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    Loves Error

    Why did I feel compassion for Gisella Weber at that moment? I wanted to reach out and grab her by the shoulders. No, you don’t have to feel that way. I wanted to tell her that if anyone should walk away from this messy relationship, it should be me. While I was still trying to figure out what to say, she was speaking out her prepared remarks.

    “I don’t know if he thinks of you as more than a friend or not. You don’t know either, and that’s why we’re doing this, so let’s stop this charade. I can’t get married like this.”

    “Is that true?”

    “Yeah, it is. Don’t think that just because I’m saying this casually, it’s not something I’ve thought deeply about. I’ve been agonizing over it too much to even cry now.”

    Her tired face was clearly visible. She nibbled on her red-painted lips and continued with a somewhat self-deprecating tone.

    “It seems to be about pride. It’s okay if I like him better, but if he has someone else in mind, that’s a different story. So, I want to give him a choice.”

    The tea had now cooled down. After drinking quite a bit, she leaned towards me as if revealing a secret plan.

    “I hope he realizes where his heart lies. So, I’m thinking of stepping back from this marriage. What do you think? Isn’t breaking an engagement better than divorce?”

    This is ridiculous. I realized that it was time to stop her silly delusions.

    “Gisella, you’re completely misunderstanding. I don’t see Jae-yi as more than a friend. And he feels the same way. His concern for me is just a habit. We’ve been like this for a long time. It’s a bit complicated to explain, but anyway, I understand why you’re misunderstanding. Please, don’t indulge in absurd fantasies. They say all sorts of thoughts come to mind when marriage is imminent. You might be experiencing that kind of thing too.”

    “We’ll see about that.”

    Her tea was now cold. Gisella, who had been tapping the table with her long nails, leaned in and asked me in a low voice.

    “A year ago. What happened between you and Jae-yi?”

    “A year ago?”

    “Yeah. Now that I think about it, I wonder if it’s because of you that the guy who never showed any signs of loneliness suddenly said he was lonely. Didn’t you two have a fight or something?”

    I rummaged through my memory. A year ago, Han Jae-yi had joined a large law firm and was keeping busy. I was a year into my captain’s promotion and flying a lot. Twenty-nine. We were naturally drifting apart in our respective careers. I was confident in answering her question.

    Nope. Nothing happened to us.

    Life doesn’t always have to be a trigger for something to happen. Some things happen so naturally that we don’t realize the cracks until after the fact. Gisella walked through that small crack between Han Jae-yi and I. As usual, we were ignorant of each other’s love lives, and it was only when the crack widened into a rupture that I could acknowledge my own feelings.

    Therefore, I don’t think I was an influence between them. Gisella had earned a piece of Han Jae-yi’s life in her own way. She had written it off as a coincidence, but people also call it fate. I was conflicted.

    “Gisella. I don’t want you to dismiss what’s going on between you as nothing. Why don’t you two talk about it? If you talk about what you’re feeling, maybe you’ll get some answers.”

    “Yeah, that’s a great idea, and I’m definitely going to do that, but I need to talk about you to get to that point, Maxie.”

    I was taken aback by the fact that I needed to share my story too.

    “Of course, I won’t impose my feelings on you. I’ll just tell Jae-yi exactly how I feel from my perspective. ‘Your excessive friendship with Max makes me uneasy. Your attention toward Max goes beyond reasonable, making me feel jealous, you know?’ As his fiancée, I think I have the right to say that. But then, it’s too advantageous for me. I don’t want to gain favor just because I’m a woman.”

    She untangled her crossed legs and leaned herself toward me. She rested her arms on the table and looked at me.

    “Let’s play fair, Maxie.  I’ll step back today so you can confess. Whether Jae-yi’s conclusion towards you is whatever it may be, I think I can happily proceed with this marriage despite it. But if that’s not the case, well, I guess I’ll have to break up with him without any regrets. That’s the real reason I wanted to see you today.”

    “Don’t be ridiculous.”

    “I’ve made up my mind, the choice is yours.”

    She glanced at the watch on her wrist and prepared to get up from her seat.

    “It’s almost time for him to come back, because I asked him to get something for me. I’m going to have a bad headache today, so let’s cancel our plan for three and spend some time together.”

    Rising from her seat, Gisella gave my shoulder a light squeeze and said.

    “This is your last chance, Maxie. Don’t regret it later.”

    She then left the table.

