PART ONE: M
M lived in a small neighborhood with narrow rocky streets on which barely four, maybe five, people could walk through. M was born in that small neighborhood, on the 2nd floor of the house she was still living in. M’s father had designed the house and built it with his own hands. The house had taken two years to build and the stairs were rough and bumpy. It was where M had lived for nearly eighteen years.
M grew up as the youngest and her personality certainly showed it. She would run away whenever her mom would get angry at her and return hours later when her mom’s anger has mitigated. She would frequently skip meals due to her being the leader of her neighborhood’s playground clubs. Her mother castigated her for running around in the rain and wetting her clothes, which her mother had to hand wash. She accumulated her miniscule monthly allowances to take the taxi instead of the crowded bus on the way to school. M was immature, ignorant, and yet the most ambitious out of her family members. M was even a volleyball player until she was in middle school and thus was tall, bone-thin, and extremely dark.
M went to an all girls school all the way until it was time for her to go to college. She was popular in school because she was like a pretty boy due to her athleticism, height, and boldness. M was never interested in boys and only focused on having fun in her life.
Then, she met J.
She was 18 and he 19.PART TWO: J
J grew up on the sea shore, catching starfish and sea snails. He randomly skipped school, for the teacher really didn’t care whether he showed up. J chased his peers around the beach and from time to time rescued them from the sharp hooks that fishermen left behind far too often. Although he spent most of his free time swimming and running around the shore, he still engaged himself in books. He was an ordinary child with no good or bad reputation.
J grew up as the oldest child, with two younger siblings beneath him. He had all the characteristics that an oldest kid would have: the patience, the quiet leadership, and most of all, the ability to compromise. Because his father was engaged in business, J often received small gifts that were considered rare at the time. He was too reserved to boast about such things and led on a quiet, comfortable existence in his sea village.
Then one day, J’s family decided to move away from the sea. His father called a construction company to build them a house in one of the smallest town nearby. J had to transfer away from the place he had spent nearly nineteen years in, the place he had grown up.
Soon after, J’s family moved into the newly built house. They said hello to their new neighbors who also lived in a two story house across from them.
This was when J first met M.
He was 19, she 18.PART THREE: M & J
M was taking a nap when M’s mother advised her to take some rice cake over to their new neighbors. M didn’t like people disturbing her when she took her daily afternoon naps. M grunted something that sounded like a ‘no’ and so her mother gave up and left her in peace. M honestly did not care for what kind of people her new neighbors might be. As long as they left her in peace, that is.
J wondered who lived in the small house across the road. He always had neighbors but never did they live only three meters away. J assumed that they would meet frequently and thus become close friends. He pondered whether he should take the initiative and take some rice cake over to their neighbors. He was awfully curious, after all.
When M woke up a plate full of small rice cakes was placed on the table nearby with a note saying ‘Take these’ on it. M was deeply tempted to take one out and eat it but stopped when she heard a series of knocks on the door. She was the only person in the house and so technically she should open the door. But she was hungry and didn’t really feel like going all the way to the living room to let some visitor in. M only looked out her window to see who the visitor was.
J kept on knocking but nobody answered. He was worried that the rice cakes he brought were hardening. After waiting for what seemed like quite a long time, he went back to his house, deeply disappointed.
M watched the high school boy wait in front of the door for twenty minutes. He was only a bit taller than her with curly hair that she assumed that he had gotten permed. He looked like an ordinary guy with no special characteristics. Except for that queer curly hair, that is. M watched him go back to his house. She wondered if she should have opened the door. She was hungry and the rice cakes he was holding had looked delicious. PART FOUR: M & J
Everyday, M had to take the bus to go to school, which was a thirty minute ride away from her house. If she woke up late in the morning, she would not only have to walk two hours but also had to miss two classes. She didn’t really mind. It was M’s mother who went ballistic each time this happened.
J’s school was nearby and on those rare days that he would wake up late in the morning, his dad would drive him to school. J liked his new school and the teachers that encouraged him to engage in his studies. J didn’t officially get to meet his new neighbors after the failed attempt to deliver them rice cakes but it didn’t matter that much anymore. He was too busy with his new life.
M was surprised when the lady who lived across the road came to visit her, specifically her, one day. It turns out that the boys’ high school was having a graduation party and her son had no date to take. The lady asked M if she was willing to go with her son. M was stunned. She did not even know this weird curly hair dude and was certainly not going to be his date. M was trying to think of an excuse to use (she was expert at making up excuses,) when M’s mother told the lady that M would love going to the graduation party. M stuttered words of disbelief after the lady left. Her mother only told her that it was a good chance to socialize with the boys.
