Chapter 3 - Vivid Recollections
“I want to know.” Mina Park grinned brightly at me as if she truly wanted to hear. The lighting that shone above her made her black earrings twinkle brilliantly.
I rested my eyes on those earrings instead of her face and said, “Isn’t that story too widespread? You’d probably be sick of it since you can just find it with a quick search on the web.”
“Sorry? Oh, I guess you’re right.” Mina Park looked slightly astonished after I went off-script but found her composure again. Maybe it was because she was an actress, but her voice was natural, without a single tremble in her voice. “But I thought that maybe hearing it from the person himself would be different.”
“It’s not that different. It’s almost the same. Could I tell you something else instead?”
The host of the show, Nahoon Kim, glanced at the show’s scriptwriters because of my sudden independent actions. The others could openly show their surprise on their faces because they weren’t in front of the cameras, unlike Mina. The staff whispered in each other’s ears, and one person lifted up a large sketchbook. The white piece of paper said, “Go ahead for now.”
Nahoon Kim hurriedly said, “Of course you can. Instead, if it’s not scary, then you have to tell us about when you saw the ghost in the recording studio, okay?”
The guests looked relieved after hearing his smooth proceeding. Then, all of them looked at me anxiously, wondering what I would say and how they would need to react. I felt a bit sorry for how nervous they were.
Not only was this a cable TV show and not a regular feature, but it was a special feature talk show that changed with the season. Since it was a talk show, the producers should have invited a few celebrities who had the gift of gab. That way, the conservations would keep going and induce entertainment. But perhaps they didn’t have the funds to do that because most of the invited guests were relatively new to the entertainment world or stars forgotten by the public.
Most of the people invited were the former. Except for the MC and Mina Park, an actress specializing in supporting female characters, none of the others had much of a filmographic history. Naturally, they got antsy when the show started to veer off-script. I also didn’t have any experience with television shows, but I didn’t have the pressure of needing to look good to my colleagues in my field.
I replied casually, “Sure,” like a person who wasn’t going to film tomorrow. “When I was in middle school, I shared stories like this with my classmates. You know, sometimes you have those memories, from when you were younger. Fragments of memories, chopped up in places so you can’t tell what it is and why you have those memories.”
“One of my friends told me that when he was four years old, he went to his grandmother’s house, but he didn’t remember how he got there. His grandmother’s house was 15 minutes by bus, but he walked all the way to the house without any help from anyone.”
I recounted the story of the class representative at the time. I couldn’t remember how we came to this discussion. How would anyone remember the exact conversation one had back in those days? I was also the same. It was just that I remembered this story clearly for some reason.
I couldn’t recall what the student’s face looked like, but I could remember the expression, the tone, volume, and gestures as they told the story.
“My family of course completely flipped. Their kid went missing and whatnot. My grandmother who finished working in the field later was so shocked that she called my mom, and my mom came sobbing. I also remember it. When I got to my grandmother’s house, there was nobody at home, so I just sat on the porch. I was so bored that I remember pulling out candy from the drawers then spat it out. It was mint, so it burned my tongue.”
I continued to tell it as I imitated his voice and actions. “But he said he didn’t know why he walked all the way to his grandmother’s. He didn’t remember how he got there either. He remembered his mom asking if anyone dropped him off there and remembered telling her that he walked alone. He had no idea how he found the way when he had only ever gone there by car.”
Woorim Eun, who was sitting next to me, clapped and agreed, “Yeah, you’re right.” Woorim debuted three years ago, but he was the vocalist of a K-pop boy group that was never very successful. “I experienced something like that too. My mom told me so. When I was younger, I suddenly disappeared so she searched for me late at night. She couldn’t find me anywhere, so she was about to contact the police, but I was sleeping under the bed in the master bedroom.”
“Yeah, kids that age often go in the closet too,” the MC replied, going with the flow.
“But I couldn’t remember why I fell asleep under the bed. I remember waking up because my dad called my name. Plus, back then, I never went into rooms with beds because I heard that ghosts came from under the bed.”
Mina laughed and replied, “Really? Woorim, you don’t look like the kind of person to believe that.”
Woorim’s face grew pink and he replied, “I was young then. I still don’t like ghosts.”
So he came on the show even though he hated ghosts.
Perhaps he had the same thought as I did because Seohang, who was sitting next to Woorim, furrowed his brows. He grinned slightly and shrugged. It was as if he was saying that it was too bad that Woorim stole my spotlight.
Seohang was the rapper in Woorim Eun’s group, and although it had been three years since they became a team, he still didn’t seem to like Woorim.
I didn’t feel the need to increase my airtime, so I watched the people chattering away with detachment. Aside from Seohang, everyone chimed in with their experiences. It was all mostly stuff like walking alone on a long-distance trip, getting into an accident without knowing why, or being confused about doing something they would normally not do.
The studio was filled with an energy fitting of a talk show for once. I glanced at the staff and it seemed like they were planning on editing bits and pieces, so they were listening comfortably to the guests talk.
“So, Haeseo, what was the point that you wanted to make?” Nahoon Kim asked. He seemed to think that they wasted enough time on this topic, so he interjected at a good time. Everyone’s attention was focused on me again.
On times like these, I recalled things that I saw in the past—the heads floating on the ocean that turned my way when I opened my mouth and the dead among the swimming, living people. Those things happened to me when I went to a camp during high school.
“It was nothing much. Just like everyone here, my classmates talked about their experiences too. They talked about when they hung from the second-floor railings of their rooftop, without knowing how they got there. They said the railings were taller than their height, or something like that. And then after talking about it for a while…”
Just then, someone interrupted the conversation. That kid asked me, “What about you? Have you ever experienced something like this? Honestly, I think you would have gone through these kinds of experiences the most.”
After recklessly blurting that out, that classmate grinned cheerfully at me. I think I groaned on the inside when I saw that grin.
“It was after everyone told their own stories. So naturally, it was my turn to speak. But I was a bit flustered that everyone all looked at me at the same time.”
“True, if you’re suddenly given the stage, even if you’re usually chatty, you suddenly become at a loss for what to say.” Nahoon, who seemingly had a lot of experiences like that, crossed his arms and nodded. He could host this kind of small talk show with ease now, but he went through many hardships to get to this point. He was completely different from me, but it wasn’t to the point where he couldn’t relate to me at all.
“Yeah, there was also that…” I paused for a moment, then looked at all the guests. “Isn’t it weird that random events like that remain with you quite vividly? They stick out like a sore thumb, like images transmitted by a broadcast in error. You can recall those moments better than other memories.”
People nodded in agreement.
“So that’s why I remember that day as well.”
I remembered that day clearly.
That day was kind of hot and there were seven or eight kids on the field. Watermelons were on the lunch menu that day. The watermelon that I ate that day wasn’t sweet or refreshing. Some kid sitting next to me complained that they would rather eat cucumbers. I dropped some watermelon on my clothes, so I had to smell the unsweet watermelon all day.
It was the same back then. I was just a bit annoyed because the watery smell of fruit kept following me, and my clammy skin kept sticking to my desk. Moreover, all the kids who gathered accidentally kicked my desk, so the stationery in my desk fell out several times.
The feeling of my mechanical pencil and highlighter pressed against the soles of my indoor shoes was uncomfortable. That feeling was amplified by the fishy odor and typical stench of sweat of the kids surrounding me.