Anonymous of Holland            -A Dutchman in Korea-

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Remembrance (1)

Alright, so I've shaved a few rough edges from the first part of this story I posted, gave it a new title, and wrote the draft version of part of the first chapter. Enjoy!

By R. Luijten


When I opened my eyes she was there, as she always was, gently holding my hand.
"Are you alright?" she asked in that soft, caring voice that was not unlike what I'd imagine an angel to sound like. I didn't answer her. "Did you have a bad dream again?"
I shook my head.
I had though. Of course I had. I'd been having the same dream every night for months now. I was strapped down to a hospital bed, flinging and wailing my arms around; trying to keep two shadowy figures who I assumed must have been doctors away from me. In the end, I never could stop them. And they injected me with something that made me wake up covered in sweat, bolstering a massive headache.
She could probably tell I was lying just by looking at the transpiration on my forehead. Yet she didn't push the issue any further. That was one of the things I liked about her: she knew exactly how my mind operated. She knew that, if she let it go now, I would probably tell her about what happened at breakfast tomorrow while, if she kept nagging me about it right now, I'd probably be inclined not to bring it up again for weeks. It's quite rare to find a woman as clever as her, I thought to myself while she was soothingly rubbing my back, eyes closed and her head resting on my shoulder. Her long, brown hair flowed across my chest like a river.
"I, uh.." I started, hesitantly.
Her lips parted slowly and deliberately: "Shhh."
Her hand made her way from my back to my chest and she softly pushed me into the mattress. Her lips parted again, but this time it wasn't to make a sound. I kissed her passionately as I ran my hands down her slender body, losing myself within her deep brown eyes.

When I woke up again, she was still there, as she always was. She was standing in the opening connecting the bedroom to the living room of our apartment. Rent in Seoul was no joke, but between her office job and my semi-permanent spot doing the background art for a monthly manga, we got around quite decently. I had always felt embarrassed about not being the primary earner of the household, as Korea, much like many other countries, had an unwritten but zealously enforced social rule that the man of the house should be the one bringing home the money. In fact, there existed such a stigma on it that we've had to lie about my profession several times since we had gotten together. Soo-Min's mother is still under the impression that I'm a lawyer specializing in foreign affairs.
It's easy to tell them something like that, of course. To most Koreans, seeing a middle-aged white man together with such a beautiful Korean woman paints a picture almost automatically; something we didn't mind playing in to. I don't think Soo-Min was ever ashamed of me though. In fact she was the one who encouraged me to go on with it when Daewon, one of the biggest manga publishers in Korea, invited me for an interview. I didn't get the job I wanted, which was writing the script for one of their ongoing series, but apparently they saw something in the location sketches I brought with me in order to better pitch the story. Either that, or they were in desperate need of someone who could draw a tree. My own opinion tends to gravitate towards the latter, but Soo-Min has always believed in my ability to properly illustrate any surroundings, so I suppose there might be some truth in the former anyway.

