I walked out of the tent that covered the stall we were at and walked a few meters away, towards the quiet parking lot.
“Ok… it’s quiet enough to talk now,” I said.
“You kids sure know how to have fun,” he laughed.
“What do you mean kids?” I laughed. “We’re almost the same age.”
“Haha… sometimes I forget,” he said. “I feel like such an old man these days.”
“You’re not old,” I said, smiling to myself.
“Komawo,” he replied. “I hope I’m not intruding.”
“It’s alright, sonbae. What’s up?”
“You know I’m going off to the army soon,” he started.
“Ne,” I replied.
It had been all over the news. The next week or so was packed with ‘goodbye stages’ for Park Hyo Shin.
“Would you like to join me for one of the performances?” he asked.
Would I ever? I practically screamed down the phone at him. I cannot believe one of my biggest idols just asked me to perform with him.
“Chintcha?” I asked him. “Are you for real? Me?”
“Why not?” he laughed.
I am loving this man at the moment. Although I believe he must be quite blind and deaf to pick me, I am ecstatic to know that he actually thought well enough of me to offer me that spot next to him on the stage.
“When is it?” I asked him.
“The next one is on this Friday’s KBS Music Bank. Can you make it?” he asked.
“I think so,” I said.
I should be there with Skye and Shoei for our single, so it will be an additional performance for me, which is normal.
“Great!” he said. “We’ll need to meet soon to discuss the arrangement of the song since we’re singing a duet.”
“I guess we’ll be doing ‘I Promise You’, since it’s the one that fits our voices best,” he said.
“Great! I’ll start practicing tonight,” I said.
“Practice?” he said. “I thought you should know it by now? Aren’t you supposed to be my fan?”
“Sonbae!” I exclaimed in embarrassment.
He laughed, as I was silent for a moment, trying to get over the embarrassment. I guess it had always been obvious that I was a fan, and I did mention his influence on me as a performer at numerous interviews throughout my career.
“I’m flattered,” he said. “I was quite flattered to know a singer such as you, and a foreigner at that, actually knew my music.”
“You’re quite famous, sonbae,” I said. “And you are an accomplished singer,” I smiled.
“Komawoyo,” was his reply.
“I’ll miss you while you’re in the army,” I said.
“That’s nice to know,” he said, and I laughed nervously.
We made plans to meet 2 days from then to practice. I was extremely excited to be able to finally work with him officially. A radio show would be a coincidence. A choreographed performance on stage would definitely fulfill my dreams.
“They’re back,” Shoei suddenly announced while we were waiting for our turn to perform that Friday.
“Nugu?” I asked.
“JYJ,” Shoei replied.
“Keurae?” I said in an indifferent tone.
I seriously didn’t want to be bothered about TVXQ or JYJ anymore. Things have gotten so messy between them lately, and I didn’t want any part of it. With my long history with Yun Ho and Jae Joong being a constant reminder, I didn’t need to be further reminded that at some point I may be forced to pick sides. All I wanted to do now was to complete a perfect performance with Hyo Shin sonbae before he goes to the army.
“Chalhanda,” Hyo Shin sonbae said to be after our rehearsal earlier today. “You’ll do great tonight.”
“I hope so,” I smiled.
“You’ll do good always,” he smiled back.
“I sincerely hope so too,” I laughed nervously. “I really can’t imagine 2 years without you around, sonbae.”
“I’ll be back,” he smiled, and reached out to pat me on the head.
I bowed a little, feeling a bit shy from the attention I was getting from him.
“You’re gonna be here holding the fort till I come back?” he said in jest.
“Ne, sonbaenim,” I laughed as I stood in attention while saying those words.
“At ease,” he laughed.
“We have an extra special stage tonight,” the emcee said. “Let’s welcome a refreshing duet performance of ‘I Promise You’ by Park Hyo Shin and Sierra!”
The arrangement of the song was simple. I had the first part of the song while he sang backup for me, and he had the 2nd part while I contributed with backup vocals, then we ended together. You could only imagine how good it felt to be singing with him. It was akin to being made a part of a choir in the heavens; to hear your own voice blending beautifully with a voice like his. He was famous for his near flawless performances, and I really worked hard to ensure that my voice didn’t waver or went off-key to mar his performance.
