The week before Yang and I met, we messaged constantly every day. I had never been addicted to my phone or texting but with Yang, that all changed. I was so enthusiastic to talk to someone who enjoyed working out, language learning and traveling. It seemed surreal that everything this guy said was interesting or I couldn’t agree enough. He was so funny, friendly and interesting that I couldn’t put my phone down.
It got to the point that if more than an hour went by without exchanging a message with Yang, I worried that he started to lose interest in me. I had never felt so clingy and needy in my life.
One day, I was talking to Yang about how I was running late to make dinner. He asked what I planned to make, so I said I was going to make milanesa de res. Since he didn’t know what that was, I sent him a picture I found online. Yang was intrigued. He asked if I could make that for him. I told him I could but I didn’t think I would actually do it. Yang, on the other hand, was 100% serious.
He asked if we could meet that weekend so he could try my cooking. I was beyond shocked. I thought he was joking. I was scared. I was worried that maybe he would use this as an excuse to try to get into pants. I didn’t know what to do. I was a little afraid but I also did want to keep my promise to him.
As the weekend was approaching, I made sure to clean my apartment thoroughly and restocked my fridge. I put away all of the clothes on the floor and hid my dirty laundry. I couldn’t stop shaking.
One Saturday I messaged Yang to wait at the subway station that was near me so I could pick him up. My heart was at my throat waiting for him to message me back. In less than two minutes he said he was at the train station waiting for me. I rushed out of my apartment and ran to where he was. When I saw Yang waiting for me, I could feel my face turning hot.
Yang mentioned that he was working nearby at his aunt’s hagwon (private academy) and decided to take a bus rather than the subway, so he arrived much earlier than I thought. As we reached my home I tried to explain to him that my home was a bit bare because I didn’t spend much time in my apartment. He was shocked at how large my one room apartment was. I decided I should get started on the cooking while he was exploring my apartment.
I didn’t care about how good or bad my cooking was, but knowing Yang would taste it made me 100 times more nervous. It wasn’t anything super complicated at that. Just breading beef and then frying it, but I felt like I kept burning it or burning myself. When Yang heard me yelp he came running over to see. Although he mentioned that some of the meat burned in the beginning he said he wasn’t picky and that it was okay.
In order to calm me down, he tried to talk to me but suddenly he stopped. I turned to see why. He stared right into my eyes and smiled. I asked him why he was looking at me like that and he said, “You look really pretty in that dress.” I was shocked. Up until recently I thought Yang and I might just be friends, that didn’t mean I didn’t hope for more.
I just stared at him. He laughed nervously “ you could say ‘thanks’ or something”. I snapped back to reality. “It’s just, no one has really ever said something like that to me.” I confessed to him. I didn’t want to seem conceited or want to sweep his comment under the rug and pretend it never happened. I felt it was so out of the blue and strange to me, I didn’t know how to react.
He looked at me and tilted his head as though he didn’t understand. I looked back to what I was doing and slightly laughed “I think guys only see me as a friend. In college some of my guy friends would be totally gross and fart near me. When I asked why the hell they did that, they told me ‘I’m comfortable around you. You’re like one of the guys’. And here I thought they just wanted to be disgusting. I mean, that’s what guys do around people they’re comfortable with, right?” Yang laughed and said he didn’t understand, there was no way he could do that around girl.
After I finished cooking, we sat down, ate and discussed movies. I told him my favorite sad scene was from the movie Up. The opening scene where the couple met as children and proceeded to show their lives until the wife died made me cry. Yang had never seen it, so he wanted to see it. I found it on Youtube and we watched it together. By the end of the scene I could already feel the tears forming in my eyes but I tried to hold it together because I saw him in the corner of my eye trying to look at me.
Yang told me his favorite scene was in the movie If Only. I’d never heard of it, so he explained it to me in detail. He told me he liked to watch those kinds of sappy romantic movies mostly alone. He watched If Only with a really close friend and after the movie ended he was crying. The theme of the movie and Yang telling me something intimate made me think he was sensitive and sweet. I couldn’t help but smile. He told me he hoped he could find a girl that he could share such strong feelings with, to the point that he couldn’t live without. “ Yeah, me too” I told him picking up our dirty dishes and placing them in the sink.
While clearing the table and washing the dishes Yang asked me about my trip to Everland. I told him my favorite part was the snow tubing. My friend Jen and I went on the same snow tube and she would not stop screaming. I showed Yang the video of my friend screaming on Facebook.
After showing him the video he wanted to take a look through my pictures. On one of my pictures that I took during a trip to Japan, he mentioned I was so short and thin. He smiled and teased that the cardboard cut out of an anime girl and I were about the same size except she was a little bigger.