A slice of cucumber hit me right in the face.
"I won't let you fall back asleep!"
I grunted some indecipherable words as I stretched out my arms high above my head and one of them made an audible popping sound.
"Ugh..I'm getting old," I stated dryly, turning my head and hearing the familiar pops again.
I rested my head in my palm, rubbing the gunk from my eyes.
"Don't be silly," Soo-Min said energetically, and she walked back into the kitchen to finish making breakfast. "It'll be done in like five minutes, so hurry up!" she shouted on her way out.
She was being too kind: I was definitely getting old. I was pushing forty and the unhealthy hours I was living due to my work had added at least another five years to my appearance. In stark contrast, Soo-Min was only twenty-six, beautiful, and in the prime of her life. I often wondered about what a girl like her could possibly see in a geezer like myself, but found myself scared to dwell on it for too long; afraid the dream might pop if I analyzed it too much. It didn't help that I couldn't list one thing about myself that would be worthwhile to anyone, of course. At least, nothing that didn't have something to do with Soo-Min in one way or another. I was proud that I was doing what I wanted to do with my life, but it was Soo-Min's job that enabled me to; I was proud of my apartment and all the exclusive items I had filled it with, but most of them were presents I got from Soo-Min; I was also proud of"? I just realized I wasn't actually listing anything about myself that I was proud of: just the things I had accomplished. Honestly, I don't think I had anything to be proud of. I was a good boyfriend to Soo-Min, of course, but anyone who managed to get a girlfriend like this would no doubt try their best to keep her and treat her well. Hell, I don't even th"?
"Leon Oppa!"
I should stop thinking so much about the past and start paying some attention to the present, I thought.
"I'm coming!"
I jumped out of bed and threw on my bathrobe. It was a big, fuzzy, black robe with a Star Wars logo on the front and 'Star Wars: The Old Republic' embroided on the back. Yet another item I wouldn't have been able to afford if it weren't for Soo-Min's job.
As soon as I stepped out of the bedroom, the smell of curry penetrated my nostrils. How Koreans could start every day with a full hot meal was a mystery to me. I tried bunkering down some spoonfuls of the stuff every now and then, but my stomach always got upset almost instantly, resulting in me generally eating nothing but cereal while Soo-Min had to eat alone.
When I came to the dinner table, I was surprised. My bowl of cereal was already on the table, opposite of where my girlfriend was sitting. She smiled and pointed at the empty chair.
"Go on then, have a seat."
I looked at her and raised an eyebrow. "Hey…aren't you going to try to convince me to eat with you for 20 minutes first?" This is what she usually did. Understandably, of course, since it made her look like some giant glutton, feasting on a full meal while her boyfriend was just sitting there eating milk and cereal.
"Don't have the time today, honey, they need me at the office."
Wait…what day was it? I somehow had the feeling that it was Saturday, but I guess that wouldn't make sense since we'd never be up this early. But if it wasn't Saturday, then.. "Why am I up?" I said out loud.
Soo-Min gave me a puzzled look.
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you usually just go to work without waking me? What's special about today?"
"You don't remember?"
She got up, walked around the table, and put her hand on my cheek, caressing it softly.
"It's..kind of scary how you keep forgetting things, love."
I could hear her voice was breaking up.
"Ah, I..uh..I'm sure it's nothing." I said in an obviously unc
ertain tone, "You know what I'm like: always forgetting things."
She started sobbing beside me. I put my arm around her waist and pulled her close.
"Soo-Min." I whispered to her, "I'm alright, don't worry. You don't need to burden yourself on Oppa's account. I's probably the stress."

I wiped her tears with my thumb and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She forced a small smile.
"I'm sorry," she exhaled timidly, "it's only natural for me to worry about you, oppa."
"I should be taking care of you, young lady, not the other way around. I feel fine."
Soo-Min sat back down and started eating her curry. It seemed safer not to mention the dream.
After a few moments, I worked up the courage to speak again.
"But seriously…am I supposed to be doing something today?"

Chapter I

The air in the Daewon C.I. lobby was cool, the air conditioning humming peacefully in the background. I greeted the female receptionist as I made my way to the elevator. She replied with a polite nod, obviously uncertain of who I was and what I was doing here, but probably put at ease by the fact that I knew where I was going. Moments later, a robotic voice announced the arrival of the elevator.
"Elevator doors opening. Please
watch your hands."
Two men in suits briskly walked out, both carrying almost identical briefcases. I doubt they even noticed me standing there. That was probably for the best though, since despite my age I never looked quite at home in a suit. Standing in front of the mirror, I'd imagined I looked like Tony Stark preparing for a business trip, but in reality my unkempt beard was nothing like his goatee, my frame looked flimsy and frail, and my suit never managed to make me look like anything other than a kid wearing his dad's clothes.
"Excuse, sir, you go up?" a timid voice behind me asked in broken English.
"Ah, forgive me," I replied in perfect Korean, "My mind was somewhere else."
As I stepped into the elevator, I caught a glimpse of the woman's red face. She must've been embarrassed of speaking English to me when it turned out I could understand Korean. I decided not to try to make her feel at ease. Reminding others of their mistakes, even if it was to make them feel better, was a sign of disrespect, and I often had to fight my Western impulses in situations such as this. I had learned early on that it was usually better to just stay quiet.
The woman got off at the first floor without looking back.
I was going up. Up to the 6th floor, where the director's office was. I had no recollection of the phone call that had taken place earlier this week, but Soo-Min had said I had ecstatically told her that the director had called and I was to come to his office on Thursday.
If I was that happy about it, it couldn't have been something bad, I assured myself when the elevator arrived at the 6th floor and the doors creaked open. I swallowed a lump in my throat I didn't even know I had and walked into the large hallway.
Although this was still an office building, it was the Daewon headquarters in Seoul, so no expense was spared in making it look appropriate for the seat of a major corporation. The downstairs lobby was huge and open, large glass pillars sporting pictures of the company's most famous characters holding the high ceiling up. This hallway, too, was decorated with the achievements of the corporation on one side. The other consisted of a giant glass wall, revealing a beautiful view of the district surrounding the building.

