TRACKSIDED

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If you ask me if I’m a believer, my answer is yes.

I believe something created us.

Is it God? I can’t say.

One thing is sure some Stranger Things are occurring around me since I’ve got back here.

I’ve met an angel, a real one, at least it’s what I think when he appears out of nowhere and twists the arm of one of the drunk guys who was bothering me.

I’m not adept at the knight in shining armor theory, but this guy could almost convert me.

The other drunk guy comes on to the bouncer; he pushes away the first man he held and starts punching the newcomer. When I say punch, I’m talking real heavyweight jabs, and there’s no stopping him.

The other guy gets up and comes back to take a swing at my savior, who backs away and touches his face where the punch landed; I see a glint in his eye, which sends waves of shivers over my body.

My angel runs, and he takes on both guys. He’s enraged; the men are down. Now my angel kicks one vigorously as though the guy was a sandbag.

It’s one of those scenes where the damsel watches, gasping in shock, but I can’t just stand there. My legs move of their own accord; I see myself grab onto him from behind under his chest. I have to stop him; he’ll kill the man.

“Kumanhaseyo! [stop]” I yell.

And he stops; his chest rises and collapses under my arms as he heaves. I can’t see his face, but I imagine his angry expression.

I already see us explaining everything at the police station, but the guys get up and have a reaction, which I don’t expect; they run and leave us alone.

After a few seconds of silence where I hold him while listening to his heavy breaths, the bouncer pushes my hands away with violence and turns to face me, his neatly gelled hair is a mess, and his shirt hangs out from his pants. Dressed all in black at this instant, he portrays the perfect image of a 깡패 [Kangpae=gangster]

“Neo, michinseo? [are you crazy?], or are you just a contextual idiot?”

“Eh,ㅡ.”

“You leave a club alone, and you walk around barefooted, don’t you have an ounce of self-awareness. What’s wrong with you? Did you see how drunk they were? I know you foreigners think Seoul is safe, and all, but bad things happen here like anywhere else in the world,” he says before he spits beside himself.

My eyes blink in dismay like Polaroid snapshots. The guy scolds me; he yells as though I was his child and loud enough to wake up the neighborhood.

While I listen to him scream, I search in my memory, and no, not even Rebecca or Travis have ever shouted at me like this. It makes me uncomfortable, especially since I don’t know him.

After blowing off his anger on me, the guy takes his phone out and makes a call. He begins to yell yet again; he speaks too fast for me to comprehend.

Once he hangs up, he grabs me by the wrist and brings me back to the club, where I find Brad at the entrance.

Brad lowers gaze like someone sent to stand in a corner as punishment. The bouncer, aka my savior, throws me onto Brad when he sees him, and he carries on yelling.

“Okay, okay, man, I got it,” Brad returns, and suddenly he seems to remember his a client. “Hey, Mr. Kim, I don’t think you should be talking to me the way you are,” Brad says, stepping up in front of the bouncer whose head thrones above Brad, leaving him no choice but to look up.

Before Brad can react, another bouncer starts to scream at the guy, who continues to yell. Again, my ears drown in the overdose of sound around me, which begins to make me lose concentration.

I tug on Brad’s sleeve, but he remains stiff in place while the two bouncers move away and carry on arguing.

After a few seconds, I understand I’m the cause of the havoc. Brad puts his arm around my shoulders and starts to take me back in.

“Are you okay, Jane?”

“Yeah,” I say as I turn back to watch the two bouncers quarrel. It’s my fault, but since I am already at the peak of guilt city, I’m unable to generate any more sympathy.

“Why did you leave like that? Mona and I thought that you went back to the square.”

“I wanted toㅡ,” suddenly I don’t know what I was doing, and I feel awful to have caused so much trouble for nothing.

“What were you doing outside?”

“Tae Won called the club; they alerted me,” Brad yells as we approach the VIP square.

It’s the first time I hear his name.

“Tae Won,” I whisper.

The name suits him, it’s been almost three weeks since I dived the Han river after him, and it’s only now that I catch his name. At the hospital, they refused to disclose it.

“Where were you?” Mona yells, almost tripping as she makes her way to us. She’s tipsy, and it makes me uneasy. The state she is in used to be my gig, and to see her this way makes me realize how ridiculous I must have looked back in the days.

“Do-don’t leㅡave like thaㅡ; you hear Jane.”

“I’m sorry, Mona.”

Tae Won is right. I’m careless; what was I thinking, leaving them knowing that I’d panic in a taxi alone? But at that moment, I just desired to clear my head, the club was suffocating, smelly, and all the faces surrounding me were hideous blurred masks. I needed a bowl of fresh air. I forgot about all the drunken people who roamed at the same hour.

Mona hugs me under Brad’s apologetic eyes.

Engulfed in her embrace, I see Tae Won. He stares at me a brief second and moves on to scan the rest of the club.

I want to thank him, but I don’t get the occasion. When we leave, Tae Won is nowhere to be found. It’s brad who drives, and he holds my hand to calm me all the way home while Mona snores at the back.

“I’m sorry about tonight, Jane. You didn’t want to come, and we insisted.”

“It was okay.”

“But you didn’t enjoy yourself?”

“It was fine; I swear, Brad.”

“Don’t lie.”

“Okay, I don’t thrive on nightclubs anymore. It was fun when I was underage. Guess we did things too early, and it’s boring now.”

Even if Brad had his share of troubles, he remained stuck in wonderland while I faced a hard knock reality, and now we’re on different levels of existence.

“I hear you, it’s the same for me, but there’s nothing else to do. We can’t rewrite the past. All we can do is move forward.

“But unlike you, Brad, I can’t pretend. I’m trying, though.”

Mona’s snores are not decorating the atmosphere anymore, and I stop talking as I suspect her of listening. I pick up on another subject.

“Do you know the bouncer?”

“Who? Do you mean Kim Tae Won? Brads replies as he throws a glance at me.

I nod.

Brad frowns; even in the dark, I can see the creases of annoyance on his face multiplying as he answers.

“Everyone knows him; Tae Won works in almost all the nightclubs, private clubs, and hotels. He made the national swimming team, and he was on his way to the Olympics. For some reason, he stopped his career. Tae Won a cool guy; women love him. He probably has the best line up in Seoul.”

No wonder no one at the hospital believed me when I said Tae Won wanted to commit suicide at the Han River. My mind disconnects as Brad tries to inflate Tae Won’s chessboard making the bouncer the king of womanizers.

To be honest, the contexts in which I met Tae Won have not allowed me to infatuate myself with his aura. My interest in Tae Won is pure curiosity.

The images of how he beat the men come back to mind. What would have happened if I had not stopped him?

There’s something odd about him; Tae Won makes me think of people who live on the edge, like me.

I know nothing about him, but there’s this thing I can’t put the finger on, which makes the guy relatable.

I feel as though Kim Tae Won has a story to tell, and I want to hear his lamentations. It makes no sense, but most of what I think doesn’t.

Brad drops Mona and me off at my place we tiptoe to my room.

Mona drops on my bed and sleeps. I head to the bathroom and grab some cotton and makeup remover; I cross Rebecca, who pretends to go to the toilet. Rebecca isn’t slick; I know she waited up just in case I caused another calamity.

Her eyes examine my state from head to toe as she passes without saying a word.

Once back in my room, I remove Mona’s makeup, undresses her, and proceed to my cleansing.

I watch her sleep for a while; okay, I watch her rest till the first rays of sunlight start to dart.

Mona looks adorable; I envy her profound slumber.

We’ve grown up; we’re all at different stages of life now.

I know Mona feels left behind, but the truth is she’s the lucky one.

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