Three hours earlier
On a crisp fall evening in downtown Manhattan, I rushed into my favorite Italian restaurant, Il Bagatto, to celebrate my friend’s 28th birthday.
“Yumi! Over here!” she called out, drawing looks from the other diners. Meeting halfway across the room, we wrapped our arms around each other as we squealed with excitement. Today was Hannah’s twenty-eighth birthday, and we planned to celebrate it to the absolute fullest. No drama, no regrets. Eagerly leading me back to the packed booth of fellow partygoers, Hannah and I soon settled in for what was sure to be a fun-filled night with our good friends. Or so I thought.
Not even ten minutes after my first aperol spritz, I saw him. Kai.
Healthily tan—smooth skin glowing with a golden hue from underneath his impeccably distressed tee—he was a man of average height and build, but I was struck by the symmetry of his facial features. I’d always been a sucker for natural symmetry, some might even call it a kink.
Who is that guy? I thought I knew all of Hannah’s friends.
He trailed behind Hannah’s friend Tommy and took a seat across from me at our long rectangular table for ten.
As the last ones to arrive, Tommy and the mystery man gave their drink orders to the server while I decided it was the perfect moment for a group photo.
“Is everyone here?” my voice noticeably shrill above the surrounding chatter. Taking my digital camera from my purse, I said, “Scoot in, guys! Let’s get a group pic for Hannah!” waving everyone into the frame. Cleverly, I used this photo op guise to study the attractive smiling man. Framing his handsome face, I casually snapped a quick picture and returned to my seat.
I was struck by his eyes – balanced and kind, they formed into crescent moon-like shapes or ‘eye smiles’ when his lips turned up. We Koreans find this trait to be extremely cute and attractive. We even have a term for it in Korean, ‘dal noon’, which means “crescent eye”.
He looks so happy. I wanted to know more.
Suddenly, a funny thought tugged at the back of my mind.
Wait a minute… something seems oddly familiar… The pieces struggled to come together in my brain as I pondered this nagging familiarity.
The man sitting across from me was someone I knew. Or at least someone I knew of.