I find that whenever you expect the unexpected, you end up getting the expected outcome, but whenever you start not expecting anything, you really do get a big punch in the face. Really, you get your worst nightmare ever. Actually, I have a few. It's just this one was just so . . . uncalled for in too many ways.
I keep thinking that at the airport, I'll meet some cute guy. You know how there are tons of strangers that you could meet from your school that's going to our shabby, local airport? Yeah, just so happens that when I arrive, I realize that the guy behind me has always taken the same flight as me for two years. It's creepy how I even know his first and last name thanks to Facebook. He's called Noh Sangwoo. Judging by his wavy hair and guitar, he's the type that's into art. He's actually a friend of a friend of mine. Sano Ninako seems to have lived in the same building as him during their first year of university. It doesn't seem like they're close anymore because Sangwoo doesn't post on her wall nor do they have photos together. Still, I remember him, but I don't confront or greet him.

By boarding time, this tall, pale girl that was sitting across from him calls out to him. I'm pretty sure she knew who he was before, but was timing it so that it was natural. The "oh hey" routine that I know too well . . . Yes, from her, I think that I'm seeing myself approaching Kai. I feel for her. I know exactly how she feels. Speaking of Kai, he has not texted me back. I really expected that to happen. And I think it's funny. It's funny how fate seems to bring Sangwoo and I to meet, if I want to, yet I choose not to pursue this. Instead, I try out Kai. I check out so many guys who are waiting at the lounge with me. There's no one that intrigues me as much as Kai. I'm trying to envision him right now in my head, but I realize that I haven't had the chance to examine him that carefully. Every time we talk, we're walking, and I'm too focused on trying to keep up with him that I don't have much time to maintain eye contact with him. Sucks really. I quite like the hue of his eyes. I'm not very sure if his lips are thin or thick. I better ogle at them the next time.

Now, I'm still scanning the guys around me in the airplane. Again, I’m placed with a middle-aged person, this time a woman. She’s very bohemian and anxious. At least, she smells okay. I have been seated beside nose pickers, stinky, oily men, and noisy babies who cry too much. Yes, I’m not very fond of children who are too loud for their own good. Oh, and I hate being next to people who cough without covering their mouths. Yuck. 

Let me just go to sleep now, I think. I do for the first hour until I decide to watch a few movies. There’s this one called Usagi Drop. It’s actually based on a manga, where a man, Daikichi, finds himself taking care of his grandfather’s love child. His grandfather just so happens to pass away, and no one wants this girl called Rin. I have to admit that the manga is very different from the movie. The movie is touching, while the manga has more hints of romance between the two protagonists. There are two parts in the movie that makes me shed a few tears. One is in the opening, where Rin is at the funeral and for her last words, she asks if he’ll ever wake up again. Daikichi tells her no. She also brings her father’s favourite flowers from the garden and stuffs them into his hands. Then, there’s that other part, where Daikichi asks what she remembers of her father. She starts describing all these little moments that are silly and habitual. I can’t help but be reminded of my grandmother. 

I feel embarrassed as I’m crying because the airplane has not dimmed the lights at all. It’s awful. I’m pretty sure the people close by think I’m retarded. Oh well, I say to myself. It’s okay if they don’t get it. I just can’t burst into tears right now because my makeup will smudge and I’ll look like a horrific zombie. Maybe, I’ll be more like an odd panda. I never really understood how pandas were able to get away with those dark eye patches while humans couldn’t. Pandas can be cute like that, but we can’t? What is this? Oh screw it. Let me just cry it out. I give up and blink a bit. I’ll just wipe away my tears quickly and then visit the washroom to blow my nose. 

That’s how the plane ride ends, and then the unexpected happens at the baggage claim. I give call to my mom who says she’ll meet me there. “Hi, where are you? I’m here already,” I tell her.

“Oh, I’m at the luggage area,” she nonchalantly answers. “Where are you?”

“I’m where you are. I don’t see you.”

“Oh, Haera, guess who I’m with? I’m with Tami’s mother and Bom is here too! Isn’t that such a coincidence? When she saw me, she screamed my name. I couldn’t believe that she still remembered me! Luckily, I wore my nice clothes out today. I was thinking of picking you up with sweats on, but I remembered what Yura told me. You always meet people when you’re at your worst, so—“

“I don’t see you,” I cut her off to repeat.

