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    Loves Error

    “I don’t smell?”

    “Let me see.”

    “…My shirt?”

    “No.” Shin couldn’t help but laugh and pulled his hand, lowering his head to the inside of Yeonwoo’s wrist. Then, he buried his nose in Yeonwoo’s skin, inhaling the sweet and warm scent. Shin couldn’t resist the urge and licked his skin, looking up to meet his eyes.

    Just like me

    This week, my emotions have been a rollercoaster. Of course, it was mostly because of Shin. No, it was 100% because of him. Emotions are such a nuisance. When I didn’t know he was gay, I tried to draw a line and suppress my feelings, thinking I shouldn’t like him. But once that barrier was gone, instead of moving cautiously to the next stage, my emotions overwhelmed me like a flood during the rainy season. By the time I realized, I was already deeply in love with him.

    Maybe it’s because it’s the first time in my life that I’ve liked someone this much. My speech, actions, and expressions all felt awkward and unfamiliar. That’s when I realized that love isn’t just about happiness and joy.

    Unrequited love, to be precise. Most of the reasons my heart sank were due to unrequited love. It’s my first time experiencing unrequited love, and I’ve learned about its inseparable companion: delusion.

    As my feelings for him grew, delusions accompanied by wishful thinking popped up shamelessly and unexpectedly. On Wednesday, I was struggling with a math problem for a long time. Usually, I can follow the solution and understand it, but this problem kept stumping me, probably because I had gotten similar problems wrong before and was now determined to solve it. I felt like I could get the answer my way.

    But I got it wrong again. No matter what, I couldn’t match the correct answer. Sighing inwardly, I was surprised when a large hand suddenly reached over the paper I was working on. Before I could react, that hand took my pen.

    Actually, it felt like he had taken my hand, but he had only taken the pen. He quickly wrote formulas in the blank spaces next to my lengthy calculations and drew arrows pointing out my mistakes. That was it. The large hand that had almost covered the paper was gone, and I was left staring at my pen and paper.

    He must have noticed I was stuck on one problem for a long time. I should have thanked him or complimented him on his math skills, but I missed the timing.

    He resumed his studies as if nothing had happened, and I couldn’t lift my head. I just stared at the mix of my handwriting and his sharp script on the paper, but the content didn’t register in my mind. The sensation of him taking the pen from my hand and returning it was imprinted like a brand.

    I glanced at him. He was clearly holding his own pen. So why did he use mine? This is how delusions arise. Before, I would have dismissed it as a thoughtless action because Shin was kind, justifying it with a logical reason.

    But after knowing he was gay, kindness alone couldn’t dispel my delusions. My heart soared at that moment. Could it be that he also liked me? Normally, I don’t dwell on worries for long. I get tired easily and give up quickly, so I never imagined a simple gesture would lead to such prolonged contemplation.

    The problem was that the delusions didn’t stop at once. Every time he was kind to me, I tried to interpret it as a sign of his feelings, but these delusions kept giving me false hope.

    By the time Saturday came, I was actually relieved. Working part-time in the afternoon and not coming to the library tomorrow meant fewer worries. But seeing him on Saturday morning reset everything. Seeing his smiling face made me sad that I wouldn’t see him the next day. Spending time at the library with him felt too short and left me wanting more.

    ‘Wake me up.’

    When he asked me to, I was over the moon. Just the fact that he asked made me feel like I was someone important to him. My delusions grew bigger and took up more space.

    His kind actions, the smiles we shared, even the small talk made me suspect he liked me. So, I wanted to step closer, forgetting about my own situation. Especially when he confided in me over lunch.

    “You want me to teach you how to make kimbap?”


    “Are you going somewhere?”

    The corners of his mouth curled up. He often gave me that silent smile while looking at me briefly. But more than his smile, I liked the warmth in his eyes. At least at that moment, I believed it wasn’t just a delusion. That’s why I tended to blurt out even meaningless words when I was with him. He opened his mouth, his smile fading a little.

    “I want to make it for someone.”

    Suddenly, the ground beneath me fell away. The feeling of floating happiness dropped with a thud. “Who?” I barely managed to ask casually. He smiled again, this time looking down, embarrassed.

