Chapter 3 — Like a Lie
“I’ll be back. I have something I need to check on.”
If what the man said was the truth, there should be no trace of me in the worn down single-room apartment that I’d laid my body in. I thought I would only be able to reach a real conclusion once I confirmed that.
Spring was in the air, but the weather was still chilly. In order to go outside, I searched all over for a piece of furniture that resembled a closet. The luxurious hospital room had multiple drawers.
“Where are you going,” asked the man who had unhurriedly been watching me scramble about like someone out of their mind. He was probably questioning what the hell this was when we were about to divorce. It didn’t matter either way. Whether I’d really won the first place lottery or not, I had to verify the winning numbers.
“…I’ll tell you later.”
When I opened a long drawer, I finally found a white parka that I could wear going out. As I shrugged on one sleeve, it occurred to me that I didn’t have the money for a taxi to get there. My spirit that held the feeling that I was about to sprint right out almost depressingly wilted all of a sudden. But seeing the man that had been impassively standing with his arms crossed, color returned to my face.
He was still my husband, after all.
“Excuse me, please lend me some money. I don’t have money for a taxi.”
His expression held an air of how ridiculous this was, but the me right now didn’t even feel any embarrassment. In the first place, this entire situation was equivalent to a dream to me.
When I demanded an answer another time, the man who closed his eyes once, opened them, and put on again the jacket he’d laid on the sofa arm while walking towards where I was by door.
“Put on some clothes and come downstairs.”
I had been around the floor with all the hospital wards, but it was the first time in two days since I’d woken up that I was entering the hospital lobby. From a youth relying on crutches to an elderly person with pure white hair, and even a child in a wheelchair… Thanks to the letters printed on the hospital gowns, I could tell that this was Gangnam University Hospital, but I still felt there really were a lot of sick people in this world.
‘If I look at it like that, then it really isn’t different from the place where I originally lived.’
Walking ahead of me, the man’s wide back seemed steadfast and reliable, but I couldn’t erase my doubts just yet. A clear answer should come out when I went home and confirmed with my own eyes.
At the main entrance stood a black sedan. The hired person who had been standing by the back seats opened the door when we walked over, to let us get on easily. Looking back and gesturing that I should get on first, the man a.k.a. my husband melted into the scene without disharmony. For an instant, I couldn’t decide whether it was appropriate to approach them or not. Even if a camera started rolling right now, he looked to be able to pull off the role of a third generation chaebol. Of course, he would be the protagonist.
Climbing onto the seat awkwardly, I wondered. If he was the protagonist, what would I be? Maybe, probably, an extra incidentally caught on camera.
“Where to, sir?”
The employee sitting in the driver’s seat asked after getting us in the car. At the man’s prompting glances, I dictated the address I lived at. Beep beep, pressing the device a few times, the man tilted his head curiously.
“It seems the address doesn’t show up on navigation. I know the way til the apartment complex, so I’ll start driving this way for now.”
The car started so smoothly, I could barely even feel the jolt. Watching the trees by the roadside go by, I felt a sudden gratitude towards the man that had come to accompany me. Then I realized that I didn’t even know his name yet.
Although we were in the same backseat, the man sat the furthest apart from me at the opposite window and gave me a look.
“Now that I think of it, I don’t even know your name yet. What is your name?”
Even the man who was aware that my memory wasn’t whole seemed caught off guard by my question. Silence prevailed for a minute. The employee who was driving had shut his mouth, but even he seemed to feel awkward at my question.
“Yo Han, Go Yo Han.”
Just as I was about to start regretting that I asked, the man– no, Go Yo Han , answered. It was a name as peculiar as the person himself.
“Go Yo Han-ssi . Thank you for taking me there.”
“For starters, I’ll just be thankful for that.”
The people called my parents, what kind of people they were and where they lived, as well as who the me who he was talking about was, there were a lot of things I wanted to ask; but those were things I should find out after everything became clear. Go Yo Han-ssi, who answered my thanks with silence, turned his gaze back to the opposite window.
“It’s probably up this alley… There doesn’t seem to be a path fit for a car to enter,” said the driver, who had leaned his head close the windshield and was scanning the street. Looking over the window at the street that had become unfamiliar somehow, I opened the door and came outside. Air that seemed all the more chilly because it was after rainfall drove into my lungs. A few moderately-sized commercial buildings were certainly familiar, but the appearance of small stores or residences along the way to my single-room apartment were greatly changed.
“I’ll be right back.”
I told Go Yo Han-ssi through the open window and headed into the narrow pathway. Around the time I reached the middle of the alley, the sound of someone getting off of the car registered. When I turned around, Go Yo Han-ssi was following me, six steps behind.
“You don’t have to come…”
Throwing out some words out of courtesy, I trailed off at the thought that perhaps the gangsters were lying in wait. This time as well, he gave no response.
‘Maybe he’s the silent type?’
After all, the first conversation he had had with someone just awoken from surgery was about how he could allow the divorce now… I could tell he didn’t exactly have a friendly personality. I didn’t protest any further and continued the way I was heading.
Miraculously, in between cement walls that were fractured like they were about to collapse any moment stood an alley. Passing by the familiar-looking alleyway, I suddenly halted my steps. It was definitely here. Why wasn’t there a path…? I looked about, but instead of the path leading to the single-room apartment I lived in, there stood only some small, dilapidated residences with cobwebs hung on the roof clustered together. There was no way this was real. “…”
Had I really been dropped into… another world?
“This, this doesn’t even make sense…”
The agitation that had abated if just for a while on the car ride began to unfurl once again. After a moment of standing like that and surveying the surroundings, I paused at the sight of a middle-aged woman with lightly permed, short, black hair passing by.
