Her hair’s the same length, I notice, as they draw closer, wearing matching expressions of shy delight. Her eyes crinkle as she laughs at something Hyun says, squeezing the hand wrapped around hers. As expected, she wears happiness well. It’s strange, seeing a matching expression on my brother. Standing in front of the police station, I watch them approach. Looking at them, you wouldn’t believe that a year’s passed since they last saw each other. Were it me, I’d have written him off as someone who’d abandoned me. But she knows better. I know better…now
I remain still as people walk by, resolute in stance and decision. The bustling crowd feels both strange and familiar. It’s been a year since I’ve stood alone. He was there every step in the months between. Sometimes we’d talk, sometimes we’d just walk, without awkwardness, without fear of hurting each other by anything we said. He doesn’t hide from my past but faces it as though he was in my slightly larger shoes. It may have been something he picked up from her. Frankness…that’s a good trait. I nod as the distance between us narrows. 3 yards, 2…
My brother’s in good hands.
He pauses a yard away and stares. She follows his gaze, and her wide grin drops, a sadder smile curving her lips. Her eyes radiate warmth. For some reason I feel relieved, as though I’d been dreading our meeting, and what she might think.
“Min-ah, why are you here?” Hyun hurries forward. Jian waits, her eyes already filling with knowledge…and tears.
I look away. Seeing her empathy is difficult. I wonder what she’d say if she knew I’d ordered that attack on her last year.
“I’m ready, hyung,” I say softly.
Hyun’s eyes widen. I suddenly realize that I’m ruining his day, his reunion with Jian. I stare at his suit jacket, insecurity and anxiety threatening to burn a hole through my stomach. A second hole. I’m still recovering from the first one.
Hyun’s eyes grow a suspicious shade of red. My stomach churns. The back of my throat burns with the need to weep.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, not knowing what else to say.
A second later his arms are around me, threatening to take what little breath I can keep in my lungs.
“No I am,” his voice trembles.
I cling tighter and say nothing. We’ve an agreement that way. He allows me to say that I was born this way and I allow him to say that it’s his fault. We never mean it. The hug is embarrassingly long but I don’t mind. The burning in my eyes intensifies. I give into the tears. I hear someone blow their nose loudly. Jian must carry a handkerchief. How like her.
Hyun straightens, wiping his eyes. I wipe his nose with my sleeve, taking on his role for once. For perhaps the last time.
“I’d like you to do it,” I turn to Jian, catching her in the middle of a second long nose-blow. Her eyes mist over once more as she nods.
“Noona will take care of you,” she bestows a hug upon me as well. I silently apologize for what I did to her before letting go. We enter the police station and walk up the strange stairs with its zig-zag walkways. Kang Eunhyuk, Myungwoo and the other look at our tear-stained faces with surprise. They start upon seeing me before breaking into identical grins.
Ah, they assume hyung and Jian were moved to tears by my miraculous return. My lips twitch at their exuberance. Perhaps I was liked more than I imagined. Jian shakes her head slowly before taking my hand and leading me to the interrogation room. Her fingers are so much smaller. She seats me down in the same seat I watched my past clients come and go. She sighs, seeing the irony of it, and pulls her chair close to mine, blatantly ignoring police protocol during investigations. My hands tremble. Part of me still doesn’t want to do this. The selfish part. It wants to live with Hyun and tolerate Jian coming over every now and then. Perhaps even more than that. But the rational side of me resists. The side that still understands only 25% of what I did wrong but is prepared to pay for all 100%. Because that’s the only way hyung and I can be free. The way that promises a chance at a happy ending. A year of happiness was enough. A tear drops despite my resolve but I nod at Jian. She nods back before the faintest light of mischief returns to her eyes.
“I know this really great lawyer,” she says.
My lips twitch once more. I take a deep breath. She nods encouragingly.
A week later.
“And that’s all you did?”
I nod, exasperatedly.
“Well that settles it then,” she says waving her highlighter in my general direction. It slips from her fingers to the floor. I shake my head.
“Is that all, Lawyer Jang?” I ask.
She nods, scrabbling about for the highlighter.
“I’ll be bargaining for a minimum of twelve years, considering the manner of your upbringing, which could allow us to plead that you weren’t in your right mind at the time of the killing. And there’s the fact that you voluntarily turned yourself in, which definitely could be used as a mitigating circumstance.”
She speaks more to herself than me, waving the highlighter about once more. A distinct smear of pink marks the area below her bottom lip. I sigh.
“I’ll see you at the trial, Lee Min-sshi,” she grasps my hand firmly and smiles. Once again, I feel oddly reassured, just as I did when she came in.
She pauses as the doorway.
“You remind me a bit of someone I know,” she says quietly. “There was a time when he would have walked a similar path.” Her gaze remains firm on me. “I’ll ensure that you have a future, Min-sshi. I’m Jjangbyun, you see.”