Yang showed me pictures of his adventures in the U.S., Canada and other countries he’d visited. Yang had traveled to so many countries and done so many amazing things, it was amazing. Naturally, Yang then added me as a Facebook friend.
Yang looked at his phone and realized how late it was. More than two hours had already flown by and being that it was starting to snow, he had to leave. I decided to walk him to the train station. When we reached the train station he thanked me for the food and for the good time. He said he would repay me for the food by taking me out to dinner the next day. We hugged goodbye and I asked him if he could text me when got home.
When I arrived home Yang said he decided to take a bus home from another stop all the way to Suwon. Yang told me he had a great time talking with me. I told him I’d never had such a great time hanging out with a guy before, other than someone in my own family.
Yang was excited about my confession. He told me what his friends thought of him and what he thought of me. “You’re nice and pretty” he said. These simple words made my heart flutter. As my eyes traveled to the next sentence an intense knot formed in my stomach. “ I kind of like you..” Yang wrote. I have never had a crush that was mutual before, so I didn’t know how to tell if a boy liked you back. Yang was so straightforward with what he thought I wasn’t sure if he was leading me on but I know I wanted to believe his words. So I did.
The next day we decided to meet and walk around Hongdae. Yang and I started feeling more comfortable around each other. He teased me and I teased him back. We walked around the park for an hour before deciding to eat jajangmyeon. Yang said he wanted to take me to a fancy Chinese restaurant in Hongdae. Yang mentioned that when he was younger he would eat jajangmyeon while running around his house with noodles in his hands. If he wasn’t cute enough already, his childhood story made him that much more adorable.
We decided we needed to walk off dinner so we walked around the back streets of Hongdae. As we were teasing each other back and forth, Yang stopped talking and turned towards me.
I stopped walking after I saw him staring past me. I turned my head to see what was behind me. Two people suddenly stepped out of the shadows, flustered and with their heads down. Both speed walked passed us and mixed into the sea of people in the streets. I jumped back scared. I turned to Yang. He thought he saw something move so he stopped to look but then he noticed they were kissing.
We stopped at a stationary store looked around. While Yang was looking for supplies, I spent my time hugging stuffed animals because that’s what adults do. Yang bought his supplies and we walked out.
As we were walking out we heard Frozen’s theme, “Let It Go”, playing through the stairwell coming from the stationary store’s speakers.
As we heard the song, I told Yang I wanted to see the movie because I hadn’t gotten a chance to see it. He told he hadn’t seen it either but if I wanted to, we could go see it together the following weekend. I was ecstatic.
Soon it got colder and then snow started falling. As the snow picked up we decided to take refuge at a nearby coffee shop. Yang and I chose a table in the corner. Yang asked me how much Korean I knew. I told him proudly “I don’t know, but I have been studying this week! Go ahead, ask me any of these words” as I pulled out my textbook. As he started reading Korean words, I realized I memorized almost none of them. It became a guessing game. Yang was having the time of his life making me sweat to figure out the words. Yang decided to give me a break and took a short bathroom break.
I sat in my seat contemplating my awful memory when suddenly someone snuck up behind me, gently grabbed my shoulders and whispered, “boo” in my ear. All of the little hairs on my body stood up and I screamed. I turned to see Yang laughing until he sat back down completely ignoring the stares from everyone in the café.
After whining and crying about having to go to work the next day for about fifteen minutes, Yang and I decided to call it a night. We walked to the subway and hugged each other goodbye before we boarded different platforms to take our trains. When I got home I couldn’t stop giggling and smiling like an idiot at the wonderful afternoon I had with Yang. He messaged me when he arrived home and told me he “missed me”. I heard a loud thump coming from my chest. I felt a wide smile spread across my face. ‘Does this mean he wants me to be his girlfriend? Should I bluntly ask him? Is this okay for a girl to do? Would that be too pushy? Would it be expected for a foreign girl to be pushy? Do guys like that? Does Yang like that?’ So many questions rushed through my head.
Yang said he couldn’t wait for our next meeting and, although he was trying to take it slowly, he thought he liked me! I immediately screamed with joy. I never knew what it felt like to have someone like you back. Since Yang had confessed to having feelings for me, I figured it was time to make a bold gesture. I wanted to get him something for the next time we would meet.
I hadn’t felt butterflies in my stomach for a guy in such a long time. I genuinely felt that I could not spend enough time with him. I wanted to show him my appreciation for having him around in not such a completely obvious way. I also wanted to incorporate something I could make in order to show him that I put some thought into what I was giving to him. So I decided to buy him a box of chocolates and draw a picture-card to go with it.
