Almost 12 million people live in Seoul; amongst these citizens, there are a little over 270 000 foreigners. The odds of meeting the same person twice, especially a waéguk saram [foreigner], has many zeros behind it, still there she stood.
Vip, museon [VIP my butt]
What was she doing on the subway?
My prayer of not meeting this woman again fell on closed ears. When she looks at me, I feel as though it’s a challenge and that I lose if I turn away.
Everything about the girl seems out of place; somehow, she doesn’t fit the picture. This woman isn’t supposed to be here; the more I stare, the more the theory seems convincing.
There’s something wrong with her, it’s past noon, and it’s hot, but her face shimmers with sweat more than the people around her.
Even from where I stand, I can see her hair curling as the moist spreads as though someone just fished her out of the Hangang river again.
A black t-shirt and slim black pants, the contrast with her pale skin is the expression night and day.
The train arrives at my side, get in, and find a spot where I can still observe her as it drives off, and there, she falls.
No, she faints.
What’s wrong with this woman?
If someone else saw what follows, they would say that I’m crazy. I get off the next stop, and I run back to the station, where people are waiting for an ambulance, and I remain too.
There’s no need for me to look at my wristwatch. I say chalgayo [bye] to my job interview, which will start in ten minutes.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” I mutter to myself. Finding a position as an intern is hard, and I’m throwing away my chance.
A sunbae [senior] went out of his way to get me this appointment, and what I do? I run to the side of some unconscious stranger who didn’t even ask for my help.
I approach her; she opens her eyes, which dart as though they’re searching for something.
Once again, I kneel beside her; I don’t know why I stretch out my hand and grasp hers to the passer’s surprise.
“Are you okay?” I ask in English.
She closes her eyes, and I don’t let go. I hold her hand till the paramedics arrive.
“Do you know her?” The ambulance man asks I’m stuck, and without realizing I’m nodding and a few seconds later, I’m in an ambulance again.
What on earth are you doing, Kim Tae Won?
I’ve lost it.
What am I going to say when they’ll ask me who I am to her?
Once at the hospital, I don’t know how I manage, but I persuade them I’m a class colleague, and I ditch the situation as soon as the attention turns away from me.
This attitude does not resemble me; I don’t get involved with other people, especially strangers.
There’s only one explanation; she jumped in the cold water to save me; this is my payback; now, we’re even. As I flee, I’m quite satisfied with the excuse I’ve come up with though I know I’m fooling myself.
My phone rings, caller:
“YA, IMMA [punk], WHAT ARE YOU PLAYING? DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW HARD IT WAS TO GET YOU AN INTERVIEW?”
“Cheseongaeyo, sunbae, something came up.”
“What something? It better be good. I look like an idiot now; my candidates aren’t reliable.”
“I’m extremely sorry,” I’m in the middle of the street, and sunbae can’t see me, but I’m bowing to apologize as though he’s standing before me.
Kwon Sunbae, screams and I let him do till he calms down. I’m genuinely sorry, Kwon Sunbae is one of the rare people who hasn’t given up on me.
A senior in SNU Law, sunbae sees me as a victim of circumstances, and so he recommended me to this law firm, and thanks to the queen of Sheba, I lost my chance.
A succession of slammed doors and I’m the one forcing them to close on me.
It’s weird to say this, but she’s distracting, not in the way you might think. There’s no attraction whatsoever; it’s more like she’s substituting my focus. Whereas as 90% of my thoughts concentrate on my loss, this woman appears to have confiscated some neuronal space.
This time we’re through, it’s impossible. I mean, we must not cross sight again. I’m not pleading; I’m warning. Damn, I’ve got to the point where I’m threatening the heavens.
The rest of the week allowed me to cry a river over my lost interview, and here is Friday night, as usual, I’m at the door of L’hexgone Seoul latest hype spot.
It’s luxurious has the best DJ’s both residential and guest. The club also welcomes the hottest babes and the wealthiest of chaebol offsprings.
Every time I see one of their faces, I can’t help but imagine one of them is the other vehicle’s driver.
I’m a bouncer on weekends; I’m scoping all the faces and there, nae shimjang [my heart].
Is it me, or has Seoul shrunk to the size of a matchbox?
도대체, 왜? [dodaeche, waé?=what the heck, why? ].
There’s a regular Brad Nixon, an American born Korean; his father is a business tycoon who has ties to the Taiwanese mafia, with him the mysterious Mona Austen.