    After parting ways with Gisella, I stepped outside and lit a cigarette. I was suddenly faced with so many truths and emotions that the headache was almost overwhelming. I should be thinking, but I’d been staring blankly at the cars pulling into the hotel entrance. I muttered while chewing on the filter. Confession, all of a sudden, how could I do it?

    I looked at my watch and realized it was past 7:00. Still halfway through my cigarette, I reluctantly took out my phone. I was about to call to say I’d be late when I caught a familiar scent from behind.

    “I knew you’d be here.”

    Han Jae-yi lightly tapped my shoulder, smiling. His neatly tailored slacks and a blue-striped shirt caught my eye. His slightly tanned arms, revealed by rolled-up sleeves, rested on my shoulders. I hadn’t organized my thoughts yet, and his arrival was too soon.

    “Sorry, it doesn’t seem like Gisella will make it. Suddenly feeling unwell and refuses to even come out to say hello briefly. She said she contacted you separately, did you get it?”

    “Yeah. I got a call earlier.”

    I brushed off his words as if they were trivial and flicked my cigarette.

    “We can eat Korean food since it’s just the two of us.”

    Respecting Han Jae-yi’s preferences, I said so. But I added a condition.

    “But I prefer a quieter place.”

    I didn’t know what I would choose to do an hour later, but I felt like I needed to create an environment. We headed to a Korean restaurant attached to the hotel.

    It seemed crowded, and I thought there might not be any tables available, but when Han Jae-yi mentioned the room number he was staying in, we were quickly assigned a private room. Sitting comfortably at a table instead of on the floor, I sat a bit away from him. Han Jae-yi seemed a bit hot.

    “I’ll take care of the order.”

    “Sure.”

    He amiably conversed with the manager who came to take the order, selecting an appropriate Korean course. From the atmosphere, it seemed like today wasn’t his first visit. Seeing Han Jae-yi, who wasn’t engaging with me, gave me some time to reflect on my conversation with Gisella.

    She had expressed feelings of jealousy and wounded pride. While I sympathized, I didn’t feel responsible. Neither of those feelings stemmed from my actions or behavior. It was purely due to the ambiguous behavior of the man sitting across from me.

    Having spent so much time together, I had recently lost confidence in understanding Han Jae-yi. What was he thinking? Was he sleeping? Was he working? Perhaps the Han Jae-yi I knew had long evaporated, and the one here was a replica placed by someone else. Otherwise, it was hard to imagine why he was so difficult to read.

    “What are you thinking so hard about?”

    The order was placed and the manager left the room. Han repositioned his chair and turned to face me.

    After the order was placed, the manager left the room. Han Jae-yi adjusted his chair and turned towards me.

    “I thought you might be an android.”

    “What?”

    “Lately, you’ve been hard to read.”

    He chuckled as if finding the idea absurd. It was meant as a joke, but I genuinely wished words like in a movie could become a code to access his mind. Perhaps I’ll search for the name “Woo Seo-jin” and wait. Fifteen years of data might be too much for me to process, but I might learn something, like the definition of a relationship.

    “It’s just something that came to mind. Sometimes, I find it hard to understand my own thoughts too.”

    As the server came in and began setting the side dishes on the table, Han Jae-yi started rearranging them. The ones I like and the ones I don’t eat. One after another, they were categorized and repositioned. Finally, he smiles proudly at the newly arranged table. “Let’s eat.” We started our meal with chopsticks in hand.

    “When was the last time you felt like that?”

    “Like what?”

    “When you couldn’t understand your own thoughts.”

    “Oh, trivially, several times a day. Like just now, why did I order so much? I regretted it immediately. I ordered a lot. You have to eat a lot today.”

    “Yeah. And then?”

    “On a larger scale, why did I come to Korea? It wasn’t regret but more like second-guessing why I made that decision.”

    “Why do you think you did?”

    “You weren’t reachable. One day, I saw a one-line post on SNS: ‘Changing jobs. Going to Korea.’ No calls, messages ignored. When I contacted Chris, he said you had already moved to Korea. I thought something had happened to you, I was genuinely surprised. I thought I should check if you were okay with my own eyes, but things got more complicated as I came. I used to come to you without notice, but it seems too far this time. Did I overdo it? I thought.”

    “Are you getting yelled at everywhere because of me? I’m sorry.”

    “You were the only one getting yelled at. Treated like a nuisance. I felt a lot of things yesterday after what you said.”

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