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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

5

Chapter 5

70

“Dongju.”

 

Dongju turned his head, his gaze unfocused.

 

Ahn looked annoyed. “Stop shaking your leg.”

 

Immediately, Dongju’s leg stilled.

 

Ahn poked his head over the partition, muttering, “No more alcohol smell, now it’s your leg shaking."

 

Dongju frowned. He hadn’t had a sip of alcohol since arriving at work. While others complained of headaches from drinking, Dongju felt a headache coming on from not drinking. And now this comment about his leg.

 

Unable to sit still any longer, Dongju stood up abruptly. The urge to hurl his mouse across the room was growing. He grabbed his tumbler and exited the department office quickly.

 

He left the Humanities building and made his way to the lawn. Walking the perimeter like a plate on a sushi conveyor belt, he took a sip from his tumbler—the first drink he’d had in six hours.

 

Alcohol is prohibited on campus :)

 

“Ha.”

 

The betrayal was hard to digest. He had pegged her as someone overwhelmed by situations, not as someone capable of such deception. She had blindsided him.

 

Standing on the lawn, Dongju stared at the security office. No flashes of inspiration came to him this time. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best approach.

 

He wandered slowly down the path lined with ginkgo trees and paused beside Woogi, who was sweeping leaves.

 

Woogi looked up briefly at the sound of footsteps, noted Dongju’s slippers, and returned to her sweeping without a word. Dongju glanced down at his slippers, then trailed behind her, speaking more to the air than to her.

 

“I may have gone too far with the fridge.”

 

“…”

 

“I shouldn’t have messed around like that.”

 

“…”

 

“And I was too harsh yesterday.”

 

“…”

 

“And what I said the day I picked up the package was out of line too.”

 

Woogi paused for a moment. Was the apology working? Dongju watched her hopefully. But she simply resumed her sweeping as if he hadn’t spoken at all.

 

She’s not even acknowledging it.

 

Dongju crossed his arms, thinking it was time to change the subject. He tapped his arm with his index finger, then said casually, “Your hands must be cold from all that sweeping.”

 

“…”

 

“Mine are too. My hands freeze when I hold my tumbler.”

 

“…”

 

“It would be nice to drink inside.”

 

“…”

 

Rubbing his hands around the tumbler, Dongju showed it to Woogi, but she didn’t even pause.

 

Playing the sympathy card isn’t working either. Maybe I’m just bad at looking pitiful.

 

It dawned on him that his social skills were scraping rock bottom; it had been ages since he’d had a proper conversation with anyone. Beating around the bush was getting him nowhere.

 

Picking up his pace, Dongju caught up to Woogi, stepping in front of her broom to block her path. She stopped, a bit startled.

 

Looking down at the top of Woogi’s head, Dongju said, “Let’s share the security office.”

 

“…”

 

“I’m sorry for everything.”

 

“…”

 

“I’ll just sit quietly in the corner.”

 

“…”

 

“Come on, let’s share it. It’s not like it’s some special place.”

 

“…”

 

Woogi resumed sweeping, her movements brisk, almost sweeping over Dongju’s feet.

 

Dongju stepped aside, taken aback. Seizing the moment, Woogi marched past him toward the security office.

 

Watching her retreating figure, he muttered, “She’s completely ignoring me.

 

Dongju slumped down on a bench along the ginkgo tree-lined path.

 

It’s not fair.

 

Sitting there, the cold seeped through his clothes. Early December was definitely not the ideal time for outdoor drinking. He set his tumbler beside him and tucked his hands into his pockets, his gaze lingering on the security office. Inside was a warm floor, a fridge stocked with alcohol, and a soju glass he’d only used once…

 

He looked at the security office with a sense of longing, like Adam cast out of paradise.

 

Forget it. It’s too cramped anyway.

 

Resolving not to dwell on a place he couldn’t enter, Dongju shivered. “Ah, it’s cold.”

 

He stood up and made his way back toward the Humanities building.

 

***

 

“We’re expecting temperatures to plummet, dropping to 7 degrees below the seasonal average.”

 

No wonder it was so bitter outside.

