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Please Don't Talk to Me by bbangduksi. A shy woman is hiding behind a tipsy man holding a bottle of soju.

Please Don't Talk to Me


Chapter 17


Dongju examined a sheet of paper. Leaning over the partition, he asked, “Will there be lots of people at this thing?”


Ahn glanced at the paper Dongju was holding. “Of course. It’s open to all departments. High schools and other universities, too.”


Dongju looked back at the paper, then cracked his neck with a loud snap.


Woogi doesn’t like crowds.


Tapping his fingers on the desk, lost in thought, Dongju wrestled with his lingering guilt toward Woogi. Finally, he folded the paper neatly and tucked it inside a drawer.




This is…


I looked down at the bottle of soju. More precisely, I looked at the torn corner of the label.


This was the bottle Dongju left last Friday, identifiable by the torn section of the frog mascot’s head on the label.


It wasn’t the missing piece of the label that stood out to me; it was that the soju level hadn’t changed. It was already Wednesday, and although Dongju had been in the security office Monday, Tuesday, and this morning, the bottle remained untouched.


Counting on my fingers, I realized that at his usual pace, Dongju should have finished at least four bottles by now. More puzzling, I remembered hearing the crunch of almonds when he first brought out the bottle, suggesting he was pretending to drink without actually doing so. But why?




The door swung open, jolting me. I quickly stashed the soju back in the fridge.


Dongju crouched next to me and asked, “What are you planning to eat?”


I shrugged nonchalantly and was about to walk away when I caught a whiff of deodorant on him, the same scent from the security office. It was odd—Dongju, usually reeking of alcohol, never bothered with such things.


Sitting down, I noticed Dongju in front of the fridge. The ends of his hair were damp, his cheeks flushed pink, yet there was no sweat on his forehead or neck. He must have sweated, wiped it off, and sprayed deodorant. It was unusual for him to be so meticulous.


“You want some?”


Dongju, noticing my stare, held up the bottle of soju. Sometimes he’d joke with the most serious expression. I played along, reaching out my hand to indicate that I did want some.


“Forget it,” he said with a defiant lift of his chin, then guzzled the entire bottle.


It seemed like he’d been suppressing the urge to drink. Why was he suddenly drinking so quickly, especially when no one had told him not to? I tilted my head, puzzled by his behavior. Maybe it wasn’t anything serious.


I decided I was probably overthinking and let it go.






I checked the time as Dongju walked into the security office.


3:14 p.m.


For the past several days, Dongju had been leaving his post at around 1 p.m. and returning after 3 p.m. Seeing him keep to a regular schedule suggested he had made some new commitment. Without hesitation, he grabbed a beer from the fridge and downed it in large, thirsty gulps.


I inhaled deeply. The scent of deodorant lingered in the air again today. This pattern had been consistent, yet Dongju had said nothing about it. It seemed like he was purposely avoiding the topic, so I hesitated to ask him directly.


He was staring at his phone, blinking slowly, his eyelids heavy—either from sleepiness or fatigue. His voice cracked as he looked up and asked, “Do you have something to say?”


Since that incident, his throat seemed to have progressively worsened. Watching his decline, I couldn’t help but worry he was overexerting himself, especially given his usual neglect of his health.


I was itching to ask.


He disappeared at the same time every day. I had every right to be curious. Maybe I should just casually bring it up. Dongju did ask if I had something to say…


I scribbled my question in a notebook and showed it to him.


Where do you go after lunch these days?


He glanced at the notebook and replied, “Ah, I’ve been going to a manga café.”


I was taken aback for a moment. His response was completely unexpected. A manga café? It didn’t strike me as his kind of place… So why was he sweating? Why did he avoid drinking the soju before he left? Why did he look so exhausted when he returned? And why was his voice so hoarse?


Nothing matched what I was seeing. Something didn’t add up. I wrote in the notebook again.


Why were you sweating at the manga cafe?


But I hesitated to show it, feeling it might not be the right way to ask.


I flipped to the next page and wrote something else.


What manga did you read?


Dongju replied, “A new series by my favorite author. I don’t usually go to manga cafés, but buying them seems like a waste. Plus, there’s one near school.”


I wrote one more question.


Where is it?


“You know the Daebak Glasses store near the main gate? It’s in that building, on the third floor. Opposite the 24-hour pork stew place. You know where that is?”


His answer was immediate, without any pause to think. His response was well-organized and confident—too confident.


That’s weird. He usually speaks so indifferently. It’s like he prepared what to say, like he was reading from a script… Is he lying to me?


I nodded nonchalantly, though more questions swirled in my mind. Why would he do this? What was he trying to hide? For what purpose? Was there something I should be concerned about? Even if he did something that might make me think less of him, why would he care about my opinion?


Another strange thing was… his lies were too well-crafted. He seemed to have anticipated all my questions and had prepared answers in advance. For nearly two weeks, he hadn’t uttered a single word about what he was doing from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. That meant he had been lying for two weeks straight.


