I am nineteen years old and the most rebellious thing I have ever done was to get a second cartilage piercing without my mum's permission (the first one I got only after I had wheedled an exasperated "Oh, fine, do what you want" out of her. Unfortunately a dodgy-looking bump appeared on my ear a few months later and I ended up taking it out anyway). This complete lack of any acts of rebellion in my record combined with a fit of restlessness at 12:02 AM on Saturday night propelled me to make a spontaneous decision - a phrase never associated with my name unless it is used in the context of shopping - to sneak out of the house. In the past I've often contemplated going for a nice, solitary walk by myself at night but I was always too scared. Not because of what might happen to me outside my home, but because of what might happen to me inside it, if I were caught. But Saturday night was different. I realized I didn't want to die without having sneaked out of the house while my parents were sleeping at least once in my life, so I stood up from my chair abruptly, yanked open my closet, and put on some socks.
Filled with a mixture of equal parts giddiness and apprehension, I tiptoed to my parents' room to check that my dad was home and sleeping, opening the door with an unnecessary amount of caution, seeing as my dad sleeps like a rock. A drugged rock. Sounds of deep breathing greeted my ears, and my eyes adjusted to the dark enough to register my dad's sleeping figure on the bed. Good. I closed the door just as carefully as I had opened it, grabbed my sneakers (appropriate footwear for sneaking out of the house, of course) from the shoe area in front of the door, and made my way through the house to the other door. Probably-necessary-explanation: my family lives in two apartments that were connected essentially by breaking down the dividing wall and replacing it with a door. Consequently, we have two front doors we can use to get in and out of our apartment(s), so I was able to leave through the door farthest from my parents' room. With nothing but my cell phone - tangible representation of my acknowledging that my parents might actually discover me missing and call me shouting - and 2000 won (about $1.70) in my pocket, I gathered up my nerve and pressed the button to open the door, hoping to everything good in the world that my parents would not hear the obnoxiously loud beeping. And with one small step for Yurie and one giant leap for her spontaneity and rebellion, I found myself outside my home. Standing on the other side of the door at midnight, with my parents and sisters asleep, and with all the time and freedom in the world.
Once outside, I walked calmly out of the apartment building and down the various hilly streets until I reached the main road. Then - and I have no idea why, or what came over me - I started running. Perhaps it was the sudden fear that one of the men in business suits or high school boys eating ice cream might attack me; perhaps it was the realization that I could run just for the sake of running... that it was a cool night, that I was wearing running shoes, that nothing else was weighing me down, no time constraints, no bag, no crowds of people. It was completely exhilarating. It was everything that that overused expression "sense of freedom" could convey and more. I ran with a manic grin on my face that probably would have scared away any potential attackers, enjoying the feeling of the breeze playing across my face and the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement. There was a long string of colourful round paper lanterns - pink, orange, green, yellow - hanging from tree to tree, celebrating the approaching holiday of Buddha's birthday, and they brightened my run and made me feel safe. Yes, apparently all it takes for me to feel safe out in the almost-central city at night is some paper lanterns. Should this worry me? Maybe.
Guided by the happy-birthday-Buddha lanterns, I ran until I reached the entrance to Insadong, which, admittedly is not very far from my home at all. But for a first sneaking out of the house excursion, I felt that was good enough, and besides, I was sweaty and wanted to be back in my pyjamas. Before heading home, I walked around and on the giant paintbrush statue on the corner of the street a few times, relishing the fact that nobody could judge me or shoot me weird looks. And then I turned around and ran back. Back the way I had come, back with the same manic grin on my face, with the same breeze and lanterns accompanying me. As I reached the bottom of the hill I live on, I made toward the convenience store to buy a drink, but I came to a terrified halt when I saw my dad sitting at a table outside the store. Panicking, I made a sharp right turn and ran full pelt up the hill without looking back until I remembered that my dad was sleeping in his bed and I had seen him there before I left the house. Paranoia is stronger than reason. At least it was for me at that moment.
When I reached home (after stopping to lie down on the road for a minute or two and look at the star...yes, just the one star...) and walked inside the door I was greeted by the darkness of a sleeping household and the squeaking of one exercise-obsessed hamster running on his wheel. And that was the end of a successful sneaking-out-and-running-to-Insadong-experience, I reflected happily, as I walked to the kitchen to get a drink. I had almost reached the fridge when- "Yurie." I stopped. So did my heart. Crap. CRAP. My mum called out to me from my sister's room, where I assumed she had been sleeping, and in that petrifying second I finally understood what it meant to have your blood freeze. My heart having failed me, my brain decided to join it, shutting down and failing to produce any coherent thoughts about what I could say to explain my entering the house at that time.
"Yes, Mum?" I asked, walking into the room as one might walk into a four hour long math lecture - extremely unwillingly. Unless you really, really like math.
"What does 'omw' mean?" My mum was looking at her phone with brows knitted in incomprehension. Relief swept over and through every inch of my being at this harmless question, and my heart and brain resumed their normal functions.
"It means 'on my way.' 가는중."
"Oh, okay, thank you. Goodnight."
I walked out of the room, grabbing my glass of water from the kitchen and fleeing to the safety of my own room. And that was the first and last time this good girl tried to be a rebel. I think I'll just stay inside at night from now on.