Escapade II

It’s been a busy quarter for me. Last quarter, at least I only really had two classes to worry about. This quarter, I have five, and even though individually they’re easier than the classes I took last quarter, the assignments pile up until there’s no more breathing room.

This week is worse than others. Firstly, I had two midterms Monday morning from 9 to 11. Then I had a music assignment due Tuesday morning, which was longer than any music assignment I had before. Tuesday afternoon, my photonics homework was due. Wednesday (in about 10 hours) morning, my Intro to Scientific Computing homework is due. Wednesday evening, my prelab is due (and so is my lab report, but I got an extension on that). Thursday, my lab report is due (due to the extension). Friday morning, my assignment for Digital Image Processing is due. And I’ve been getting an average of five or six hours of sleep a night. Any free time that comes up I would spend it on a nap, or taking a few hour break in the lull between problem sets. So that’s my week.

Sometimes we think that what we’re about to do will be the most memorable to date, but when we actually do it, we are disappointed. The story doesn’t unfold as we thought it would, leaving us with a blandness of having nothing really to tell.

Well, I’ll tell it anyway.

Henry, Alfred, and I were driving back from Chef Liu’s on Sunday night. In the car, we were talking about girls (as is pretty much the case when you put us together) and our future plans. Somehow, the topic of Valentine’s Day came up. It wasn’t unexpected, as it was on Tuesday. Henry suddenly suggested that he was going to buy his crush, whom I’ll call 태미, a rose. When I suggested that he should give it to her in person, he explained, “When she gets on campus, I’ll already be at work. When I come back, she’ll already be gone.” So feeling a bit spontaneous myself, I offered to take it to her. (Remember we were just back from doing something crazy.) After all, I wanted to see what the big deal is with this girl (I hadn’t ever seen her before) with whom Henry was so infatuated. He assented, and the snowball started rolling.

He hasn’t really made up his mind until Monday, since he wanted to consult with his “advisors.” Monday evening, I get a call, “Xuan, there’s someone following me.” So I go and open the door for him, even though it was obvious there wasn’t anyone following him. Then he took his hands from behind his back and my eyes fell on the rose. I was surprised. He brought the rose to our room, and placed it in a cup of water.

We were deciding on the presentation of the rose for Tuesday, when Alfred came back from office hours. Henry smiled, “So who’s the girl?” when Alfred caught sight of the rose.

“What girl?” Alfred asked, “Xuan, what girl?”

I shrugged and giggled. Henry asked again, “So who’s the girl?”

Alfred was getting a bit giddy, and disappeared from the room. So Henry and I went downstairs to look for him, but couldn’t find him anywhere. We just waited for his return. I worked on my music homework and Henry ate two yogurts. When Alfred came back, he became suspicious. After a while, he finally realized that this rose wasn’t for him. He was quite disappointed, and blamed us for leading him on.

I replied, “Come on now. Do you really think a girl would do this for you?”“Oooooooo” from the other two. We joked about it a little, and then Henry and I revealed our plan. Well, his plan. We actually played around with the plan a bit. At one point, I was going to recite Percy Shelley’s poem “Love’s Philosophy” to her when I hand over the rose. I was also considering kissing her on the cheek and saying that it was from Henry. Henry said he’d give me 3 hero stars (later he changed it to 2) if I did that. I was excited.

Later he decided that I probably shouldn’t recite the poem (kissing was still on the board). I was to tell her that the rose was from Henry, and that he couldn’t make it due to work, that he was leaving on a plane to New York, and that “his Excellency sent me in his stead.” I was to tell her that he wishes her a happy Valentine’s Day. So I agreed to do that and all, but now the problem is, Where am I going to find her?

I knew about where she worked, so I could go and take a look around to see if she was there. We decided that if I fail to find her before 6:30 PM, we were going to pull Alfred into the scheme, and Alfred and I were to go to her house (we had a vague idea about where she lived too) and ring doorbells until we found her, at which point we would break out singing a love song and serenade her and then give her the rose. Considering the state of Alfred’s voice, Henry laughed, “I really hope you find her before 6:30, Xuan.”

As a side note, we went to Henry’s place around midnight. We’ve never before seen the place he’s renting, and Alfred needed to pick up some notes. The drive over there was very quiet. The dirt road that led to the house was maybe a kilometer long. It had these bumps on it that prevented speeding. On both sides were fences. On the right (on the way there), you could see the hills rise a bit in the moonlight. I saw the shadows of the trees and the bushes, and I could tell that in the daytime, it would have been a romantic view.

When we got over there, Henry showed us around. I could tell the house was extremely beautiful. I kept expressing that I needed a girlfriend so that I could show her this place, and kept saying that I’m going to buy this 30 acre estate when I get $30 million in cash. If I stay here for graduate school, and the place still hasn’t been sold, I told Henry to recommend me so I could rent the place. It bordered the foothills, and the lack the light pollution from surrounding houses and buildings would have allowed us to see the night sky clearly, if it weren’t for the moon that shone so brightly.

There was a Japanese teahouse a bit further down, and we saw tennis courts and a swimming pool. I truly wished I had someone to whom I could show this romantic place, but as of right now, all hope is lost.