I’m looking everywhere, and my mother just keeps blabbing. Worst of all, Tami was on the same flight as me. Dong Tami was my best friend from elementary school. After I transferred to another school, Tami and I slowly lost contact. Tami used to be so innocent and sweet, but now she parties hard. I know because I used to have her on Facebook. That was until she deleted me from her friend’s list. Oh, so did Bom. It’s just so annoying to see the two of them here. I can’t believe my luck. I’m wearing clothes that I’m bringing over to Seoul to hide in my closet. I’m too old for this sort of cutesy dress even though my mother says I look cute. Men aren’t going to go for dresses that are puffy, and if I keep wearing really adorable stuff, guys will treat me like a junior high student. I don’t want that anymore!

“Oh, I see you!” my mother exclaims. “Turn around! We’re here!” 

Once I look back, I see my mom waving. She’s standing beside Tami’s mother, and so with much courage, I wheel the cart towards them. 

“Wow, Haera, it has been so long,” Tami’s mother squeaks. “Where are you studying right now?”

“I’m at Yonsei University at Wonju. I’m studying Business,” I answer. “What about Tami?”*

“Tami is at Halla University. She’s studying fashion communications.”*

Fashion communications? Never heard of that. I’m sure my other friends would call it a bird major, which is the same as saying that it’s super easy and pointless. I’d rather not be judgmental here, but Tami probably focuses more on partying than on schoolwork. 

Now, Bom sees me and opens her arms out for a hug. Oh god . . . so fake. Still, I have to put up with this act and hug her back. Really, it’s not as if we were long lost lovers like in The Notebook. We barely know each other. We weren’t even close in elementary school. She even removed me off of her friend list on Facebook. I honestly don’t get why we’re here pretending. Really, we should be strangers, but Mothers always like to think that the children will get along with each other even after all these years. Friendships are supposed to last; most of the time, that’s not true. People change, and as Tami arrives, Bom rushes off to hug Tami. Now, that’s a real hug. They’re shrieking like little girls until Tami sees me.

“Oh . . . hi,” Tami announces in a rather surprised tone. Oh please, I’m the one that should be annoyed about having to see her. I really don’t like reunions of any sort unless I enroll myself in one.

“Hi, how are you?” I try my best to ask. “It has been a while now.”

“Yeah . . . I’m good.”

“That’s good to hear.”

And that’s how our conversation ends, and I’m off to find my luggage. I’m chatting with her mother even more. Somehow, I’m getting along with her mother more than Tami. It’s pretty sad when we used to be so close. If it were ten years ago, Tami and I would be squealing because we saw each other. We didn’t even hug this time.

Oh well, I think. Friends come and ago. Family stays . . . though . . . where is Yura?

“Where’s Yura, Mom?” I end up questioning.

“Oh, Yura is out with her friends. She won’t be back till late.”

“So, Yura actually slept with her boyfriend?” I blurt out.

“Yeah, on Valentine’s Day,” my mother replies really casually. “I even had to buy condoms and lube for them. I even got her birth control pills.”

“Lube? What’s that?”

“Never mind, Haera,” my mother sighs. “I just hope you find a guy. I don’t get why no one wants to date you. It’s not like you’re ugly.”

“Thanks Mom,” I fold my arms and grumble. “That’s really helping.”

“I guess you have to be gentler, more feminine like your sister.”

“Yura just fakes those qualities.”

“That’s not true,” my mother corrects me. “Yura is very gentle towards her boyfriend.”

“Okay, okay, so let’s establish that I probably will not marry, and you know what? I’m okay with that.”

My mother immediately shouts, “I’m not okay with that! You will marry! Sheesh Haera, you will definitely marry! The fortune teller said that—“

“The fortune teller also said that I’d have a boyfriend by now.”

“No, he meant within this year,” my mother continues to argue. “It’s only February.”

“Almost March.”

“There’s still time!”

“And our university is stupid and ends in April.”

“Well, you can’t force love to happen,” my mom suddenly decides to offer her words of wisdom. 

“We’ll see . . . who’s right!” I dare my own mom.

