Winning Isn't Everything by Azzurri



Min Jae came to see me. Kang Min Jae whom I’ve always been sorry to.  I wish I could say Kang Min Jae whom I love. Which I do. Just not enough. Not the way she wants me to love her. Because my heart and my soul has been too rooted in the sins of the past that I cannot offer her any bit of it. So I’m always sorry to her.

Now she comes to tell me she takes back what she said to me before. She had accused me of only fighting the good fight when I knew I wouldn’t get hurt by it. She didn’t use the C-word but I knew what she was trying to say. And I couldn’t argue that she was wrong either. I know exactly what kind of Coward I have been for these past 20 years.

Years ago she asked me to marry her. And I told her I would - if she could settle for being the second and not the first woman in my heart. Of course no woman in her right mind would have agreed, and so we broke up. Recently, after I told her that I needed to repay a huge debt to this girl I know, she asked me. If the debt is repaid, will that number one slot in my heart open up again? I knew what she was asking, but I didn’t have the answer she was looking for. I didn’t know,  I just didn’t know.

But today  she comes to see me, I answer her with a smile. These days, I look forward to waking up, I tell her. These days, life has become interesting for me and I want to keep on living it. These days I wake up and I wonder to myself, “What should I do today? What will the kids be doing today?” It’s an unusual pleasure for me, waking up in the morning and looking forward to the day.

She cannot understand why I want to fight a battle I can never win. Why even try? Isn’t it better to know the odds before stepping into the ring? I can only smile and tell her how interesting life is for me now.  More important than winning now, is how I feel when I’m with the kids.

The kids. The two brats who lost everything so many years ago, because of events beyond their control. I thought I was the victim, but they are the real victims of that tragedy, of MoonShik hyung’s deceit and lies. Of having sold his soul to the devil in exchange for wealth, power and MyungHee noona.

20 years ago, those kids were my playmates. Or rather, I was their samchon and part time baby sitter. We played on ‘Moru-moru Island’ that I created – to keep them quiet and under control so I could read my books. It was a time of quiet joy, a joy I regretted not savoring, and when they were lost, I was lost right along with them. Left with a gaping hole inside my heart that never seemed to get filled no matter how many achievements I gained in my professional career, or how many women I romanced.

Oh Ji An, who I was told died on that fateful night in 1992. My beloved MyungHee noona’s only child with Gil Han hyung. The little girl with laughing eyes, who chased Seo JungHoo around and called him oppa. Who slept holding on to his hand. Losing her, made MyungHee noona change so much. Through the years I witnessed how noona lived, only to smile on those two days a year. Ji An’s death anniversary and Ji An’s birthday. Other days noona was just a mere shadow of herself. Despite MoonShik hyung’s tender care and love, she was no longer the MyungHee noona of old. What I would have given to have her back.

Seo JungHoo, the robust little terror, off spring of JunSeok hyung. I had not thought of him for many years, thinking him happy growing up at least with one loving parent. I didn’t know – how could I have known. I didn’t know that he too had grown up alone, with one parent dead and the other abandoning him. I didn’t know that all these years it was Young Jae hyung who brought him up and trained him to be the night courier called Healer.
The Healer who finally found Ji An at my bidding. The irony of fate. If I think about it, sometimes I laugh to myself. We humans can be so foolish thinking we are in control, but at the end of the day who can stop the hands of fate? Who would have guessed it was the oppa who would find the dongsaeng? And he did. Find her, an entirely new her. A new person with a new name and a new family who didn’t love her any less than her first. Thanks to them she grew up confident, smart and beautiful, and I am grateful beyond words for that.

Those two kids, Ji An and Jeong Hoo. Those kids have lost so much already, but they keep coming back for more. They do not understand what the word ‘Give up’ means. In that way they’re the spitting throw back to who their fathers were and what they stood for. Jung Seok hyung and Gil Han hyung would have been proud. They make me proud. They make me embarrassed if I don’t at least try to fight, like they have been fighting. They make me want to fight, even when I know I cannot win. Winning isn’t everything, I understand that now. But fighting for what we have to fight for, is.

So, if I quit just because I can’t win, I’d be too embarrassed in front of the kids. I tell Min Jae and laugh, and she looks at me like I’m nuts.

I could die tomorrow, I know. I’m playing a dangerous game, I know that too. The kids know that, and they don’t care so why should I? Besides. For the first time in 20 years, this heart of mine feels full. Feels warm. Sometimes I can even imagine it can feel happy.

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