As we did last week, whitecarrot and I will share our thoughts on these episodes in a separate post. Episode 14’s recap will be up soon! Thanks for all your patience and for sharing this special journey with us.
Episode 13: “Next Time… No, Now”
2005, Seoul: Yoon-jae is on the phone with Joon-hee, making his excuses for their high school reunion. Turns out Yoon-jae has never once met up with his high school class since graduating, and though he claims it’s because he doesn’t want to awkwardly refuse personal favors, one wonders if a *cough cough* girl named Sung Shi-won is the real reason. A senior colleague (from his alma mater) recognizes him and introduces his friend, a fellow lawyer (in the private sphere). The friend apparently knows everything about Yoon-jae: his older brother is Yoon Tae-woong, the man who donated all of his shares of his uber successful business and is now teaching at Yoon-jae’s alma mater. They exchange pleasantries and part, Yoon-jae politely – but firmly – declining the offer to dine with them. Can’t get too cozy with lawyers if you’re a judge.
He heads into the parking garage and voila, the highly successful and esteemed Judge Yoon-jae drives his brother’s old Onata (hahahahaa a rip off of the Hyundai Sonata, I presume). The driver’s side door doesn’t even open, so Yoon-jae crawls in from the passenger side. After successfully taming the beast of a car – and I don’t mean that in a good way – he catches us up on the past 6 years:
“My brother did not give me a single share of his stocks. I don’t even know what they look like. All he gave me were the officetel (the Konglish word that mashes up “office” and “hotel”) I live in and this old clunker. After creating his enormously successful ‘I Like School’ six years ago, he created another masterpiece last year.”
Cut to Tae-woong creating a “mini homepage” called Cyland, a spoof on the popular Cyworld (it was the big thing in Korea before MySpace or Facebook). Ha! Yoon-jae continues his narration:
“With Cyland’s explosive popularity, my brother became a wealthy stockholder. But a new challenge called to him, and he plunged into it. Early this year, he donated all of his wealth to society and became a professor at my alma mater. Hyung wasn’t the only one who took up a new challenge. There were a lot of changes for us during the past six years. Hak-chan, who was supposed to return after a year abroad, recently started studying film (in Hawaii). Sung-jae is in the countryside employed as a public service worker. Yoo-jung belatedly came up to Seoul and found her talent as a Pre-school teacher. My roomie Joon-hee, who used to tremble at the sight of blood, is now a first-year intern (physician). And the one remaining person: Shi-won. I don’t know how or what Sung Shi-won is doing. For the past 6 years I avoided her, and I was neither curious nor even want to know how she is doing… until I met her by chance today.”
Aaack! The two awkwardly sit across from each other and ask how the other has been. “Fine,” is the proffered answer by both. This awkwardness is killing meee! Well, Shi-won seems to be her usual self, even a bit accusatory, but Yoon-jae is trying so hard to be blasé about it all. When prompted, Yoon-jae answers that he just stopped by the café en route to running some errands. She comments that he’s become quite adept at using the Seoul ‘speech’ (the standard accent) and he shrugs it off, asking why she doesn’t use it herself. “I was always a bit loyal,” she smirks. Hahaaha – it’s a pretty accurate reflection of how people from outside Seoul often feel about switching to the standard accent.
Then Shi-won drops the bomb: “Do you have a girlfriend?” Eeeeeeek! His face changes… and he answers… “Yeah, I do.” AAAAACCCKKKKK NOOOOOO!! “She’s a colleague from my class. We just started dating,” he says. Shi-won just nods… and then picks up the phone: “Joon-hee, can you talk? Does Yoon-jae have a girlfriend?” The look on Yoon-jae’s face is just PRICELESS. Oh golly gollies, Yoon-jae, you’re just adorbs. As soon as she hangs up, he stutters, “Friend, just friend. You know, a girl who’s a friend. That’s what I meant by girlfriend.” Heee! Shi-won asks, “Friend? Friend?!” At his assent, she answers, “Bullshit.” Wow, I was not expecting that mirroring of his comment 6 years ago.
