It’s hard to believe that I fell in love with such an arrogant and pompous asshole. It’s also hard to believe that he came to my aid, but as I came to find out later, everything has its price.
That night, I should have just taken the long way home instead of cutting through the alley but in all honesty, I didn't expect very much to happen. Nothing ever happened in that rat-hole city except for the occasional stares from women or cat calls from horny guys who all think it's "so cool" to fuck a Black girl. I swear this was the only country where fetishes were worn on the outside like some proud medal of perverted honor. Guys always looked like K-pop stars, so I was used to the idol variety that swarmed the streets of Busan at night. So, looking back on the split second decision, it was either fate or just a dumb idea on my part. I think that I must've been looking for trouble and despite my constant denials, I was. Maybe I wanted something to happen, but how could I for see something like that?
I clocked out around nine that night. I had been working in a bar for the past six months and it wasn't as glamorous as most people thought, but it paid the bills. I slipped on my leather jacket and grabbed my bag then headed out the door, like always. I said goodbye to no one since my coworkers and I were far from friendly and I walked across the street to the crosswalk. The alley lay ahead, my normal route just to the left of me but instead of taking the well-lit sidewalk, I kept straight. To be honest, I didn't even think twice about it; maybe if I had, I wouldn't have done it, but there I was, alone in a dark alley, and as cliché as it might have been I wasn't exactly paying attention to my surroundings. Maybe it was just my overly lax confidence that nothing bad would happen to me but I was completely blindsided by the guy who was apparently trailing me the entire time. I remember thinking that he wasn't a psycho or even a rapist, he was just a stupid drunk kid that got a little too handsy for his own good. I figured that I could easily talk my way around him, maybe talk to him long enough until we got back on the main street and then lose him at the next crosswalk. I had done it before so I was self-assured that I could do it again. When his arm went around my waist I politely declined the advance, put a little space between us, and laughed it off to keep the mood light. To my own account, I did everything right that night, and I still ended up nearly getting myself killed. I'm still not even sure what I said or did to set him off like that but I remember walking ahead of him a bit and then suddenly I felt a hard blow to my back. The pain didn't instantly register to my senses but my body felt every agonizing blow since my knees had collapsed from underneath me. I felt my face kiss the wet pavement below and those blows kept coming from above me. I was almost certain that he had broken something, a rib, my spine, something was certainly broken since I couldn't breathe. I could barely move let alone defend myself so all I could do was ball up in a fetal position and try to protect my head and face. I felt the whacks against my knuckles and fingers as I screamed for him to stop, for someone to help me, but neither of those cries were answered. Just before I passed out I heard a yell and then footsteps scatter around me. There was a scuffle, it sounded like two people were fighting and one of them was losing badly. I secretly prayed that it was my attacker and not my savior that was losing but I couldn't see through all the blood. The last thing I remembered hearing was a dull thud and then nothing as I slipped into unconsciousness.
I don't remember what happened after that but as it was told to me by the one who saved my life, I nearly died. He had picked me up and pulled me inside the kitchen of the restaurant where he had been working and called an ambulance. Had he not been taking out the trash, that guy would have killed me, but he just so happened to come out and when he realized what was happening he grabbed his bat from inside and came running to my aid. With no regard for his own safety or even a second thought that he was saving a foreigner, he beat the guy so badly he needed stitches. When I came to I was in the hospital, which was more hurtful than being attacked since I didn't have any insurance. I was just barely surviving as it was, but now I would have medical bills to pay on top of it.
I groaned and when my eyes focused again it was on this figure that was standing across the room from me. For a minute I thought that maybe I was hallucinating but after a while I realized that he was really standing there. Dressed in all black with a cap smothering his messy blonde hair, my eyes moved down from his face and that was when I saw a baseball bat slung over his shoulders. I instinctively thought that he was my attacker here to finish the job or that I was hallucinating. I panicked and reached for the nurse call button but when he walked over towards me I swear my heart skipped several beats. A few long strides brought him to the foot of the bed and he put down the bat but that didn’t make me any less fearful of what he might do. Was he admiring his handiwork or was I still unconscious?
