"Do you believe in love at first sight?"
Kim Chaewon stared absentmindedly out the window of the lecture hall. Her eyes drifted in and out of consciousness. Last night was a blur of unlimited shots, dancing, and dealing with a crying Yena. No strength left to even consider whatever the subject of today's class was.
"Kim Chaewon!" Her philosophy professor pointed in her direction. He was a very intense man. Spiky black hair, furrowed eyebrows, sometimes it felt like his gaze was staring directly into the minds of the students he taught. Rumors swirled around that he used to be in a boy band, but that's hard to believe looking at him now.
Chaewon snapped back to reality.
"Do you believe in love at first sight? Or is it just a construct created by society?"
"Professor JYP, I believe love at first sight is a construct. How can you feel love for someone that you don't know the first thing about. How could you love someone without knowing interests, strengths, your overall compatibility? What you are describing is just attraction."
Bullshitted that pretty well. Chaewon thought to herself. Maybe she could pass this class without even having to read the textbook. 456 pages for philosophical debates seemed pretty pointless.
"I'm not sure I agree." A quiet voice came from several rows behind Chaewon. Chaewon rolled her eyes. Why couldn't they just move on to the next topic and leave?
"Ah, yes! Our new student, Miyawaki Sakura, thank you for being brave enough to chime in! Please enlighten the class with your thoughts."
We have a new student? Chaewon thought. However, it wouldn't be surprising if she did miss it. 146 students were crammed into the lecture hall each period. Most of the students could be seen with their head buried in their phones or completely passed out. The pinnacle of educational achievement.
"Well" Sakura paused. "I don't think love is analytical as um- Chaewon made it out to be. It isn't decided on traits or the percentage of similarities but rather how you feel when you hear or look at a person. The butterflies in your stomach."
"The butterflies in your stomach aren't real though. That's just a metaphor for attraction. There's no way to define that as love." Chaewon said, staring straight ahead at the Professor.
"How would you define love then? Attraction is also just a concept. How can you be so sure of one but not the other?" Sakura asked. Her voice stayed at a soft decibel and had the upmost sincerity.
Chaewon had only one crush before coming to college. A girl named Kim Minju. They shared a locker in the band room. Minju was the first chair flute while Chaewon was stuck on tuba. Whenever Minju smilied, Chaewon thought the world would end right there. The first time Chaewon saw her, she thought the sun would explode because of Minju's beauty.
Minju was also extremely patient. Chaewon's mom wouldn't allow her to wear makeup or dye her hair. Minju taught her how to properly apply eyeliner before their winter formal. Thirty minutes before a band competition, Minju curled Chaewon's hair. Chaewon envied Minju's lilac purple hair, so Minju bought her clip-on purple hair streaks from 7/11 to help Chaewon's black hair stand out.
It felt like they were meant to be. None had ever made Chaewon feel so cared for, so loved. Chaewon imagined a life where Minju and her shared a golden retriever, watched House Hunters, and spent weekends thrift shopping.
The day of their final band concert, Chaewon couldn't take it anymore. Everytime she looked at Minju, it was like a bubble about to burst. Even a simple touch on the shoulder from Minju brought on an internal panic attack.
"Minju." Chaewon stared at Minju as she applied her makeup in the girl's bathroom. Lightly powdering her foundation, Minju was truly a natural beauty.
"Yeah, Chae?" Minju continued her makeup routine.
"Minju, I have to tell you something."
"Yeah, go on and spill Chae." Minju giggled. "Don't leave me in suspense."
"Minju, this is serious." Chaewon tugged at her hands.
"What is it?" Minju closed her compact. She reached for Chaewon's hands, stopping them from shaking. "Is everything okay? Did something happen?" Tears began to pool in Chaewon's eyes. "Whatever happened it's okay! You can tell me!" Minju wiped a tear from Chaewon's cheek.
Chaewon turned away from Minu, facing the white brick wall of the high school bathroom.
"I-I" Chaewon stammered. "Minju, I love you." Silence. "Or at least, I like you. Or something. I really like spending time with you. And I don't know, I feel like my heart could stop at any moment when I see you. And we get along great. You are the nicest person I know." More silence. Chaewon's breathing became unsteady. "Please say something, Minju."
Another moment of silence.
"Why would you say that?" Minju's voice had a callous tone.
Chaewon felt as if Medusa had turned her to stone.
"Chaewon, why would you say that?" She repeated. "You know I have a boyfriend. Why would you put me in this position? I can't be with you. You know that. So, why didn't you keep it to yourself?"
"I'm sorry." Chaewon could barely make out a whisper.
"I just-" Minju paused, taking a deep sigh before she continued. "I think you are just confused. I really do. That makes a lot of sense actually. You don't actually like me, you just like think I'm pretty or something." Another pause. "I think you are pretty too. And I enjoy being around you. Because that's what friendship is like, you know?"
"I think I've always loved you though." Chaewon managed to speak through hyperventilated breaths.
"You don't even know what love is, Chaewon. It's more than just looking at someone or thinking someone is cool. It's complicated and shit. You'll figure it out with some guy or something in college. Okay?" Minju stated.
Another long moment of silence. Only Chaewon's faint whimpers could be heard. She tried to hold in her breath to make less noise. And then the sound of Minju's footsteps and makeup bag rustling as she left the bathroom.
Chaewon finally allowed herself to sob.
"I don't know what love is." Chaewon calmly said, still looking ahead. "But I know it's hard and complicated. And you can't just feel it from a look or a touch. It means something."
"But are the feelings you feel when you see that special someone not real? Those have meaning beyond scientific defintions." Sakura vocalized.
Chaewon turned to see Sakura, ready to argue another point. But suddenly it happened. The sun exploded again.
Sakura smiled at Chaewon, glossy pink locks curled to perfection. She was completely put together. A mesh floral dress with a white shirt and skirt underneath. All topped with a black bow in her hair like a Christmas gift. Way different than Chaewon's "Guitar Hero: World Tour" t-shirt and high waisted jeans that definitely needed to be washed.
How could someone be so perfect?
"Well, I think that wraps up class perfectly! We will be starting next week with a discussion on workplace ethics!" Professor JYP concluded.
There's no way I can talk to her. Chaewon panicked. There was only one plan of action. She bolted to the door, stuffing her head into her books as much as possible.
"Chaewon" A voice screamed over the bustle of the students exiting the class.
Shit. Chaewon tried to bolt faster. But to no avail, as a hand grabbed her just as she reached the hallway.
"Chaewon! I'm glad I caught up to you. We should hang out or grab lunch or do something." Sakura smiled as she let go of Chaewon. Chaewon's cheeks started turning a light shade of rose pink.
"Yeah. Maybe. I just-" Chaewon stammered.
"Or maybe even, like, a date. We could see a movie." Sakura remarked. "If not, that's cool too."
"A date?" Chaewon was astonished.
"Yeah, a date." Sakura giggled. "Like I said, if not, that's okay too. I just wanted to ask."
"No, no, yeah." Chaewon stuttered. "A date. A date would be great."
Maybe love at first sight can exist.