Yeolbyeong… yeolbyeong cheoreom… nan yeolbyeongimnida… Yes… I’m insane… I carried her on my back and trudged through the snow as fast as I could. I was wearing nothing but my jeans and t-shirt. The rest of my clothing I had wrapped around her. I was insane… I shouldn’t have brought her here.
Hang on… Hang on, Jia Yoong…
“Oppa! Look at the snow,” she said as she twirled around.
We were on a skiing holiday, a holiday she’d been asking for a long, long time. I’ve refused for so long, but realized that if I didn’t bring her here now, I’d regret not fulfilling one of her last wishes.
“Put your hood on,” I said as I reached forward and caught her to pull her hood over her head. “Your hair will get wet and you’ll catch a cold.”
“No I won’t,” she smiled but tied on her hood obediently anyway. “Let’s go,” she said, and we skied on.
I made my decision to fulfill all her desires since last week.
“She only has 3 months to live,” the doctor said.
“Isn’t there anything you can do?” I asked him. “Surgery? Treatment overseas?”
“Nothing. Her illness had long progressed to the critical stage. It was already too late the day we discovered her condition.”
The doctor said 3 months… so why is this happening now.
“Oppa…” she murmured weakly. “Just leave me here.”
“Museun soriya?” I said as I continued walking.
“I wanna get off,” she said. “Put me down.”
“No,” I said.
“Park Yoo Chun. Put me down,” she repeated, this time her tone was firmer than before.
When I didn’t reply, she started struggling.
“Hajima…” I said as I tried to keep her on my back.
“I wanna get off,” she said, and I could hear desperation in her voice.
I stopped walking and let her down. I turned around and faced her as I reached my hands out to steady her. She could barely stand straight and she’s asking me to leave her here.
“What’s wrong, Jia Yoong? Are you in pain?”
“Ne… I’m gonna die oppa. Just leave me here. Put on your clothes. I don’t want you to die of cold because of me,” she said as she tried to take off the clothes I’d wrapped around her.
“Hajima, Jia Yoong,” I said as I took her hands in mine and held them; they were ice cold. “Stop it… please…” my voice quivered.
“I’m gonna die…” she exclaimed as tears started streaming down her cheeks. “Just leave me here to die.”
“No…” I said and I hugged her as tears started rolling down my face as well. “You’re not going to die. Not today. I won’t let you.”
“I’m not worth your time, oppa,” she sobbed. “Just leave me and get on with your life. I’ll be gone before you know it.”
“Do you think you mean that little to me? That I can just turn around and forget you?”
“In this circumstance, that is what you need to do. I don’t want to see you suffer because of me. I don’t want to see you waste your life pining for me. I want you to forget me,” she said.
I pulled back and stared at her wordlessly. The snow continued to fall and some drifted down to rest on her eyelashes. She always looked like an innocent angel to me, but why did this angel have to torture me now. I turned around and bent down.
“T’a,” I said.
“Get on,” I repeated myself. “I don’t want another word from you. The sooner we get out of here the better. We’re another half an hour’s walk away from the lodge. As soon as we get there, we’d be fine.”
“Oppa…” she said pleadingly.
“I brought you out here for a holiday. I didn’t bring you here to watch you die. Let’s go.”
She pursed her lips to stop herself from saying another word, then she climbed onto my back.
Carrying her on my back reminded me of how we met, for the day we met, was the day I first carried her the same way. I’d found Jia Yoong on the sidewalk near my school, she was sitting on the ground alone, looking forlorn.
“Chogiyo,” I said. “Kwaenchanhaseyo?” I asked as I peered down at her.
“I twisted my ankle,” she said as she looked up at me. “I can’t get up.”
I’d noticed her around school before. She was about 3 years my junior.
“Here… let me help you,” I said as I reached out my arm.
She held on to it and I tried to pull her up. Just as she was almost standing, she yelped in pain, and I quickly allowed her to go to back into sitting position on the ground.