Her face that turned around with a suspicious expression matched my memory. She was the home-owner of the apartment I was searching for right now. During the three years I had resided in my single-room apartment, she had not once raised the rent, and she was my benefactor who had given me hand-made side-dishes every now and then, saying it was good to see a young person working so hard in life. It was truly a relief that we met like this.
“Excuse me, what happened to the single-room? Why is the path…”
Thinking that she would naturally recognize me, I tried to ask about the path leading to the house right away. However, as if dealing with a stranger, she assumed a flippant attitude.
“…The room that you rented out to me. You know who I am. It’s me, Do Yun.”
“Do Yun? I don’t think so.”
“Me, Seo Do Yun, do you not remember?”
“It’s our first time meeting. Phew, it’s cold.”
I tried shoving my face closer so she could take a better look, but even til the end, she couldn’t remember me. Standing in place, I watched her retreating back as she walked home with her hands tucked under her armpits from the cold.
Now, I couldn’t help but believe that all of Go Yo Han-ssi’s words were the truth.
From behind, I heard the dry sound of sand crunching under dress shoes. Go Yo Han-ssi who was solemnly looking around the surroundings made it seem like the town had experienced a catastrophe or something and was waiting for aid. I wracked my brain that was freezing over at the cold air.
That I hadn’t been inflicted with amnesia I knew better than anyone. Laughably, it seemed that I had been dropped into a world similar to but of an entirely different dimension as the one I had been living in, and it looked like the me of this world with the same name and face as the original me had been experiencing married life with that imposing man.
“What you wanted to check.”
“Are you finished?”
There may be the danger of divorce now, but… The clearest fact was, in comparison to my original life in which I was under immediate threat of being hanged, drawn, and quartered  due to money I hadn’t even spent, this life was a hundred times, no, a thousand times better.
“I’ve finished checking.”
Living a life without day or night to provide the interest that the loan sharks demanded was like pouring water into a pot with no bottom. I couldn’t forget the calluses of my roughed up palm. This… compared to that, it wasn’t even effort or anything.
“It really must be amnesia.”
I had thrown something away in my mind, and I approached one step forward towards Go Yo Han-ssi.
With my lie just now, this man didn’t have to lose someone close to him. And I had already arrived at such a world, so what could I do? Even if I told the truth, it was obvious that no one would believe me.
“You must be right.”
Having stepped up close to the man, my heart convulsed chaotically  at the prospect of doing something insane.
“Keep it a secret from our parents for the time being. They’ve had enough to worry about with just you being hospitalized.”
When we returned to the hospital room, it had turned into an entirely different situation than before. So to summarize, that man…no, Go Yo Han-ssi and I had gotten married last year, and were now looking to a divorce.
“…Are you listening to me?”
Go Yo Han-ssi called for my attention that had wandered and was dazedly distracted.
“Oh, I’m listening. That we should keep this secret from our parents.”
“But would it be fine? My family would quickly catch on as soon as I exchange a few words with them.”
“…You and your family, you’re not close to each other. You can vaguely tell when you see no one has come by even on your second day of hospitalization.”
His necktie that had hung straight this morning was ever so slightly crooked. It seemed that Go Yo Han-ssi had also relaxed a bit. As if reacting to his words, I let out a meaningless hum. In the world I had previously lived in, I had been abandoned at an orphanage as soon as I was born, and in this world, to think that despite having parents I wasn’t really close to them. Some sort of karmic retribution that my souls mutually had to pay, perhaps.
Absently picking at my nails, I was reminded of what I thought of in the crumbling alley. The calluses on my palm… Now that I thought about it, I couldn’t see the calluses anywhere. I pressed at the spot of skin connecting my finger, but it was softer than ever.
‘Even if our appearances are the same, how we’ve changed from the way we’ve lived is different, huh.’
Instead of calluses, this hand had many traces of the skin around his nails and cuticles being picked at. If I’d married a man like him, surely I wouldn’t have had to make ends meet with manual labor. Why was my skin so rough?
“Even after losing your memory…”
There was a sense of Go Yo Han-ssi wanting to ask me something while I looked down at my hands and fidgeted. The way his gaze had wandered to my hands, it seemed he had something to say about it.
What could he have been trying to say? As I momentarily looked at my hands, a lot of things I was curious about crossed my mind.
“But about this wrist. How did I injure it? Maybe… when I collapsed?”
Usually when someone gets hit by lightning, didn’t their hearts stop, or didn’t they receive burns or something? The question of why I had hurt my left wrist, of all things, still remained. Now that I knew I had come to another world, it occurred to me that I might have been injured for some other reason.
“It was cut.”
Go Yo Han-ssi’s deep, low voice spit out matter-of-fact-ly. Any emotion that could be contained in the content of the words had been completely removed.
 Btw I tried arranging the names like English names, but it just doesn’t flow the same so I’ll leave it as is with the last name first.
 “-ssi” (씨) is a suffix attached to names and is part of formal speech, like Mr. or sir but not quite, since it’s actually used in pretty informal relationships, too, like between lovers. I might edit it out later if it doesn’t flow, but I couldn’t really think of a substitute. If anything it’s like “-san” in Japanese. (suggestions welcome pls)
 I substituted “Auntie” for ajoomuni (아주머니), which is how you generally address older, mostly married middle-aged women– the respectful version of the more casual, possibly rude ajumma (아줌마).
 “hanged, drawn, and quartered” was a substitute for ochebunshi (오체분시) which is pulling a horse/cow with ropes by the head, arms, and legs into five directions to kill them by ripping them apart. (gruesome, ik)
 “chaotically” was substitute for bolsseongsanapge (볼썽사납게) which means faceless or shapeless to the extent that it is nauseating to look at. (lol weird korean words amirite)
JEN: been a bit busy :3