TRACKSIDED

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MIND INVADER

“Grrrrr.”

“What’s wrong, Jane?”

“Rebecca, she keeps pressuring me, saying I haven’t got the level to study here, and she convinced my dad to get me a tutor. Can you believe it? I’m 20, and I’m going to have a tutor; it’s embarrassing.”

“Jane, you haven’t really studied these last few years.”

Mona’s right; with my in-and-outs of the hospital, my weekly vocation changes, and my general course skipping, I can only be thankful that daddy has the dollars.

I’m complaining, but I’ll abide by their rules because I want to stay. It’s not just because of the goals I fixed myself. But being with Mona and Brad makes me feel like myself again. And also, Seoul is the closest thing I have to a home because it’s the place that holds both the happiest and most painful memories of my existence.

We’re at Agujeong buying new clothes, correction, Mona is buying clothes.

Mona’s eyes gleam as she hands me a dress, “Jane, try this; it will look great on you.”

“No, Mona, please,” I interject as she shoves the pieces in my hands.

“You’ve thinned out since you’ve arrived; the clothes you wear are oversized and don’t suit the trend.”

“Well, with Rebbecca serving me salads. Forcing me to participate in her yoga lessons with Laetitia, her private yoga teacher from Paris, it’s not difficult to lose weight,” I say, leaving out the part explaining I run about 15km a day.

From size 16 of my arrival, I’m like a 12, which I think is okay, at least it makes me furtive amongst the broomsticks.

“Please, Jane, try this.”

I get up and take the skirt twinset she’s handing me. It’s a long knitted skirt with its matching the knitted top, where it would be a little loose-fitting for a Korean girl on me it clings.

“Mona, do they have a size up,” I ask, but I know the answer.

She cocks an eyebrow, “It’s one size, bae.”

“Grrrr.”

“Stop with that; you sound like a bear; now show me the outfit.”

I step out, “wow, very nice,” the over-enthusiastic salesgirl says.

Her remark might be authentic, but her broad grin makes me doubt her sincerity, especially since I’ve been hearing her say the same thing to every woman who came out of the fitting room.

“Wow, Jane, it looks great, we’re getting into the cold season, and this would look great with a pair of Doc Martens and a bomber jacket.”

“Mona, I’m not a K-pop artist.”

“Not yet; you know what? You should go platinum blonde, or why don’t you dye your hair back to its natural red?”

“Mona.”

“Okay, okay, but get the outfit.”

She tries her items, and I remain in front of the mirror. Mona is right; the outfit does look okay.

I wonder what he’d think if he sees me before I know it, I’m red.

“OMO,” I say to myself like a Tv drama ahjumma startled by my thought.

The girl next to me giggles, warping me out of my thoughts.

How can I think of Tae Won?

It’s a biased feeling, both bubbles, and frustration. I haven’t crossed Tae Won since, and I don’t want to. I’m tired of looking like a fool every time; the man must think I’m some freak.

Right now, I don’t understand why I blushed. My Korean guy wooing stage is long gone. It’s funny because I’ve never dated a Korean guy despite all the love for the country and total infatuation for the guys.

No one would believe it, but it’s true. The guys I dated here were ex-pats like me, and Brad is a friend.

Many people believe that you come to Korea, and it’s a huge melting pot, but it depends on where and who you are.

You have the ex-pats who only roam around with foreigners like themselves, mainly they live as though they were in their own country with their culture codes and lifestyle.

They don’t even seek to speak the language, and their kids go to all English speaking schools where a few privileged Koreans and other foreigners attend. It’s like their part of some snobbish sect.

Then you have the ex-pats who try to mingle for business; my family is part of that category.

And finally, there’s the freestylers and wannabees; they want to be Korean. They desire to speak the language; they do homestays and date Koreans. Visit none touristic areas of the country, etc.

When they succeed in their enterprise, they become another sort of snobbish clique, and at some point, I even get the impression they hate other foreigners.

I wanted to be a freestyler, but my social status ranked me up. At my level, but I think it’s the same for any foreign girl. You understand that you can date a Korean, but if he’s from a traditional family with a good background, you are just a free English tutor or a scientific experience.

If his or she’s family is open-minded, you have a slight chance to live your drama romance.

Apart from Brad, I feel Korean guys aren’t interested in foreign girls and those who have circumstances. For example, his background isn’t good enough for Korean standards (undergraduate, penniless, divorced parents child, single parent-child, criminal record, health issues). A foreigner becomes an easy option for happiness.

Some have a genuine attraction, but family and social status can get in the way. As a result, your idle has a big stop sign on it.

So I’ve never dated a Korean guy, and my fangirling barometer sunk when I discovered all the things stated above. Also, I’ve learned to read the signs; a Korean guy’s behavior can be confusing.

They’re caring; they will hold doors, carry your bag for you and pay for most of the things, and sometimes one can imagine they’re interested when in reality, it’s just common old-fashion courtesy. I’ve seen many girls mistake this “kindness,” imagining an ultimate love story only to be friend-zoned.

I rather avoid myself the unrequited love bench. I’ve got enough shit on my radar.

Tae Won is the first guy I’m wondering about in five years, and it’s shocking me because I know nothing good can come of it, yet all I see right now is him. When I close my eyes, I can almost hear the sound of his breaths and feel his chest under my hands.

Jane, snap out of it.

“Jane.”

“Yeah.”

“I’ve been calling you for ages, look at me; what do you think?” Mona turns around on herself. She’s wearing something too sober for her: a baby blue pleated skirt and a delicate lace shirt.

“Oh, Mona, it’s so-.”

“I know,” Mona grabs a fluorescent pink hoody with Bambi pic on it and tosses it over the lace top, “and now?”

“I recognize you there.”

We carry on shopping and pause at the AOMG café; it’s trendy; it’s chic and staring passersby, making you feel like a rock star.

“Is Brad joining us?”

“Nope, he has to bow down at some meeting,” Mona says, scrunching her nose in disgust.

“You seem angry at him?

“I am. Actually, I hate him.”

The response is blunt, and coming from Mona, it sends shivers up my spine.

“Because?” I raise an eyebrow.

“ㅡNevermind.”

“Mona,” my insistence makes Mona cock an eyebrow at me.

“Listen, Jane, there are some things you don’t to talk about, and there’s something I don’t want to share,” Mona says, making a snake dance movement with her head as she speaks and finishes with duck lips.

“Okay, fair enough, let’s make a deal. If I tell you something, will you tell me?”

“Deal.”

“What do you know about Kim Tae Won?”

“You are asking me a question; you ain’t telling me, jack. Wait, don’t tell me youㅡ.”

“No,” I blush, “I mean yes, no, actually, I don’t know.”

“Oh, don’t worry, bae, the knight in shining armor syndrome, you’ll get over it, “Mona says, waving her hand in the air.

“No, Mona, you don’t get it.”

I start to explain all the episodes; Mona remains silent. I guess she’s afraid to interrupt the momentum. In the end, all she says is “daebak,” [incredible].

Spilling my Kim Tae Won tale relieves me; it’s tiring to carry so many secrets, and unleashing this one leaves a little RAM space for the issues I can’t lay on the table. Also, she’s my cousin and best friend that hasn’t changed.

Mona takes a few sips on her strawberry milkshake and raises her head.

“You say he must think you’re a nut case, but I have a question, how on earth did he end up defending you from those drunk dudes when he was supposed to control ID at the Hexagon?

Her question leaves me speechless; I hadn’t even thought of it.

“I don’t know, good question.”

“Merci,” Mona says, flicking her braids.

I stare at the passing cars as I wonder, what on earth was Tae Won doing there?

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