With the gradual increase of footsteps, the hallways were no longer empty. They were filled with the usual greetings and slams of lockers. I went to my own locker and took out my textbooks. My path to my homeroom was uninterrupted, nothing new.
On my first step into class and my eyes immediately landed on one of the empty tables. A notebook and a pencil were taken out of my backpack, and the smell of kimchi managed to tag along. No one was near, nothing new.
I never thought one would appear during my freshman year.
I’m used to being alone on the first days, but it was different this time. The owner of the table wasn’t just me anymore. Words were heard but they wouldn’t get placed into sentences. There was a common beauty with a pinch of something I couldn’t seem to remember.
Another quick glance.
When minutes passed by, we were told to interact. Just like the regular first days, we had to “get to know each other.”
Laughter and chatter danced in my ears.
I noticed myself slowly turning toward the deep, soft sound. The short 30 minutes soon filled up my encyclopedia.
I quickly seized my backpack before my feet led me to the door. The voice was calling out for me, but I kept forward. My face was hot and burning. Loud beats of thumping raced in my ears. My cheekbones wouldn’t want to sit down.
My mind felt so heavy filled with him, and only him. It wouldn’t get any lighter.
As soon as I got home, I started scribbling.
He is an inch taller than me.
His eyes are dark amber.
He likes the color gray.
He loves to eat pork belly with chili bean paste and not sesame oil. (Just like me!)
He is into Korean variety shows.
With a click, it stopped. A sticky tab was carefully pasted onto the page and soon got hidden under the many pages. A smile formed.
Bringing my hands to my face, I blushed.
The next morning he was there again.
I was smiling ear to ear. It quickly deflated once his footsteps got closer.
Automatically, my fingers brushed through my hair.
“Hi,” I timidly said.
The lips were moving but no sound could be heard.
My heartbeat was too loud.
My pencil continued to be busy.
Today he told me that he started to like kimchi stew.
Today he called me by my name.
Today he teased me, and for some reason, I liked it.
I reached for the last kimchi in stock. Another hand reached for it. I looked up. The same amber eyes that looked at me thirty years ago met me.
“Hey..” he said under his breath.
“Mom!” my daughter was calling for me.
I turned to my daughter and grabbed the crackers she was reaching for.
Reaching for her hand, we walked toward her father.
Away from kimchi boy.