I know many heirs want to get in her jeans to taste some exotism, but Mona is smart, though. I don’t see her flirting with any guy Korean or any other guy in whatever nightclubs she goes in. Tonight Mona is practically hot, with her platinum blonde braids and black tight skin mini dress.
She’s not the type to do herself up; I’ve seen her in other clubs in more laid-back attire. But this is l’hexagone; you don’t come here to dance like a Yolo. Those who step over the threshold, are here to show off, flicking over dollars as though it was toilet paper.
The problem with the equation before me is the 3rd wheel, who I’ve never seen in a club, but I’ve met her enough in the last few days.
Miss VIP-whatever is different tonight, with her short skin-tight emerald green dress, which reveals her generous hips and murder red lipstick. Her blonde hair has volume, and it’s all wavy. I don’t even want to imagine the time and money she spent to get that. She’ll have a few youngsters drooling, no ravishing neckline she knows the Korean way. Once again, I can’t help thinking she’s out of place.
The shock which can be read in her stare as she recognizes me reassures me that this encounter is a mere coincidence.
“Identity card, please.”
“Wow, Mr. Kim, you know who we are?” The Nixon boy says.
“I know you and her, but sheㅡ.”
“She’s not a minor; I assure you, and she’s my cousin.”
My gaze switches from Mona to the girl, her pun almost makes me smile, but as I flick through the pages of the passport the girl hands me, I realize she isn’t kidding.
“Jane A. Austen,” I mutter.
Jane is a 20-year-old American, and her passport has a diplomatic stamp. Yep, she is a real MVP. The first take at the hospital comes back to me. No wonder they were shaking.
I give back her passport; her eyes seem to pierce in the dark.
Doesn’t she ever back down?
눈 깔아 [Nun ka(l)ma=lower your eyes ]
I give ahead sign to the other bouncer, who opens the red string to let them inside.
After an hour, I find myself doing rounds; I spot them in the VIP square. There’s a lot of people at their table. Brad and Mona are famous among the regulars.
And there she is, scanning the club like a lost lamb.
I had almost forgotten about Miss VIP; if I didn’t see her tonight, she would be a lost memory. It appears like she doesn’t want that to occur.
Everyone seems to be drinking different alcohols. I approach a little, and as expected, I see nor sparkles or bubbles in her glass.
Don’t tell me blondie drinking water.
Shocked, I start doing my rounds again, and I go back to the door to check more ID’s and I try to fill my head with other things and concentrate on my service. I return inside; Brad seems to have taken her and Mona to the dance floor.
Mona and Brad dance like crazy; they own the place. I envy their airiness and our lamb well; she’s trying.
For some reason, I’m becoming curious about the girl.
Perhaps it’s because when our eyes meet, I see the same void. And it’s funny because someone like Jane should not have one.
She is wealthy; the eight dollars pumps thousand dollar purse attest that and there is her status.
Why does she look empty?
Jane leaves the dance floor, Brad wants to follow, but Mona grabs him by the arm.
I follow my lamb as she moves through the crowd. I see a guy try to give her something, she refuses, and I make a sign to another bouncer to toss him out.
Since the Nirvana Blue case, the club is strict about dealers.
Jane is going to the exit.
I’m still on her tail; she leaves the club.
“Byun Hyun, I’m taking a break,” I say as I make a time-out sign with my hands. He nods I follow her.
Jane seems to be limping; she stops, stoops down, and takes off her shoes. Pumps and purse in hand, Jane roams as though she is looking for something.
Suddenly she stops a group of girls who point further down; she’s looking for a taxi. She’s in her bubble, for she doesn’t notice me. Two men come out of nowhere.
“Ya, aren’t you a cute one? Don’t you want to play with us? Huh, pretty girl.”
“정말 예뻐요 [ jeongmal yeppeoyo=truly pretty],” adds the other guy.
Jane speeds up, and so do the guys.
“Leave me, please,” Jane says as one of the men stops in front of her to block her way. The other guy gets all tactical with his hands.
“Sorry, me no English,” the guy who tries to grasp her says to taunt her.
I get it now; the woman is a trouble magnet, Jane could have stayed in the club and waited to leave with her cousin and friend, but no Madam wants to play solo and get into shit. I should abandon her in the poop she stirred.
I hate rich kids.