Chapter 1 — Like a Lie
I opened my eyes.
From the window with the widely opened curtains, sunlight was warmly seeping into the room. It was such a well furnished single-person hospital room that if it weren’t for the hospital bed I was lying on, I might have mistaken it for a hotel room.
My head was numb as if I’d had a very long sleep. It felt almost as if I’d been reborn. But it wasn’t that I’d forgotten what had happened yesterday, so I sat up with a vaguely uncomfortable feeling. At the excruciating pain when I unknowingly supported myself with my left hand, I held it up and examined it.
Maybe I was injured from collapsing when I’d lost consciousness, because my hand was wrapped with bandages. Everywhere else was fine, but only my left hand had been treated. Ordinarily, the head would be injured…
If only I’d injured my head and died just like that.
Then… I wouldn’t have had to open my eyes. Wouldn’t have had to open my eyes and wait for the same miserable fate as yesterday. I didn’t know which kind person had saved me when I was unconscious and registered me in such an expensive hospital room, but it was a really useless thing to do. If they had just left me there, I would have at least died from hypothermia by now and ceased to exist. All because of this someone who saved me, I’ll have to live through my horrifying everyday again.
Sitting in a comfy bed and pouring out meaningless as well as wrongly directed resentment, I turned my gaze at the sound of the door opening.
A tall man in a suit met my gaze and stood still for a while, like he hadn’t known I was awake. Even though I had sat silently cursing the one who had saved me, I couldn’t say anything when someone actually came into the room. Pathetic, as true to my character.
The man who had finished assessing the situation first closed the door and plopped down onto the sofa that stood a ways apart from the bed.
Both the man and I didn’t say a word. I hated the fact that I was alive too much to thank him for saving my life, but it was a situation where the man deserved thanks nevertheless. So I couldn’t say anything. In the end, the man spoke up first.
“I’m on my way back from meeting with the president.”
“…He permitted the divorce.”
He didn’t even look this way, as if there were no one around. I thought that the man had called someone, but both his hands were empty. My already complicated thoughts were now impossibly tangled due to the man. Divorce? The president?
When I didn’t respond, the man finally turned towards me. His expression seemed impassive yet still annoyed. It was a face similar to that of a husband going through a divorce with his wife, often seen in dramas. It held a feeling of being tired of and irritated with their counterpart.
I asked, with an air of ‘have you been drinking during the day, are you really saying this to me?’ The man stared at me until I felt self conscious, then stood up and came forward a few steps. His arms were crossed, with a slightly furrowed brow.
“How long have you been awake.”
I followed his gaze to the clock hanging on the wall and answered.
“About 5 minutes… 5 minutes, as of just now.”
Hearing my words, the man had an aggravated expression and lightly closed his eyes for a bit before opening them, then stood with his body turned half to the side. His attitude was like he didn’t even want to face me directly.
“Talk when you’re clear-headed, then.”
“… About what?”
An awkward silence ensued. Although I didn’t know what was going on, it felt like a comedy, the scene of the man with a heavy air about him and me sitting there like an idiot. Stealing a sideways glance at me, he spoke again.
“That divorce that you wanted so much, let’s do it.”
At hearing such bewildering words, it was like my body had stopped listening to me, and I couldn’t pick my wide agape jaw back up. Sitting in a daze, I shook myself out of it.
“Excuse me? I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
The man, who had been taking out a bottle of water from the mini-fridge, sighed heavily but didn’t seem like he intended to explain anything. Everytime he swallowed, the water drained away in chunks.
“Too much anesthesia, it seems.”
I instantly frowned. Excuse you. As I stood up and approached closer to the man, who had been putting up an indifferent front, he hesitated and leaned his torso back.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen you, ok?”
“Talking about divorce or whatever… I’m a man. And I don’t even know who you are. What exactly are you going on about?”
Maybe from standing up too suddenly, my head started spinning. I rested my head a bit while leaning on the wooden furniture beside me. All the while, there was not a word from the person before me. The crumpled plastic bottle expanding again with a pop was the only sound that could be heard.
Raising his head and staring again, the man’s expression was calmer than just before. It had an air of ‘how should I know why you’re being like this, naturally, it’s probably from the anesthetics.’ Again, I felt frustrated and angry.
“Lie down for now. Since it might be a side effect of the surgery.”
Despite my anger, I followed the man’s words for now. His low, deep voice had a compelling tone to it. I plopped down on the bed and glared at his face.