J was told that his mother had gotten him a date for the graduation party. J was shocked when he heard who it was. He had never officially met the girl who lived across the road. He had only gotten short glimpses of her in the morning when she ran like the wind toward the bus stop. J was told that her name was M and that she would be waiting for him to pick her up that Saturday afternoon. PART FIVE: M & J
For the arranged date, M let her hair down her shoulders. She also wore the only skirt she had – a light pink knee skirt that M’s mother had bought for her. It felt awkward that she was being so girly, so elegant, so…not like M. However, it was going to be the last time for her to look nice in front of this J dude. And her mother had promised not to wake M up in the morning anymore if she promised to go on this quasi-date.
J wondered if he should wear a suit instead of the Korean traditional men’s dress he had on. His friends were all wearing light colored oxford shirts and dark sleek pants and so he was planning to do the same when his mother insisted that he wear the outfit she had chosen instead. He didn’t really mind walking around in the Korean traditional men’s dress on a day that wasn’t a Korean traditional holiday. He felt all the people stare but thought that it was because he looked nice and dandy in it.
M could not believe her eyes. A guy standing outside her house was wearing a colorful Korean traditional dress. She refused to believe that the guy was J. She did not just wear a pink skirt to be seen in public with a dude wearing a traditional outfit on a day that wasn’t even a Korean holiday. Even M’s mother was wordless for a moment. M calmed herself down by rationalizing that this was, after all, the last time she was going to be socializing with J. She took a deep breath and walked out to meet him for the first time.
J was surprised when he saw a pretty lady walk out of his neighbor’s house. This was not the girl who ran with her hair ruffled and bag flying every morning. Moreover this girl was tall. She looked to be only one or two inches shorter than him; and he was an average heighted guy. He quickly introduced himself and expected the girl to do the same. When she didn’t respond, he decided that this awkwardness was because of their standing in the middle of the road. Thus, he turned around and led her into the only café in the neighborhood.
M was usually a talkative person. In fact, she was renowned at her high school for having an extremely outgoing personality. Nonetheless, she didn’t really have anything to say to J. She just wasn’t all that interested.
J figured that M was a very reserved girl. This was too bad since he wasn’t exactly an outgoing person either. After a couple of failed attempts to start up a conversation, he pretended to be interested in the bubbles of his soft drink. For some reason, M kept on staring at him and J was afraid that their eyes would meet.
M wondered if this J dude had really gotten his hair permed. She had been curious about this ever since she first saw him. She decided to ask.
J was taken back when M asked him if he had gotten his hair permed. He didn’t want to seem offended, however, and so he replied that he had indeed gotten a perm. For nine months. M didn’t show any response to this comment.
M got this cryptic joke after five minutes of trying to understand it. Then she laughed out loud. She laughed so loudly that the customers sitting nearby stared at them. Nine months, she figured, referred to the nine months it took for a baby to be born. So J was innately curly. How interesting. And how interesting that he answered her question in such a dorkishly funny way.
J was surprised when M laughed out loud in the middle of their nonexistent conversation. He realized that he liked her loud laugh.
M liked how J tried so hard to get to know her. His Korean traditional outfit, his curly hair, his weird joke, his continuous strivings to strike up a conversation… it was all so dorky and lame and… cute.
Both M and J felt that this date would not be so bad after all.EPILOGUE: The Story of M & J
Initially, both M and J didn’t expect their first date to lead them anywhere.
However, they kept on seeing each other afterwards and eventually settled into a relationship that lasted for seven years. After that, they got married.
M was 26 and J was 27.
It’s funny how opportunities are created in such random and unexpected ways.
Next door neighbors. The rice cake incident. The arranged date.
There are so many more memories to be told but it would take more than a quarter of a century for all of them to be unfolded.
The story of M and J hasn’t ended. New chapters are continuously added to it everyday.
M was 18 and J 19 when they first met.
Now, M is 45 and J is 46.
This was the story of M and J.
This was the story of my parents.
Thank you for reading "The Story of M & J" :D
Hope you enjoyed it!!
It's a different way to look at how all families started, isn't it? :)
As you've noticed, I'm a Korean and I manage a English literary blog called "Fruit Tree in Winter." go check it out -> Fruit Tree in Winter