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    Feeling the need to use the restroom, I looked around. The woman sitting next to me seemed nice, so I asked her to watch my belongings. She looked a bit surprised but nodded her head in agreement.

    “Thank you.”

    I thanked her after returning from the restroom, and she shyly smiled.

    “Let me know if you need me to watch your things as well.”

    “Pardon? Oh, okay.”

    She kept scribbling something with a pen, she looked like a college student, or maybe she was writing a report anyway. She glanced at me a couple of times and finally dropped the pen on the ground. I quickly caught the rolling pen with my left foot. She had to get down from her high single-seater chair to pick it up, so I bent down and placed the pen on the table for her.

    “Oh, thank you.”

    “Are you a college student?”

    “Pardon? Oh, yes… but, I have a boyfriend.”

    I stared at her for a few seconds, not sure what she meant. Her face was flushed with embarrassment. Then I realized what was going on. Everyone was leaving their belongings on the table and walking around freely. Even cell phones were left on the table as people went to and from the restroom. She probably thought I was talking to her on purpose because I was interested in her.

    In Germany, it’s unthinkable to leave your belongings behind, so people who come alone ask the person at the next table to look after them, and this naturally leads to a few exchanged words, but in Korea, this is apparently seen as showing interest.

    “Oh, I see. My apologies.”

    I decided to play the part of a guy who had approached her because he liked her. This is what they call ‘hitting on someone,’ right? Failing at this unintentional attempt made me laugh.

    “Um, really, it’s not that I don’t like you. I really do have a boyfriend…”

    “Thank you for being honest.”

    I smiled to reassure her. I drank my now lukewarm coffee and resumed reading. She put down her pen and seemed to be chatting with someone on her phone. She typed at a speed I couldn’t match.

    About an hour later, I was debating whether to refill my coffee or leave when the company called. Calls during off days are predictable.

    -I’m really, really sorry, but a captain urgently called in sick, and we have three A350 flights without coverage this week.

    He was looking for someone to fill a last-minute vacancy in his schedule. There was a hint of fatigue in his voice, as he’d already gone through a few rejections and adjustments.

    “It’s fine. What’s the most urgent flight?”

    -CR771, to Singapore, departing tomorrow at 11.20.

    “I’ll take that then, do you have a layover?”

    -Yes. Hold on a moment… you’ll return the next day, but that means you’ll have back-to-back flights to Haneda. Is that okay?

    “That’s okay, I have a vacation scheduled this month, and I have more time than most people.”

    -Ahh… Thank you so much. You saved my life today.

    His voice over the phone sounded relieved. It wasn’t that the other colleagues didn’t want to help, but they likely had prior commitments.

    With tomorrow’s flight schedule set, my leisure time for today was over. I closed my book and cleaned up my coffee cup. Just as I was about to leave, I made eye contact with the girl next to me. Embarrassed, she quickly looked away. I smiled and exited the café.

    * * *

    It was a last-minute flight, but for me, it was a better option than staying home. I realized that my first assignment had also been to Singapore, and now, a month later, I was returning there.

    I had to fly back to Incheon the next day, so I was assigned a hotel next to the airport. It was still stiflingly hot in the evening, but I preferred the outside air. As soon as I stepped into the hotel lobby, the air conditioning was so intense it made my throat hurt.

    I took my wallet and passport out of my bag to check into my assigned room. After giving my name and the hotel manager went to photocopy my passport, I got a call from Chris, who sounded a little excited.

    -Can you talk?

    “Yeah, I’m checking into the hotel. What’s going on?”

    The manager returned my passport. Holding my phone with one hand, I took the passport with the other and put it back in my bag.

    -Have you heard from Jae-yi?

    “No, nothing. What’s going on?”

    -Jae-yi called me yesterday, asking about something weird. It seems like there’s a problem with the wedding

    “No, I’ll use this card. Chris, I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Explain it to me in a way I can understand.”

    I handed over my personal credit card as a deposit. My conversation with the hotel manager overlapped and I couldn’t focus on Chris’s story.

    -He wanted to ask the opinion of someone like me who has known you both for a long time

    “What opinion?”

    -If your relationship is something that doesn’t make sense from a general perspective

    “Wait a minute. Thank you. No, I’ll take the luggage upstairs myself. Okay.”

    I stood in front of the elevator and pressed the button. Another guest waited behind me for their turn. I held the phone properly and asked him again.

    “And what did you say?”

    -I told her that it seems like your relationship goes beyond common sense

    I sighed.

