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    I couldn’t find a suitable parking spot and was already circling the same street for the third time. Han Jae-yi’s company was in the middle of a busy city center, and the area was already packed with cars. I had to leave my car in a paid parking lot some distance away and walk.

    This was my second visit to his office. The first visit was two years ago, on Han Jae-yi’s birthday. We had planned to gather with friends, but since I had a flight, we arranged to meet separately. It was such a rare occurrence for me to visit him that I remember the expression on his face when he saw me waiting for him outside his office. We went to the same restaurant that day as we did today.

    It was a strange feeling. I don’t know how many times I looked at my watch while waiting for Han Jae-yi. My heart was pounding unnecessarily, as if the past 15 years had been reset. I drank some water. The time we had was only an hour or two, but my day was already filled with him.

    The server came over and refilled my water. I pretended to look at the menu in silence, but I already spotted a person walking quickly out the window. One second, two seconds, three seconds to be exact, and the restaurant’s door opened. Han Jae-yi, wearing a suit from a brand and a blue shirt, walked in. The metal watch on his wrist was a gift from me on his 28th birthday.

    “Please leave it as it is. I’ll take another look inside. No, it’s not possible right now. Yes, I have an important appointment. Yes, I’m sorry. Okay, goodbye.”

    He hung up the phone as he walked to the table. His first words were a mix of laughter and complaint.

    “I can’t believe it. I quit my job to be with you, and all I get is one lunch.”

    “Sorry, my schedule got messed up.”

    I was prepared to accept his anger if he got mad. He had told me that his house was filled with stacks of cheese and boxes of red wine that I liked. I had thought we would spend the night together, but here we were, looking at each other awkwardly in the bright daylight. The server came by.  Han Jae-yi ordered without looking at the menu. He seemed to be a regular.

    “I always come when I have lunch with clients. You came here once, too.”

    “Yeah, I remember.”

    He smiled and turned back to the server. He joked with them as if he knew them well. His eyes, which I loved, softened gently. He gestured diligently as if explaining something. I found myself watching him in a daze. It had only been about ten days since we parted ways in Rome, but I must have missed him terribly.

    When the server left and Han Jae-yi’s gaze returned to me, I pretended not to notice and took a drink of water. He asked gently,

    “When do you have to head back?”

    It felt like a question I should have asked. It took just over an hour to get here, so if I left by 3 p.m., I wouldn’t be late for the party.

    “Two hours to go.”

    He leaned across the table toward me as far as he could. With his hands clasped together and his chin resting on them, he stared at me as if he were admiring an exhibit. I felt uncomfortable under his gaze, so I cleared my throat and spoke.

    “Is everything settling down okay? Nothing major happened?”

    There were things I was curious about but found difficult to ask over the phone. His earlier words about wanting to run away came to mind.

    “Well… I can’t say it was uneventful at all. My cousin showed up at the office and started making a scene. Both sets of parents worked together to set up a meeting, but I ran away.  I got calls from several mutual friends taking turns. They all think I cheated.”

    He spoke calmly about the intense ten-day battle as if it were someone else’s story.

    “Is Giselle okay?”

    He lost his smile at that question and took a sip of water.

    “I hope she is. She doesn’t show it in front of me. Even though we agreed to call it off mutually, she went through a lot because of me. I want to comfort her, but I won’t be any help. Especially now that things are like this between us, I don’t have much else to say.”

    I sighed involuntarily, realizing that the burden he was carrying was heavier than I thought.

    “How much longer do you think it’ll take to sort everything out?”

    “Can you give me a few more weeks?”

    I nodded. He would need plenty of time. Though the breakup was one thing, I wondered how his parents took the news of his plan to move back to Korea. He just laughed off the question, indicating that it wasn’t fully resolved.

    Warm bread and salad were served. It was nice to have familiar food after a long time, and as we ate the vinegary potato salad, we talked about recent events. The airplane and Han Jae-yi’s daily life. I was already so full that I couldn’t even taste the food anymore.

    “These days…”

    He began his next story just as I was cutting a piece of bread in half with a knife.

    “I think about you all day.”

    I held up the uncut bread and looked at him. What about you? Han Jae-yi’s eyes demanded an answer.

    When it came to us, we were in a long-distance relationship of the highest difficulty. Our time zones didn’t match, and once I was on a flight, I’d be offline for at least ten hours. All we could do was leave short messages for each other. Sometimes, we were lucky enough to find time to call. So, I spent every spare moment thinking about him.

