Sa-rang didn’t know one could play with life, yet she discovered how easy it was to manipulate its course as she stared at the dissolution of her marriage.
Everything went the way she planned, and now she sat drinking wine, smoking the first and last cigarette of her existence in this high-rise apartment.
Freedom, at last!
I am free to live and die the way she desired with no more strings attached. No husband, no daughter, she should be happy; this was happiness.
Then why did she have this wet sensation on her cheeks?
There was no stopping the tears, which fell faster, fleeing under her chin as she rose her head from the damp papers she stared at.
“Wae, WAE? 정신 차려요[cheong sin cha ryeo-yo=get a hold of youself] Sa-rang,” she ran her fingers through her hair, slapped the tears away, and took a few sips of her Bordeaux.
Alcohol, cigarettes, fast-foods during her entire life, Sa-rang avoided them, scared to hinder her lifespan. Now death waited for her despite the precautions she took. For the little time left, she would dance with the demons, do cartwheels while walking the line between life and death.
A new University semester was at hand, Sa-rang pepped talked herself. This year would be her last, the one they would remember her by; the professor had to be worthy of her reputation.
Also, Sonmi would attend Yonsei’s pre-medical faculty. Proud and perplexed, Sa-rang still didn’t know what to think of her daughter’s choice.
Sonmi despised her; the young woman accused Sa-rang of her devotion to her job and the destruction of their happy life.
Despite the resent Sonmi had for her mother, she decided to follow in Sa-Rang’s footsteps, choosing to become a doctor for an obscure reason, leaving her mother wondering about her intentions.
Nevermind, Sonmi’s life belonged to herself and was no longer in Sa-Rang’s hands. Besides, she had In-Sung, the good father, to take care of her like he always had.
Sa-Rang had a lousy role, which almost made her feel like a surrogate mother. She carried Sonmi for nine months, but Sa-Rang’s ambitions and constant absences due to her profession alienated and made her a stranger to her daughter after her birth.
And the last year swept away any sentiment of affection the young woman had for her mother.
Sa-Rang’s divorce created two groups, those who supported In-Sung and reminded him daily how Sa-Rang looked down on him, stripping him of his title of Alpha male.
No one brought up his affair, almost pitying In-Sung for having resort to infidelity to find comfort.
Others stood by Sa-Rang. She was the victim, cheated on by a man who could not handle having a successful wife, her shortcomings as a wife found justification in the fact she worked to save lives.
For many, In-Sung took advantage of Sa-Rang’s overflow of work to get a side dish. Friends empathized with her, bringing up how men always ran to younger women.
This confusion made Sa-Rang smile, she wrote the scenes, but she didn’t hold the key to people’s perception. A hint of guilt painted the face which gazed at Seoul’s rooftops. Both her ex-husband and daughter were unaware of her condition. Sa-rang gave them no choice deciding their final cut in her life.
The burden Sa-rang would leave was heavy. Blame and shame would haunt them, but this was better than letting them see the physical decline of a woman.
Sa-rang knew how people in her condition ended having lost grandmother and mother to Cancer. To see the physical breakdown of someone left scars that never healed. She remembered how little she begged her mother to do chemotherapy, the regret of forcing her mother to live such a traumatizing experience when hope had already packed its luggage for another destination coated memories that lingered.
Sa-rang scolded herself for ignoring the possibilities of being flogged by the same evil. Too much pride and suspicion of hope the heavens would spare her for she did good saving lives. How naive she was, now all that was left to do was to accept fate.
What was the point of fighting?
The disease lurked in Sa-rang in a dormant form waiting for her to reach the zenith of glory to reap her soul.
How cruel and ironic was it?
An example, beautiful and intelligent for the first time in her life Sa-Rang liked what she became. She appreciated things she worked so hard to obtain with a cleaver swaying a few centimeters above her.
A sigh escaped from her as she looked at her schedule, her doctor and Yoona, her close friend, were the only people held in the secret of her condition, and there was no way she would play the desperate, dying patient.
What a twisted game, pretending to be a healthy and fizzy woman when you envisioned your cells rotting. How sickening it was, but she had to play the part, for she was Lee Sa-rang.
Filling up another glass of wine, she wondered how her students would be; in their 4th year, she expected discipline, and she wouldn’t accept any bull this year more than others.
Misfits, show-offs, sons, and daughters of X as always Sa-rang’s motto was no privilege or favors; work was the only option in all situations.
Eight profiles interested her. Amongst them were her close range of top rankers and her left-hand man picked by the board. Fingers crossed, she hoped they would bless with a whiz kid and, if possible, a girl.
Convinced of not being sexist, Sa-rang preferred handing down her knowledge to women. Men throned on all the highest places helping other women reach those heights was a militant action. Yonsei’s board didn’t see things the same way; complaints weren’t rare concerning how she treated the male students.
In the last years, Sa-rang’s conduct and her military ways earned her a few names, which would linger after she was gone.
The divorce over, surviving the school year was the III Act.
Set on auto-pilot, Sa-rang’s life seemed like a journey where she sat back and cruised to her final destination; nothing could go wrong.
A heroine of her tragedy, Sa-rang smiled while finishing off her Bordeaux. Something was missing from her story, a disruptive element.
She didn’t want one and was too ashamed to admit she was bored. Apart from her clubbing and massive consummation of alcohol, her tale seemed like a Kimchi Chigae without the kimchi.
No, Sa-rang, you wanted to go in peace, don’t call the eye upon you.
Sa-rang’s phone vibrated on the table with an incoming message.
No one texted her anymore; perhaps it was Yoona. The woman picked up her phone and placed it back on the table; she didn’t want her humor to plummet.
Instead, Sa-rang strode to her room and tried on the clothes she bought earlier on at SHINSEGAE. Three dresses, two pumps, and one bicolor Jimmy Choo stiletto fitting them, she just wanted to slip into a cocktail dress and party.
She took off her shoes and kissed them, “see you in two weeks.” Sa-rang was keeping them for her 40th birthday.
Sleep knocked on her eyelids, she wasn’t tired, but her body was. The efforts she put into pulling off poker faces wore her out. Apart from the sudden fatigue and the evil within developing at a steady pace, no particular incident was noted. Sa-rang’s somewhat healthy condition scared her a little. She witnessed lightning seizures, which made one a vegetable within 78hours.
She only took light Opioids such a Tramadol for the pain until now, and she felt lucky. Still, she filled her bag with a complete set of pills from the weakest to the wickedest of drugs such as the M&M’s, as she called the evil pair of Methadone and Morphine in their capsules versions.
Sa-Rang heaved before putting the items in her dressing. In her pajamas, she grabbed her phone from the dining table and scrolled to see the pending message as she walked to her room. She threw herself on the bed and stretched out like a starfish. She lifted the phone and unlocked it.
“What does she want, more money?”
Message from stunt double:
Sa-rang chucked her phone on the floor and closed her eyes.
“It’s okay, Sa rang, qwenchana [it’s okay] you knew it could happen,” she mumbled.
She wanted a disruptive element, and God’s answer was efficient.
In-Soo being pregnant didn’t matter; Sa-rang didn’t care. Life was following its course, and so was Kyeong In-Sung, her ex-husband and future second-time father.
Sa-rang opened her eyes and leaned to switch off the lamps on the nightstand.
In the dark, with only the growling sound of the air conditioner, Sa-rang thought it would be a good day to die.