September 17, 2009
Yoon Hee gets up, pays my bill without asking, and walks out the door. Afraid to lose her, I hurry and run down the stairs. She is already walking toward the pharmacy, each step deliberate. As I approach her, she walks faster. Near the marketplace full of pubs and cheap restaurants, she finally glances back to make sure I’m following her, then walks into one. When I reach her, Yoon Hee is sitting in a corner and looking at me. It is the most inconspicuous spot. I want to appear relaxed, so I smile.
“I’ve never seen a woman walk so fast!”
Yoon Hee answers in a low voice. “Do you have any idea what kind of place that is, the Hometown Café? It is right in front of the police station. Half of their clientele are police. The waitresses blabber about whatever they see and hear.”
“I didn’t know.”
“How long have you been underground?”
“Since last fall.”
“It’s about time you got tired of it.”
“To be honest, yes.”
“Did you eat dinner?”
“The first rule of a runaway is do not skip a meal.”
“Then let’s just order a bottle of soju and we can go.”
“Where you’re going to sleep tonight. You don’t have anywhere else to go, do you?”
We drink in silence. Raw oysters are served with soju, and some broth, too. I still remember the old wooden table at that watering hole, its surface worn and marked. She walks and walks until we have left the town center and reached a solitary road. We stand and wait.
“There’s a village near the temple, and there are many inns. Check into the Camellia Inn. I’ll come see you tomorrow afternoon, so you should be in your room by then. It’s the weekend, so there’re going to be a lot of tourists. I’ll call you when I’m nearby, and you come straight to see me. By the way, do you have money?”
She takes some money from her pocket and places it on a table. My fingers sneak up to the thin papers and enfold them, as if I won them in a bet. I catch the last bus, which is completely empty. Yoon Hee is still standing there, radiant under the full moon, now in the middle of a dark sky.