“I don’t think I can stand,” she said. “Ottoke?”
I stood there for a moment and pondered, then decided that it was the only way.
“Get on my back,” I said as I squatted next to her.
“What? Are you sure?” she said.
“Not really…” I said with a serious face, and her face actually fell. “Of course I am,” I laughed. “Get on before I change my mind.”
I carried her all the way to a nearby clinic where the doctor tended to her sprain.
“Kallke,” I told her as soon as I’d helped her get registered at the counter and I turned to leave.
“Chogiyo…” she said. “Oppa.”
“Ne?” I said as I turned back to face her.
“Can you stay for a bit? I’m afraid I can’t make it to the bus stop on my own after this.”
Since I didn’t really have anything to do, and she asked so nicely, I decided to accompany her, so I sat down, and we started chatting.
Time had really flown. Jia Yoong had just graduated from high school and I was in my third year at the university. I was looking forward to spend sometime with her as she had just completed her entrance exams, and now she might not even live to finish her first year of university.
Yoo Chun oppa had always been my idol. I knew who he was the first day he carried me on his back. All the girls in school knew who he was. Park Yoo Chun was every girl’s dream boyfriend. He was nice, friendly, sensitive, romantic and still manly, with the looks and figure to go with it. His voice was famed for being deep, melodic and sexy and most of girls melted whenever he spoke.
When I started dating Yoo Chun oppa, he was a senior, already graduating and I was in my first year of high school. In the beginning, I got lots of jealous stares and names called to my face, but by the 2nd year, when Yoo Chun oppa had already gone to university, the hate sort of died down, and we were left to continue our relationship in peace.
Little by little, Yoo Chun oppa had less and less time for me because he was so busy with his assignments and attending classes. There were times I didn’t see him for weeks but I never complained. Whenever we managed to meet, I would be sure I was smiling because I didn’t want to add to his stress.
I’d known I was ill for sometimes, but I didn’t see a doctor because I didn’t want Yoo Chun oppa to find out about it. I was hiding it so well until I fainted after my last paper for the university entrance exams. I had cancer, and it was the last stage, the most critical. Nothing could save me now.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he said, his voice shaking, after the doctor had told us there was nothing we could do.
“I didn’t want you to worry, and I didn’t have the money for the treatment anyway,” I said.
“I have the money,” he said angrily. “Why didn’t you just come to me?”
“I’m sorry,” I cried. “Mianhae…”
“Pabo!” he shouted at me, and he hugged me. “Why are you apologizing? You’re the one who’s dying now. I should’ve taken better care of you.”
“I’m not your responsibility, oppa. Don’t feel bad,” I said as a single tear rolled down my cheek.
“Of course you’re my responsibility,” he said. “I love you… you’re my girl. That makes you my responsibility,” he added, and he kissed me.
Even when I sensed that I was really ill, I knew I couldn’t tell him, because that would be his reaction. He would feel that it was his responsibility to care for me, and with an illness like mine, it would dominate his life and possibly affect his future. I don’t want him to lose his future when mine is already unsalvageable.
I lay my head on his back now, and I hugged him tightly, willing my body to keep his warm as he tried to deliver us from the cold. He’d been so stubborn when I told him that I wanted to be left out here, in the woods, in the snow. I would rather freeze to death than die of the pain caused by my illness, but he wouldn’t have it.
“You have 3 more months,” he said. “I want to make every single day so memorable that you would remember them even in your next life.”
I didn’t want to disappoint him, and for all the love he’d given me, if staying alive until the day I’m meant to die would make him happy, I would do it… no matter how great the pain.
We finally reached the lodge. Good thing I’d left the fire burning. I could feel myself melting like an ice cube as soon as I walked into the living room. I laid Jia Yoong down gently on the couch and turned to look at her. She was pale, and looked like her blood had been drained out of her.
“Jia Yoong, kwaench’ana?” I asked her as I touched her face.
“I feel hot,” she said, and that’s when I realized she was still wearing like 6 layers of clothes.
