Firstly, when a Korean says, “come on”, they usually mean “come here”. Secondly, in any other country a command of that nature to a stranger would not be okay. But Korea isn’t any other country.
The voice came from a white BMW. The window was wound halfway down and through it a hand frantically waved me down.
He looked like he was in his early thirties. The one side of his head was shaved. He wore a black, buttoned-shirt. The top two buttons were undone.
“Can you help me? I’m not from Ulsan.”
“I’m not either, but I’ll try.”
“Do you know where the Lotte Department Store is?”
This question triggered a red flag for two reasons:
1. Every Park, Kim and Minsu knows where the Lotte Department Store is, even if they’re not from Ulsan.
2. He was parked right outside it.
“Erm..well, it’s right there, ” I said, gesturing to the building in front of us.
“Oh, okay. Would you like to go on a date with me?”
I don’t know whether it was the rate at which the conversation had escalated in approximately twenty seconds or that it was the first time a Korean guy was so forward with me, but I think I must have stared at him, mouth agape, for about five seconds. His eyes were locked on mine.
“What is your name?”
He reached for my hand and squeezed it.
“Nice to meet you, Sam. My name is Tom. Let’s date? You are my style. You are very beautiful. Beautiful face. Are you here alone? Do you have a boyfriend? Where are you going?”
He said all of this at an incredibly rapid pace. I told him I had just finished shopping and I was heading home to my boyfriend (I had just arrived in Ulsan 15 minutes prior, I hadn’t even started shopping and I didn’t have a boyfriend).
His face dropped.
“You have a boyfriend? Why?”
How does one respond to “why do you have a boyfriend?” I didn’t know how so I didn’t respond.
“But you are my style,” he said again.
“You don’t even know me; how do you know I’m your style?”
“Because I like black skin.”
When Koreans say “black skin”, they mean “dark-skinned”. But I was still tempted to ask him why he didn’t ask a black girl out since he liked black skin and I wasn’t black.
“Has anyone ever told you you look like Rihanna?”
“No one has ever told me that, probably because I don’t look like Rihanna.”
“Well, you do. You have her same beautiful, black skin.” I wished he would stop saying black.
He asked me if I had a boyfriend again. I said yes again. He looked disappointed again.
“Do you know I’ve met Britney Spears before?” he asked, in a poor attempt to impress me. And the attempt went from poor to poorer:
“Do you know K-pop? I’ve also met Rain.” People stopped caring about Rain years ago. He looked at me expectantly.
“Erm, I’m going to go.”
“No, wait! So do you have a boyfriend?” Third time.
“YES. He’s waiting for me at home.” How many more times must I lie about this?
“Okay. Maybe you know my father?”
He pulled out his phone and scrolled through his photos until he found what he was looking for and then zoomed in. I was obviously expecting BanKi Moon.
“You see this man here,” he pointed to a man in a grey suit. “He is the CEO of Hyundai.”
“Oh, is that your father?”
“No, my father is the man next to him.”
He pointed to a nobody in a grey suit standing next to the CEO of Hyundai.
“Can’t say I know him.”
He ignored my response.
“So, you have a boyfriend?” Fourth. Time.
“I’ve told you I do four times now.”
“Okay, if you break up with him, will you date me?”
I stared. He stared back, unblinking. But he didn’t wait for my reply.
“Can I have your number?” He eyed my phone which I unfortunately had clutched in my hand.
I figured saying “yes” and then ignoring his calls would be much easier than saying “no” and facing further pleading. I gave it to him. He immediately rang me and I immediately saved his number as “Stalker Tom”.
It was freezing outside; my fingers turned numb as I stored his number. I pulled my coat closer to me.
“Ah, you are cold, do you want to sit inside my car?”
Er, let me think about this. “No.”
“Can I take you to the bus terminal?”
“That’s also a no.”
He took my hand. And kissed it.
“You will date me when you break up with your boyfriend?” He was still holding onto my hand.
“Bye Tom.” I pulled my hand away and started walking away.
“Bye Sam, I can’t wait to hear from you.”
I turned away. I walked literally three steps and my phone started ringing. It said Stalker Tom was calling. I ignored it. I knew he was watching me from his car, but I kept walking. My phone rang again. I kept walking. I headed straight for the Lotte Department Store. I must have looked over my shoulder about six times before I reached the doors of the department store. My phone beeped. A message from Stalker Tom:
It beeped again twenty seconds later:
It beeped again. This time there were photos attached. Selfies. He was wearing the same black shirt, which meant the photos were just taken. He was standing outside his car and his tongue was sticking out. It looked like he was trying to look sexy.
I tried my best to forget about the creepy selfie and continued with my shopping, glancing over my shoulder every now and then. When I was done with the department store I headed out. It was time for my post-shopping smoothie. I exited the building. My phone rang. Stalker Tom was calling.
I didn’t know if the timing of that call was a coincidence or not. But I did know that my post-shopping smoothie would have to wait. I headed for the bus terminal.