Final

The house is a mess. We’re packing to move to a house in the countryside for our newborn son, Taemin. The apartment is just too small for the three of us, and Taemin is crawling everywhere. Soon, he’ll need his own room, but Daeun has that all figured out. In fact, she has everything planned already. She likes to tell me that when Taemin is three, he’ll start cello and piano lessons. When he’s five, he’ll begin to learn Mandarin and Japanese. During this time, I should always speak to him in English and Daeun will teach him Korean. When he’s six, Taemin will go to art, math, and science classes. Taemin will start to volunteer when he’s ten. He’ll also learn a sport through all of this, some type of martial arts and or basketball.
“What do you think, Tae?” Daeun is cutting off strips of duct tape so I can enclose each cardboard box. “Private school, international school or public school for Taemin?”

I mumble quietly, “Up to you. Whatever you think is best is what I think will be best for him.”

“No, I want your opinion,” she continues to urge. “I want you to help figure out his life too.”

“Then just leave him be,” I sigh while taping a box together. “He’ll grow up to do whatever he wants or is good at.”

“No, Taeyang,” she stresses in a harsh tone. “That’s not right. Do you want our son to be a delinquent?”

“No,” I mutter, “but I want him to have a life.”

“He will have a life,” she argues loudly. “He’ll just have a better education too!”

“Whatever, it’s up to you.”

She throws her scissors onto the couch and approaches me with much ferocity. “Don’t whatever me!” she demands, throwing her arms in the air. “This is your son too!”

“Yes, I know that, but don’t you think that it’s a bit too—“

“See, Taeyang,” Daeun cuts me off. “That’s why you didn’t get promoted to manage the clinic with—“ I shake my head and begin to walk away. She’s still chasing after me, pointing at me. “Oh don’t you dare walk away from me, Taeyang!” she bellows. “You’re always running away from things! When will you ever grow up?”

I don’t answer her. I don’t want to fight, so I take a walk downtown. This is our last week near the heart of the city. I’m thinking that I might just miss this place. All the bustling noises and the crowds are captivating. People watching is fun; it makes me forget about everything. If I go off to the rural part of Seoul, then I’d really be alone. Even then, we have made our decision and signed the contract for the house. Daeun wants Taemin to live a healthy life. After all, Taemin is allergic to many things and needs fresh air for his lungs.

That’s right.

Taemin is more important than me. He’s my son, so I have to take care of him. I want to give him my full attention. I want to give him that sense of freedom that I lacked before. I’ll let him date whenever he wants and whoever he wants. If he wants to get drunk, then so be it. If he wants to occasionally try a few drugs, then I’m okay. He’s young. He can enjoy life, but obviously that’s not right to Daeun. I see her points. She’s the sort to worry. She’s always uncertain about the future, and because she wants control of everything, she seeks to cover all of the potential mistakes that could happen in the future. She’s preparing Taemin for unnecessary things. She’ll push him too hard, but I don’t want to fight with her. That’s just too tiring, and there’s just too much noise.

I’m looking at a travel agency. There’s a list of the different time zones, and I happen to catch a familiar one. I wonder what it’d be like to be home. I want to live in the States again. It just doesn’t feel right to be here, yet I’m already settled. If I had moved like Junghoon, what would life be like now? It’d definitely be all like before.

If it were before, then there’d be . . .

The second hand moves to five. I know I have to go back now. It’s getting late, and Daeun will worry and probably nag.

----
“What is this?” Daeun throws a pile of cards at me. “What are all these?”

Looking to my feet, I recognize Jikyung’s scribbly handwriting. I never got a chance to throw them away. I always say I will, but for some reason, other things get to me, and I never do. I’m not even sure why. “They’re just cards, Daeun,” I mumble while walking past her to hang my coat in our closet.