My mom snickers, teasing, “Okay. If you win, then I will accept your boyfriend no matter what and I will treat you guys to lunch.”

“Okay, and if I lose?”

“Then let’s all watch a sad movie together. Your treat.”

“Sounds good,” I say. “I can cry my eyeballs out if I lose and I can celebrate if I win. I don’t see why I shouldn’t date now.”

My mom now reminds me, “Yes, but for this week, you have to study. No going out with friends! Yura already told me about all the work you have.”

That Yura! Wait till I see her. I’m going to rip her cat hair to pieces.

----

Sigh.

I’m supposed to use this week to study, and I try my best to do my research. I’m 80% successful as I’m distracted by the Internet from time to time. Plus, I spent one of my lunches with a high school classmate of mine, Choi Kyuhyun. I hadn’t seen him for at least eight months, and we kind of bonded over the summer during a group outing. Then, over the months, we texted back and forth. Usually, he’d be a pretty active texter. He’d reply rather quickly and initiate conversation. I thought he was okay. I could kind of picture myself dating him. He had an interest mix to his blood anyways: three quarters Korean and a quarter Japanese. Really, his eyes told me he was Japanese but his face felt Korean. I hope that made sense. What really mattered was that he and I seemed to click even though I did feel tired from time to time talking to him. I couldn’t really speak to him about deeper matters because that wasn’t how his brain worked. He looked at everything superficially, and it wasn’t like he didn’t try to reflect more. He just couldn’t.

I tried to be open minded, but I still had a limit. Kyuhyun agreed to meet me at a bus stop close to where I lived, so I could take him to the restaurant that I wanted to visit. Of course, I wasn’t used to bussing in Seoul. I’d usually get rides from my mom or I’d take the subway. I never had to bus until I started living by myself in college. Naturally, I told Kyuhyun the wrong bus stop. However, it wasn’t like this stop was super far away from the one close to my apartment. It was only a block away and the restaurant was around four short blocks from that stop. Plus, I already apologized to Kyuhyun for my silly mistake, but Kyuhyun keeps complaining, “Ugh, this is so far. Do you really know where the restaurant is? I don’t trust you.” 

“I know where it is,” I reassure him. “I’ve been there several times.”

After we walk straight ahead for a while, Kyuhyun continues to groan, “You know, you should have just told me to stop at this bus stop instead of going all the way close to your apartment. That way, I could just meet you at the restaurant.”

Honestly, I feel like throwing an anvil at him. It wasn’t my idea to tell him to meet me in front of my stop. It was my mother’s and Yura’s. The two agreed that Kyuhyun and I could spend quality time walking together to the restaurant. Right, I now thought. Quality time . . .

Surprisingly, I don’t even frown. I just half-lie to him, “Well, I wasn’t sure how to describe where the restaurant was. It’s behind Mister Donut and to the left? You know?”

There Kyuhyun is chuckling at me, and I laugh along with him. You laugh to shrug off awkwardness right? But you can only laugh for so long. No sooner or later, Kyuhyun makes another bothersome statement, “You know, you should have invited Solbi with us!”

Kwon Solbi and I used to be rather close until I admitted that I liked Sunghoon and she ended up telling him without my permission. She said it was to help me, but honestly, I think she liked Sunghoon too at the time. After introducing her to Sunghoon, she always made sure that whenever we hung out, she’d be there too. I didn’t mind at that time, but when Sunghoon started to ignore me after Solbi told him about my feelings for him, I definitely distanced myself away from Solbi. She never apologized to me nor did she even feel ashamed. She even argued with me, saying, “So what? So what if I told him? It’s not like I was lying. Plus, I was only trying to help!”

“That’s what you always say,” I remember telling her. “You always say that you accidentally let something slip or that you only meant to help out, but really, you don’t think before you act. Why? Because you don’t care.”

Actually, I never told her that. I just had those thoughts in my mind. I simply walked away from her without a word. The amazing part is that even till today, she wants to maintain contact with me. Before, I would send a letter to her every year. Now, she finally sent one back to me for Valentine’s Day. It arrived at my old house since I didn’t give her my new address at college. Everything would have been nice if she hadn’t sent a jigsaw puzzle to me. She wrote on the back of each piece, and to make sure that I’d read it, I had to piece together everything. Her message wasn’t very pleasant either. She said that no matter how far we are, we would be friends. She’d be there for me. 

