03
As soon as Lara came back from the washroom, she blurts, “Jikyung caught you with another girl huh?”
Several women end up glaring at me; I’m pretty sure they represent the whole female species. What I did was wrong, and foolish. I was even being like my father, who broke my mother’s heart. “I think she knew what I was doing, but chose to be ignorant.”

“Why? Why’d she pretend that nothing was wrong?”

I couldn’t answer Lara’s question even now. I could only guess why Jikyung liked to act like nothing was wrong with our relationship. If she had recognized what was happening, then why did she seem so astonished that night? Was she just blind to everything? Did she not care about me so much that she couldn’t even tell that I was straying away from her?

Lara tapped my hand, and with a set of concerned eyes, she muttered, “What happened that night?”

“I’d never forget . . .”

I’d never forget how Jikyung had surprised me. Actually, instead of my calling Jikyung, it was the brunette, who had answered my cell phone without my permission. I was taking a shower then, and when I finished, I saw the woman placing my phone on the bedside table.

“What are you doing?” I hollered, marching towards her.

She gasped and stammered, “I-I-I-I just said hello.”

“Get the fuck out!” I bellowed. 

My finger directed her towards the door, yet she wouldn’t budge at all. I knew what I had to do, and so I forcefully grabbed her by the arm. Even when she winced and resisted, I lulled her to the exit. She had to leave. She just had to, but it was already too late.

Jikyung was standing in front of us. I had given her the key to my apartment because I wanted her to drop by from time to time. She never did though, except this time. The one time she visited me was when I couldn’t even face her eye to eye. This was also one of those rare moments where she’d touch me first. She was too short to touch my chin. Thus, she tugged on my arm and stared at me with hopelessness. I wasn’t sure if she’d cry. I had wanted her to, but I was already regretting seeing her like that. Fighting to stop all sense of emotion. Becoming cold again. Treating me like a stranger, and worse off, confirming her first impressions of me. A player.

Then, she let go of me, and headed for the door.

“Jikyung, I can explain!” I chased after her, shouting.

She turned around to roar, “What is there to explain? It’s clear.”

“Jikyung, is this how we’re going to end?” I asked once I saw her hand hovering over the doorknob.
Not even glancing at me, she rambled, “What else is there to do? You’re just like all men: cheaters.”

“So, she left like that?” Lara interferes with my story. “And you didn’t do anything about it?”

“What could I do?” I remark. “I was wrong.”

“But you never even apologized, and you never tried to explain yourself,” Lara argues. “You never even asked why she said that.”

“Said what?”

“Said that all men are cheaters.”

Lara is right. I should know from that sentence that Jikyung had been hurt before. There was already a wound that had to be tended, and then, I just happened to pry open that spot. I had stabbed deeper than ever; I’m pretty sure that she still is suffering through her relationships. She probably doesn’t even recognize why that is so, just like how she didn’t even know that she loved Taeyang.

I remembered how we were at an art exhibit this time of paintings by Rossetti. Again, she didn’t know who to accompany her, so she asked me. She told me again that that was what she liked about me. She liked how open-minded I was to try out new things.

“You know, Taeyang would never try anything he didn’t want to do,” Jikyung continued to explain. My fists and my jaw clenched, and she didn’t even seem to notice. She was already ahead of me, exploring the area. It wasn’t until she reached the end of the corridor did she turn around to ask, “Junghoon! Lee Junghoon! What do you think of this?”

I saw the description of the painting titled “Dante’s Dream at the Death of Beatrice”, and realized that this is about unrequited love. How fitting for us, I pondered. Jikyung would slip out Taeyang’s name from the tip of her tongue, and I’d have to endure listening to her recalling some fact of his or a memory they shared together. No, I couldn’t take it anymore, especially after seeing this artwork. Heck, I didn’t even want to be critiquing art. Who would?

“I don’t like it,” I mumbled, praying that we’d get out of here as soon as possible.

“What? Why not?” Jikyung questioned.

I huffed a sigh and replied, “Are you in love with Taeyang?”

She almost twisted her ankle on the spot as she stuttered, “Wh-wh-what? What are you—“

“You love him, don’t you?” I confronted her. “You’ll never forget about him, right? Am I right?” Jikyung kept her lips shut, making it too unbearable for me. “Goddamn it, say something. Will you?” I urged. “At least lie to me.”

