Story 1. Chief Kim and Assistant Manager Choi
"Jihoon Kang! Where did you go? Assistant Manager Kang!"
It was no exaggeration to say that the day in the policy room started with the search for Jihoon Kang. An intern, who was sitting at the table, turned around and saw that Jihoon's chair was empty.
The intern was certain that Jihoon had gone on a business trip and that was why he was absent. Therefore, the reason why the chief was calling for him angrily was most likely because there was a problem with the Jihoon's report that was submitted yesterday.
The intern asked quietly, "Assistant Manager Woojin, did Assistant Manager Jihoon go somewhere?"
Woojin, who was staring at his monitor, turned around. He looked so pale, and whenever the intern saw him, his pasty face always worried her.
Chief Hyunsoo Lee was a short tempered man and was feared by the others. His office was located on the 9th floor, and he often screamed on the phone or threw documents whenever he got angry. He was the most feared figure by the young interns.
"Assistant Manager Woojin…"
Woojin sighed and as he slowly undid one of his ash-grey suit jacket buttons, he stood up. He was a very slim man, and although the suit was supposed to be a tight fit, his thin body made it look lax.
It was late summer and therefore still quite hot, but inside the office, it was too cold to be just wearing a dress shirt.
"I said, where did Assistant Manager Kang go?!"
Woojin walked up to the chief's desk, and stood there silently. Chief Hyunsoo Lee glanced up at Woojin as he tapped at the metal partition that stood against the side of his desk. It was a habit he had whenever he became frustrated. After a short silence, Woojin replied slowly, "Assistant Manager Kang went on a business trip."
"What? He went on a trip without even telling me?"
"He completed the proper paperwork for it yesterday, which was approved. It's document number 1331."
The chief glared at Woojin who bowed quietly and turned around to return to his seat. The chief seemed frustrated, and he stopped him.
"Assistant Manager Choi?"
When Woojin turned around to face him, Chief Lee frowned uncomfortably. It was obvious that he was angry about Woojin pointing out his mistake, but there was nothing he could do. Chief Lee might have been Woojin's superior, but he couldn't reprimand Woojin for no good reason.
Woojin was well known for his neat and perfect work.
After a short silence, Chief Lee finally gave up and added, "… It's nothing. Just make sure to get that report on the service corporation done by the end of today. The earlier the better. Thanks."
"Of course. I will submit it after lunch today."
As Woojin turned around to leave, he heard Chief Lee murmuring quietly, "Cold bastard."
Chief Lee often complained that Woojin was too cold.
Jihoon, Woojin's colleague, often badmouthed Chief Hyunsoo Lee behind his back for his unreasonable demands, but Woojin always remained quiet about it. He didn't feel anger. He didn't feel anything.
Woojin thought to himself, 'I'm tired.'
He was tired, and that was it. No other emotions.
As Woojin slowly walked back to his chair, the intern whispered to him her thanks.
Woojin nodded without a word and sat down. Another long day was ahead of him.
Chief Seulgi Kim from the marketing division approached Woojin and asked, "Are you eating your lunch alone again?"
Seulgi always asked Woojin to each lunch with her. Woojin was sitting alone in the office. While the others left to get lunch elsewhere, Seulgi stood in front of him and started to play with his nametag as usual.
Her black eyes blinked twice. As she asked him if he wanted to join her for lunch somewhere, Woojin stared at her red lips. Some may have found her act to be cute, but Woojin shook his head. Perhaps it was because he wasn't a very social person.
There were often times when Woojin thought that he must really be a cold, emotionless person.
He replied, "No thank you. I'm fine."
He always refused her offer, but Seulgi always took it well with a smile. Woojin wondered if others found her kind and caring.
But at the end of the day, what others thought didn't matter. Woojin didn't find it cute or caring. He found her to be annoying and suffocating. She asked him every day, forcing him to have to say no every day.
On the other hand, Assistant Manager Kang was interested in her. Jihoon was known as the nice guy. He often chatted and joked with the female staff and his boyish look made him popular. They entered the company at the same time, but Jihoon got promoted first, and he was a good leader. Jihoon was the opposite of Woojin.
Whenever Jihoon saw this interaction, he would say to Woojin, "Why don't you just eat lunch with her just once?"
"Come on. It's just one lunch, right? She is so adorable and nice."
It was indeed impressive that she asked every single day despite being rejected every single time. Jihoon thought so anyway, and Woojin wondered if he should care. In fact, he couldn't really understand why it was considered impressive.
He had been always like this ever since he was a child. Any feelings he had were so deep inside of him and they refused to surface. Woojin felt the same way about his own parents. Because he was an only child, he also didn't know what he was supposed to feel about siblings or anyone his own age.
He had always been very quiet and soft-spoken.
Woojin was also not very memorable. Most people couldn't remember him, including his high school classmates who spent 3 years with him.
But Woojin liked it that way. It was easier and simpler for him for people to not recognize him. He didn't want people to know about him. It was just the way he was.
He was born this way.
Woojin felt faint. His life felt quiet and faint, and he was satisfied with it. If he could continue to live this quietly, that was all he wanted.
And it would've been possible to live this way, except for that one incident that happened in the past.
His dream of a quiet eventless life was… just a dream.
Woojin sighed deeply as he walked towards the convenient store near his office building. His face looked dark with worries. The trees on the street looked unusually green and a cool wind blew pleasantly.
That day… was just like today.
That one time…
That time that made even the cold Woojin become hot for the first and the last time…
That time when the emotionless Woojin felt the heat inside of him…
Whenever he thought of that day, his heart fell. He clenched and unclenched his hands over and over again to escape this feeling.
His life felt colorless except for the memory of that day. It was so clear it felt like it happened yesterday. Whenever he took a deep breath, he could smell the scent of water.
"… Why am I remembering it again?"
He didn't have this dream very often. Perhaps it was the heat of the day. Woojin shook his head and looked up with narrowed eyes. Slowly, he looked down and let his memory pass.
He bought a sandwich from the convenience store and walked out. He peeled off the plastic wrap, and as he did, he could feel that day's emotions and desire on his fingers.