I quickly took off the jackets I’ve wrapped around her, and finally took off her own jackets until she was wearing just her t-shirt and a jumper.
“Oppa,” she murmured.
“Ne,” I said as I sat beside her and pulled her close so that she could lay her head on my lap and I pulled her legs onto the couch and started arranging the blanket to cover them.
“I feel so tired,” she said; her eyes kept fluttering as she struggled to keep them open.
“Take a nap then,” I said as I combed her hair back gently with my fingers, and tucked the stray strands behind her ears.
I’ve always loved her long hair. She had smooth, long and black hair, and I’d made her promise never to dye it. It made her look pure and innocent, the kind of beauty she was meant to be. I watched her close her eyes and fall asleep, her chest heaving from her gentle breathing. What am I going to do when she leaves for good? I’ve not forgiven myself for neglecting her. I should’ve spent more time with her, but I got so caught up with my university life.
Mianhae, Jia Yoong. It’s all oppa’s fault. I should’ve taken care of you, the way you deserved to be taken care of.
I decided to take a shower while she slept. I stood under the shower for a long time, trying to numb whatever I was feeling inside with the strong jets of hot water, but I gave up after awhile, since it looked like it had no intent on going away. I put on fresh clothes and went to the kitchen to make Jia Yoong and me a hot drink each. After I’d set the cups on the coffee table by the couch, I sat beside her and shook her gently.
“Jia Yoong,” I called out softly, she didn’t stir. “Jia Yoong,” I called out again, and I leant down to kiss her.
That’s when I realized, she wasn’t breathing. I felt my brain threatening to shut down.
“Jia Yoong,” I called out louder this time. “Wake up!”
I tried to check for her pulse; there was none. I lay my head on her chest to listen to her heartbeat; it wasn’t beating. I dug through her bag on the table to get her little mirror out and I put it near the nostrils; no condensation. This can’t be happening; the doctor said she had 3 months. He lied!
The ambulance came within 20 minutes of my phone call. Twenty of the longest minutes of my life. The paramedics came in and started checking Jia Yoong.
“I’m sorry, but she’s dead,” the paramedic informed me a few minutes later.
“Dead?” I echoed his words. “But the doctor said she had 3 more months.”
“Was she ill?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I said. “Cancer… the final stage.”
“Then it’s expected. I’m very sorry, but her organs must’ve failed.”
“But she was alright this morning,” I said.
“She must’ve been holding in the pain,” he said. “Brave girl.”
Now that he said it, I remembered how pale she’d been for the past few days. She was probably in pain, but didn’t say a word. Jia Yoong, how could you do this to me?
“Oppa…” she’d said yesterday while we were taking a walk in the woods. “I want to be buried here.”
“Yah… can we not talk about that now?”
“Chintcha…” she said. “I’m going to die anyway, so can you promise me you’ll bury me here?”
We’d stopped walking and she was clasping my hand, looking at me pleadingly. I couldn’t say no.
“Araso…” I said.
“Yaksok?” she said as she held out her pinkie.
“Yaksok,” I said, as I hooked her pinkie with mine.
It's Jia Yoong’s funeral today, and all our friends and family were here in the woods, where she’d wanted to be buried, to say goodbye. Before the priest read the prayers, I read a poem that Jia Yoong had once written. It was very meaningful to me, and I felt that it would be too, for all who was present.
Out of all whom I love in this world,
I love you most
For out of all
whom I love in this world,
You know me best
But without all whom I love
in this world
You and I would still be less than complete
For it’s their
blessings for us
That also give our love meaning.
Jia Yoong… out of all whom I love in this world, you are the one who taught me the most. You taught me to be crazy and seize the moments in life, you taught me fear and that there was none that cannot be overcome, you taught me love and how it could enrich my life, most of all you taught me more about life and how beautiful and precious it was, despite its fleetingness. Jia Yoong… out of all whom I love in this world, you are the one I can never forget.