While getting over his cold, Eun-Ha was stuck inside the attic most of the time and eager to go outside. Eun-Ha tried to go out several times but if he attempted 10 times, his grandmother caught him all 10 times. He wanted to eat the meat dumplings he was almost sick of and play arcade games with his friends.
He still thought of the girl and there still was no way to meet her. Later, he realized that he didn’t even know the girl’s name. When Eun-Ha first realized this, he wanted to pound his head a few times. How foolish could he be, to want to know her yet not ask for her name.
Eun-Ha went down to the kitchen. He could smell soybean paste soup.
"I said no."
Eun-Ha hadn’t even asked, yet grandmother’s answer was already a no. Eun-Ha was discouraged for a moment, but he refused to give up. Eun-Ha held his grandmother’s hand on his forehead.
"See, I don't have a fever anymore.”
Eun-Ha gazed at his grandmother. His grandmother stood measuring his temperature for a bit before pulling away as the pot began to boil.
"Okay, play in front of house. Do not go far."
Grandmother answered reluctantly. As she proceeded to add soybean paste in the boiling water, she added that he should return before dinner. Feeling discontent, Eun-Ha agreed and went outside. It’s been a while since he smelled the outside air. Eun-Ha took a deep breathe in. The day was sunny. There was not a speck of clouds. At heart he wanted to run to the park immediately, but he couldn’t disobey his grandmother’s words. He didn’t have money today, so he couldn’t buy meat dumplings either. Therefore, there was no reason for him to go to the market.
Nevertheless, Eun-Ha's footsteps were already at the market, he was going to the park past the market to be exact. Leaving the crowded afternoon’s market behind, he hastened his footsteps.
Finally, he arrived at the park and headed to the barber shop. Unlike last time, there was no one at the barber shop. The door was locked too. Eun-Ha looked up. The banner swayed in the wind. He was certain it was the one he’d seen indistinctly that rainy night. Eun-Ha slowly read what was written on the banner.
"Duryu 1st District... Redevelopment… desperately oppose."
Redevelopment. Eun-Ha wasn’t sure what exactly it meant. He just remembered a big cactus that his grandmother grew at home. The plant had leaves that stretched long, much like hair drooped over. Pink flowers bloomed at the end. His grandmother told him that it was a gae-bal cactus. However, no matter how much he thought about it, he didn't know what redevelopment meant.
Eun-Ha stared at the banner fluttering in the wind for a long time, but felt his energy crushed by the thick red letters for some reason, so he shifted his direction. He felt a vague feeling that something dreadful was going to happen.
Entering the back of the building, lay a damp dark alleyway without sunlight due to the shadows caused by the relatively high buildings. Sometimes there was a foul smell. For Eun-Ha, it was an unknown world he had never been to. There were many half-basement houses and small houses or villas no higher than two stories. Some even with no doors, only roughly covered with curtains. The sound of an old radio trickled from within.
On the exterior wall, hung banners similar to the ones he’d seen in the front. As he continued walking, it was a series of similar looking houses, and he thought he might get lost. There was no room for stillness in Eun-Ha's neighborhood, with the sound of puffing rice, second hand appliance advertisements, noise from the market, and children running around. But this place was extremely quiet. And, being located in the mountains, there were lots of bugs.
Eun-Ha shivered unexpectedly. He had come to a dead end. It was blocked by a steel structure with another banner hung over it. He wondered what this ‘redevelopment’ was, that they hung banners in such an eerily manner.
"Should I just go back and eat rice with soybean paste soup, then go to sleep?"
Eun-Ha decided to go back the way he had come. He wasn’t sure where he was, but he’s once heard if he kept to one side of the wall, he would eventually find his way back. Unsure how many alleyways he’s passed, Eun-Ha came across a strange scene. In the moment, he was so surprised that he couldn’t even scream and abruptly hid himself behind a low wall.
There was a man on the roof of the brick gate. Eun-Ha stuck his head out. The roof of the gate was flat, so anyone that climbed it could probably keep their balance. But never did he think someone would really be up there! It certainly did not appear anyone was repairing the roof. First of all, the man looked too small to be a repairman. He was clutching what looked like a dirty dented bucket you’d find on the street, and was quite precarious. It was definitely a sight he was witnessing for the first time, but the focused expression on their face was familiar.
It was the boy. Eun-Ha hid himself behind the wall and watched what the boy was up to. If an adult witnessed this ridiculous scene, a good yelling would serve him right. But the alley was still quiet and there were no passersby. The boy looked around with wary eyes every now and then. Each time Eun-Ha hid himself and held his breath. His heart paced at the fear of being caught.
When Eun-Ha held his head out again, he suddenly began to faintly hear a chattering voice. The boy must have heard it too, because he’d already ducked down as well. Only the bucket he was holding tightly was visible. At this rate, any passersby weren’t going to notice a boy was up there. Eun-Ha squinted his eyes and kept watch of the gradually approaching silhouette.
It was the girl. And there was one more person.
Eun-Ha rubbed both his eyes and looked again. It was definitely Seung-Jae. He recognized him immediately because he was wearing his regular forsythia colored jacket. Why is he here? Why was he with the girl? Eun-Ha watched, alternating between the girl, Seung-Jae, and the boy who still was laid flat on the roof.
The two stopped at the gate the boy had climbed.
Seung-Jae said. To which the girl waved.
"You too, bye."
Eun-Ha didn’t miss the conversation and listened attentively. Su-Yeon, her name was Su-Yeon.
What a pretty name, Eun-Ha thought, as Su-Yeon turned towards the gate. Followed by a strange feeling, Eun-Ha slowly stood up watching the boy’s mischievous expression as he tilted his bucket. Aha, he thought. He had to warn them, but his body wouldn’t move.
As the bucket fell towards Su-Yeon and the water was pouring down Eun-Ha unintentionally leaped out of the alley where he had been hiding.
A single word shout escaped his mouth. Oh no, Eun-Ha closed his eyes tightly. He thought for a brief moment he might have caught a glimpse of the surprise on Su-Yeon's face.
After some time, Eun-Ha opened his eyes midst the silence and everyone was staring at him. Su-Yeon who had collapsed down, the boy who was glaring at him, and Sung-Jae in a considerably surprised state with his hair and coat soaked.
Eun-Ha's face turned red. Eun-Ha quickly got up and without looking back, ran away. Getting through the crooked back alleyway was not hard work. Coming down from Duryu Mountain, Eun-Ha made a firm resolution never to return.
저작권자 ⓒ 한국소비경제신문, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지