In less than 4 minutes, it was over. I felt like I was floating on the clouds throughout that performance. Towards the end of the performance, he came over and put his arm around me as we sang the final chorus. It felt as if we’ve been performing as a pair for all this time. I doubt I would forget this milestone in my life anytime soon.
“You were so cool, nuna!” Skye said when he saw me backstage.
“Yea,” Shoei agreed. “Let’s see you bring that A-game to our song.”
We were standing in the corridor near the stage, watching the performance before ours and waiting for our turn to perform. I was all hyped up from my performance with Hyo Shin sonbae, and I totally forgot how normal it was that I could be high one moment and messed up in a split second. My phone buzzed in my hand, and I looked at it.
‘Great performance earlier… Can we meet tonight?’ he texted.
He sure knew how to pick his moments. He probably thought I’d be in a better and more forgiving mood since I just had that performance with Hyo Shin sonbae.
I sighed, and replied his text in the only way I knew how.
‘Wait for me outside. I should be done in another 2 hours.’
After I’d replied him, I immediately passed my phone to my assistant since I wasn’t allowed to carry it onto the stage. I really wanted to stop thinking about him at this moment and deliver a solid performance tonight. Thank god I managed to.
The energy on the set was explosive tonight. We started off with ‘Words3’ and ended with our faster track ‘Fixated’. ‘Fixated’ was a mid-tempo mixture of R&B and Hip Hop. The most of the lyrics were done by Skye and Shoei, but I managed to pitch in by writing the chorus. I wasn’t sure how the fans would take to it, but hearing them chanting the chorus word for word as we performed the song confirmed to me that they loved it well enough.
We finished our performance and packed up in just under 2 hours. I picked up my bag and got up, drawing curious looks from Skye and Shoei.
“Eodi ka?” Shoei asked me.
“I’m going off with Jae Joong. Don’t wait up,” I said as I started walking towards the exit.
“Do you want me to come along?” Shoei asked.
“Kwaench’ana,” I replied. “I’ll see you kids at home.”
I walked out of the building to find him waiting in his car, parked up front. It wasn’t his usual car, but I’ve seen him drive it around before to avoid being followed since the paparazzi recognised his snazzy cars.
“Are you cold?” he asked me, the moment I got in, and reached to turn up the heater for me.
It was touching to see that he remembered so much about me; my likes and dislikes, my hopes and fears, my ambitions, my desires… and yet, he has no other way to proceed than in the way that hurt me most.
“Aniya… kwaench’ana,” I said.
“Where to?” he asked me.
“Anywhere you like,” I replied as I put on my seatbelt.
We drove in silent until we came to his apartment. I hadn’t counted on him bringing me to his place since he had a housemate.
“Isn’t Hyun Joong home?” I asked him.
“He went touring again,” he replied as he eased into his parking lot and turned off the engine.
We got out of his car and started walking towards the elevator. He flashed his access card at the door that lead to the elevator lobby and held open the door for me to enter first. I hit the ‘up’ button, and we continued to stand there in silence while waiting for the elevator to arrive.
“How’s Jun Su and Yoo Chun?” I asked him, breaking the silence.
I hadn’t seen the both of them for as long as I have not seen Jae Joong. It seemed that they too had disappeared from the face of the earth during the past year.
“They’re fine. They’re visiting their family now, before we get really busy again.”
“So what is it that you guys are doing back in Seoul now?” I asked him.
“You sound like you’re not welcoming us home as well,” he laughed.
“Don’t be silly,” I replied.
The elevator finally arrived, and we both walked in, side by side. The door closed as Jae Joong hit the button to the floor he lived on, and as soon as the elevator started moving, he reached out and pulled me into his arms.
“Kaman isseo,” he whispered when I tried to pull away.
I hated how his voice made me want to stay still for him. I hate how his arms made me melt and want to cling to him forever. I hated that I still wanted him back in my life, even when it was clear he couldn’t guarantee me anything. I hate that I still loved him.