“I . . . don’t know, Junghoon. I . . .”

That was the first time we kissed. I had forcefully yanked her towards me, and claimed her lips. At first, she tried to push me away, but after our tongues touched, she stopped fighting. I thought that, at last, she was feeling the same way as me, yet now that I thought of it, she probably succumbed to me just to forget about her own pain, and to ease mine. She was never the type to start fights, just like Taeyang. 

Just like Taeyang, she’d never admit her feelings. He’d never relate any word related to love for Jikyung, yet he was perfectly fine with caring about her unconditionally. Taeyang always followed her Facebook posts and I knew because somehow, he’d comment about them to me. When I did confront him about what he was doing, he just said they showed up on his feed. Taeyang would often indirectly ask me about her. When he wanted to know how she was doing, he’d ask what I did over the weekend. When I told him I spent it alone, he’d ask why I wasn’t with her. Even though I’d tell him the truth, I just wanted to question him why he couldn’t admit that he loved Jikyung.

“Wow,” Lara barks, “Jikyung really loved Taeyang. That sucks for you.”

“Yeah,” I breathe out again, “it did suck, but I think what was worse was when Taeyang started a fight with me.”

“Was that for cheating on Jikyung?”

“That and . . .”

I had never seen Taeyang so enraged. Even in broad daylight, he was sprinting towards me like an insane murderer. I was just about to shoot a basket when he grabbed my shirt and threw a punch at me. The other guys were trying to pull us apart, but I couldn’t care less. I punched him back, twice as hard as he did to me. His nose was bleeding like a waterfall, and my cheek was bruised. 

“What the fuck was that for?” I now yelled.

“For cheating on Jikyung!” Taeyang screeched while tackling me to the floor. “You fucking bastard! Acting like her frigging father!”

“Fuck you!” I kneed his stomach. “Why the fuck do you care? If you’re so concerned, wh-wh-why don’t you steal her from me then? Huh? Why not date her, you bitch!”

The fist that was aimed right at my eye immediately stopped. Taeyang backed off from me, stood up, and gave me a hand up. Then, he muttered along with a sigh, “Because I don’t date close friends.”

“Why not?” I bellowed at him.

Then, he looked at me to answer, “Because you just don’t.”

“Fucking coward,” I cursed at him, pushing past him.

“She’s one of my best friends!” he screamed from the top of his lungs.

I shifted my gaze towards Taeyang, who was pinching his bloody nose now. Sure, I had beat him up pretty badly, but Taeyang had won from the start. She loved him, and from his reply, I could tell that Taeyang loved her too in his messed up way. This was how love worked, I remembered thinking. Love just loved to fuck things up. No, actually, people loved to complicate love. It should have been simple. You love me, and I love you, and therefore, we’re together, but no, that was not how life operated. As Taeyang’s close friend, I thought I’d give him some advice before he ended up living a life of regret. So, I howled, “She can be both, you dick! Your girlfriend and your best friend! Seriously, fuck!”

“Wait,” Lara sits up, wondering, “was this after you and Jikyung broke up or . . .”

“This was before we broke up,” I clarify. “Taeyang apparently overheard from his friend that I had a fling with someone in nursing.”

“So that means Taeyang didn’t tell Jikyung beforehand?”

“I don’t think so,” I shrug my shoulders and say. “Taeyang is a good friend. He wouldn’t want to pick sides.”

“So . . . that means that you didn’t listen to him?”

I cackle at Lara’s comment. Of course I didn’t listen to Taeyang at that time. I was too pissed at him. He wasn’t a friend to me then. He was more like a rival. Now, I give Lara a smile so that it doesn’t seem like I’m mocking her.

“Nope,” I utter. “He didn’t listen to me either.”

“What? But I thought it was obvious that he loved Jikyung too!” Lara bangs her little fist on the arm rest.

That was what I thought too. Maybe, that was why I didn’t listen to Taeyang. I wanted to be caught. 
Perhaps, I wanted her to be hurt; that way, she’d run off to him to be comforted, and that way, I knew that she, at least, cared . . . about me a bit. I was a mess then, and even now, I don’t know what to do, especially after Taeyang became married to Daeun. That was . . . quite a surprise.

“Haha,” I correct Lara, “Taeyang got married to his on and off girlfriend, Daeun.”

“Why? Why would he marry her?” 

“That’s what we were all wondering at the wedding. Why would . . .”

