Brad’s eyes grow big as he sees me. I can’t tell whether he is glad or not; his gaze travels and hovers over the ensemble of my body, which appears to captivate him.
His perplexed stare reminds me I’m not a blooming flower but a chunk of whole wheat dough. No, even better, imagine a fridge with a blonde wig on top; hold that picture. Well, that’s the closest description I make of myself.
“Jane, it’s wonderful to see you” Brad hugs me as though he recovered from the Titanic shipwreck, and I feel it, the warmth of his arms as he murmurs, “I missed you,” before regaining his seat.
Sleepless, the pouches under my eyes even have levels. Mona omitted to inform me Brad would be here. So I came as I am with my oversized gray t-shirt and slim gray pants; basically, I resemble a Tom without Jerry who swallowed a tank of helium or who ate Jerry whatever you prefer.
Even my cousin’s eyes are full of shock as I take a seat; what surprises me is Brad’s puppy stare. It’s difficult to believe he still shelters some sentiments despite my weight and the neglected appearance.
Even though not everyone appears to have popped out of a drama series in Korea, looks are everything.
Cosmetic stores are everywhere, and the products are cheap.
1+1, free samples, jumbo packs, discounts, one has no excuse to ignore their face or any other part of their body.
The same goes for the wardrobes; with styles changing every week, a 200 dollars piece can be 60 dollars the next. People look great here even when their bank account is crying famine.
Despite my attire, Brad looks at me with the same mellow eyes as before. Why is he doing this?
I’m not that girl anymore. I’ve seen the shit; why does he like me?
What have I done to deserve this? Brad deserves better, someone beautiful in and out, someone like Mona.
Why doesn’t he notice her?
My eyes shift to Mona; she’s smiling, but I can tell she has seen it too, and my heart breaks for her. She’s better than me in every aspect; life is so unfair.
“Wow, I can’t believe we’re reunited,” Brad says with a grin too big for the morning brunch we’re having in this hype café close to Gangnam.
Brad hasn’t changed much; he still has baby skin, white teeth, and dimples. With his fake glasses, a pink polo shirt, and navy blue cropped pants; he looks like vanilla ice cream with all your favorite toppings.
From the corner of my eye, I glance at Mona; she wants to sink her teeth into him.
It’s amusing, I acknowledge all of Brad’s qualities, but I’m not attracted to him. Can someone explain?
However, I trust him.
Brad knows what I did; he came to visit me in hospital, absorbed by the guilt of having let me drive that night, and for supplying me with Nirvana Blue.
Perhaps that’s the reason he knows how trashy I am, and because of that, I can’t let him love me.
“So what have you been up to?” Brad says while peeling an apple, which he cuts into half-moons and places them before me.
I don’t know how Brad can be so indelicate; his gesture embarrasses me.
Mona pours herself some orange juice and gulps it down before attacking the scrambled eggs and bacon on her plate.
The smell of the bacon is off-putting, but I don’t say a word as I’m aware Brad would probably fling her plate out the window like dynamite if he learned the effect the odor has on me.
“What do you wish to do, Jane? We’ve got a month and a half before we return to college, so I’m free to hang out and drive you around in my new G70.”
“You had to do your product placement in the sentence, didn’t you?” Mona says, rolling eyes like bowling balls about to make a strike.
Brad always does this where he continually seeks to impress when unnecessary; it makes him seem vain when he’s altruistic. Even I’m tempted to play bowling with my stare.
“I’m not comfortable in cars,” I say while fidgeting on my chair. Is it me, or is the place hot?
No, the sound of the air con almost drowns our voices, so it’s me breaking a sweat as the idea of sitting in a car implodes in my brain.
Brad’s expression plummets as he must perceive what I mean, whereas Mona furrows her eyebrows in interrogation.
“Jane, you love cars; you drive like you’re in Fast and Furious.”
“Well, I don’t drive anymore.”
My eyes are on my plate; Brad cut the apples entirely. It’s almost art. Mona recuperates me before I start to write a mental ode of love to the pieces of apples which fascinate me.
“How did you get here?”
“I took the metro.”
“Oh, Mai gat, no wonder you were late, you’ve never taken Korean metro,” Mona says, her eyebrows knit together, she’s thinking, soon her brows will be a sweater as she’ll come to some conclusion.
Mona says it is true; chauffeured around till we were 16 where we all got cars as birthday gifts, we never took public transportations.
I don’t know my way in the Korean tube, and I have panic attacks when surrounded by too many people, but I’ll get used to it since it’s my only means of locomotion. Hey, I made here, didn’t I?
“No, seriously, Jane, you won’t get in a car?” Mona asks again, eyes blinking in a no-way motion.
“I will, but I can’t drive.”
“Why?” Mona says, glaring at me; it must be a tremendous shock to her. She knows how I loved cars; I used to fly to Formula 1 Grand Prix worldwide just for the vehicles. One of my dreams was to marry a pilot. All those memories must flash before her now.
“Okay, how about we go to Namsan tower after the brunch?”
“Jane isn’t a tourist, Brad,” Mona says while waving her fork full of bacon.
3.2.1 breathe. Jane, don’t let the smell get to you.
“Yeah, but she loves the Tower. I mean, you missed it, huh, Jane?” Brad says, eyes pleading in my direction.
He knows me too well. I love the Tower, Gwangjang market, Bongeusa Temple, Insadong. They’re just must-see areas for a tourist, but those places are filled with a particular kind of aura and warmth for me.
The Namsan tower, with its rails, weighed with padlocks, is a place that breaths love, and the view of Seoul is impressive. There’s. There’s also another view spot I like close to the city hall, which I’ll visit later.
I know I’m smiling because Brad and Mona are too. Like me, they probably remember all the mischiefs we got up to back then.
One memory flashes in my eyes. I see Mona sleeping in my car. Brad and I drunk running up the Namsan to catch the sunrise after having danced the night away at the L’Exlir.
In front of the sun, Brad asked me if I thought I could love someone for life for better or worse. I replied, I inevitably would if I met the right person.
Brad smiled and said I shouldn’t look too far, but close to home. He then added that he knew it was possible because the right person was standing by his side.
Somehow the activity Brad suggests doesn’t seem all innocent but more like someone who desires to renew a vow. I’m relieved Mona can’t catch on to what the Namsan Tower represents.
If there’s something I hate is someone with a trunkload of secrets. Right now, I’m the one overflowing with them, and I despise it. Hiding and keeping secrets is disgusting, for one is always pushed to lie a little more to cover up.
Before you know it, you find yourself coated with your fiction, a form of paranoia moves into your mind, and there you are in the depressed zone.
Three, two, one, I count backward to chase the negative thoughts, and we finish eating.
“Okay, Mona, your car or mine?” Brad says when they finish eating; I contented myself with making the food roll from one side of the plate to the other. No one noticed, or at least they pretended not to; people always pretend everything is okay not to wrinkle the depressed person’s ego.
“Eh, guys, I’ll meet you there. I’ll take the tube,” I say with haste while standing up.
“Jane, please, you are freaking me out; come on, you can’t be serious?” Mona says, grabbing my hand with both of hers while making a sad emoji face.
“Jane, we’ll take my car. I’ll drive carefully,” Brad adds, giving me a stare to warn me that Mona is becoming suspicious.
My eyes dart from one to another, I don’t know what to do, but then my conscience reminds me of one of the reasons why I wanted to come back.
I wished for our trio to be together again.