It has been an intense one hour of Son Jii doing her assignment. She even skipped lunch because she doesn’t feel like to and her father is home that day. She couldn’t afford meeting his face that day. Suddenly, her phone rings. Ah Roo is calling.
“Hello”, Son Jii picks up while still skimming her textbook.
“Ya, where are you?”, Ah Roo asks.
“Won’t you ask me back?”, Ah Roo exclaims.
Son Jii lets out a sigh, “Yea, where are you?”
“I’m in Amsterdam”
“I’m visiting the museums there and you know what, I met a fellow Korean. Isn’t it great?” Ah Roo says happily.
“Ya, Koreans can be everywhere. Are you calling me just to say this?”
Ah Roo ignores Son Jii and continues cheekily, “We should definitely come here together next time. I’ll introduce you to my new friend”. “Whatever”, Son Jii answers.
“Right, what are you doing now?”, Ah Roo asks. “I’m doing the Practical Assignment”, Son Jii answers, puts her phone on a speaker and place it on the table. “What?! You’re on that already?! You’re making me feel guilty”, Son Jii is sure that Ah Roo is pouting uselessly when she says that. That’s her way to make Son Jii slacks off a bit and finish everything at the last minute.
“I’m still gonna do it”, Son Jii answers nonchalantly.
“Mwoya~ you are being too good. Ah right, how’s the handsome student doing?”, Ah Roo asks.
“The guy you told me. Park…Bae..”, Ah Roo tries guessing.
“Ah, Park Bo Gum”
“Yes, him. What about him?”
“What about him what? I don’t know”, Son Jii answers.
“How could you be a student ambassador if you’re this cold. Jeez”, Ah Roo shows her frustration. Son Jii is only that cold to Ah Roo because she would be unstoppable if Son Jii always responds to her.
“I have other things on my mind now”
“What? Like what?”
“Like an *sshole neighbour”, Son Jii’s eyes wander outside to the house across her.
“What did you say?”, Ah Roo doesn’t get Son Jii’s voice clearly.
“Nevermind, I have to do something”, Son Jii answers and quickly hangs up the phone. “Ya-, Son Jii-“, Ah Roo can’t finish her sentence.
That freaking car. Son Jii needs to pick it up whether she likes it or not. She doesn’t want to spend another day asked with the same question by her mom, ‘Where is the car?’. Son Jii closes her notebook, change into different clothes and rush to the door.
The nearest bus stop is 15 minutes away. She doesn’t mind walking. Besides, this will be her second time riding the bus and the streets are getting familiar to her. The only thing she is not sure of is how to get the ticket. While walking, she reaches down to her phone and starts googling how to purchase it. Nothing actually gets into her mind or maybe she’s just lacking the google searching skill.
While her eyes are still glued to her phone, she feels like someone is following her. The person is walking at the same pace that makes Son Jii even more certain that she has been followed. She tries to speed up but then the person is also speeding up. The bus stop is already visible in the corner of her eyes, but she won’t bother to stop. She’s too afraid. How if she gets doped when she stops.
As a result, she walks past her stop. Continues walking and speeding up until she almost finds herself in the main street. Her neighbourhood’s grocery store is just around the corner, she thinks it’ll be safer if she enters it. After all, it’s the most public space in the area.
Son Jii can still hear the steps until she turns left to make her way into the store. She stops in front of the store’s door, feeling relieved. She lets out a sigh. The cashier looks at Son Jii from the inside, confused about what this girl is doing standing there, blocking the door. Son Jii realized she might be seen as weird and all, but at least she’s feeling better now. She flashes the cashier guy an awkward smile.
Suddenly, a voice right behind her sends her shudders. “Are you going in or what?”. The cold tone she is so familiar with that she would like to just run away without turning around. Son Jii slowly turns her body and only to find Min Ho standing there, close enough to her. The expression on her face is indescribable, she doesn’t know if she’s just ashamed, or caught red-handed for being weird, or disgusted, or what.
“You are so weird”, Min Ho says quietly and passes by her shoulder to enter the store. “What-?” Son Jii says, not getting what he is saying. Min Ho, who’s just beside her, bring down his gaze to Son Jii – because of the height, “I saw you running around. I don’t know what you are up to, but whatever it is, it doesn’t look good”, Min Ho clearly says and make his way inside. “What?!”, Son Jii quickly responds. She tries to understand what he’s been meaning to stay.
The moment she realizes, she covers quickly, Omo, was the stalker him?!. She gives a disgusted glance to Min Ho who’s inside the store, picking his snacks. How frustrating. Son Jii quickly takes a few steps further from the store and start googling again. With her phone in her hand, she’s confused as to which direction she should head to. The previous bus stop would be too far for her to return to. First thing first, she needs to go into the main street, as long as she isn’t in sight of Min Ho anymore.
She’s finally in her car, stretching her legs and let out a sigh of relief. It feels like she has spent most of her day only to get her car back. She stares blankly at the full-occupied parking lot, wondering how many people are desperately seeking help in just a day. Her heart aches when she has that thought.