At the end of the hallway was the secretary's desk. She was filing her nails when I approached her.
"Ah, mister Schmidt, I assume?" she spoke in a monotone voice.
"I go by mister Park these days," I replied, forcing an apologetic smile.
"Well, mister Park," she put an unnecessary amount of emphasis on my last name, "you can go right in. Mister Choi will be expecting you, seeing as you're late."
I was only five minutes late, and even that was because of the traffic, but I decided not to rise to the obvious bait.
"Pfff, foreigners," the woman exhaled when she thought I was out of ear's reach.

"Have a seat," the plump man sitting behind an overly luxurious desk said, a broad smile accentuating the heavy creases in his skin and his double chin.
"Certainly, mister Choi."
I took a quick bow, sat down on the notably less comfortable chair than the one our director was sitting in and folded my hands in my lap as a sign of respect.
Mister Choi waited a moment before he spoke again.
"Leon," he said, "how long have you been working for our company now?"
"About eleven months, I think, sir."
He looked up at the ceiling, seemingly trying to remember something.
"Yes, yes, of course, its been almost a year now." His face, which was already remarkably friendly looking for a superior, brightened up even more and I think I even saw a twinkle in his eye.
"You know that our company likes to nurture young talent, do you, Leon?"
"I wouldn't call myself young, sir," I said modestly.
The man smiled.
"I wasn't talking about you, son," he said, still smiling, "although you certainly are talented."
I blushed heavily. My fear of mister Choi noticing because of my pale skin made me blush even more. The director kindly ignored it:
"You are being transferred to work on Biscuit, one of our top selling manga. The background artist had a mental breakdown last week and the two kids we hired to take over his work have proven to be capable, but not very organized."
I could see where this was going.
"Have you ever thought about leading your own team?"
This was a huge honor, of course, for the director to think so highly of someone who had only recently joined his business, but on the other hand I was worried. I guess it showed.
"I'm sorry to spring this on you so suddenly.." the director began, apologetically.
"No, no, of course not." I scrambled to fix the situation. "I am truly honored that you'd consider me for such an important job." That was the honest truth. I was just worried that it'd take up even more of my time than my current job.
"You're bothered. Why?"
I decided it would be best to be truthful. Lying would not do his image of me any good.
"As I said, this is a great honor, but.." I hesitated a moment and mister Choi's big doughy eyes stared at me. I had to suppress a smile.
"You could say I'm worried about my family," I managed to say. "Me and Soo-Min aren't married yet, but we might, and I see so little of her as it is, with her job and my work hours and all.."
The director cut in with a friendly voice: "I see." The twinkle in his eye returned, more clearly now. "What if I told you you would need to work less, while still making more money than you do now?"
I couldn't suppress my smile this time.
"Where do I sign up?" I asked coyly, and we both laughed.

After a slap on the back and a promise that a more experienced employee would tell me about my future responsibilities somewhere next week, I found myself back in the downstairs lobby in the best mood I'd been in for months. I nodded at the receptionist, who didn't notice me, on my way out and for some reason the sky seemed bluer than usual. It was still early in the morning; the entire ordeal hadn't taken longer than half an hour, and the morning sun was flooding Seoul's never sleeping streets.


2 comments on “Remembrance (1)

  1. Maudy
    12 March 2011

    het vervolg rich, het vervolg XD schiet nou s op!

  2. Harry d. Busdriver
    12 March 2011

    Er zijn al een hoop nieuwe pagina’s geschreven, actually.
    Maar eigenlijk moeten ze echt nog heel hard herschreven worden…zometeen post ik ‘t allemaal, en dan is ‘ie eindelijk af, en dan fix ik ‘m, en dan heeft niemand meer zin om ‘m te lezen omdat ze ‘t verhaal al kennen xD


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This entry was posted on 26 February 2011 by in Original Content, Stories.

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