Soon the days flew by and Friday had arrived. I was watching my sixth graders’ graduation ceremony. I felt a buzz in my pocket and saw a message from Yang; it read “Happy Valentine’s Day Gabby”. I hadn’t been that happy to receive a Valentines Day message from someone since my days in elementary school, when those messages came with candy attached. Contrary to his message, he thought Valentines Day was a bit of a stupid holiday. Although I felt the same way, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment because I thought he might have been looking forward to getting something from me. So I figured I should take matters into my own hands.
Later that night I told him that I usually don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day but I was hoping he would still accept a gift from me. Yang told me I was sweet, “sweet like honey”. I couldn’t help but bask in every kind and wonderful thing he said to me. It made me smile and it made me feel special. I wasn’t used to it but I loved the feeling.
Finally Sunday arrived. I woke up early as usual and Skyped with my parents. Time to time I would check my phone to see if Yang had messaged. Finally, when I finished talking to my parents I heard my phone vibrate. Yang messaged me telling me there was a problem. I felt a knot form in my stomach; my heart beat at my throat and my face starting to feel hot. I didn’t know what to do. I had already started to apply make up and straighten my hair. My perfect outfit already on me and now I thought I had been stood up. I felt nauseous. I didn’t know what to think or do.
After fifteen minutes, Yang called me. He asked why I had only read his message and not answered back. He told me that Frozen was booked in several theaters and he wanted to know if we could push back the time to meet. He found a showing in Sindorim and that we could definitely catch that show if he bought the tickets at that moment. He called to warn me. I felt a wave of relief come over me. I let out a big sigh and he asked what was wrong. I told him that I was afraid he was going to cancel on me. I thought he was going to stand me up. He was surprised. He told me he would never do that to me.
With all of the nerves building up I was getting anxious to meet him again. I packed my gift and the small card in my purse and left my apartment.
When we finally met at the station we walked together to the department store. We reached the last floor in the department store and Yang printed out tickets at the kiosk at the movie theater. He said we had arrived early and we had enough time to look around. Yang took be to one of the lower levels where there was an arcade. We played a skiing game (which I sucked at) and then we moved on to killing zombies in another.
I couldn’t stop screaming and laughing at the games. After the zombies finished murdering us, he took me to another part of the arcade.
He told me to sit by him and play another game. He said I had to find the differences from both pictures while we had a limited time. I was terrible and died in a matter of seconds. Yang was able to hold off the clock by helping me on my screen but even he was no match for my ineptness. After we both died, Yang turned to me ,“actually, this is a popular game for couples.” I felt a little embarrassed and I decided it was the perfect time to give him the gift I prepared for him.
“Here! I hope you like chocolate. I know that Valentine’s Day here in Korea girls are supposed to give chocolates to boys. So I got you this. If you don’t want it or don’t want to eat it all you can share it with your older sister.” I said to Yang as I handed him the presents. He opened the card and smiled. “Is this a drawing of you?” he pointed to the small character drawn on the card. I smiled and nodded. “I like it. You are so sweet, sweet like honey,” he said. Finally he looked at his phone and realized that our movie was about to begin. We gathered our things and headed upstairs.
After Frozen ended, we went to get dinner in Sinchon. Yang wanted to take me to a chicken and beer place he thought was good in the area. While we walked from the subway station to the restaurant we talked and laughed about Frozen. He started teasing me and I retaliated by flicking his snapback. At one point I snatch it from his head and put it on. “It looks good on you actually” he said to me with a smirk on his face. I was embarrassed.
He led me to the restaurant and we ordered chicken and drinks. Throughout dinner Yang talked about work, school and stories of living abroad in Canada. I learned about the kind of issues that really sprung up in his mind and what he liked about living abroad. Some of Yang’s impressive experiences in Toronto involved learning English. He took classes, hired a tutor to correct his Korean accent, joined a church group with only English native-speakers, intern at a travel agency, and had pen pals in Canada and the United States. Yang purposely took himself out of his comfort zone to learn and practice English. It really made me admire him. To this day that is something I still admire him over, his dedication to learning languages.
After dinner Yang showed me around Sinchon. As we started walking away from the restaurant I saw Yang walking closer and closer to me. Soon our arms were only centimeters away, slightly touching. Finally Yang reached for my hand and gave it a little squeeze.
At that moment I felt my heart beat faster and I couldn’t look at him. I snuck a glace at him and saw him smiling while staring into the distance. I moved my fingers so they could interlace with his and have a bit of a tighter grip on him.
I decided to say something. “You know, I showed my friends your picture on Friday and they all thought you were really cute.” I said a bit shyly to Yang. He turned to me and smiled. “Really? They think I’m cute?” I turned to him. “Of course they do! They’re not the only ones you know…” I tried to look at him but I couldn’t. I stared at his jacket or the bottom of his face but I couldn’t keep it together before I broke out in a giggle. Every time I giggled Yang would smile and ask why I was laughing.
