Chapter 2: Eyes That Tell A Million Stories

Do you ever have those moments when you are so involved in something, be it a thing you do, a book you read, a movie you watch, or even a drama you enjoy, and it feels like an out-of-body experience?  Does it ever cross your mind how deeply spiritual this experience becomes?  Do you ever wonder if during that moment you transcended from your physical environment to speak with your soul?

Yung In shuts off the shower, but he stands in the stall many moments more.  The humidity created by the hot water from his shower and the coldness of the room makes him sweat over his refreshed body.  And the length he stood there was enough to air-dry him all over. But he gives nary a care. After all, there’s a cure for pneumonia.

Staring at the shower knob in front of him, he let his thoughts rule.  “I don’t even remember where I remember this idea of lifetimes from.  It didn’t look like I dreamed last night.  Or if I did, I don’t think I remember the details of it”  He shakes his head.  Frustrated, he steps out of the stall and grabs for the towel hanging on the rack.  “Aish, I should make a formula that would make me think of other things, if there’s even such a thing.”   He goes up to his room to get dressed.

In the battle between Yung In vs. his thoughts, it does seem like his thoughts were winning, as absentmindedly he switches his PC on and sits on his desk.  And he had his PC to thank for snapping him out of his reverie, as the moment he checked the blinking icon for his inbox, his thoughts got drowned out.   And those memories, although not his but were on endless replay in his mind, stand to be forgotten again.

In her own studio in Gangnam, Mi-Rae is reading the first few pages of a memoir.  It just came in the mail that day while she was at work at the hakwon.  Looking at the framed poster of a former star by her bed, she looked deeply at the woman’s eyes.  “Eonni,” she whispered to herself staring at the poster, “I know how it feels to not want to be tied.  And I also know how it feels to feel as if life has a funny way to make you doubt love.  I know how it feels to be you, and I don’t know why I know.”

Thinking to herself, “I must have really gone bonkers to be talking to a poster or even to myself like this!  If people see me this way, I’m sure I will see the gates of a mental institution soon. Aigoo, eonni, look what you do to me!”  She traces the face on her book cover as if it was her own.  She takes a long look at the eyes of the woman on the cover.  And with just one look, she feels as if she knows more than there is to know.   “Tonight, I will read your mind, eonni,” she said as she opened the book in front of her.

“For those who live believing in Someday with that Someone” read Jeon Yoo Rim’s dedication in her photo memoir, a best-seller piece back in her time, and even among fans through generations like Mi-Rae.  Mi-Rae’s mother talked about Yoo Rim at length when she was growing up.  Apparently, the beloved celebrity passed away a month before Mi-Rae was born.

During her time, Jeon Yoo Rim was considered Korea’s Holly Golightly, a reference to classical Audrey Hepburn’s famous character in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Yoo Rim even did an adaptation of this classic film in a play staged in Seoul.  As Yoo Rim’s ardent fan,  Mi-Rae thumbed through the memoir that particular rainy day when Seoul’s streets were wet and she was watching the road glisten to the reflection of city lights.  That night, it was between Mi-Rae, Yoo Rim, truffles and wine.  Such sweetness of doing nothing.  Such luxury in freedom.

“For those who live believing in Someday with that Someone,” Yoo Rim began via the pages written in her memoir.  And like a trance, Mi Rae’s mind brings her back to that place in time.  Watching Yoo Rim’s words unfold right before her very eyes, more than what mere text on a page could tell.

**

Author’s note:  Italics denote when Mi-Rae sees beyond the text of the memoir and “sees” Yoo Rim’s memoir replay vividly in her mind.

Jeon Yoo Rim:  I Am Still Simply A Woman (A Memoir) Excerpts

“Yoo Rim-a, are you sure about taking this drama?” my manager had asked me when I said “Yes” to the writer who gave me the request in a call.  “It’s a fantasy romantic drama, are you sure?”  she asked me one more time.

I asked her how it could hurt.  And she reminded me again of needing to carefully choose projects for my TV comeback.  After all, I’ve somewhat focused on my non-acting activities recently.  My manager insists that doing a romantic drama with the actor who is rumored to be in a relationship with my industry rival has blood written all over it for my career.  I told her that she has my assurance that I can separate my professional life from my personal life.  I even pointed out that I am far too grown up to get involved in entanglements.  She knew better.  I was a fool, but at that time, I didn’t know it, at least not yet. I should have listened to her, but since it’s done, I don’t know what could have happened even if I did.