She’s scrambling to her feet, almost slipping in the process. In her hand are a few opened cards, and unexpectedly, I find myself grimacing. Still, I move ahead and head to the bedroom to change into other clothes. I don’t like wearing stuff that’s not comfortable.

“Just cards?” she screeches and stops right in front of me. “Don’t lie to me, Tae! Just tell me the truth. Do you love Jikyung or do you not? Have you been seeing—“

“No!” I shout at her, pushing her past me. She has fallen to the ground onto her bottom. I can hear her sobbing and it pains me. I want to apologize, but I don’t want to say anything right now. I just want to be alone. I know too well that she won’t leave me by myself. She’s not like Jikyung that way who’ll eventually stop and let me be. No matter how Jikyung presses on, she immediately stops when I’ve reached my limit. For so long, she has left me be, and sometimes, I just wished that . . .

Daeun is grabbing onto my legs to try to stop me to move. “Don’t leave me, Tae,” she begs. “Please. Just stay.”

Her whimpering and her trembling stop me. I stay in my place, knowing that she needs me. Daeun needs me, so I’ll be there. She’s not okay by herself, and I feel bad for hurting her. She has such a fragile heart that I know I need to protect, but my nature gets to me. I’m not born to live with someone else. I’m better off by myself. I know for sure; however, I can’t seem to leave her alone. The more time I have for myself, the emptier I feel. I really don’t know what I’m doing anymore.

Really, I don’t.

------
I’m bored. Really bored that I’m browsing people’s Facebook during the weekend. We have settled into the new place and everything seems perfect and pristine. I finally get time in my new office, and I happen to see that she has updated her profile picture. She and Raewon are celebrating their anniversary together. She looks happy in that photo. No, they both look happy. I read a few comments below. Someone is asking when they’ll tie the knot together. Raewon jokes that he has already knotted her, and that she just needs to accept that she’s knotted. I know she probably doesn’t like how his answer because she doesn’t respond nor does she like it. If she likes something, she will like it. If she doesn’t, she will ignore it. Still, she looks happy in that photo.

I have a sense of relief, but with that, that emptiness in my chest sinks deeper. I shouldn’t feel this way. This is wrong, very wrong. Then, I log out of my account and find that box that I’ve stored away in a cabinet. I don’t know why I’m hiding this from Daeun. She’ll throw a fit once she sees this, but I know I have to read these cards.

I have to say that I lied when I tell Jikyung that I didn’t remember much from these. Even if I don’t remember, I find myself rereading from time to time. Her thoughts are funny. She rambles too much for her own good. She gets mad easily, and it’s funny to see her reactions.

I let out a sigh.

Those were the days when we were good friends. Now, I place everything back to where they belong. I don’t think I’ll ever touch this box again. It’s meant to be closed, I tell myself. It’s meant to just rot there.

That’s what I’ll do exactly.

----

There’s this dream that I seldom have, but lately it’s recurring. I think I’m at a field filled with trees, reeds, and dandelions. I’m running rather freely. The air is fresh, the sun is just at its best warmth, and the wind is gentle. Everything seems so perfect, and I’m not alone. There she is running ahead of me. Her eyes tell me to catch her, and I run after her. She’s running faster and faster. From time to time, she turns back to smile at me, which makes me want to pursue her even more. Once I’m about to touch her hand, I wake up. I’m this close to feeling her, and I wake up in a jolt.

“Tae,” Daeun grumbles under her breath. I know it’s late at night, too late for her to handle. “Tae, go back to sleep, baby, please? I-I-I have work tomorrow and . . .”

I shut my eyes. I think . . . I think it’s time to sleep. I’ll wake up tomorrow, and everything will be back to normal. Somehow, normal doesn’t seem right. I want to finish this dream. I want to know what it’s like to actually hold onto that woman in my dream. I wonder who she is too, so I pop as many pills as I can. Maybe this time, I’ll stay there longer, and I’ll know what it means to love. I think . . . I think that’s what I’m missing.

Love.

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