    “My grandfather.”

    “Oh, I see!”


    I was just so relieved.

    “Because I think you’re a true grandson of this era.”

    This time, I bit my lip to hide my returning good mood. He laughed at my silly remark but soon explained seriously.

    “My grandfather collapsed last weekend and is in the hospital. He woke up right after the procedure, but he’s old, so we have to be careful. I’ve always just received from him, so I wanted to do something for him this time.”

    “Why kimbap?”

    “Hyung said I’m good at making it.”

    Even the lingering delusion that had been creeping in was stunned this time. He looked at me and laughed.

    “Just kidding. Kimbap is simple yet feels special.”

    Indeed, no matter how much store-bought kimbap there is, homemade kimbap has a special charm. It brings the joy of picnics and outings. Although kimbap wasn’t quite suitable for someone unwell, I nodded.

    “I’ll teach you. But these days, there are good recipes online. It might be easier to follow those.”

    “Still, I want you to teach me.”

    Sometimes, he expresses his opinions in a firm, low voice. His voice remains gentle, but his gaze has an authority that makes me nod without realizing it. It’s probably his detective nature showing now and then.

    When I replied, “Oh, okay,” he smiled with satisfaction and started cleaning his tray. I followed suit, and we went back to the study room, but strangely, he didn’t ask about making kimbap. Maybe it wasn’t urgent? Should I write down the recipe for him? I was pondering this as we left the library, but he seemed to have forgotten about the kimbap and led me to his car.

    “I’ll give you a ride.”

    “No, it’s just a short walk to the subway station,” I protested, but my phone rang. It was the owner of the place where I worked part-time.

    “Yeonwoo, you haven’t left yet, have you? Don’t come in today and tomorrow.”

    I was baffled by the sudden news. “Why?” I asked, and his answer was even more surprising.

    “Just some stuff came up.”

    “Is there a problem at the store?”

    “No, everything’s fine.”

    So what is it? Am I getting fired?

    “Just start coming back next week. You must come next week. I’m curious, so you have to come… ahem, just come next week, Yeonwoo.”

    I didn’t understand what he was curious about, but as an employee, I couldn’t argue. I agreed, hung up, but remained flustered.

    “What’s up?” Shin asked, noticing something was off. I explained, still confused.

    “They told me not to come to work this week because there’s a problem at the store.”


    He gave a somewhat stiff exclamation and turned his gaze sideways, thinking. After a moment, he suggested out of the blue,

    “Come with me.”


    “You said you’d teach me to make kimbap. Teach me today. I’ll pay you for it.”

    “Hey, it’s not something you should pay for.”

    “Then just do it for me.”

    “Of course, I can just do it for you.” But always seeing him only in the library, the thought of going somewhere else with him excited me so much that another part of me cautioned to be careful. Shin didn’t know that I liked him.

    “It’s faster to learn directly,” he said.

    “Yeah, it is,” I agreed.

    “Let’s go, hyung.”

    “Where to?”

    He grabbed my arm and led me to the car before answering.

    “To my place.”

    Suddenly, my heart and mind seemed to switch off for a moment. The car door clicked open, and he gently pushed me inside, making my body and heart start moving again. Going to Shin’s house. I chastised myself for having silly expectations and thought rationally. Shin might live with his family. Maybe his grandfather, too, and a large family all in one house.

    “Sorry, is it too hot?” he apologized as he hurried to turn on the air conditioning. I hadn’t even noticed the heat inside the car because I was so nervous about going to his house.

    “No, it’s summer; it’s supposed to be hot.”

    My younger sister, who gets hot easily, used to complain every summer to get an air conditioner, and whenever my mom and I said that, she would get more annoyed. It was both cute and pitiful. To me, summer was naturally hot, and sweating was normal. It was a thoughtless reply, but he turned his body and looked at me gently.

    “Still, it feels unpleasant when it’s humid and sweaty.”

    Did I sweat? I don’t sweat easily, so I checked my shirt to see if it was damp, but then I heard him say,

    “You don’t smell.”