I met Lee Tae Jung for the first time, at least for this project, during our story conference.  I’ve seen him before in other projects, but we never got a chance then to go beyond just a hello.  So this is the first time we progress beyond greetings.  He was shy around the crew and tends to keep to himself instead of being friendly with the cast. So, I resolved that it would be a challenge to work with him.  He was bound to prove me wrong.  “Aigoo, Han Ji Eun must be a jealous girlfriend.  Look, her boyfriend is walking on eggshells around people.  Should I pity him?”  I secretly asked myself.  Those dimples, hot body and eyes that burn definitely do not go great with the picture of a namjachinggu (boyfriend) who would be so submissive to his woman.  And I caught myself giggling silently.  Yes, giggling, and I should have known that that was not a good sign.

I did as I normally do in story conferences, conversing with co-stars, getting to know them better.  I was invited to go out for dinner and drinks with them and I obliged.  I felt that this particular crew will be fun to spend time with.  And that the next 100 days of my life I sentenced myself to this project looks like it will be worth it.  And later I would learn that this project was a one-of-a-kind opportunity I will forever cherish.  I learned that Tae Jung opted out. Such a weird man. Oh, perhaps need to come back quickly to spend time with the girlfriend.  That’s understandable.  This is why I love being single. I can be married to a project.  Heck, I’ve been married to my career for how long now.  Can you see me grinning evilly?

Obtaining my copy of the first episode’s script and walking back to my van, I feel a hand on my elbow.  “Yoo Rim-ssi.”  I heard someone call me sternly.  And I turned to face the voice. Him. He was staring at me with those eyes again.  “O, Tae Jung-ssi.  Anything the matter?”  I asked coolly.  “Aniyo.” He casually said.  So, I looked at him seriously and then back at the hand on my elbow which was still there after I had obviously already acknowledged his calling my name.  I arched my eyebrows, questioning the gesture. Realizing the situation, he took his hand off and quickly bowed and said “Joesonghamnida. I was just going to say that uri Kang Gun had told me a lot about you.  So, I really look forward to working with you.  I find it lucky that Geun Hyuk declined this project and that I was invited to take the role.”  I could feel myself close to blushing, but I hoped I kept myself from doing so. So pretending to be cool, I said “Do you really talk this much in private?  The pleasure’s mine as well.  Let’s just work hard, eh?  Heard we will have to eventually be in each other’s skin for this drama, so you have to watch me closely and I will do the same.”  He nodded and smiled.  I will add that he looked like a schoolboy doing that and I was perplexed at that.  That a grown man, in a relationship, would act like a schoolboy in front of me.

With a smile and nod, I turned to walk away.   And I heard him again calling out to me, “Yoo Rim-ssi, have fun tonight! And see you again, soon!”  And with that I refused to believe that I just felt my heart skip a thousand beats.

(Tae Jung narrates: I now see what Kang Gun means all these years, every time he told me that I may have had jumped the gun on the relationships I’ve had.  That I haven’t met all the women there is to meet yet.  Or that I haven’t paid attention to all the women I need to pay attention to yet.  Because the moment Yoo Rim-ssi entered the room, I felt a thousand ships launch, including mine, even with an anchor set deep.  Is it okay to feel my heart fluttering?  Is it a sin to hear my head pounding?)

**

Mi-rae snaps out of her trance and realizes she was staring at a candid behind-the-scenes photo from Yoo Rim’s famous drama.   Yoo Rim was with Kim Tae Jung in the photo, and they both wore smiles up to their ears.  She looks at the page she was on, Page 5, it read  “Must be the wine.” She tells herself as she wonders how she remembers details that felt like she had been reading pages and pages already.  “I guess it’s time to sleep.  I will have to pick this up again some other day.”  She sets the book on the nightstand beside her bed.  She takes her alarm clock to set her wakeup time.  She climbs over her bed and turns her blanket over, claps her hand to turn the lights off.  And for five minutes stared at the ceiling with an empty mind until she dozes off into her dreams.

**

“Yeoboseyo!  O, Jin Young-a!  Yes.  I am at Kyobo right now.  Just wanted to see if I could pick up another book today.  Okay, yes we can meet here in an hour.  I should be ready for dinner then.”   Mi-Rae speaks to her friend on the other line.  The school-week had just ended and she wanted to take a break doing her favorite pasttime –geeking out at the bookstore either finding stuff to satisfy her fangirl heart or to pick up literary heavyweights.