Why would Taeyang marry Daeun? I remembered repeating that question over and over again in my mind when I sat at the table with the newly wed. Taeyang chose me as his best man instead of his high school classmate, Minwoo, who had flown all the way from Australia for this. Needless to say, Minwoo would occasionally glare at me or mention some memory that he and Taeyang shared in high school to show that he knew Taeyang better. Honestly, I didn’t give a damn.

What I was more interested in was what made Taeyang propose to Daeun. From Taeyang’s other friends, they all thought Taeyang would find someone better. Sure, Daeun was considered one of the better looking girls in the grade, but she wasn’t exactly beautiful. She was way uglier compared to Jikyung. Even though Jikyung had no knowledge of this, pretty much all the guys in medical school ranked her as one of the top three on the list of pretty girls. This was exactly why none of us could comprehend the reason that Taeyang would pick Daeun over Jikyung. Daeun didn’t even have a good personality. She was rather bitchy, but Taeyang didn’t think so. Oh, now that I thought of it, she was only a bitch to other people. She was an angel in front of Taeyang, and Jikyung.

So, was Daeun pregnant? I took several glimpses at her stomach. She was wearing a tight-fitting wedding gown decked in beads, and sparkles. She looked tacky, but still happy. Her belly was flat too, so nope, definitely not pregnant. Then, there was Taeyang forcefully smiling. Most would have said he seemed like the happiest groom, yet I’d argue that he was distressed. Behind that smile, he was suffering from who knows what. Most importantly, Taeyang’s eyes were wandering from time to time.  I knew who he was trying to find: Lee Jikyung. Taeyang was more than sure that she’d attend his wedding, but I made sure that he was wrong.

“What?” Lara exclaims. “You never gave Jikyung the invitation? What’s wrong with you?”

“Soon after we broke up, Jikyung went back to the States,” I adjust my tie and explain. “According to a friend of hers, she had already been recruited a reputable company. She wouldn’t be able to take time off if she was just starting to work.”

“Yeah, but you can’t just decide that for her!” Lara chides me. “She’ll never . . . does she even know that Taeyang got married?”

Again, I lift my shoulders up, and utter, “I don’t know. I doubt it though. Knowing her, she’d never want contact with Taeyang. Even when we dated, she never met up with Taeyang. She just liked to talk about him.”

Suddenly, Lara grabs onto my sleeve to remind me, “You’ve got to tell her! You’ve got to tell her that he’s married!”

“Why?” I frown at this little girl.

“Because . . . then you’d have a chance to meet her again, and then be with her once more!” Lara’s eyes are bigger than ever, making her look like a chipmunk.

“And what makes you think I want to be back with her?”

“Duh, you still love her!” she ogles at me as if I’m an idiot. 

Maybe, I am.

“I do?”

Lara grits her teeth and shakes her head. “You’re older than me, and you can’t even tell that you’re in love with her?” she shrieks while tugging at her hair. “You’re making me go crazy!”

“But . . . what makes you think that I still want to be with her?” I inquire. “I’m pretty sure that there are other women—“

“Like my grandpa says, there might be other fish in the sea, but there’s only one that’s the catch!” Lara cuts me off.

“And how do you know that Jikyung is ‘the catch’?”

Lara is laughing at me. Her mouth is wide open and I see her braces clearly. “You told me from the start that she’s the one you’ll always remember!” she proclaims. “If you’ll always remember her, then isn’t she very important to you?”

“Being important doesn’t mean—“

“Doesn’t mean that you’ll be with her, but . . . don’t you want to stop remembering her and just be with her?” Lara suggests. “Carpe diem, my grandma says!”

Seize the day. Was that what I needed to do? 

Good morning. This is your captain speaking. We will be landing in about ten minutes. The weather today is cloudy with a chance of showers. The temperature is . . .

My eyes wander towards the blue skies that I see from my window. So, this is it, I mumble in my head. I’m on my way . . . for what? For Taeyang? No. I shake my head. I’m not here just for him. I already knew from the moment that I booked this ticket that I was here for her too. Anxiety and fear are only making me doubt myself, and there was this plane ride. How much I hate . . . flights.

However, Lara is right. I have to capture this moment. So, here I come, Jikyung, I think to myself. Why? 
Because I have faith in us. I still think we’ll work out fine together, and I don’t want to imagine that. I want it to happen.

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