    In the days when our heart was out of reach, I indulged in memories. I wandered through the middle of cities we had visited, burdened by the memories of our youth. The longing remained, but now I was glad I could express it.

    “I feel the same.”

    A faint smile crossed his lips at my unfiltered response. I was happy too.

    It didn’t matter how long he thought about me. I liked how his wording changed gradually and how the lines we had drawn when we were friends were being erased. We knew each other better than anyone else, but it was still exciting to try to guess the new feelings. It’s an unbearable feeling of joy and happiness when you carefully express your feelings and the other person says the same.

    That was the look on Han Jae-yi’s face now. Just hearing him say he thought of me made me smile constantly. He didn’t seem to have much interest in eating.

    “Why don’t you eat, this place is expensive.”

    “That’s okay, I’m not paying just to eat.”

    An hour had passed since we sat down. After tasting a few pieces of the roasted veal tenderloin, Jae-yi neatly placed his knife and fork down. Since then, he’d been staring at me.

    “Stop staring. You’re going to give me indigestion.”

    “Eat slowly. We still have about 50 minutes left. I ordered only what you like. Finish it all.”

    “Why are you so obsessed with my eating?”

    “Because there’s nothing else.”

    I looked at him as I chewed my food.

    “You kind of, how should I put it, make me want to break you down. Maybe it’s a professional habit, but you’re always so perfect and resolute, I can’t see any cracks. That’s why I like your weaknesses, like how you can’t handle alcohol or have a small appetite. Taking care of those things makes me feel like I’m conquering you in some way. That’s why I’m obsessed.”

    Even though our relationship had changed, some habits remained. But since I enjoyed Jae-yi’s obsession with me, I thought it was fine to leave those habits as they were. Pouring water into my glass, he said,

    “Stop by my car for a moment before you go. I have something for you.”

    “What is it?”

    “A birthday present for Grandma Elsa. I haven’t seen her in a long time, so please give her my regards.”

    As his actual grandson, I hadn’t even brought a gift, but he, who had only met her a few times when we were kids, remembered her birthday.


    I wondered what he’d bought, but I didn’t ask because I knew I’d find out in half an hour. I just realized that I’d been counting the minutes.

    “What time are you flying tomorrow?”

    “Ten o’clock. So I have to go early in the morning.”

    “Can I ask what you’re going to do in Iceland?”

    I drank the water he poured and wiped my mouth on a napkin.

    “I rented an airplane, a very small one. My instructor showed me a picture when we were training and it was amazing, one of the best views I’ve ever seen of the landscape from above. I’ll send you a picture when I get it.”

    He smiled and nodded. We skipped dessert and chatted a bit more. With about 10 minutes left, we paid the bill and got up. We left the restaurant and walked towards the parking lot of Han Jae-yi’s company. It’s funny, but I found myself walking slowly.

    He opened the backseat door and handed me a large, beautifully wrapped gift box. It was a bit heavy, so I asked him what it was, and he said it was a set of tea pots. Then he placed a smaller box on top of it.

    “This is for you. Open it at home.”

    Even though he said it was nothing, I was excited and curious. Unable to use my hands, I grabbed the box and said goodbye to him.

    “Go in.”

    “I’ll see you go.”

    “Okay, I’ll get back to you then.”

    “Message me when you get home, too.”

    There was no end in sight to the tail-wagging. I chuckled.

    “Why are you laughing?”

    Though he himself was smiling, Jae-yi still asked.

    “Seems like you don’t want to say goodbye.”

    Both of us.

    Han Jae-yi’s smile grew wider.

    “Just say the word. I’ll run away with you right now.”

    Han Jae-yi, a thirty-year-old in a suit, giggled like a fifteen-year-old. I refused, but instead planted a quick kiss on his lips. His body stiffened like plaster at the unexpected kiss.


    As I turned and walked away from him, I smiled, remembering the look on his face the last time I saw him.

    Once again, as for us, we thought about and missed each other all day long, but it was difficult to say that we missed each other in person. I felt exhilarated by the sense of distance that was gradually closing in on us as we moved closer step by step.

    I hoped my actions also gave him a sense of excitement. That he could spend the rest of the day smiling at the memory of our brief kiss. With that thought, I turned around. Han Jae-yi was still leaning against the car, staring at me.

    It was the first afternoon I truly felt like we were in a relationship. In front of his company. I wanted to remember today like this.

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