Still deep in her thought, Dr. Ri Woo Jin, her father’s colleague, passed in front of her. He sees Son Jii and recognizes her right away. He waves at Son Jii and she waves back. Son Jii opens her car window to respect him. Dr. Ri steps closer to her car. “What are you doing? Are you seeing your dad?”, he asks then looks at Mr. Park’s car that is parked in the distance.
“Annyeonghaseyo, Mr. Ri. No, I’m here to take back my car, I left it a few days ago”, she answers politely.
“Ah, I see. Have you had your lunch yet?”, he asks. “No, Sir”. “Come join us, we are having lunch together at a nearby kalguksu restaurant. You know Dr. Kil Young Ho, right? He’ll be joining us too”, he says. “Is my father also joining?”, Son Jii asks. “I’m not sure.. I think he’s still in the middle of surgery”, he answers while wondering.
Seeing Son Jii makes pauses, Dr. Ri further says, “Just join us! It’s been so long since you’re in Korea. I should at least treat you something in a good restaurant”, he says. Son Jii bows and says, “Thank you, Sir”. He shared the address and meeting her at the restaurant.
In 10 minutes, Son Jii has arrived at the designated place. The smell of kalguksu broth enters her nose, she’s drooling inside. It’s been a while since she eats it, she will make sure to enjoy the food until the very last bite. Dr. Ri and her arrived at the restaurant first. In a few minutes, Dr. Kil is also joining them. Dr. Ri raises his hand to the ahjumma, “3 servings of kalguksu and 1 serving of fried dumpling, please”. “It’s coming!”, the ahjumma replies.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Ri. It’s been a while since I eat kalguksu”, Son Jii breaks the silence. “Yes, enjoy it while you can before going back to bread and cheese”, Dr. Ri says jokingly. Son Jii laughs. “You know, it’s rare for us to eat out like this. We also have tight schedules, we sometimes barely even eat”, says Dr. Kil to Son Jii. “Ah, really? There must have been a lot of patients”, Son Jii replies. Dr. Kil, who’s a gastroenterologist (specialises in the digestive system), says jokingly, “Yes, I guess more people are eating badly nowadays. They should all just eat this kalguksu, it’s the best in town”. Just in time, the ahjumma arrives with their orders.
“Enjoy your food!”, they all chant and dig into their bowls. “So, how many years left until you graduate?”, Dr. Ri asks. “I’ll graduate next year, hopefully”, she answers. “Do you know already what you want to specialize on?”, he further asks. “No, not yet. I’m interested in child psychologist, but I haven’t decided yet. I want to do some placements first before taking a master or doctoral degree. Just so I have more idea on what I’ll be doing”, Son Jii says.
“Oh, child psychology is definitely an interesting one. I wish you good luck, Son Jii. Tell me if you need anything, I have some friends working in the field”, Dr. Kil encourages. Son Jii nods and thanks him for his generosity. She feels, for the first time, appreciated. She wishes her father would think the same way as his colleagues.
Dr. Ri looks up and says, “Don’t give up on your dream, Son Jii. What you are studying has its own magical power”. “You think so, Sir?”, Son Jii lights up and curious. “I used to have a brain cancer patient. I tried my best to give her treatment, but she’s not getting better. In this kind of cases, we might not know what went wrong. After hearing her life story, she turns out to be a divorcee because her ex-husband was caught in an affair with their own daughter. It is crazy. Long story short, she lives with her son, while her ex-husband with their daughter. The whole situation has been driving her crazy, it all happened in a day; the affair and her cancer diagnosis”, Dr. Ri tells the story.
At that point, Son Jii is astonished by the story and at the same time, angry for the mistreatment. You can never know what one man is capable of. “Do you know what I actually missed in that treatment?”, Dr. Ri asks Son Jii. Son Jii quickly shakes her head, she wants to hear the rest of the story.
Dr. Ri points his finger to his head, “It’s not about cancer here. It’s about the mental”. He continues, “She’s been living the past 5 years living in that ironical misery. I should have known better what she’s actually going through. So, I suggested her to get psychological therapies. Just to ease her mind. After appointment by appointment, one day, she came back to me with the same story but a different spirit. She can be happy with her present and make peace with herself. Not long after that, we receive her scan result and she made the biggest improvement she had been since treatment. She’s still my patient now, but I don’t think she needs to see me regularly any longer. We can call it a miracle, but it’s also about missing what is actually troubled; her mental state. That’s how powerful psychology’s magic is, Son Jii”, he explains and continues finishing his kalguksu.
“Wow, this is the first time I hear about this story. Surely, Every doctor has their own part to help people”, Dr. Kil says and in amazement. Son Jii is amazed and inspired, more than ever. To hear first-hand from a doctor about his experience surely hits different. She finishes her bowl with joy, with a lot of ideas of what she wants to do in the future.