M-Girl: This weekend.
Fighter: Shall we meet?
I’m standing in the evening chill of Insadong, waiting for him. I’d expected him to be late, since I was the one on vacation and he had a schedule to follow whilst in Seoul. As I waited, I wondered if I would be able to recognize him when he stood in front of me. Photos online can be very deceiving. Even my own!
I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“M-Girl?” he said in his Korean accented English.
“Ne,” I smiled.
JACKPOT! He looked exactly like his photos. Then again, he was a public figure, no matter how minor. You’d hardly expect him to look shabby. He was wearing jeans and a zipped up sports jacket. He had on a cap that was pulled down a little to shield his face.
“Do people recognize you a lot?” I asked immediately, not even bothering to conceal whatever curiosity I had of him.
“Not always,” he smiled.
He reminded me of SUJU’s Choi Si Won, with the mature charisma of the actor, Uhm Tae Woong. When he smiled, you could feel warmth with a hint of cheekiness coming from him. I was definitely smitten.
“I was thinking that your cap was a disguise,” I laughed.
“Ani, it’s just the trend to wear it this way,” he laughed. “Where would you like to go?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “you’re the native.”
By now I was nervously touching my hair, clutching my bag, and just shifting my weight from one foot to the other as we stood there and continued our conversation.
“I’m not from Seoul either,” he replied, “but I do know a nice place.”
We ended up at a Hanok that served traditional Korean side dishes and makgeolli. The Hanok, a traditional Korean house, was situated is a quieter part of Insadong. It was dimly lit and the seating layout offered more privacy for those who want to have a quiet conversation without the hustle and bustle of the main areas of Insadong. You could even say it was a little romantic.
“Konbae!” he said as he held up his bowl of makgeolli, proposing a toast.
“If this weren’t a cultural experience, I’d think you were trying to get me drunk,” I smiled as I held my bowl up. “Konbae!” I replied, and we clinked our bowls together.
“Mashisseoyo?” he asked me.
“I’m not a drinker, but this tastes really nice,” I replied.
“Try the dishes,” he said, pushing some of the plates towards me.
I went straight for the pajeon and jabchae, putting one immediately after the other into my mouth.
“Have you had these before?”
“Pajeon, jabchae? Sure!” I replied.
“You like it?” he asked.
“Jabchae is my favourite,” I said, “and of course samgyupsal,” I smiled sheepishly.
“Waah… you don’t look like a girl who eats samgyupsal,” he laughed.
“You’re slim,” he said.
“Oh… I hide my fats well,” I replied. “In fact I think if you cut off my belly fats, you could make a week’s worth of samgyupsal for 1 person,” I giggled.
He burst out laughing, and my giggles escalated to uncontrollable laughter. We struggled to stop laughing, ending up with tears streaming down our faces.
“Is that so funny?” I asked him between my gasps of laughter.
“Ne,” he replied, gasping as he did, “I have never seen a girl poke fun of herself like that before.”
“Maybe not Korean girls,” I smiled.
Our dinner continued with more conversation and laughter. I told him about my life working in Singapore, and he told me about his career. It was pretty dark when we were done, and by then I was a little buzzed from the makgeolli, even though I had kept to only 2 bowls.
“Have you seen my videos?” he asked me.
“The ones you uploaded recently?” I replied.
“Ne,” he said.
I burst into a giggle, fueled by the makgeolli and at the memory of a particular video I saw on his homepage.
“Wae?” he said. “Was it so funny?”
“Mianhae,” I replied, still bent over, giggling. “I think I’m a bit drunk.”
“You foreign girls really can’t drink,” he laughed. “Need help?”
He reached out his hands and helped me straighten up. Then he wrapped my right hand around the back of his waist.
“Try to stay up now,” he smiled, and put his arm around my shoulder.
I had stopped giggling then as I was totally surprised by the gesture. I haven’t been this close to hugging a guy for awhile now, and because I’d just met him, I was a bit thrown off by it.
“Do you always do this?” I asked.
“What?” he replied.
“Skinship on first meeting,” I said.
“No,” he said, and he started walking, and I had to move along with him since we were in that position.
“Are you taking advantage of me because I’m a foreigner?” I said; that was definitely the makgeolli speaking. I had never in my life called a guy out like that before.
“No,” he replied simply, and we just continued walking.
We got to the subway station, took a train together back to my guesthouse, and he walked me to my doorstep. All the way home, except when going through the gates of the subway station, we remained stuck to each other.
Out of all the guys I have ever had the pleasure, or displeasure, of being in such close proximity, I’ve never met a guy with such solid muscles, and yet, it didn’t feel like I was hugging a rock at all. He felt nice and warm, especially on that chilly night, and he smelled nice.
We stood in silence a few meters away from the front door of my guesthouse. We had since ‘parted’ and were standing face to face.
“So I’ll see you again if you’re still around next week?” he said.
“Sure,” I replied. “I’ll still be here. Give me a buzz,” I replied.
“Cool,” he smiled.
“Bye,” I said, and I sort of held out my hand for a handshake, which felt a bit stupid and out of place considering we were practically glued to each other just moments ago.
He took my hand, and very slowly, pulled me towards him, into his arms. It was definitely the makgeolli still controlling me, since I did nothing and followed his lead.
“Thanks for coming,” he said as he hugged me.
I closed my eyes for a moment. It was really just a few seconds, but it felt like we’d stood there for an hour in each other’s arms. I leaned against his body, wanting to absorb his heat and to calm my heart that’s beating out of control.
Finally, he took a step back. I looked up, and he looked down at me at the same time, and he kissed me.
Thank you, makgeolli!