    “What common sense? Why did you say something unnecessary? What did Jae-yi say?”

    The elevator arrived and the doors opened. As I warned him that the signal might be unstable for a moment, his voice started breaking up.

    -… guess… everything… fault…

    I couldn’t understand. I just kept my mouth shut. The ride up to the 17th floor felt slow. The other guest got off midway. Chris kept talking, not realizing I couldn’t hear him. When the doors opened on the 17th floor, I interrupted him.

    “I couldn’t hear anything because of the elevator. Say it again.”

    -I told him to think about it while he still had time. It’s not something to decide easily

    “No, no. Before that. You said our relationship was beyond common sense. What did he say?”

    -He said he understood. And that everything was his fault

    I checked the room number and opened the door. I propped the door open with my body and moved my suitcase inside with one hand. The door closed and the room went silent. I kept my hands on my hips and focused on the call with Chris.

    “Is that what Jae-yi said?”

    -Yes, and his voice was very, um…, kind of… Anyway, he asked about what it was like when I got married.”

    “What did he ask?”

    -Just how it was before we got married. I mean, it’s true that my marriage kind of flowed naturally, but we’d been together a long time. We were already family. I don’t know what his fiancé said to him, but Jae-yi seemed pretty confused.

    “Okay. I think I know what you mean.”

    I buttoned my uniform and let out a long sigh. My heart ached.

    -Thank goodness. Looks like something’s going to fall through at the last minute. Maybe it’s a good thing for you.

    “What’s bad for Jae-yi is bad for me.”

    -You’re such a fool, you’re making me feel bad

    “Is that why you called?”

    -Yes. I thought it would be good for you to know.

    “Thanks.”

    -Get some rest. I’ve got to go too

    I hung up the phone with Chris and drew the curtains. I could see the night view of the Singapore airport. At the same time, my furrowed brow was reflected in the glass. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be waiting like this.

    Judging from what Chris said, it seemed like Gisella had done everything she intended. Han Jae-yi appeared to be completely engulfed in confusion. The fact that he hadn’t called me likely meant that he either hadn’t had the time to think about me, or that I was at the very center of his confusion.

    * * *

    I felt uneasy as I prepared for the morning flight to Tokyo. Co-pilot Cho Min-woo seemed to notice my mood but acted as if nothing was wrong. From the briefing to entering the cockpit, he kept the conversation strictly about the flight. His casual demeanor made me feel a bit embarrassed for worrying.

    “You handle PF. You’re the specialist for Haneda.”

    I handed him the controls. It was better this way. I wanted to believe he was taking care of me purely because of his passion for flying, not out of any ulterior motive.

    Flights from Korea to Haneda often require circling due to the route issues, as the wind direction from the East Sea changes the runway direction. If conditions are unfavorable, an ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach is necessary, but Co-pilot Cho Min-woo made a manual landing with only guidance from the control tower last time.

    Again today, he did not request an ILS approach. The airplane turned 180 degrees just before landing and came straight down the runway. His landing skills could be described as godlike.

    “Is there a reason you’re so familiar with Haneda Airport?”

    At this point, I was curious. He shrugged and smiled.

    “Captains keep assigning it to me. At first, it was because it was annoying, but later, it was because I got good at it.”

    His words made sense. Each pilot has airports they are familiar with, and it seemed Haneda was tagged to him. I had used the same excuse to assign him the landing, so I couldn’t say much. We smiled in relief.

    We parked and all exited the gate together. There were over eight hours until the return flight. Even if we showed up three hours before departure, we had about five hours of free time. Usually, we would stay at the airport, but some cabin crew members wanted to go into Tokyo.

    “It’s not against the rules, but…”

    “We can be back by 4. It’s only a 30-minute taxi ride from here, Captain.”

    The cabin manager was speaking from experience and convincing me. Now he’s joined by Co-pilot Cho Min-woo.

    “How about we all go? We can have lunch while we’re at it.”

    “That sounds great!”

    The mood seemed to be already tilted in favor of the Co-pilot. There were seven of us, including five cabin crew and the Co-pilot. The captain has CRM (Crew resource management) privileges, so if something happened to them, it was my responsibility. I thought about what to do, but it was a boring time to be waiting at the airport.

    “Let’s do that, then.”

    I didn’t have the confidence to win against a 6-to-1 vote, so I agreed to a five-hour layover in Tokyo. The only condition I set was that we maintain our decorum while wearing our company uniforms. We promptly took a big taxi from Haneda Airport to downtown Tokyo.

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