I felt a bit scared.


Why go to such lengths? What was he hiding that he had to put so much effort into it? Then something caught my eye. Dongju’s gaze kept darting to the side of the desk. Why did he keep looking at it? There was only a printer there. Was he glancing at the printer?


Must be to do with that…




-I have a personal matter at home today, so I won’t be coming in.


Dongju’s reply came eight minutes later.




I locked the security office door.


The way Dongju had kept glancing at the printer meant he was waiting for something he couldn’t prepare for. A fax, most likely. The only time the printer spat out something without warning was when someone faxed something through.


Nothing arrived yesterday, so there could be something today. I decided to tell Dongju that I wouldn’t be coming to school and wait to see what came.


It was just past 10 a.m. I found myself glancing at the printer every three minutes. I couldn’t focus on anything else, even pressing some buttons to check if it was still working. Nothing came through, even after 1 p.m.


Suddenly, I wondered if all this was really necessary. But now I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I felt like I needed to know why Dongju was hiding something from me. Was he afraid he had wronged me somehow? Was he feeling guilty about lying?


No, it wasn’t anything like that. If Dongju was going to such lengths to hide something from me… it meant…




Suddenly, the printer sprang to life. A blue light began blinking.


Even though I had been waiting for it, watching the paper being printed felt surreal. I slowly stood up and picked up the still-warm paper. It hit me that Dongju really was hiding something. A drumming sensation thudded in my chest.


I slowly read the contents.




I let the paper slip slowly from my hand.


Really? Why? It can’t be…


I kept questioning myself if I had understood it correctly. It seemed so strange. It felt like I couldn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. I looked at the clock. It was 1:40 p.m.


Without time to mull it over, I left the security office with the document in hand.




As I alternated between walking and running, my mind raced with questions and speculations.


Really? Dongju? It can’t be. But what if it’s true?


I climbed the stairs, the sound of my heavy breathing filling my ears. I needed to see it with my own eyes to put an end to all the questions.


The Law building came into view.


I slowed down. My breathing gradually returned to normal, but my heart continued to pound.


I wasn’t sure if I was expecting something or if I was afraid. People bustled in front of the building. I walked slowly, scanning through the crowd.


Could he be here…?


My mouth felt dry.


Just then…




My steps halted abruptly. I stared blankly at what I had found. I felt the crowd’s eyes on me, as if I was out of place. But I wasn’t in the state of mind to care about that.


In the distance was Dongju Choi. I slowly walked toward him. At some point, as Dongju turned his head, our eyes met. He looked like he had seen something he shouldn’t have. His eyes darted around.


He seemed unable to control his expression.






Dongju opened his mouth as if to speak but seemed unable to find the words.


As I approached him, I held out the paper. Dongju looked flustered as he took it.


[Work Cooperation Document - 3rd Call]


Title: Request for Staff Support at Department Information Session


Dates: February 5th (Monday) - February 19th (Friday) (Duration: 2 weeks)


3rd Period: February 17th - February 19th


Time: 1 PM to 3 PM


Location: Law School Auditorium


Recipient: Security and Management Personnel


Sender: Yeonjung University Admissions Office


Requested Task: Due to a large-scale department information session, there is a shortage of staff. We request support for extra personnel on guidance duties.


Dongju’s face hardened. I looked straight at him. He tore his eyes from the document to meet mine.


With great effort, he began, “This… This is…”


My gaze flickered between his eyes and mouth. The moment he hesitated seemed to slow time. I held my breath, waiting for what he might say next.




But he didn’t finish his sentence. He couldn’t say anything.


At that moment, the puzzle pieces of Dongju’s recent behavior—his mysterious actions, his desperate lies—flashed through my mind.


A heavy weight settled in my chest, sending ripples through me.


His eyes darted to the ground, then back to the document in my hand. Abruptly, he crumpled the document and shoved it into his pocket. His gaze wandered aimlessly before locking with mine again. He looked like he’d just made a terrible mistake.


“Wait…” In a flurry, he fumbled to pull the document back out of his pocket. “This isn’t mine…”


As he did, two rectangular pieces of paper fell out alongside the document. Both Dongju and I stared at the papers on the ground.


Special Exhibition of Colorist Painter Matisse


As the thought, ‘What is this?’ crossed my mind, a memory surfaced.


“That artist you like... who was it? Matisse?”


My eyes were glued to the two pieces of paper, disbelief and understanding flooding through me. It felt like plunging into deep water, the silence drowning out dozens of chirping birds and all other sounds.


At that moment, Dongju reached for the tickets.


“Ah… Ah, this… I was going to see it with a friend.”


His hand moved in slow motion.


Unconsciously, I reached out and grabbed Dongju’s hand.






I looked him in the eye.


Stop lying. You were planning to see this with me, weren’t you?

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