On the second floor, beyond Eun-Ha's attic, was a clear view of the market entrance. Eun-Ha often stuck his head out of the window around 4pm. And soon enough, he would be able to take in the scents of dried squid and meat dumplings from the stockfish store located near the entrance.
On the day he received some allowance from his grandmother, Eun-Ha would go to the market with his friends. They sat next to each other to play fight games or combat control games on the old game consoles in front of the dumpling store and always bought meat dumplings to eat with the remaining change.
Therefore, the first place he saw the barber’s daughter was most likely near the dumpling store. It was during a time when it was chilly night and day. Although their first encounter remained a vague memory, Eun-Ha distinctly remembers the timid smile she made when their eyes met for the first time.
"Which way to the park?"
Eun-Ha, who had just taken a big bite of dumpling, turned around in surprise. The voice was small but powerful.
Eun-Ha replied, embarrassed by the muffled response the mouthful of dumpling stuffing had caused. The girl nodded. She said she had gotten lost after sneaking into the market alone without her father’s knowledge. However, on the contrary, she seemed quite cheerful. She was only slightly shivering, perhaps due to the early evening breeze.
Eun-Ha began to picture Duryu Park. It was the only place called a park in the vicinity.
Duryu Park was located in the middle of the mountain behind the market. The distance from the market to the park was not too far However, there were not many lights to depend on at night besides the occasional few streetlights. There were also rumors circulating of ghosts appearing at night. His grandmother also warned him not to wander into neighborhoods that were soon due to disappear.
Eun-Ha swallowed the dumpling he was chewing on.
"I know where."
"Then, follow me.“
Eun-Ha said. He stuffed the remaining dumpling into his mouth and began to lead the way. The girl followed without saying a word. Each step took great strength. Whether it was simply due to the responsibility of having to look out for the girl or because he was scared, this was not clear.
Eun-Ha often looked back to check if she was following and saw her walking with her eyes on the ground. Then, she raised her head and their eyes met. She also smiled faintly. Eun-Ha, somewhat startled turned back and walked fast. He then listened. And he heard the sound of the girl walking diligently to shorten the distance between them. Eun-Ha discreetly enjoyed this and frequently looked back as he walked.
As they departed the market place, they crossed a traffic light and began walking through an unpaved route.
“My feet hurt”
the girl said in a small voice. Eun-Ha turned around.
“No, it really hurts.”
The girl frowned. Eun-Ha's feet weren’t in good shape either. The sand kept entering between his slippers, and caused the bottom of his feet to sting, However, he disregarded this as he approached the girl. Upon removing her shoes, her heels were scraped and bleeding. It seemed her shoes were too small.
“That must hurt."
The girl nodded at Eun-Ha's words. Eun-Ha contemplated for a moment.
“Would you like to exchange shoes with me?”
"Is that okay?"
"Yes. And you?"
"Hmm, me too.”
The girl answered without hesitation. As Eun-Ha smiled the girl began to smile too. The girl wriggled her feet out her shoes. Eun-Ha slid his slippers onto the girl’s feet and crumpled his feet into her sneakers. They were a little small, so he folded the heels. They were easily crumpled because they were fairly worn out already.
"I'm sorry. My feet don’t entirely fit."
"It's all right."
the girl answered pleasantly.
At the entrance of the uphill path towards the mountain, an old wooden sign that read “Duryu Park” stood askew. Fortunately, it seemed they had come to the right place. The sign led to the hiking trail entrance. The road ahead was quite dark so Eun-Ha reached out his hand at the girl. Though he was worried about the girl, the truth was it scared him more. As if she was waiting, the girl immediately held Eun-Ha's hand. Her hand was much smaller than Eun-Ha's.
Taking small breathes, the two little children climbed the hill. At the end of the road was a park that looked decent to run and play in. However, it did not seem like it was managed well. Further uphill, Eun-Ha saw lights coming from the brick buildings lined above the park. Before he knew it, the girl ran ahead as she said thank you and did not look back.
The direction she headed was the first floor of the first building.
“Duryu Barber Shop.”
The door closed behind her and the girl disappeared. Eun-Ha murmured unconsciously as he watched the door movement die down.
저작권자 ⓒ 한국소비경제신문, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지