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Even Keel

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The thing about falling for Jo Kang Ja is that she drives you crazy, but she’ll never notice it. Bok Dong can’t even blame her, it’s just the way she is.
In high school, even before the full horror of their situation unfolded, she drove him to distraction as Bang Wool. She arrived, a whirlwind of fearless fury, and knocked him off kilter by paying back his threat with a hand on his neck. He hasn’t felt quite settled since that day.
He remembers hating her a bit when she was Bang Wool, who walked into boys bathrooms to scoff at and question him. He hated how he didn’t know what to do with the girl who upset the hierarchy. He didn’t know what to do with the girl who went from hating him to feeding him, and tying his shoes.
Looking back he realizes he was starved for kindness, and he’d be embarrassed at how he pounced on any scrap of it she dropped if he knew how to stop himself. Because when you’re on the right side of Jo Kang Ja she’ll all but force feed you love and affection, and he’d rather choke on it than stop her.
He’s found that once you’ve fallen for Kang Ja you can’t bee too full of her. Even if the love is platonic, even if she still doesn’t see him as a man, even if it drives him crazy how she’s like this with anyone who hasn’t seen enough love, he can’t help wanting more. Because even if Kang Ja drives him crazy he’ll love that about her. She’s become part of him and he can’t begrudge her it, it’s just the way they are. (And maybe sitting across from her, as she laughs and tell him to eat more, is the closest he gets to an even keel these days.)