Yang and I would switch hands or I would touch the upper part of his arm with one hand and hold his hand with another. We walked and talked for a long time during the chilly night. It was also the perfect excuse to be near one another. Suddenly I asked Yang “ I am wondering something. Does this mean that we are dating? Are we just friends trying to see if this will work? Am I your girlfriend? I just feel like I want to know where I stand, I don’t mean to pressure you or anything. “ I turned to Yang to search his face for answers. Yang smiled. “I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to ask you out yet. I thought maybe I was going to fast. I wanted to ask you out before but I wasn’t sure how you would feel. Of course I want you to be my girlfriend but I know you are still talking to that crazy guy and I wasn’t sure if you were still seeing him.”
I told Yang that Eric had actually continued to message me even though I told him I had no intentions to be with him. He made another account, found me and messaged me again. Eric continued to message me telling me he was willing to accept my friendship with Yang so long as it was only friendship. I told him I wasn’t sure if I could only be friend with Yang, especially after I felt that we clicked so well. He told me he needed to see me immediately and that I should tell him where to pick me up. He wanted to talk everything out with me; he felt there was a relationship worth salvaging. The situation was starting to scare me. He knew the general area where I lived but not exactly where. I told him he was being too extreme and I was feeling harassed. I apologized to him if I had led him on but it was not my intention to be his anything. Honestly, I feel it was stupid of me to apologize for something I didn’t do but I was afraid he would go out of his way to stalk me.
I told Yang everything that was still happening with Eric. “I’m actually amazed you are still talking to that guy. He’s crazy. You are so nice. I do have to ask you something though, are you his girlfriend?” Yang asked me as we walked around the Hyundai Department store. “Definitely not” I said without stopping to think about my answer. “If I were his girlfriend I would have told you when we met or when it would have happened, but I don’t have feelings for him. He seemed like a nice guy at first but now I am a little afraid of him.” I confessed to Yang. He told me that I should block that guy and that I had nothing to worry about anymore because he would be there to protect me.
As we turned the corner onto a small park Yang looked around, then he stopped walking. I looked at him wondering why we had stopped. He pulled his hand away from mine and then wrapped his arms around me. Yang leaned down and my heart began to beat faster. His face was close to mine, so I closed my eyes and leaned forward. We shared a kiss.
At first I thought there was something wrong because I didn’t feel the “sparks” that everyone talks about when they share a kiss with someone they like. It wasn’t bad (actually he was a great kisser) but I was expecting something different. I thought that it might have meant that maybe I had watched too many romantic movies that set me up to fail. Another thought that crossed my mind was that it might have been different if he was my first kiss.
In a matter of seconds our lips separated and we stared at each other. I shifted my eyes pretty quickly though; something about our kiss really embarrassed me. We held hands again and kept walking. Yang told me it was getting late and that we should go to the subway station. He led me to a dark alley and then we stopped walking except this time I pushed him into a dark corner where we kissed. The kissing may not have been full of sparks but they were definitely addictive. The instant we heard footsteps we separated and kept walking.
Yang and I walked to the train platform and waited. After a few seconds Yang pulled me close and wrapped his arms around my waist. He leaned in for a kiss but I pulled away. “There are people around us,” I whispered to him. Yang made kissing noises so I decided to give him a quick kiss and then I pulled and turned away. I didn’t tell Yang that I don’t like public displays of affection so I was incredibly embarrassed. Public displays of affection attract more unwanted attention that, as a dark skinned foreigner living in Korea, I naturally attract.
We boarded the train and I saw an empty seat. I pushed him to sit there before someone else took it. He told me to take it but I insisted he take it since I was going to transfer in three stops. Yang flirtatiously suggested I sit on his lap and I almost choked passing spit. My ears felt like they were on fire, so much so that my head was starting to hurt.
Every time Yang looked at me I looked away. He stared at me and asked, “Why are you avoiding my eyes?” I told him I have never had a boyfriend before so I had no idea what it was like to kiss a boy I like. “You’re so cute” he said sweetly to me. When my stop came we hugged and waved goodbye.
After I got home Yang and I continued to message talking about our newly formed relationship. It seemed like a dream to me that I could actually be someone’s girlfriend. It felt surreal. I told Yang how happy he made me. I had liked him since our first meeting, so I had been hoping to become his girlfriend. Yang thought it was cute that I had such feelings. He told me he was excited to get to know more about me and spend more time together.
I could only imagine all of the great things Yang and I would experience. This was going to be quite the journey for me whether I knew it or not at the time.