As his face falls, he narrates
Because of you, I didn’t go to high school reunions. For Parents’ Day I always went a day early. On Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I made up all kinds of ridiculous excuses these past six years. How can you end all this in a single blow? Damn you, Sung Shi-won. Everything returned to the ’96 High School Entrance Day, the ’97 water faucets where we shared a kiss, to the ’98 winter when I cried out like a crazy idiot. To be precise, I was reset to the Yoon Yoon-jae of the ’90s.
Yoon-jae’s mind is still boggled by what just went down, unable to believe that Shi-won would think of calling Joon-hee. “Can you tell when I lie? Is my face that transparent?! I’m a person who lived off of his poker face!” Ha! Boy, you ain’t got a single defense when it comes to Shi-won. Yoon-jae continues to rant, yelling at Joon-hee for not covering for him. Joon-hee’s response: “How can you be a judge with that brain?” Hahahaa. He explains that he told Shi-won that Yoon-jae did have a girlfriend he’d recently started dating. Oh my gawsh, this is just too good for words.
Our clever lady is at home, still laughing at the memory of Yoon-jae. But she gets a call and her face falls… Joon-hee, dressed in mourning black, tells Yoon-jae to get dressed – Yoo-jung’s father has passed away. Heartbreak.
Sung-jae is at the funeral home, cleaning up after the guests and ushering others home. He takes a tray to Yoo-jung, and the rest of the crew arrive. Shi-won silently consoles her best friend and the talkative Sung-jae makes his usual gaffe, mentioning Hak-chan’s absence. Hak-chan and Yoo-jung apparently broke up when he left. Sung-jae says he texted him about Yoo-jung’s father, though he’s not sure if the message will reach Hawaii. Oh, Sung-jae, you just need to be quiet sometimes.
Sung-jae makes a remark about Yoon-jae’s Seoul accent, and Yoo-jung asks why Shi-won didn’t even attempt to leran it. Cue flashback to Shi-won’s first night out with her new college friends: every single girl is from a city in Kyeong-sang-do (the province where our characters are from). No surprise she didn’t pick up the Seoul accent!
Yoo-jung tearfully remembers all the times she told her parents she was too busy to talk. She had always said, “Later, another time,” but that ‘next time’ had never come. She urges her friends to be good to their parents while they can. *tears*
Shi-won, Yoon-jae, and Joon-hee wait outside for their rides home, still saddened by Yoo-jung’s loss. Yoon-jae, though, says he’s envious of Yoo-jung for at least having memories with her dad – even the bad ones. He has nothing at all. All he has are memories of wanting to see his parents. Sad panda. Sung-jae offers Joon-hee a lift home, and the sweet Joon-hee tells Shi-won and Yoon-jae to figure things out between themselves. Aww, he’s gonna be their fairy godmother.
Yoon-jae takes out a cigarette, which Shi-won is having none of. She pockets the pack and they tussle over it, until Mama and Papa Sung arrive to pick them up. Shi-won is surprised to see the new car, and we learn that Yoon-jae bought it for the parents with his first paycheck. Awwww. The kids(?) pile into the car and Shi-won hands her jacket to her dad, who’s slightly tipsy after celebrating a win with his baseball team. Sweet Papa Sung imparts worldly wisdom to Yoon-jae, and our cutie smart-aleck slips back into his Kyeong-sang-do accent. So cute! A phone rings, then, and Shi-won asks her dad to hand her her phone. What he brings out of her jacket pocket, though, is Yoon-jae’s confiscated pack of cigarettes. Hahahahaa. Papa Sung goes berserk and Yoon-jae finally explains that the cigs are his, but Papa Sung thinks Yoon-jae’s just taking the fall for Shi-won and grabs both their heads, wildly yanking to and fro. All the way home. I love it.
Sung-jae is back at work and runs errand after errand. An old grandmother walks into the town hall at the end of Sung-jae’s long day, asking him to change her light bulb. He’s wiped out and tells her to come back tomorrow.
