Two men living in the same apartment building wake up at 7 AM on a Tuesday and prepare for their day. They both hit snooze on their smart-phones and lie in bed, wishing for more sleep. Then they each sigh, resign themselves, and get out of their respective beds.
The first man brushes his teeth, showers, dresses in a suit and tie, and then enjoys a breakfast of rice, tofu soup, and kimchi.
The second man eats his breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese and toast, and then showers, brushes his teeth, and dresses in a pair of slacks, a shirt, and a sport coat.
They both exit their apartments and walk towards the elevator. The first man sees the second man and so he holds the elevator so the second man can catch it.
“Thank you,” the second man says with a nod.
“You’re welcome,” replies the first man.
They both smile as the elevator takes them to the ground floor. The first man exits and quickly walks to the nearby subway station, while the second man walks a block and a half to the local university.
The second man teaches a few classes, spends an hour in his office flirting with some of his better students, and then heads home to answer emails, wander about Facebook, and catch up with friends and family.
The first man goes to a bank and works on the computer and phone all day. He is stressed out by the end of the day and somewhat frustrated by having to be debased by his superior on a daily basis. After work, he is required to go to dinner with his male colleagues during which his boss coerces him into drinking too much. His gaze often strays to the other tables where men and women are sitting together and quietly eating and talking.
The first man goes home to his apartment to watch movies alone, while the second man leaves his apartment and walks down the street to the local café.
He enters the café and quickly looks around. He spots a particular woman who is sitting with her back to the entry, smiles, and walks across the room to her table.
“Hello,” he touches her shoulder in greeting and sits across from her.
“Hi! Are you getting coffee?” She smiles, warmly and blushes slightly.
“Oh, I’ve had enough already. But take your time with yours…” He takes his phone out of his pocket, sets it to vibrate only, and places it on the table. “You know, I’m not sure we can keep meeting like this…”
“No one will find out. Don’t worry!” She pats his hand gently.
“I guess… still, it is sort of risky… Don’t you think?” He looks around at the people nearby. “I mean, why else would I be going to your place?”
“You could just be a friend of my husband.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m not there for other reasons…” They both laugh lightly. “I guess I’m being paranoid. It’s times like these when I really feel like a foreigner.”
“It will be fine.” She smiles, finishes her coffee, and looks into his eyes. “Ready?”
The second man and the woman walk down the street, making small talk. They walk slightly apart but are constantly smiling, laughing, and glancing at each other. When they reach the woman’s building, they stand in opposite corners of the elevator as they silently ride up to the woman’s 5th-floor apartment. They enter, remove their shoes, and walk into the kitchen.
Waiting in the kitchen is a young boy, his eyes are fixed on the book lying on the table in front of him.
“Not prepared, not prepared…” The second man teases the boy and smiles.
“No! I’m just re-reading it… really!” The boy closes the book quickly and turns red.
“I’m only messing with you.” The second man pats the boy’s shoulder and sits down next to him. He removes some papers from his backpack and turns to the boy. “I thought we’d talk about themes today. Have you ever talked about the themes of a story in school?”
The boy shakes his head. The man smiles, and for the next hour the tutor and the boy talk about books and themes, while the boy’s mother sits on the couch and pretends to read her own book. She listens to her boy with his tutor and secretly smiles.
Afterward, the mother walks the second man to the door.
“So… how is he doing?”
“Great! He has trouble staying focused, but then he is a kid… and that’s normal.”
“You are very kind.”
“Not at all…”
“Listen, I’d like to pay you for three months in advance. Is that ok?”
“You want to give me more money? Sure, that’s ok with me!” They both laugh, and then the second man looks away as the mother counts out the money.
“Thank you so much. He absolutely loves talking about books with you.”
“I also enjoy it. He’s very bright, you know… Plus, your husband’s been asking me to get your son to read the Harry Potter books, so now they can talk about them too.”
“Now they’ll both start bugging me to read them!”
They both laugh, and then the mother hands the second man the money, and as she does so, two men emerge from the stairwell around the corner.
“You two know this sort of activity is illegal, right?” The man speaking shows his identification card.
“What do you…?” The mother begins, but she is quickly cut off.
“Save it, ma’am. We heard everything going on in your apartment. So don’t make it harder on yourself, we’re only interested in him. Now let’s not have any trouble, sir. Come along…” One of the officers firmly grips the second man’s arm.
“When my husband hears about this…” The mother steps up to the officers with a fierce look in her eyes.
“What’s that, ma’am? Your husband knows all about this, and we should go to his workplace and ask him some questions… in front of his superiors?” The officer juts his chin out and looks down at the now uncertain woman.
“He doesn’t know anything about this.” The second man speaks up, nods at the woman, and then turns back to the police officers. “I am cooperating… No trouble…”
“What will happen to me?” The second man waits until he is in the police car before he begins talking again.
“Well, there will be some paperwork. A large fine, of course… We’ll have to notify your legal place of employment… The rules are quite clear, you know. If a foreigner breaks the law, they must be deported.” They drive the second man to the police department where he is processed.
Later that night, the first man hears a car pulling up outside his building. He walks to the window, looks out and sees the beautiful young college girl from the floor above him get out of a taxi, stumble once and laugh, and then walk with a bit of a sway into the building. The first man looks at the clock showing 1:15am, purses his lips, and then picks up his laptop and sits on the couch.
By 3:00am he is fully worked up, so he closes his computer, leaves his room, and walks up the stairs to the floor above.
Quickly and quietly he walks to the door of the girl’s apartment. He looks down the hallway in both directions and presses his ear against her door. After detecting no noise from within, he looks down both directions of the hallway again. He then places his ear back against the door, gently turns the handle, and tries to quiet his agitated breathing as he finds that the door has been left thoughtlessly unlocked.