"Araseo?" He asked and it took me a moment to answer but I slowly nodded my head.
He nodded as well but when he reached out for my arm I instinctively jerked it away. He seemed annoyed by that so when he reached for me again he grabbed me tightly so that I couldn’t move away again.
"You look like shit. How do you feel?" He asked, and maybe I was stunned by the clarity of this hallucination or it was just the fact that he was rude as hell yet here he was asking how I felt.
"I feel like shit too," I eventually replied but I wasn't sure why he even cared to know. He had to be a sadist, and well, I wasn't completely wrong in my thinking.
"The doctors didn't know if you would make it when I brought you in. So I guess feeling like shit is better than being dead," he told me.
I could agree there, but still, even at some points, I would rather be dead than deal with losing my job, my place to stay, and everything that I had worked so hard for up until that point. I was in no shape to go back to work and I didn't have any time off so I knew that I would be fired.
He seemed to know exactly what I was thinking so when he snapped his fingers in front of my face it startled me. It couldn’t be helped, I was in a real jam and my situation was so dire that I couldn't even begin to worry about the damage that had been done to my body.
"Hey, what's wrong with you?" He asked suddenly, and when he asked that question it only seemed to anger me.
"What's wrong?! I've been attacked! I'll probably lose my job and my apartment because I don't have any days off and now you're asking me what's wrong?" I asked.
I must've been looking at him like he was crazy, but how could he have known what the hell was going on in my head? Even with the little outburst he seemed ill-phased by it; in fact, he downright didn't even care, so why the hell did he ask? He shrugged and then leaned back in his seat with his arms folded over his chest.
"At least you're alive. That's the most important thing. All that other shit doesn't matter because it can be replaced," he said, and for a sadist, he sure was a hell of a lot more optimistic than I would ever be.
"Yeah, well, at this rate, maybe you should've left me in that alley and let me bleed out," I said grimly. I knew how ungrateful that must've sounded to him, but when he stood up and grabbed his bat, I wasn't expecting for him to smash it into the machine that I was hooked up to. I screamed, and when the nurse came running in, he turned on her and pointed the end of the bat right into her face.
"Get out!" he yelled, and of course she tried to get him to calm down first, but it was no surprise that she high-tailed it out of there after he shouted at her again. He walked over and locked the door behind her and then he marched back over towards the foot of my bed.
"You want to die? Is that why you walked down that alley in the first place?" He asked, and of course I said no, but he yelled at me again which made me jump.
"Liar! Tell me the truth! Tell me your deepest darkest secrets! Tell me what makes you so fucking dead inside, what makes you so hopeless," he said, leaning down so that he was face to face with me.
To be honest I wasn't sure how to answer that. I wasn't sure what the hell he wanted from me, or why he was so angry, but he was. I could feel his breath on my face and the tension had just become overwhelming.
"I can't answer you, I don't even know what the hell I'm living for, so what do you want to hear from me? Yes, I walked down that alley on purpose because I thought that nothing would happen to me, nothing good ever happens to me so I figured, what the hell, nothing will happen to me now. I was right, nothing happened to me—nothing good, anyway. So what, I almost died, who would've given a fuck?" I asked
In all honesty, I wasn't expecting a response or even a bat of his eyelash at that point but the response I got was a smile, a full-on smile, and I couldn't tell if it was genuine or sarcastic. Either way, it didn't scare me this time. No, if anything, it excited the hell out of me. I could feel my heart race and when his fingers brushed under my chin I instinctively moved closer to him. I knew then that I was making the worst mistake of my life, but life was all about choices and I had made mine. His fingers splayed across my throat and before I knew it, he was closing his hand around it. Our lips never touched, but I could feel his breath on mine when he spoke.
"Show me exactly what you are..."