With an appalling hair toss, she nods again, and leaves. Lawyer Jang Hyeseong. I shake my head. A strange woman. Even more bewildering is the man defending me with her, Lawyer Cha Gunwoo, with an appalling taste for hair gel, white socks and short pants and an earnest, “let’s go!” air about him that had me wanting to flee the other way.
But they’re good people, a rueful smile crosses my face. As expected of Hyun, and Jian, I wouldn’t be alone. Even Chief Kang Eunhyuk visits, though he never knows what to say. He merely sits there and asks me how I’m doing. I think he still feels guilty that his father allowed Lee Joonyoung loose in the world. Part of me hates his father. But that part grows smaller everyday. Perhaps by a minuscule percentage, but it does recede into the past. Where it belongs.
And besides, it isn’t right for a son to have to pay for the sin’s of this father, though Kang Eunhyuk plans on testifying at my trial to his father’s misdeeds, in hopes of somehow making reparation. I tell him he’s done nothing wrong but he merely fidgets, looks at the floor and then me, with an expression so mournful you’d have thought I was on my death-bed. It’s strange, having all these people take responsibility for my life. First Hyun, then him.
I’m escorted back to my cell. I take a novel from the stack of books someone donated to the prison. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. How apt. I start to read.
Two months later…
The trial was a dizzying blur. Cellphone cameras flash as I enter, people murmuring as they watch me sit between Lawyer Jang and Lawyer Cha. A policeman lounges on a jury seat, no doubt to restrain me if I make a dash for it. My story was turned into a media circus. The polite, young lawyer for so many chaebols families turned out to be a psychopath. Reactions were all along the line of “but he seemed like such a nice young man? Who’d have thought he’d be that warped?” All my clients cut ties as though I was diseased. The trial will be difficult. I murdered Chief Shin, one of the prosecution. Eunhyuk, Seungjoo and the others have put together enough evidence to demonstrate that the Chief Prosecutor had done a great deal more dirty things than just covering up for his henchman’s murders, in an effort to demonstrate to the public that I was merely carrying out my own justice. It reminds me of something Hyun said sometime last May as we watched a Western.
“Min-ah,” he mused as Clint Eastwood proceeds to shoot the bad guys, “the world isn’t like this anymore. Before, the good guys had better access to a gun than the others. Then the bad guys got richer and richer until they could make their own guns. In an effort to prevent needless murder, it was made illegal to shoot a gun and kill.”
“But don’t the bad guys run free then?” I asked, in an effort to understand.
“We still have to catch them,” Hyun said, “but using different means. Means that this world considers valid. Law, investigation, gathering evidence. Because there’ll be no distinguishing us from the bad guys if we use their methods to stop them.”
“But what about the whole efficiency of the thing?” I grumbled. “Perhaps I was born 150 years too late.”
Hyun smiled, reaching out to muss my hair. A content smile curves my lips at the gesture.
“The world has constantly defined and redefined right and wrong. During this same era, women were far more restricted. They could barely leave the house on their own. That was considered right. Strange, wasn’t it?”
“But now they can come and go as they please,” his eyes look past me for an instance, as though recollecting something. “In the future, there will be parts of our world that will be considered wrong. Morality will always change, Min-ah. The important thing is that we abide by it, regardless of how much we believe in it.”
Fear rose in the pity of my stomach at his words. I didn’t want to go to jail, to stay alone in that tiny concrete cell.
“What use is there in doing so?” I asked, feeling panicked.
“Because when you look back, you won’t remember what was right or wrong but the memories you made. And to have those cut short because of something as fluid and incomprehensible as morality is painful.” He knelt in front of me, looking into my eyes. “For you and me.”
He’s right, I muse at my trial. There are so many other better things one could be doing. Like going to amusement parks, like eating hyung’s home-cooked food and the cake he baked me for my birthday, the first time I celebrated it in 20 years. Jian, Eunhyuk, Seungjoo, Myungwoo and Hyun enter. They wear similar somber expressions. Hyun’s is tinged with pride. I resist the urge to smile in the courtroom. They’ll think I’m insane.
Lawyer Jang turns towards the jury, gazing at the policeman, an unspoken question in her eyes. The policeman turns to her, I realize he’s been watching me this entire time. A sad smile curves his lips. He nods and Lawyer Jang visibly relaxes.
“You’re in good hands,” Lawyer Cha says for the umpteenth time as the judge arrives, a short, nearly bald man who instantly smooths what little hair he has upon seeing the reporters. Sitting down with a flourish, he introduces himself as Judge Kim.
7 hours later…
It went by like a perfectly choreographed dance. Every time the prosecution – headed by a man with spiky hair that Lawyer Jang refers to as Grass-head – raised an argument, evidence was brought forth.