Knowing she will stay there for quite a bit, she picks up a poetry book and sits on the floor to read.

**

Yung In was walking around in circles,  his eyes scanning the shelves.   His brother had asked him to buy a book about the latest music genres, as his band was exploring different fusion styles.  Knowing very little about music is not helping. He feels his head ache with the daunting task before him.  He walks to the cafe around the corner of the bookstore.  “One peach iced tea please.”  He tells the person on the counter.  The barista looks at him weirdly.  And he looks back glaring, silently muttering “What?  Cannot a man drink something not stereotypical?”  He sits down and doodles on his agenda until from the corner of his eye, he sees a girl slumped down on the floor by the literature section.  “How tacky of a woman to slump like that?  Where on earth is class?” He snootily thinks to himself.

“Just come over here.  Find the book you need yourself and I’ll pay for it. I don’t know what you want.”  He sends a text message to his brother.

**

Mi-Rae looks at her watch.  Almost an hour had gone by and Jin Young is to arrive in half hour.  She stands up from where she was sitting and walks toward the biography section.  She thumbs through titles about Jeon Yoo Rim and scans through those she think she hadn’t yet seen before.  As she was going to pull out one book, another hand got to it first.  So she looks.  It’s a man in jeans and a white shirt.  So, she steps aside to make room and waited for him to return the book so she can check it out.  The man knew her intention and took his sweet time.  Mi-Rae shifts as she waits. He acts as if  returning the book, and as Mi-Rae moves to get it, he takes it again.

“It’s mine.  I’m buying it.”  Yung In tells her.  So, she glares at him.

“Don’t give me those eyes.  It’s the only book of that title here.  And since I’m a guy and you are a girl, it will make more sense that I get it.  Besides I got to it first.”  He argues.

“What does it have to do with my being a girl?”  Mi-Rae tries to gently ask but she was already fuming inside.

“Well, it’s a girl’s biography.  Generally, it should be men reading it.  Since if it’s a girl crushing on a girl, it will look weird. Unless of course you are a tomboy.  Ah, yeah maybe you are lesbian.  With that unfeminine way you slumped by those racks earlier.” Yung In tells her, almost in a sing-song voice.

“Byungshin! (Jerk!) What right have you to judge me?”  Mi-Rae almost asks yelling.

“See, those eyes again. Stop glaring at me like that.  My head hurts seeing it.  Have I seen it before?”   He orders her.

Seeing that it irritates him, she keeps glaring at him straight in his eyes in fury.  “You know, that’s not the only book of that kind in the world right?  That if I go to another Kyobo or bookstore, I could find another one?  Do you even like Yoo Rim-ssi?  Or do you just like giving me a hard time?” Mi-Rae rattles.

“Yoo Rim-ssi?  Haha! So you call her like you know her now?  Well, yes I do. I like Jeon Yoo Rim!”  Yung In contends.   “And yes, there may be other books of this kind in other bookstores, but this is the only one right here right now that you can get.  So, I just won over you.”  He adds.

“Aish, pabo! So juvenile!  Fine! You really like her huh?! Here…” Mi-Rae exclaims taking different titles of Yoo Rim’s biography from the shelf and shoves each of them into Yung In’s hands.

“This one has her photos in it.  And, this one was written by a fan after years of following her. This one has photos and she wrote it herself.”  She rattles while shoving the books into his chest.

“Enjoy reading them!”  she glares at him one last time and she storms off.

“Yeoboseyo!  Jin Young-a, meet me somewhere else.” She can be heard saying in the distance.

Yung In stands there, speechless, with a stack of books in his hands.  He absentmindedly walks to the counter to pay for his unlikely stash, as he was frazzled, with his phone ringing in his pocket as his brother called him and his mind searching for how those eyes, her eyes, even when she was glaring, look eerily, undeniably familiar.  “Where have I seen those eyes before?”

“Aish, I should have done more to defend myself!  But that man! Ugh, that man!!  Why was I so helpless?  His eyes.  Why did it feel like I knew it?  That beneath that jerk of a person, I knew what those eyes say.”  Mi-Rae thought while tapping her fingers onto the railing of the subway complex she stood on, waiting for Jin Young to come and save the night.  “How do you shake off the picture of someone’s eyes?” She mutters shaking her head.

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