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  • Maybe Love (Ai ka, 1909)1
  • Yi Kwang-su
    Translated by John Whittier Treat (bio)

Mungil went to visit Misao in Shibuya. Joy and pleasure and boundless hope filled his breast. Stopping along the way to visit one or two other friends had only been a pretext. Night was falling, and the street was becoming hard to see. But Mungil was determined to make his way to Misao.

It was impossible to describe what he felt when he arrived at the front gate. His heart was beating loudly and his breathing was labored, whether because of happiness or sadness or shyness he had no idea. In any case, in less than three minutes he would forget whatever he was feeling.

He passed through the gate and walked toward the entrance. His heart was beating even faster and his body was shaking. The storm door was shut and everything was deathly quiet. Maybe he's asleep already. No, that can't be. It's only a little past nine. It's the middle of exams, there's no way he'd be in bed already. It must be that out here they lock up early. Should I knock? Someone's sure to come to the door if I do.

But Mungil was unable to stir. He held his breath and just stood there like a wooden statue. Why? Why did he come all this way only [End Page 321] to find himself unable to make a move? It wasn't that he thought he'd get into trouble if he knocked, or that he stopped his raised fist at the last second; he simply did not have the courage. Right now Misao must be hitting the books hard for his exams. He would never dream that I am standing here now. There are only two thin walls between us, but our thoughts are a million miles apart. What should I do? All that expectation and joy melted like spring snow. Do I give up and just leave like this? Despair and pain tightened Mungil's chest. He turned around and began to tiptoe away.

As he passed the well he was sweating so profusely his jacket was drenched. He let out a sigh just as a summer night's cool breeze brushed his heated face. Mungil went no further, but headed around to the back entrance. The storm door there was closed as well, and all he found was a lamp dimly lighting the darkness. So that's that. All his resolve was gone. His mind made up, he began to walk off without casting a glance sideways. He went past the gate and started down the hill, a hill he had just climbed so easily but now found so difficult to descend. He took a few tottering steps. Halfway down he suddenly stopped when something occurred to him. He didn't want to go any further. He was trying to come up with a plan. The sole streetlight flickering on the pole in front of him only deepened the quiet of the night.

Mungil stood there thinking. I've got to go home tomorrow, don't I? I won't be able to see his face until school starts again. What should I do? What! Have I come this far only to leave without being with him? I'm spineless, spineless, and what am I going to do about it? I have to be stronger. All right, I'll definitely knock on the door. Of course once I get in I won't have anything interesting to say to him, or any business to take care of, but it will be enough just to see his face. Mungil turned around to return to the boardinghouse. Now his feet felt light and quick, as if he were rising on a tide of courage. He was going so fast he sped pass the gate. It was almost laughable. He took a few steps backwards, then entered. This time he made sure he could be heard stomping on [End Page 322] the stone path. It was his way of letting them know he was there, but no one caught on. He thought there...


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pp. 321-327
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