 

Dongju pondered this as he passed a TV in the Humanities building lobby. He had spent the last four days wandering around the square, the lawn, and the lake, sipping from his tumbler. Although he thought there would be a good spot near the Humanities building to sneak a drink, nothing had caught his eye.

 

Heading to the security office brought back some unpleasant memories, but he needed to pick up a package, so he had no choice. When he arrived, a group of male students was gathered in front of the security office. One of them was talking to someone through the window.

 

“Miss, what’s your name?”

 

“…”

 

There was no response from inside the office. A few steps away, another student chuckled and remarked, “She’s clearly not older than you, you idiot.”

 

The first student retorted with a cheeky grin, “Oh really? Then how old are you?”

 

Silence again.

 

Dongju approached, knocked on the window, and said, “I’m here for any packages that came for the Department of Philosophy in Humanities.”

 

Leaning against the wall next to the window, Dongju noticed that it wasn’t just the male students loitering around the security office. It seemed there were quite a few people.

 

Soon, the window opened. The student at the window stared into the office at Woogi, who avoided his gaze and began handing out packages. The student tried to engage her in conversation.

 

“Don’t you go to school?”

 

“…”

 

“The online boards are going crazy right now. They’re saying our school has a cute security guard.”

 

“…”

 

“Did you know that?”

 

“…”

 

Dongju counted the packages. In the gaps, he caught glimpses of Woogi’s profile; her face was pale, similar to when Dongju had questioned her. After placing the last package on the windowsill, Woogi quickly shut the window.

 

The student who had been speaking to Woogi looked disappointed. From behind, another student admonished, “Stop hitting on her and let’s go. It’s embarrassing.”

 

Dongju stacked the packages neatly for easier transport. As he lifted them, he glanced through the window one last time to see Woogi with her head down, hands covering her head.

 

The group of boys, the community chatter, and a troubled security guard—suddenly, a new idea on how to stay in the security office flashed through Dongju’s mind.

 

It seemed that someone had posted photos on the community forum, causing a buzz around the young female security guard. Dongju contemplated offering to deal with the bothersome crowd for her in exchange for a spot in the office. He watched Woogi for a moment, weighing his options.

 

“…”

 

Ultimately, he decided against saying anything and left the security office.

 

As he walked toward the Humanities building, he mused to himself, If I make a suggestion, maybe she’ll go along with it. But why bother? I could just find a cold spot to drink and be done with it. Why go out of my way to help someone who hasn’t done me any favors? Who would that really benefit?

 

He glanced back at the security office one last time. The male students were still milling around.

 

She ignored me. She gets what she deserves.

 

With that, Dongju turned and walked toward the Humanities building without looking back.

 

***

 

Today, there was another group of male students hanging around the security office. One of them knocked on the window and asked, “Can I leave a lost item I found with you?”

 

As soon as the window slid open, the student quickly extended his arm through the window and placed a coffee on the desk. Then, in a playful tone, he said, “I brought you a coffee. Have it before it gets cold.”

 

“…”

 

“Aren’t you gonna say something?”

 

“…”

 

“I’m not a weirdo.”

 

“…”

 

There was no response from inside. Instead, a hand emerged outside the window holding the coffee. It placed it on the windowsill.

 

Swoosh.

 

The window slid shut.

 

The male student stared at the returned coffee, dumbfounded. Laughter from the other students echoed behind him, causing his face to flush with embarrassment. He knocked on the window again, forcefully this time. There was no response, and the laughter intensified.

 

Struggling to contain his anger, the student’s voice trembled. “Excuse me, that’s not polite. Ignoring someone and dismissing their sincerity—is that how you should behave when it’s our tuition fees that are paying your wages?”

 

His voice grew louder, attracting the attention of passersby.

 

When there was still no answer, the student declared in a frustrated tone, “I’m not going to let this go, you know. I’m gonna post comments on the school community board, and I’ll make a complaint with the school about ignoring students.”

 

He glared determinedly into the window.

 

Dongju watched the scene from a distance, his arms crossed.

 

***

 

Why did solving one problem always seem to lead to a tougher one? Reflecting on it, giving directions was a straightforward task I was clearly meant to handle. But what about this situation?

 

“Excuse me, that’s not polite. Ignoring someone and dismissing their sincerity—is that how you should behave when it’s our tuition fees that are paying your wages?”

