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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 21


Soo-young knew that Dongju drank in the security room. While it was concerning, it was an issue that could be addressed later. More pressing was the question of whether he had other reasons for spending so much time there.


Knock, knock.


“Hello, I’m here to pick up a package for Professor Hwang from the Philosophy Department.”


Soo-young met Woogi’s slightly surprised gaze and offered a leisurely smile. “Dongju is dealing with something at the moment, so I’m here instead.”


Usually, Soo-young was more reserved with strangers, but today she was more animated.


Woogi scanned the package records. Soo-young tried to read her expression, wondering if she knew Dongju wouldn’t be here today or if she had heard from him.


“You know Dongju well, right? He’s mentioned you a few times.”


Woogi nodded slowly. Not only was she incredibly quiet, but she barely showed any emotion. Soo-young wondered if Dongju could really be friends with a person like this. Somehow, she found the thought oddly reassuring. But then again, people could be unpredictable. She decided to clarify things.


“Dongju won’t be coming here once the semester starts next week.”


Woogi’s hand, passing over the package, paused. A flicker of emotion crossed her usually impassive face.


Soo-young took the package from her. “Thanks for all your help with him.”


She smiled again before turning to leave. As soon as she turned, her smile faded to a cold expression. The slight crack she had caught in Woogi’s face lingered uncomfortably in her mind.




I dumped my bag on the floor and crawled onto my bed. Settling into the corner, I pulled my knees to my chest.


“Dongju won’t be coming here once the semester starts next week.”


“Thanks for all your help with him.”


I looked down at my toes.


All I knew was that he wouldn’t be coming back. I hadn’t seen him or knew why. It felt like something was happening with him, but I’d never imagined it would mean not seeing him again. I always thought there would be another chance… But that wasn’t always guaranteed.


Hearing the news so suddenly, it just felt wrong that I wouldn’t see Dongju anymore. It wasn’t right.


That day at the art museum, Dongju might have hinted at something troubling him. His mood was erratic, his demeanor scattered—maybe he wanted me to notice and ask about it. But I ignored the signs, which might have hurt him.


His pale profile, dry lips, lowered lashes, stern expression… all of these details now flitted through my mind. I was too preoccupied with my own feelings of being slighted to notice Dongju’s behavior at that moment. What was he really feeling? Was he uneasy about meeting outside? Did he prefer to only meet in the security room? Was it awkward for him to spend time with someone who didn’t talk?


These thoughts spawned others. Why hadn’t I seen it at the time? Dongju wasn’t that kind of person. He always went out of his way to shield me from things I wouldn’t like, often without my knowing. He was thoughtful and considerate. If he acted out of character, there had to be a reason. Why did I question his sincerity?


I suddenly sat up, bumping my head with a loud thump.




Once again, I’d hesitated and spiraled into overthinking for way too long, ultimately making a mess of things. I should have just asked him at the museum, “Why do you look so upset? Is something wrong?”


Now, left with my own thoughts, I was clueless about what was going on with Dongju or how he was currently feeling.


I jumped off the bed, pacing back and forth. I glanced at my phone on the bedside table, unplugged it from the charger, and scrolled to ‘Dongju Choi’ in my contacts. I pressed the message button, staring at the empty input field. I gulped, gripping my phone tightly.


Is there… something… going on?


That’s all I needed to say.


I typed out the short message.


Should I send this?


At the museum, Dongju had seemed off, and he hadn’t shown up at the security office either. Plus, his friend hinted that he was “dealing with something.” It sounded like a reasonable thing to ask, considering all that.


My thumb hovered over the ‘Send’ button.


…But I feel like it would be better to talk face-to-face.


I plugged my phone back into the charger.


Dongju would probably reply with a short, “It’s nothing” or “I’m fine.” I didn’t know if it was worth making light of the situation or changing the topic. It seemed important to meet in person, to ask him directly, see his expression, and check if he was just pretending to be okay when he might actually be hurting. If needed, I could be there… by his side.


I halted suddenly in the middle of the room.


If I could just ask…


“Is something going on?”


That was it.


