TRACKSIDED

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UGLY LITTLE PHOBIAS

JANE

I don’t drive.

I don’t smoke.

I don’t drink.

I don’t do drugs.

I don’t eat meat.

There are many prohibited signs in my life now, whereas before, everything had a green light on it. The cringy stuff doesn’t end there, I’m scared of crowded places, and Seoul growls with people. I feel dizzy, I’m standing on the tracks waiting for the metro, but still, I see him on the other side.

Why is it so hot? Maybe it isn’t, but my t-shirt is already clinging to my skin.

We have a driver; I could have taken the airconditioned car, but no matter who is at the steering wheel, I panic, perspire, my breath halts, and I begin to suffocate. Then the fidgeting starts, followed by a desperate attempt to open the doors as I did in Brad’s car while I heave as though I’m having an asthma attack.

The same type of panic attacks occur in crowded places, but he’s staring straight at me as he did in the ambulance. My savior, and somehow I’m okay, despite the heat and the people.

My guardian angel, yeah, I left him the title even though he isn’t as sweet and as gentle as I imagine an angel to be.

He is very tall, 1.85-1.90cm, unlike the myths, some Korean are very tall, and he’s one of the exceptions. He could be a model; he probably is.

Why did he want to kill himself?

No one believed me though I tried hard to explain to them I only jumped in the water because he tried to commit suicide.

The doctor said he was fooling around, and for an instant, I thought my understanding of the Korean language had sharply diminished; I didn’t see The Running Man Tv crew. You’ve got to live the shit to know what’s fake and what isn’t when it comes to suicide. And this guy standing across from me didn’t hesitate a second; he wanted to end it.

I don’t know what he was playing at, but now the man who I wanted to save but who ended up rescuing me is glaring at me from the other side of the tracks.

Oh, my goodness, he is really standing on the other trackside.

Perhaps I’m hallucinating, but my eyes aren’t complaining; he’s wearing a grey suit and a white shirt from the straps on his shoulders. I guess he has a stylish backpack on like a perfect intern.

Does he recognize me? I don’t have time to ponder; I’m tilting, no I’m falling.

What’s happening?

My eyes open to a dozen faces staring at me; I see my guardian angel amongst the crowd and then blackout.

When I wake up, I feel like I’m in a reboot of my worst nightmare as Rebecca approaches to touch my forehead, I scream and try to yank out the drip.

“Seongsaengnim,” Rebecca screams.

I’m hysterical and convulsing.

Still, Rebbecca holds me down. I didn’t know she had such strength in those thin baguette arms of hers, which don’t even seem to have enough force to stir a coffee spoon.

The nurse puts something in the drip, and a few minutes later, I’m underwater, but I’m not gasping for air, and my angel is there holding both my hands.

“Neo qwenchana?” [are you okay? Informal], it’s his voice.

For the first time in almost five years, I dream.

It’s a little pressure on my hand, which brings me out of my slumber; Mona’s worried stare is upon me.

“Jane, are you okay?”

I nod as I scan the hospital room.

Mona’s expression relaxes, and all of a sudden, she explodes, “what’s wrong with you, Jane? Please, don’t give me the bull Abby and your parents have been giving me for the last five years because I’m not buying it. You disappear, and a week later, Brad is exiled. Your dad, my father, and Brad’s parents all become secretive, and here you are five years later with a shit load of phobias and problems. Talk to me, Jane.”

“Mona, ㅡthis isn’tㅡ,” I start as I try to sit up.

“Know, know it’s neither the time nor the place, but I need to understand why my cousin can’t climb in a car, why she dives in the Hangang River and faints in public. I’m not saying I can help, but if you tell me at least, I can look for a solution with you.”

“I told you I dived to save someone.”

Mona rolls her eyes; she knows I’m sidetracking.

“Mona, I can’t tell you because I don’t know why I’m like this,” the tears roll out on their own, and I’m frustrated because she’ll think I’m playing up the drama; Mona hates that.

My cousin is a straightforward person who has a hard time living with the rest of the world, where honesty is an optional policy.

“Alright, Jane, take your time, but sooner or later, you are going to have to talk. I know aunt Rebecca isn’t the best ear you can have. If you need someone, you know where I’m at, okay?”

“At that moment, Brad enters and runs to grasp my hands as though someone announced I had three months left to live.

“I’ll go and get some refreshments,” Mona says before leaving.

Her tone of voice indicates she’s pissed, and she needs to cool off.

I nod, and she leaves, barely looking at Brad.

“Are youㅡ.”

“I’m fine, Brad; it was hot. I didn’t have enough breakfast. I’m okay now.”

He squeezes my hands.

Brad is always caring, he’s like a brother and a friend, but his proximity is almost one of a lover in moments like this. This uncomfortable sensation takes over me. In Mona’s presence, I feel shameless.

“Brad.”

“What?”

“Don’t do this, please?”

“Do what?”

His eyes grow big in a what-gives motion.

A strong urge to slap Brad hard for taking me for a fool overwhelms me; he knows full well what I’m referring to, and it annoys me to see him play stupid.

All this skinship that he wouldn’t allow himself with a Korean girl bothers me; sometimes, I get the impression Korean guys respect Korean girls more.

It’s not much, and were friends, but I wish he wouldn’t be so touchy, especially when Mona is around.

“Brad, don’t play dumb; just stop touching me like this.”

He retracts his hands, he embarrassed, and I’m satisfied he won’t start again for the next few hours.

“Jane, I’m glad you’re in Seoul, but I just feel it isn’t doing you any good.”

“Brad, I told you I didn’t have enough breakfast, okay. It’s no big deal, “I say as I straighten up.

“Why are you in Seoul, Jane?”

Brad’s question and stare catch me of a guard.

“What do you mean by why am I here? I came for you, guys.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Jane; I’m just trying to figure out why you would inflict this endeavor to yourself.”

“Brad, I don’t know what Abby told you. I’m fine. I haven’t been on the suicidal watch for the last 547 days, so calm down.”

We remain silent, glaring at each other till Mona’s perky voice interrupts our match.

“Wow, this hospital huge. I lost myㅡ,” Mona’s eyes bounce from Brad to me, “Is everything okay here?”

“Yeah,ㅡyeah,” Brad says, breaking the stare and making me a winner by forfeit.

I’m not trying to kill myself, at least not yet.

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