    Relieved, I lifted my shirt to check. Even though it wasn’t the peach scent he liked, I didn’t want to smell musty. But coming from the heat outside, there was no trace of the body wash I had scrubbed with in the morning. Feeling embarrassed by his gaze, I laughed awkwardly.

    “I don’t smell?”

    “Let me smell.”

    …What? I stared at him blankly and asked,

    “My shirt?”

    He showed his teeth and laughed, saying “No.” Then he suddenly grabbed my hand and brought it to his nose. Before I could fully extend my arm, I realized what was happening and tried to resist, but it wasn’t enough to stop his actions. He firmly held my hand and lifted my wrist. His nose touched the inside of my wrist as he lowered his head. I stopped breathing.

    Literally, I couldn’t breathe. Only my heart was moving. Thump, thump, it pounded as if it would burst, sending pulses and vibrations throughout my body. I should pull away, but the thought was interrupted.

    With his head lowered, I could see his dense black hair, neat eyebrows, and long eyelashes clearly. Then, I felt a damp sensation on my wrist.

    If we weren’t in the car, I would have jumped in surprise. Unconsciously, I tensed my arm, but he held it so firmly that I couldn’t move. Instead, I raised my eyelids and met his black eyes looking up at me.

    My heart, which I thought couldn’t sink any lower, dropped again. His gaze was hot. Was it the heat in the car? I couldn’t tell. The look in his eyes was so intense it felt like everything inside me was melting. In that moment, a delusion took over my mind. He must like me. But as this certainty grew, fear crept in. Fortunately, reason returned in this gap.

    “What are you doing?” I asked.

    He lifted his head. His jaw and cheeks twitched as if he had clenched his teeth, but he soon looked at me normally. His voice was light when he replied.

    “It smelled sweet.”

    “…Are you low on sugar?”

    He chuckled and carefully placed my hand back to its original position. But the pressure of his grip left a red mark on my wrist. As he pulled out of the parking lot, I looked down at my wrist where he had licked it.

    “Sorry. Did I scare you?”

    I saw his profile as he apologized. He was looking straight ahead, focused on driving, but he glanced sideways, maybe because I hadn’t responded. Without thinking, I asked him a question.

    “Have you dated a lot?”


    He answered firmly. The car stopped before entering the road, and he turned his head fully towards me.

    “I’ve never dated anyone because I liked them.”

    Oh, I see. I thought he was some dating expert trying to flirt with me. Well, being a police officer must keep him busy. When I first saw him at the library, he seemed like he hadn’t been sleeping well. His behavior earlier was probably just because he smelled something sweet.

    Even though it was a bit much this time, Shin often initiated physical contact out of habit. Actually, Shin wasn’t the first to try to touch me. Sometimes people tried, but I always blocked them decisively. But I didn’t want to do that with Shin.

    My impure thoughts welcomed his touch. But I was really surprised earlier. I looked at my wrist again. When his tongue touched it, it felt like it was burning hot. It still felt branded. I turned my wrist over to hide it.

    But why did he smell something sweet? I thought he might have licked me out of sexual desire. But that didn’t make sense. It couldn’t happen out of nowhere in the middle of the day, in a car. My inflated misunderstanding deflated like a fizzy drink going flat.

    However, the space left by the misunderstanding was filled with disappointment. I wished he liked me. It would be nice if all his actions were because he liked me. I really hoped that was the case. The desire brought a strange sadness, making my heart ache. And I realized I couldn’t go on like this.

    I should make the first move. Once I made up my mind, I felt clear-headed. After a long pause, I heard a question.

    “What about you?”

    Me? Oh, dating. As if I ever had time for that.

    “Well, I’ve been too busy with work.”

    I mumbled and glanced at him as he drove. It was surprising. Someone so great, yet just like me, had never dated.

    Early Dawn

    Since Shin didn’t know anything about dating, I wasn’t planning to confess and approach him abruptly. It would be Shin’s first time dating too, so he’d be really surprised. And if he rejected me, I was ready to step back gracefully. So, I couldn’t make a move right away. I didn’t know how, and today wasn’t the right day. At least not in this house.

    “…Do you live alone?”

    I looked around the house, holding the groceries we bought together. It was spacious enough for ten people. He must be rich. Definitely rich.

