate. Perhaps she’s dead, what a dumb idiot.
Nevertheless, I start the mouth to mouth to relieve my consciousness as it occurs to me she might have dived to save me. At least I would have tried my best, no guilt trip attached.
After three attempts, she coughs, and bright eyes open up; how do I know they’re light?
They seem to twinkle, “ibayo, qwenchanaseyo? [Hey, are you okay]”
She coughs again, I guess it’s an affirmative answer, I stand up ready to be scolded, and officer Chan is on fire.
“Listen here, Kim Tae Won Ssi, you little punk, why do you do this, huh? It’s the second time.”
“No, it isn’t, the first time the person didn’t jump.”
It’s a stupid response, but my mind did not have a smart answer to give.
“People called us in panic. Listen, I know you like your midnight dip, but it’s illegal, and you put others in danger. Get in the car,” Officier Chan says while slapping his cap on my chest.
I grasp the back of my head; no one has ever done something as dumb for me. Jumping in the Han River is something I do with the resolve to die, knowing I can’t. It’s the suicide I can’t commit when I feel too guilty about being alive.
The Hangang River is where my journey ends on the most bitter days. Min Ho’s voice is always the one I hear when I’m about to jump.
“Hyung [big brother] I’ll be watching you,” it’s what my brother used to say every time I had a competition, and I always wonder as I fall if he sees what I’ve become.
When I hit the water, the memories of him sway around me, and the waves play the arms which hug and console me. I cry under the water; the drops of tears regain the flow and swim away. At least they will never be alone again, whereas I remain with my sorrow. This time it was different; my melodramatic wallowing ritual was interrupted because of this girl.
The police in the area know what I do. They've arrested me a few times, and I’ve had close calls to death when I jumped while being drunk.
Now, this pabeo [stupid] girl has dived, I’ll probably end up in jail.
Why did she do it? She does not know who I am, yet she jumped.
“Officier Chan, you can’t; Kim Tae Won Ssi is soaked from head to toe. He needs a check-up too.”
“Park Hye Hyeon, don’t be fooled by his handsome appearance; he’s trouble.”
Officer Park isn’t listening to him; she seems to be scanning my body; her stare makes me feel naked. I tug on my t-shirt, which clings to my chest like a bodysuit. I cross my arms as if that will change anything, officer Parker still sees through me. I turn away. I don’t even want to know what fantasy she's nourishing.
The girl is put on a stretcher and carried to the ambulance; the desire to accompany her is absent. Hospitals reek of death, but it appears to be the better choice. I hop into the vehicle.
From the stretcher, the woman frowns in confusion as she sees me. Her eyes are brighter than I imagined. I see foreigners daily, but those blue eyes are something else, and for some reason, I hold her stare, which swallows me like the ocean.
She’s shivering despite the covers; her hair, which I figure is blond, is now reflecting brown and clinging to her face. She's afraid; without my consent, my hand stretches out, her panicked eyes follow my gesture, and I take away a few strands of hair from her face.
“Are you okay?”
My English isn’t bad; I did summer courses in the best Hagowns [cram schools] around when my parents were alive, and I’ve been tutoring a few English natives. Somehow my accent has improved. It’s stupid to suppose every foreigner speaks English automatically. Still, the probability is rather high, and the result is immediate as she nods, the ambulance man seems impressed by the scene smiles.
I have a full view of her face, can’t say the girl is attractive, but her eyes captivate me to the hospital. It isn’t easy to believe this woman thought she could save me.
She’s not tall, especially compared to me, and right now, she resembles the weakest tofu jelly. Diving was a foolish action, but a part of me finds it admirable. It’s not every day someone risks their life for me, and it leaves me with an odd sensation.
We arrive at Konkuk byeongwon and were both taken to the hospital emergency; they place her on a bed opposite me.
“Hwanjabun, qwenchanaseyo? [Patient, are you okay?] The emergency doctor asks her.
“I doubt she speaks Korean,” I say from across the room.
Two words come to contradict me, “Na, qwenchana.”
Her voice is small, as one of an embarrassed child. The accent is far from Korean, but it’s understandable.
“Ireumi mbeoyo? [what’s your name?]”
“Jane Austen, yeyo.”
From where I am sitting, getting my blood pressure taken, I’m quite impressed. Seeing a blonde girl with blue eyes speak my language makes me incredibly proud.
She must be an exchange student, one of those Kpop fans or dramas addicts with an Asian fetish who comes to discover Korea and find out if our manliness is as small as they say.
At this point, I wish the Doctor finishes up quickly so I can bail out before Blondie clings to me.
Unlike many Koreans these days, I only mingle with foreigners when necessary; the other matters in my life take up enough space. I don’t seek any friendships, and I’m not curious about where they come from and how to say thank you in their language.
Apart from the swimming legends Micheal Phelps and Ian Thorp represent, I’ve never been interested in foreigners. The pool of satisfaction my life was before filled me with contempt, and I did not need to seek friends or anything else outside of the Korean community, which provided all the happiness desired.
“Can I leave?” I ask the nurse who is filling a form in front of me.
“You’ll have to wait for doctor Moore before.”
On the other side of the room, I hear the nurse ask the girl if she wants them to call someone.
“Aniyo, qwenchana, I don’t need no one to come.”
I see her take out a plasticized card, and suddenly nurse and doctors start to rush around her like she is Joan of Arc.
Who is she?
“Jeogi yo,” I grab the first nurse who falls in hand.
“What’s the fuss about?”
“VIP,” the Kanosha [nurse] says and runs along.
VIP, what is she? A celebrity, impossible. Perhaps she’s the daughter of a personality?
Anything possible, but I this instant, I’m pissed to witness the change of attitude and the lack of attention towards me. I get up and leave.
Here is another demonstration of what money and connections can do. As I walk down the hall with my squeaky and still wet sneakers, the wish to never see her again becomes a prayer.
A few steps later, I’m outside at a crosslight, which turns green, but all I see is blue.
This girl had magnetizing eyes.