 

The comment about ignoring him hit like a speed bump, but the rest felt utterly nonsensical. I never asked for that level of sincerity, nor was I paid to answer those kinds of questions.

 

But I was only thinking all this in my head. In reality, I couldn’t do anything but quietly listen to the student’s words.

 

“I’m not going to let this go, you know. I’m gonna post comments on the school community board, and I’ll make a complaint with the school about ignoring students.”

 

It was hard to believe someone would actually lodge a complaint over something like this. Yet, not everything in the world is justified. If he decided to twist the truth—not outright lying, but omitting key details—would I be able to defend myself effectively? The unsettling thought that I might be powerless in this scenario weighed heavily on me as I lowered my head.

 

Knock, knock.

 

“I’m here for a package addressed to Professor Jeong-sik Hwang of the Philosophy Department.”

 

At that moment, someone nudged the male student aside with a shoulder and took his place at the window. The displaced student stumbled sideways. He threw a glance at the newcomer but remained silent.

 

This man… he was the one who had been drinking in the security room. My gaze fixed on him. Of course, I couldn’t expect any assistance from him. It wasn’t his place to intervene, and even if it were, I doubted he would offer help.

 

Meanwhile, I mechanically began searching for the package, my mind racing with possible methods of handling this situation. “What should I do, what should I do?” echoed relentlessly in my thoughts. Almost without realizing it, I located the package and slowly lifted it from the pile.

 

I set the package down briefly on the desk, hesitating to open the window. Once this man took the package and left, I’d be back to dealing with the aggressive student who seemed ready to resume his interrogation the moment the opportunity arose.

 

Glancing up at the man in front of me, I noticed him alternating his gaze between me and the package, his expression blank. It felt increasingly awkward to delay any further. With a resigned sigh, I slowly slid open the window, treating it as if it weighed a ton.

 

Then, I extended the package through the window and into his hands.

 

The man took it.

 

“…”

 

“…”

 

Yet, he didn’t move away from the front of the security room.

 

Because…

 

I hadn’t let go of the package. More precisely, my hand hadn’t released it. Though my mind screamed to loosen my grip, my fingers clung tightly as if acting on a primal survival instinct. The man tugged gently at the package a few times, but each tug only made my grip tighten further.

 

Finally, the man eased his pulling.

 

“Seriously…” he muttered softly, his tone and expression filled with disbelief.

 

But I couldn’t help it. Like a drowning person clutching at a lifebuoy, my hand wouldn’t release the package.

 

The man said in a listless tone, “It seems you’re in quite the pickle.”

 

“…”

 

“But what do you want me to do about it?”

 

Seizing the moment of my distraction, the man yanked the package toward himself. Instantly, my hand reacted, gripping even tighter. The part of the package I was holding got slightly crushed under the force.

 

“Nice one,” he sneered, then leaned in close, whispering, “So, why did you send me away? If I had been here, would these pests even dare to come around? Ah, this is why they say to do good deeds.”

 

He clicked his tongue in disapproval. I suddenly felt a wave of emotion. If he was truly doing me a favor, why would he threaten to file a complaint against me? Despite these thoughts, my hand still stubbornly clutched the box.

 

The man jostled the package, saying, “What do you want me to do?”

 

Just then, I saw the male student who had been loitering around approaching the window, clearly running out of patience. The man made a strong effort to pull the package away from me.

 

My eyes quickly darted between the man and the male student. A sense of emergency blared in my mind like an alarm. At that moment, without realizing it, I must have shown some telling expression to the man.

 

He paused, looking at me. “What?”

 

His face showed he had seen something he wished he hadn’t.

 

I quickly bowed my head, a chill running down my spine from embarrassment. I clenched my eyes and bit my lip. Even with my eyes closed, I couldn’t erase the expression I just saw on that man’s face. My ears felt like someone had pressed a hot iron against them. I was convinced that even three years from now, I’d look back on this moment and feel overwhelmingly embarrassed.

 

Then, almost right above my head, I heard the man’s voice. “So, what, do you want my help?”

 

I looked up at the man, my face probably as red as if it were about to explode.

 

Our eyes met.

 

My head nodded involuntarily.

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