Let's go, says Ji Hyun. She moves toward the apartment.
Wait. Yi Kyung takes a piece of worn fabric from her pocket. Put this over your eyes, she says.
Unni, says Ji Hyun. I won't be able to see you if I do that. She swings the basket on her arm as if to say my hands aren’t free either. Her eyes, when Yi Kyung looks, are dancing.
Yi Kyung blindfolds Ji Hyun herself. This old shirt that protected me from the world now protects Ji Hyun’s head. Yi Soo had left strips of fabric, carefully folded, in a cupboard with the other cleaning supplies. Yi Kyung’s hands falter but Ji Hyun waits patiently. After a moment Yi Kyung ties the blindfold loosely and smoothes the ends down. She had washed the fabric last night by hand, adding vinegar so it wouldn’t stiffen while it dried.
When she drops her hands, Ji Hyun turns around carefully to face Yi Kyung. The dark fabric covering Ji Hyun’s eyes looks out of place alongside her white sweater and cap. Yi Kyung can feel her mouth tighten. Ji Hyun is smiling as she grabs for Yi Kyung’s hand. Her aim is off; she’s going to miss. Yi Kyung’s hand moves forward, into Ji Hyun’s grasp.
Now you have to test it, Ji Hyun says. She arranges Yi Kyung’s thumb so it rests on her smallest finger. Her other three fingers stick up awkwardly after Ji Hyun moves away. Now you ask me how many fingers, says Ji Hyun solemnly. Watching her, Yi Kyung feels her mouth loosen, feels her lips turning up at the corners.
She leads Ji Hyun toward the apartment, making sure her friend doesn't knock into anything. So mysterious, Ji Hyun murmurs, clutching her hand. Yi Kyung lets go once they’re inside. Wait here. She sets Ji Hyun's basket on the bed and moves to the far end of the room. She can feel her heart thudding in her chest. Open your eyes, she tells Ji Hyun, and Ji Hyun giggles because she’s still wearing the blindfold.
(She stands, looking, for a long time. Unni, she breathes, her eyes coming to rest on Yi Kyung. For this gift, thank you.)
Yi Kyung gets out the sticky rice she'd made before she called Ji Hyun and the two women prepare kimbap. Side by side, they chop cucumber and carrots, danmuji and odeng, and Yi Kyung tries to imagine the tight feeling in her chest being chopped into thousands of tiny pieces, pieces that scatter as widely as words over a meal shared by friends.
(When the stove is on and the apartment smells like sesame oil, Ji Hyun circles Yi Kyung’s apartment. She fingers the curtains, lifting them to peer outside. She trails a hand along the wallpaper, skims a palm over the bedspread. Yi Kyung watches for Ji Hyun from the corner of her eye and wonders if she is going to touch everything.)
When Ji Hyun pops a roll into Yi Kyung's mouth, she is startled. She waits then until Ji Hyun is distracted, hesitating only at the very last moment. Ji Hyun lifts her head and looks at Yi Kyung's hand suspended in the air. She considers Yi Kyung for a long moment, her expression unreadable, before touching Yi Kyung’s wrist as gently as Yi Kyung had touched Ji Hyun's hair earlier. She guides Yi Kyung's hand, placing the roll in her own mouth. I feel really happy knowing you can prepare good food, Ji Hyun says after she swallows.
She chatters away and Yi Kyung lets her voice wrap around her like a summer mist. In turn she offers up reassurance that Han Kang will go on a picnic with his friend Ji Hyun. Ji Hyun’s voice fills the air the way Yi Soo has filled the apartment. If Ji Hyun’s voice was a colour, it would be pink. Her chest is still almost unbearably tight, but her mouth wants to smile, and she lets it.
(When Ji Hyun hugs Yi Kyung goodbye, Yi Kyung pulls away before her friend does. He won’t know, she says again.
Ji Hyun's eyes slip closed. She smiles at Yi Kyung, a brilliant, uncomplicated smile. I know, she says.)