This is absurd, almost too absurd. I feel like I’m cold calling for a job interview. I’m a stranger to her or rather I’m just his classmate, Taeyang’s, to be exact. Here I am, though, having a cup of warm tea in her kitchen.

“I’m really sorry for your loss, Daeun,” I initiate the conversation with an apology.

Daeun has her back towards me as she is washing some dishes, but she still turns to say with a weak smile, “Thank you, Junghoon. I’m sure Taeyang would have appreciated you visiting him. He really treated you like his own brother.”

I gulp down the tea, feeling rather guilty. I’m not really here for Taeyang. Sorry, pal.

“So,” I mumble quickly, “has anyone else visited you?”

Daeun shakes her head, and wipes her arm across her eyes. “No,” she croaks. “You’re the first besides family.”

“Oh. I guess . . . everyone is, ugh, busy. After all, it is the end of the year.”

Starting to laugh, she still manages to say, “Right. The end of the year where people party. But did you know that Taeyang actually overdosed on sleeping pills on October 12th? Is that the end of the year then?”
“I’m sorry,” I apologize. “I didn’t know when he . . . passed away.”

“I bet you also don’t know that he suffered from depression,” she continues to inform me. “We started having fights soon after we got married. He’d get angry easily, but he’d never explode at me. He’d bottle everything up and go to sleep. I tried to get him to tell me what was wrong, but he’d never get to the point. After Taemin came along, I thought Taeyang would get better, but he only became worse. He even stopped taking his pills.”

“I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

“D-d-don’t apologize,” she demands. “Taeyang was a useless piece of shit!” Suddenly, she throws the plate in her hand into the sink, smashing it into pieces. “Selfish bastard. Pathetic coward! Cold jerk!”

Then, there’s complete, sheer silence, but I can still sense her hushed whimpering. I can see her shivering as she tries to hug herself. I feel sorry for her, and for the first time, I can sort of understand why Taeyang married her. She’s direct, and meek. She’s not a mystery at all.

“Taeyang must have had his reasons,” I try to reassure her. “I’m sure he loved you a lot. He did marry you after all.”

She then shrieks at me with tears streaming down her cheeks, “Because I told him to! If he didn’t marry me, I’d leave him! I spent years with him, and he still wouldn’t propose! I couldn’t take it anymore!”

“But he still married you, which meant that you were really important to him,” I argue.

“And so was that friend of his,” she scoffs. 

“You mean, Jikyung?”

Folding her arms together, she hollers, “Did you know that when we were sending out wedding invitations, Taeyang asked me several times if I had done that correctly? And on our wedding day, he even asked me if I had gotten the guest list right. When I told him that I did, and that only Junsu, Kiseop, and Jikyung  couldn’t come, his face went cold. And what’s more is that stupid pen of his! He always has this pen in his jacket. Why? Because Jikyung gave it to him.”

 “I’m sure that Taeyang—“

“No, you’re wrong, Junghoon,” she urges. “I want you to tell me the truth. Do you think that Taeyang loved her? Do you?”

I’m afraid that any answer that will come out from my mouth will be wrong. Daeun is on the verge of breaking down completely in front of me. She’s trembling even more than before. It’s obvious that she has gotten skinner over these months as her clothes are way too baggy for her now. I can also tell that she has trouble sleeping; the deep, dark circles under her eyes contrast too much with her pale face. If I agitate her further, then who knows what will happen? I’m tempted to do everything in my power to comfort her to keep her alive and sane.  She’s a desolate, poor woman, who just needs someone to look after her. I wonder if . . .

Still, I confess, “I think he loved you in his own way, and her in another. Ultimately, he chose to be with you than with her, and that’s what’s important now. I don’t think you should doubt him. He never betrayed you in any way, and Taeyang, he’s too gentle.”

I’m afraid she might throw some more plates, but this time, to the ground. I don’t know her well enough to predict what she’d do, but if she were a typical lady, she’d want someone to hug her, and to say some soothing words. I know just the person who would do that for her: Taeyang. He can’t take his eyes off the weak, and so he would definitely embrace her even if she didn’t mean much to him. He’s the nice guy. What can I say?

I’m the bad guy. I’ve always been deemed “ the bad boy”, but to Jikyung, I’m the nice one, and Taeyang is the bad one that she’s uncontrollably in love with. It’s true. I want to be nice to her, but this isn’t out of pity, at least not anymore. It might have been a bit at the start. That’s not important, however. What’s important is that unlike Taeyang, I’m not a nice guy to all girls. It’s just that a lot of girls want me to be nice, like how Daeun has dashed to my side, leaning her head on my shoulder. I know she expects me to hug her or pat her on the back, but I don’t want to send the wrong message to her.

She is even requesting, “Can you . . . please . . . hold me like Taeyang would whenever I’m crying?”

Sure, I’m cruel, but I state sans emotion, “No, I can’t, and I won’t because I’m not Taeyang, and I don’t comfort those that just want others to pity them.”

Daeun jumps backwards with a petrified face. I’m pretty sure this is the first time she has been rejected by a guy, and frankly, I don’t give a damn. She’s not going to give me what I want now, so I reach for my jacket that’s lying on a chair, and head for the door. 

So much for trying to . . .

“Wait!” Daeun suddenly calls out from behind as I’m about to push open her front door. “Wait right here, okay? I just have to get something for you!”