Back in Seoul, Tae-woong arrives at Shi-won’s apartment unannounced and she makes him a late-night ramen. Midnight ramen is always the best. A female colleague gave Tae-woong a cake, and Shi-won thinks the lady’s interested in him. When Shi-won asks whether the colleague is pretty, Tae-woong says Shi-won is prettier. Shi-won yells at him for the slick line, which apparently is pretty common these days from Tae-woong. He drops another one, saying it’s his dream to “take responsibility” for Shi-won, aka marry her. He gets a beating for that one, and he says this is his only way of showing her that he still likes her. Say what?! He continues, “If you don’t like the slick/greasy act, can I properly court you now?” Aaaaack! She tells him, “Oppa, you’re like a Daddy Long-Legs to me – someone who is always beside me, reassuring me with his presence. A good person. Whether six years ago or now, it’s the same.”
Flashback to 1999 when Tae-woong gave Shi-won the key and ring for her birthday. We finally hear what it was she had to tell him: “Oppa, I like you a lot. But my heart doesn’t thump or flutter. I’m still young so I don’t really know what it feels like to like someone, but my heart is thumping for someone else right now. I’m sorry, Oppa.” Aaaaaaccckkkk! He tells her he’s not expecting anything right now. He’ll patiently wait for her until she likes him. He’ll be her Daddy Long-Legs as he stays beside her, just like he does now.
Back to 2005: Tae-woong asks if he’s still her Daddy Long-Legs. And when she doesn’t answer, he asks, “Do you know how Daddy Long-Legs (a 1912 American novel) ends?” *cue pinkblossom searching “Daddy Long-Legs ending” on Korean search engine Naver. It’s defs no bueno.
The next day, the old grandmother comes again to the town hall to ask Sung-jae to fix her broken light bulb. He’s off to Seoul, though, and he tells the grandmother to return again tomorrow. Sad panda.
Shi-won is at work and becomes lost in thought. The night she and Yoon-jae came home from the funeral home, she had sat down with him and shared a couple beers. She asked if he was okay after all the hair-pulling, and he responded in the Seoul accent. She pressed his nose like a button, making a beep sound, demanding their normal accent. So cute! He told her that he was a bit surprised, but grateful for the roughhousing. “When you’re an orphan, everyone is nice to you,” he said. “I know they’re thinking of me and being considerate, but I don’t like it. … Other times, I never pity myself, but at times like that, I realize how pitiful I am. I’m a poor dude with just one brother on this earth – and I grow sad at the thought. But the reason I only had such thoughts a couple times in my life, were your parents. Your parents are the only people who call me this and that and curse me out. I am most grateful for that.”
Shi-won light-heartedly says that he always makes her a bad daughter, that he’s of no help. “That’s why I disappeared for you,” he says. Oof. As they sit quietly together, she asks, “What about now? Do you… do you still like me?” Eeeee! His answer: “Next time. Let’s talk next time.” Noooo!
Early the next morning, the grandma is waiting for Sung-jae at the town hall again. He gladly follows her to her home… which is at the very end of the bus line. Ha! It’s an absolutely gorgeous ride, though. They finally get off the bus and make a looong trek (through beautiful scenery!) to her home.
Shi-won and Yoon-jae wait for Joon-hee at the hospital, but he apologetically makes his excuses. They awkwardly agree to go to Yoo-jung minus Joon-hee. Down in the parking garage, Shi-won sees Yoon-jae’s clunker and is understandably horrified. Girlfriend, I would cry, too. She cannot understand why Yoon-jae can’t buy himself a nice car, and he says Tae-woong absolutely refuses to sell the Onata: it holds a lot of good memories with Shi-won. Aaawkwaaard.
Night falls, and Sung-jae is still walking to get to the grandma’s home. He realizes just how far the grandma had traveled each day to the town hall, and we learn she lives alone. She was widowed over ten years ago and has an only daughter who doesn’t visit her. The grandma brokenly tells Sung-jae she feels like she’s a burden to her daughter, even to him. *wail* Sung-jae may be a goof, but he’s got a heart of gold.