Definitely better to ask in person.


If there was something wrong, maybe my speaking up could help. Just like I mustered the courage to face this, maybe Dongju could find the courage to get through whatever he was dealing with. Maybe he would recognize my good intentions.


If he did, perhaps it could mend the awkwardness we had at the museum. Maybe it could ease any resentment he might feel, thinking I hadn’t understood his feelings. Even though it might not be obvious, Dongju and I could perhaps develop a deeper connection…


The thought of a slightly closer relationship with Dongju crossed my mind.


Filled with anticipation, I whispered to myself once more, “Is something going on?”




In the dark room, only a desk lamp shed light on a single sheet of paper, under which Dongju’s clasped hands rested. He blinked, his eyes unfocused.


He had thought he’d suppressed his desires, but in reality, he’d simply lived as he wished. Nothing would bring back his deceased father, nor did he want to confront his mother daily, wrestling with guilt. So, he had tucked away everything he didn’t want to face, discarding it like trash.


The problems he had turned a blind eye to eventually decayed, festering until they burst forth. Had he not looked away, maybe his mother wouldn’t be in such distress now. Dongju acknowledged his mom’s pain more intellectually than emotionally. Despite her equal dedication, he didn’t feel the same anguish for her as he did for his dad. This made him question if he truly loved his mom at all.


Maybe that’s why he hadn’t tried to understand her. Would he have neglected his dad in the same way? The thought that he might love only one of his parents was something Dongju could never confess. He felt indebted to his mom, believing he had to make amends for the pain caused by his lack of affection and his dad’s wrongs toward her. Secretly, he hoped this would also alleviate the guilt he felt toward his dad.


Choosing to live as his mom wished seemed the path of least resistance going forward. It promised no misunderstandings, no conflict, and no one getting hurt. While it was tortuous for Dongju, it somehow felt the easiest.


Believing this was his only viable path, Dongju was resolved. This should be enough…


Yet, despite his resolution to let go of everything, one nagging doubt remained.


How should I explain this to Woogi?


Dongju peered into his barren heart. In a realm devoid of rain or sunshine, nothing could thrive except for one lone entity, still throbbing with life. He felt compelled to sever it, to suspend it somewhere and let it wither into dust. It seemed pressing, like tearing a deeply embedded root from his chest.


Yet, it was unavoidable. This was Dongju’s burden to bear. More importantly, he wondered… Would Woogi understand? Understand the choices he had made, the things he had done, his feelings? Probably not. No one could. Hoping for that was futile. But if he were honest, at least Woogi wouldn’t suffer from unnecessary misunderstandings. It might be hypocritical to ponder how to cause the least pain while still inflicting some.


Dongju picked up a pen and clicked it thoughtfully. He needed to start with what happened at the art museum, about why he had been so cold. He had to discuss his mom, Soo-young, and his dad. His errors. His misconceptions. The responsibilities he had to shoulder…


He looked down at the paper before him and began to write everything he needed to tell her.


Dear Woogi,


I never intended to get close to you. In fact, after my dad passed, I realized there are some people who are better off keeping a distance. That includes myself. It felt strange to be among people. Everything seemed like a lie. Approaching, smiling, being considerate. It was all veiled by my own selfishness.


But I unintentionally grew closer to you. It sounds ironic saying that, because deep down, I knew what I was doing. I took one step closer, telling myself it was okay, then another, convincing myself that this much was still safe.


I can’t lie to myself anymore about how despicable my actions have been. Until now, I thought there was no need to justify or apologize for isolating myself and ruining my own life. But that was a very childish thought. I realized too late that my life is always intertwined with others.


Going forward, my goal is to help those I’ve hurt to pursue the life they desire. Basically, I won’t be able to spend time with you anymore. Being around you awakens desires in me, pushing me toward the life I want. I’ve even thought about making up other reasons to avoid seeing you. But, knowing you might blame yourself, I’ve chosen to be honest this time. This isn’t your fault.


I’m telling you this for your sake, but I also want to get this off my chest.


The reason I can’t see you anymore is because I like you, Woogi.

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