It was hard to imagine him saving someone or being nice to them with that sort of cold appearance. Even at a glance, he looked like someone who would live an entirely different life from me, someone who oozed wealth. So I ignored him all the more as someone totally unrelated with me. From his well-formed, straight nose to his big, sharp, heated eyes to his incredible figure that looked like it could model suits. But I couldn’t help but acknowledge it. That I was just trying to pick a fight from thinking, ‘why would someone so perfect and well-off like you make a mistake, what kind of delusion are you under about me.’
The fact that I was raging at anyone without a care despite being insignificant and worthless soothed my temper a bit. I asked in a mutter.
“…What sort of surgery did I receive.”
The man who had been watching me impassively, like a researcher observing their test subject, didn’t answer and asked me a question instead.
“You don’t remember?”
“No, I don’t.”
I answered, disgruntled.
“…You received an emergency blood transfusion. And some stitches on your left wrist.”
Where he pointed with his index finger lay my bandaged left hand. Like I thought, it seemed I hit it somewhere when I collapsed. That’s why it had hurt so much. Once curiosity was resolved, but there were still a handful of questions left.
“Then what is this talk about a divorce?”
Although it had looked like he would continue explaining, the man shut his mouth as if he had become a statue as soon as I brought up the divorce. Instead, a prickling gaze that seemed to dig through me pored over every corner of my face. I felt like a criminal being interrogated. How much time had passed as I bit my lip in wait of an answer? Tossing the empty plastic bottle into the wastebasket, the man walked to the door of the hospital room. Right before he held the handle and exited, he spoke.
“When the anesthesia wears off, your memory will return, too. Let’s talk about the rest of it then.”
With those words, the man left the room without turning back. In an instant, an uneasy silence resumed.
I couldn’t even understand what had just occurred. Was such a fine-looking man suffering from delusions or something? Not even mentioning the fact that he saved me and instead babbling nonsense before disappeared, the man was just too bewildering.
As I tried to just sit back for a while, a nurse came in to examine the bandaging and measure blood pressure and temperature. It seemed the man had passed on to them that I had woken up before leaving. After the nurse asked whether I could manage to eat, to which I replied yes, lunch was served. Even though I had no idea what I was doing or where this was, I ate with as much gusto as always.
‘They might have come searching to the house by now.’
My head ached when I thought of the gangsters that would come knocking and trash my tiny single-room apartment. Picturing the scene, the spoon scooping up a bite of warm steamed egg stopped in its tracks. It was like my appetite had vanished altogether.
If only that man hadn’t dropped by to spout a bunch of nonsense, I might have calculated what I had to and be home by now… Those gangsters, they wouldn’t misunderstand and think I ran off, would they?
No. It was a perfect situation for such a misunderstanding.
The day before, I had fallen behind on the interest payment that I had always somehow scraped together each month, and the gangsters wearing labels called loan sharks had just come by to threaten me that they would separate me head and body and sell it off nationwide.
In truth, when I climbed over the Hangang Bridge yesterday, it was the equivalent of trying to run away from them. If I had enough decisiveness and guts to head towards the escape called death, I wouldn’t be a live person of this world about now.
So right now, I had basically run away from them.
The cost of this luxurious hospital room, the treatment, and the surgery, the likes of which I probably couldn’t even start to afford with my lack of insurance and mound of debt, occupied my thoughts. I was basically done for, now. I couldn’t decide on whether to immediately return home and establish contact with the gangsters, or to climb up to the hospital roof and end the life I hadn’t managed to yesterday.
The spoon stuck in limbo moved food into my mouth, and I chewed mechanically. My body wished to sustain this life. My instinct was to survive, but life just wouldn’t grant me this wish. It was only full of plots to ruin it somehow.
As absently I looked around, excluding the clean and chic hospital room interior and the static noise from outside, one could feel a peaceful and quiet air.
The man I had encountered for a moment would probably continue living in this sort of peace. He wouldn’t be chased after by any gangsters that threatened to kill him, and even if he experienced the misfortune of being scammed by his lover like me, he would laugh it off and live on as if nothing ever happened. Consoling himself that it was all a life experience. He wouldn’t even think that someone like me, who had to lay their life on the line as payment for such life experience, existed.
Tears dropped, plip, plop, onto the white rice.
The thoroughly chewed food slid past the hot lump in my throat. Clang, the silverware was dropped carelessly onto the tray. Because I knew my crying face would contort hideously, I hid it with both hands and cried out a torrent of tears. If anyone would let me reach the escape called death, I felt like I would grasp at their pant leg in desperation. At the same time, if anyone would save me, then I wanted to plead with them no matter what. To save me. Please, save me.
Hi! I’m a new Korean translator here, hope you enjoy this novel!