Joon-hee apparently had the night off but he deliberately stayed behind in Seoul (to play matchmaker?). A senior colleague is looking for a roommate and Joon-hee expresses interest…
Yoon-jae and Joon-hee continue their drive to Busan. Shi-won asks him to answer her question now. “Do you still like me?” He instead asks why she’s asking such a question. “Do you like me?” he asks. And she unhesitatingly answers in the affirmative. Aaaaaaccckkk!!!!! Shi-won: “Not as a friend, but as a man. I like you.” Yoon-jae screech to a stop, unable to process it all. She demands his answer again, and he narrates:
I had forgotten. I had forgotten that if she likes something now, she expresses all her passion and feelings immediately, without restraint. I should have just told her like this that I like her. I should have told her, “I like you right now. Be my woman.” I should have just told her immediately. But both long ago and even now, I was only hesitating.
There is no “later” more urgent than “now,” for “later” may never come. For us to ignore the present before us, in favor of the next opportunity which may never come… Life is too short for that.
Yoo-jung and the crew board the bus serving as a hearse, and just as they are about to pull away, someone gets on: Hak-chan. Yoo-jung dissolves into tears, and Yoon-jae continues his narration: “If you give up now because of laziness or a lack of confidence, there is no hope at the next opportunity, either. If you love someone right now, the most opportune time to say you love them is now. You need to approach the person before it’s too late. You have to confess right now. You don’t know what will happen later. The next opportunity may never come.”
Sometime later, Shi-won gets a package: the novel Daddy Long-Legs. She reaches the end of the tale and becomes lost deep in thought…
2005, Seoul: Hottie Yoon-jae is hard at work when he gets a text from Shi-won, asking him to eat dinner together later. “Don’t play hard to get. And save this number,” she writes. Hee! Stupid Yoon-jae texts back that he’s busy and can’t go out. But he can’t get anything done in the office as he recalls Shi-won’s confession.
Tae-woong is at the hospital, prepping for a large intestine polypectomy. He asks Joon-hee not to tell Yoon-jae, who’s sure to make a fuss, but Joon-hee is reluctant, stating that Tae-woong needs a guardian. Enter Shi-won, who is nursing a summer cold. She’s worried she’ll get Tae-woong sick, too, and he says, “You can take responsibility for me for the rest of my life!” She laughs it off and drags Joon-hee out with her. But before they can make it out the door, they run into Joon-hee’s senior colleague, who asks Joon-hee when he’s moving his stuff in. How is it that Shi-won always knows everything first?
The two friends head over to the stairwell, and Joon-hee shows Shi-won The Chair of Truth. It’s a drawing of a chair, painted onto the steps so that it looks like you’re sitting in it when you sit on the stairs. Shi-won figures the chair was drawn for people like her mom, who had cried buckets in the hospital stairwell when Papa Sung was fighting cancer. There’s a little sign on the wall, next to the chair, which says “Caution” with an up-pointing arrow. Joon-hee explains that people oftentimes move up a level when someone else comes into the stairwell. So if you want a good cry without an audience, you’d better check the floor above you. Such clever ideas!
“Strangely enough,” Joon-hee says, “you become very true to your own emotions when you sit in that chair.” Shi-won says she’ll try it out, then hesitantly calls Joon-hee’s name. “I know,” he says, “I know that you like Yoon-jae, too. I probably knew before you did. Yoon-jae still likes you a lot, too.”
Shi-won: “You like Yoon-jae, too.”
Joon-hee: “It’s time I broke free from my first love. Plus living with him dispelled a lot of the fantasies.” Shi-won smiles at the joke and tells him Yoon-jae will be sad to see him go. She apologizes to him for only thinking of herself when he must have been having a hard time. He says there’s no need to apologize. “It’s more than enough to just be friends with you and Yoon-jae.”
Joon-hee gets a page and the two step out of the stairwell… unknowingly leaving behind a shell-shocked Yoon-jae. Ay carumba. He is in disbelief over all that he just heard, and he numbly sits there, thinking back on all the times spent with Joon-hee over the years. He finally goes out into the lobby and tries to nonchalantly greet Joon-hee…
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