Anyway, we left with Henry wishing us luck and wishing me luck especially. I didn’t want to sing either.

Fast forward to Tuesday. It was morning and I had three hours of sleep. It was an important day, and I had 태미’s picture on my computer. I felt like a hitman, with a photo for a reference, a target to acquire, and a mission to accomplish. I went to music class, came back, and took a nap out of exhaustion. I still had no idea about how to find her.

I woke up around 11:50. It was time for lunch. I had hoped to look for her three times: in the morning, right after lunch, and in the late afternoon, and if I didn’t find her, I would give up. Well it was 11:50 and near lunchtime. I had a problem set due at 3:15. So I worked on it some until lunch. Then I ate, worked on my problem set some more, and decided around one that it was time to find her. I went online and asked a friend of mine who I thought probably knew her. It turned out he did know her. I asked, “Where can I find 태미,” to which he replied, “Everyone wants to find 태미.”

We decided that calling her from his cell phone to ask about her whereabouts was probably not very appropriate, and then he had to go take a midterm. So I had to drop that means of finding her. It was now around 1:30 PM. Henry IMed me, and asked about the situation. I told him that I haven’t done it yet, and then put up an away message that said, “Acquiring target…”

I shaved, put water in my hair to keep it in a reasonable shape, and biked over to Gates. I went to the area where her group worked and scanned the place silently as I walked through. I came to a corner office and saw the back of a girl who had the right physique, but I couldn’t see her face. I surmised it was probably 태미. She was wearing a pink sweater. I biked back to Casa as fast as I could, and put on a new away message: “Lock acquired… Time window: 1 hour. Mission ETC: 30 minutes.”

At this moment, Alfred rushed in. I told him that we have a mission. He refused, saying that he had to do his homework. I told him, “The second problem only takes 10 minutes. Let’s go.” After many entreaties, I managed to convince him to help me in this operation.

The plan was that he would go, take a look around and see if the girl I had saw earlier was really 태미. He was to ask someone if he couldn’t find her (he has seen her before). If somehow she was brought out when he asked for her, he would tell her to wait and that someone was going to come and give her something in 10 minutes.

He left. I went to brush my teeth to prepare for that kiss. Ten minutes later, I got a phone call. I heard wheezing and coughing on the other end, and thinking that my roommate got in some kind of accident, I asked urgently, “What is it?”

He finally managed to spit out that he thought he saw a girl from his EE142 class, and asked her if she knew 태미. The girl said, “I am 태미!” I called Alfred a dork and hung up. The time has come.

I took the rose out of the cup of water, and raced out. I was in a giddy mood then. What was I going to say? I had thought of some other phrases to tell her. I was going to begin, “안녕하세요? 제이름은 시완 이에요. 한국말을 몰라요.” And then I was going to say, “请讲中文” and start speaking to her in Chinese. (Henry told me that she knew how to speak Mandarin.) So I biked with no hands to Gates, one hand holding the rose and the other hand covering it.

I saw Alfred waiting for me at corner of Gates. I told him I needed cover. So we went in and up the elevator to the third floor. I was ready to pull this one off. I told him, I’ll take it from here, and motioned at him to disappear. I walked past the group meeting which was still going on, and came to the corner office. I took a breath, and knocked on the open door. She turned around.

“Hi 태미, this is for you.” Pause. She looked kind of surprised and confused. She had never seen me before, and it was the first time I had seen her. After a moment and a couple of Um…’s, I added, “This is from Henry.”

In my plan, I was gonna make it sound like it was from me, but this awkwardness was enough to make me think twice. I certainly did not want to be rejected by a girl I wasn’t even pursuing. Still, she did not take the rose.

“Henry? Henry who?”

Ouch. Well, worth a shot anyway.

“Jung. Henry Jung.”

“Oh…” A look of recognition manifested itself on her countenance. But she still did not take the rose.

A couple more Um…‘s. I explained further, "He wishes you a happy Valentine’s Day. He couldn’t come here himself since he has work. And he has to leave for New York and won’t be back for about a week."

Still more Um…‘s. It’s amazing. She seemed to be a very accomplished person, and yet at the receiving end of someone else’s affection, she was suddenly speechless.

I finally said, “Here, take it,” and pushed the rose closer to her.

She hesitated, and finally took it. “I guess, yeah, well I probably shouldn’t tell you [these things]. Than- Thank you… [whoever you are].” (I couldn’t remember clearly what she said.)

I nodded, and said, “Bye.”

I was about to say, “네는 참 예뻐요,” but decided against it. At this point, I decided that a kiss on the cheek wasn’t really appropriate either. It could really have done some damage. So I left. I didn’t see Alfred at all, but his bike was still there. So I waited. He finally came out, and told me he was trying to get to the staircase so he could eavesdrop, but his plan didn’t work out too well and he couldn’t really hear what was going on, other than the fact that it wasn’t really good. So that’s the end of the story. Anticlimactic, I know, but life’s like that.

“I only lent you my body—you lent me your dream.”
—Gattaca