    “Yeah. I’ve lived alone since I was a college student. Back then, I stayed near the campus.”

    I remember. That neat and spacious studio looked good even to me. I recall him in his uniform on campus too. He looked so cool back then. I never thought I’d see him again like this. If he remembered seeing me back then, he might think I was a stalker and hate me.

    “Do you want to take a shower?”


    He chuckled, maybe because my voice was too loud.

    “It was hot outside. You can shower if you want to.”

    Oh, because it was hot. I scolded myself for thinking something weird and shook my head.

    “No, it’s okay. I don’t have any clothes to change into.”

    He paused, putting the grocery bag on the counter, and looked at me. I felt his gaze briefly scan my body before he turned around and moved the bag to the other side. The house was already cool from the air conditioning, but his ears were slightly red.

    “I’ll lend you my clothes. Just take them off.”

    This time, I stopped in my tracks as I followed him to the kitchen. I looked at my clothes again. Were they dirty? I had just washed and worn them.

    “No, it’s fine. I’m leaving soon anyway.”

    “You can’t leave.”

    His voice was light but sharp, making me wonder what he meant. As I placed the bags down, he turned, leaning against the sink with one hand.

    “Once you come into this house, you can’t leave.”

    It must have been a joke. Why did he say it so ominously?

    “I need to visit my family during the holidays.”

    I played along, and he curled his lips, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. Maybe because it was his home, he looked particularly relaxed and happy, leaning casually against the sink and looking down at me. He seemed like a predator at ease in his own territory. He spoke generously.

    “I’ll allow you half a day.”

    “Hey, that’s barely enough time to see Seondol at my parents’ house and come back.”

    “Is Seondol the dog your parents keep?”

    “No, he’s a stray cat who comes for free meals.”

    Hahaha, he burst into laughter. It was surprising that he found the stray cat so amusing, but he laughed hard enough to shake his shoulders. It made me feel good too.

    “And you even named him.”

    “Yeah, they said he needed a name to chase him away, that he wouldn’t understand if they just called him ‘Hey.’”

    Seeing that he seemed to like cats, I pulled out my phone to show him a picture of Seondol. I was about to ask if he found it cute, but instead of taking the phone, he came closer and pulled my hand, not the phone.

    “He’s still wary of people. Do you have more pictures?”

    He asked, but I couldn’t think straight with him so close to me. The faint scent he usually had was now much stronger.

    It was a bit like a woodsy smell but fresh, and there had been times when I secretly took deep breaths to catch it. Now, I could clearly smell it without trying, proof of how close he was. My fingers tensed as I swiped through the phone’s photos.

    “Not many. My sister took these when she visited.”

    I quickly showed him the few pictures and then lowered the phone. He stepped back.

    “Are you hot?”

    Then he lightly touched my cheek with the back of his hand. I couldn’t meet his eyes and rubbed my cheek with my hand. I could feel the heat from my face on my hand.

    “I’m fine. It’s cool here, so…”

    I turned away, trying to hide my blushing face, and hurriedly unpacked the groceries we bought. There weren’t many, so I finished quickly, but his presence close by made it hard for my blush to fade. Feeling his persistent gaze on my face, I reluctantly looked up. He tilted his head, looking at me.

    “Your face seems hot.”

    “I always look like this.”

    I hoped he’d let it slide with his usual kindness, but this time he didn’t. I tried to step back, but he suddenly stretched his arm across the table, blocking my path.

    “No, you don’t.”


    “Yeonwoo hyung, I…”

    “Because I’m embarrassed. I’m just a little embarrassed.”

    He swallowed what he was going to say and looked at me seriously.

    “Why are you embarrassed?”

    His voice was low, almost a whisper. If I had remembered the resolve I made in the car, this might have been the moment. But I still lacked the courage. What if he said, ‘Sorry, but I’m not’? I was terrified.

    “Your house is too big. Hey, your house is really big.”

    He looked at me blankly for a moment at my answer.

    “This place is big?”

    “It’s freaking huge.”

    He nodded, looking around as if seeing his house for the first time, then looked back at me with an expression that still didn’t understand.

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