Right. When was she when my grandmother passed away? I tried talking to her, but she didn’t seem to care. Why had she not included me in her phone plan, so we could text freely? She even told me not to text her because she couldn’t reply to me, yet she could reply to Kyuhyun, who lived in Seoul like her. Even when I told her that Sunghoon was ignoring me now, she just said, “Oh, I guess he doesn’t like you then. I was wrong for thinking that he liked you. So, are you two still going to be friends?”

Now, in this stupid letter, she even dared to write “PS. I don’t think Skype works for me anymore.” What the hell? We used to use Skype to communicate with each other, but I had become less responsive to her. So, this is what she comes up with? Honestly, I think it’s rather selfish and pitiful. I always had to accommodate to her needs. 

“Haera? Are you going to see Solbi then?” Kyuhyun presses on.

I kind of want to ask if she sent him here to be a spy on me and to update her about everything he’ll learn about me. I really knew I should have bailed this meeting. He’s making me irritated with his stupid ways. Still, I stay calm and move on by answering in a steady tone, “We’ll see. I’m not really sure about my schedule now.”

“Oh I see. What are your plans for the week then?”

“Mostly studying. I have a lot of work to do,” I regurgitate what I’ve said over text messages with him. I guess he was never absorbing the contents of my words. 

“I think I’ve told you that I’ll be interviewing merchants and bikers for this geography research paper of mine.”

“Oh really? I don’t think you have.”

Lies. I’ve told him this, at least, two times. He could have just admitted that he forgot about it and I’d be fine. This is even worse. Why is he so annoying this time?

Throughout dinner, we sort of just talk about what our friends are doing nowadays. I don’t know why, but I find it weird for guys to be gossiping about other guy friends. Somehow, our conversations always lead to talking about friends. Now, I don’t criticize them or what not, but I just don’t really enjoy this. I kind of regret meeting him individually, but at least after this encounter, I know that we wouldn’t work out.

He’s really a pushover. Even when the waitress had his order wrong, he doesn’t speak up about it. He just gives in. Even when his chopsticks drop to the ground, he relies on me to ask for a new pair for him. What irks me much more is when the bill comes, he claims that the cheaper meal was his when in fact, that meal is mine. It says chicken leg, which I ordered. His is spicy chicken. There were red peppers in his dish. There were none in mine. So pathetic, I think.

You’d think that it wouldn’t be that pathetic later on, but it carries on. It’s raining lightly, so he shares his umbrella with me. It’s nice that he’s doing that, and by now, you’d think I would feel that it’s romantic. Nope, not when my head keeps getting jabbed by the sharp points of the umbrella. He is taller than me. He obviously needs to learn how to hold an umbrella. Moreover, he’s walking pretty quickly, not as fast as Mr. Ninja but getting close to there. I think that it’s sweet that Kyuhyun is going the long way to his bus stop so he can kind of send me home. However, I can’t seem to enjoy being with him.

It’s just not right.

Sigh, I think. There goes another person from my list of possible candidates. I try to cheer myself up by thinking that at least I know what style I don’t like. I’m just wondering when I’ll know he’s right for sure. I don’t know Kai well enough to say more, and we’ve never hung out. So, what if there’s no spark? What if . . . he never felt a spark with me from the start?

How about I just try to befriend him? Maybe, I’ll get thrown into the friend zone, but at least that way I’d know what he’s like. Perhaps my dear mother is right. You can’t force love to happen. Still, I’m an impatient girl. I want results. I want something to happen in my life. Goddamn it!

I kick a pebble on the ground and end up falling on my bottom. I think a little girl is snickering at me from across the street. I curse in my head, thinking that in a few years, she’ll know how I’m feeling. Ha! Okay, I’m being a bit immature here, but who cares? I’m frustrated that nothing is working when I’m trying so hard. If I could order my own boyfriend, I would. Luckily, I’m going back soon, and the next time I see Kai, I’ll have a new haircut and tactic.

What’s the new deal?

Just keep going but treat him as a friend so I don’t scare him off.

*Just a note: The universities listed probably do not have those programs. I just made them up for the sake of the story.
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