I still listen to her, and wait for about twenty minutes. I can hear rattling and thumping from upstairs. I take the time to see what Taeyang has done with this house. Suprisingly, Taeyang and Daeun chose to live in the outskirts of Seoul, which, of course, wasted a lot of my cab money. Luckily, the cab driver was nice enough to tell me that there was a station here to the city centre. I just had to walk twenty minutes from this house to the metro, and that already makes me question why Taeyang would ever agree to live here in the first place. He got bored easily, and loved the night life. Still, I remembered how he’d complain that he missed his hometown. There were mountains, the sea, and fresh air, he’d often recount. I wish I was there, he’d say. I really miss the people there, he’d murmur from time to time. I’d tell him to suck it up, and be a man. I’d remind him that if he wanted to move back, he could. He just had to take another test, but he never did. Some people might think that Taeyang was being lazy, and I agree on the most part that he was too lazy for his own good at times, yet I’d argue too that Taeyang wasn’t strong enough to be by himself. His family was here. His girlfriend was also here. He had no home over there anymore. He’d be by himself, and loneliness already plagued his soul. He didn’t need more of it. 

“Here.” Daeun is panting too hard as she holds out several flimsy envelopes to me. “Please . . . give these to Jikyung.”
 
“Wh-what are these?” I frown upon noticing some of the pieces titled “Taeyang”.

“A few cards,” she coughs, “that Jikyung sent to Taeyang that he kept, and . . . a wedding invitation that I never sent out to Jikyung.”

“I thought you said—“

“I was lying to myself, and to everyone else,” Daeun gently sighs. “Saying that I didn’t mind inviting Jikyung was a lie. Even now, I don’t want her at—“

I slap her, and I don’t care if I’m slapping a lady this time because this one is for Jikyung. Daeun is massaging her cheek and gawking at me as if I’m a monster.  I’m bet she’s thinking, “How dare him? Taeyang would never do this!”

Oh fuck, I’m not Taeyang. I’ll never be that fucking person.

“If you’re planning on giving her this wedding invitation, then send her that invite to the funeral,” I reason with her. “She deserves to be there, and I know that Taeyang would have wanted her there. Jikyung needs to move on with her life just like you do. You might think she’s strong, and she is, for the most part, but she has her moments too. She just has fewer ones than you.”

“Can you give these to her then?” she repeats. “I don’t think—“

“I’ll give her the wedding invitation, but I’m not going to give her back those cards,” I interrupt her hastily. 

“Those cards aren’t for us to return to her. Taeyang kept them for a reason. Now, if you don’t like seeing them, then burn them, but don’t hand them back to her as if that were Taeyang’s wish.”

“Junghoon, why are you siding with her?” Daeun chokes on more tears. “She’s the one that stole Taeyang’s heart! She didn’t even love you when you two were dating!”

I take a deep breath and gulp down the stabbing words I hear. It’s true. Jikyung probably never loved me, and it’s possible that she won’t. I want to try again, and I don’t need to be affected by Daeun’s discouraging remarks. So, I smile politely at her and note, “If these are your true colours, then I’m disappointed in Taeyang’s decision to marry you. Now, thank you, and good-bye. I wish you the best of luck.”

The door clicks to close, and I’m heading in the direction to the subway station. The sun is about to set with its rays just touching the edge of the clouds. It’s a beautiful scene like one out of a wildlife magazine. I’m wondering if I should take a photo, but there’s still that wedding invitation in my hand. I end up scoffing after realizing what Taeyang had done.

“Hey man,” Taeyang greeted in front of my office.

I almost dropped the pen in my hand. This was ridiculous. What was Taeyang doing here? The clinic that he worked at wasn’t even nearby. It was at the opposite end of Seoul.

“What’s up?” I asked.

Reaching into his pocket, Taeyang explained, “I was wondering if you could give this to Jikyung?”

“What is this?”

“It’s my wedding invitation,” Taeyang clarified. “You’re getting one in the mail.”

“So why don’t you just give it to her yourself?” I remembered snubbing. Jikyung and I had broken up for about a month or so, and I was in no mood to be reminded of her.

Taeyang bit onto his lower lip, mumbling, “I can’t.”

“And why not? It’s not like you aren’t friends with her.”

“It’s just . . . I can’t.”

Seeing Taeyang with his head down, I still gave in and agreed, “Fine, fine. I’ll give it to her, but there are no guarantees that she’ll come.”

Taeyang immediately grinned and put his hands together to form a little prayer. “Thanks man. I owe you one,” he remarked. “I knew I could count on a friend like you!”

No, he doesn’t owe me anything because I never gave it to her. I wasn’t that great of a friend, but I hope it’s not too late to keep that promise. So, I give Jina a call and ask for Jikyung’s work address. I’ll mail this to her for now, and I also need to give her something that I treasure the most. That was a promise I never kept too.

What do I treasure most? 

That’s really hard to answer, but I think I know. It’s why I can’t fall asleep at night; memories of her tantalize me. My memories with her are too vivid to smear away, and since I’m no photographer, I have no photos of her. I can’t draw for the life of me. I’m not a writer. I’m a smooth talker, but that’s useless for her. She wants the truth, and so I will give her just that. I’ll give her a box of truth. In that box, I will put everything I know about her—what she likes and dislikes, what she said, what our dates were like, and what she did—and I will deliver that gift in person.

“Here’s what I treasure the most,” I’ll say.

To be honest, I don’t think she’ll even accept it. She’s stubborn like that and also afraid. She can’t deal with surprises by herself, but it’s okay. I have a feeling that if I give her some time, she’ll come back to me again with a question.

“What’d you get me?” she’d ask.

And I’ll just laugh and then tell her, “I’m not telling, but you can open it up in front of me.”

Now, I don’t know what she’ll do next, but I’m pretty sure that whatever she does will make me laugh. I’ll do what she always did to me. I’ll compliment with a twist, “That’s what I love about you, Lee Jikyung.”
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