“Was Lee Joonyoung really let loose by the police?”
In steps Kang Eunhyuk with proof including the fishing magazines containing tips for catching other criminals. Judge Kim looks appalled. The policeman gives Lawyer Jang a thumbs up. She drops her highlighter.
“Was Min-sshi really raised by him?”
I step in to testify to the identity I was given, which Lawyer Cha backs up with all sorts of documentation.
“Even so, these murders were premeditated.”
I plead guilty to that as Lawyer Jang and Lawyer Cha speak of my lack of faith in the justice system after my father’s death was glossed over because the police were being aided by Lee Joonyoung. About how no one bothered to search for me, about how I’d been led to believe that my brother abandoned me. With different lawyers this would sound like a fairytale, utterly ludicrous. Yet they convey it all. The depth of my anger, the extent of my pain. Throughout it all the policeman watches. I realize he’s on jury duty.
“Where is Lee Joonyoung now?”
The prosecution asks. Hyun slowly steps up. He speaks of the police’s efforts to track him down, speaking of Hyun Jisoo’s murder and the matter of fingerprints, of the man who tried to kill me and his being found dead. He speaks of my stab wound and Lee Joonho’s expertise as a medical examiner and finally references Eunbok’s case and his testimony against Lee Joonyoung.
“He is out there. But we will find him,” he vows. My brother is rather cool at times.
“What if he kills again?” The prosecution ends their closing with this statement, reminding those listening that I could easily commit murder once more.
Lawyer Cha closes the trial, speaking of my career as a lawman, saying that after having been abandoned by law, I believed myself to be outside of it. It’s an angle i never considered. I’m not entirely sure it’s true. I turn to Hyun and slowly dare to raise a questioning brow. His lips twitch. We have that in common. We can’t smile in serious situations, but we let our lips show our desire to do so. Lawyer Cha’s argument appears to strike a deep chord in Judge Kim who leans back in his chair looking visibly shaken.
“This man has found his brother, and has set all that rage to rest,” Lawyer Cha argues. “He will never hurt someone again.”
The back of my throat constricts, I straighten at that part and nod, at the judge and at the policeman. For some reason, it’s important that both believe me.
Judge Kim surprisingly speaks to me directly.
“Lee Min-sshi, but what would you do if someone hurt your brother?”
I stand, not knowing where to place my eyes. I choose to look at Hyun.
“I wouldn’t do anything, your Honor,” my lower lip trembles. “Not because I don’t want to, but because he wouldn’t want me to do it. He wouldn’t want me…” my throat tightens around the words as I realize their truth, “to break myself because of them.”
The prosecution rests in stunned silence. Jian wipes away a tear. The policeman smiles.
I await my sentencing. Lawyer Jang and Lawyer Cha fix Judge Kim with identical hard stares. The policeman turns as well. It’s good to know that I have one friend on the jury.
The prosecution calls once more for life-imprisonment. I begin to tremble. Lawyer Cha takes my hand and proceeds to crush it. I realize he is shaking as well. It warms me.
One by one the jury raise their hands. One, two, three, four. My heart stops.
Four people, out of nine vote for life imprisonment. The judge asks how many vote for an adjusted sentence of ten years, with all further modifications allowed, if I behaved well. One, two, three, the fourth person takes a good twenty seconds before raising his hand. Then, the policeman raises his hand, as though having made his choice from the beginning.
The gavel knocks once…twice…thrice. I collapse into my seat, head bowed. Lawyer Cha pats me on the back as the crowd explodes. Judge Kim heaves an enormous sigh, gets to his feet and unsteadily waddles away. I like him. Hyun runs over before I’m taken to my cell. He’s crying again.
“It went better than I expected,” I say in a rush.
“Yeah,” he wipes away a stray tear on my face. I realize I’m weeping as well.
“Ten years is still a long time,” I whisper, ashamed of my greediness.
“I’ll be there.”
Someone blows her nose. My lips twitch.
“There’s someone else who’ll need you to be there.”
He nods. I clap a hand on his shoulder.
He looks torn between amusement and awkwardness. My brother really mustn’t have had a love life before.
The policeman in the jury lopes over. He’s tall and rather young, I realize. Perhaps a year or two older than me. It’s time for me to leave. Hyun clings to my hand.
“I’ll see you, hyung.” I turn to leave.
“Min-ah!” he calls urgently. He looks at me and I suddenly know what he’s going to say. I realize that it must be the first time he’s said it judging by he’s struggling to get it out Even she hasn’t heard it yet. He envelops me in a bear hug.
“Saranghae, dongsaeng-ah” the words are muffled against my shirt before he draws away. Lawyer Cha sniffs. Lawyer Jang hunts in her purse for something imaginary, trying to surreptitiously wipe away a tear.
The others all stand behind Hyun silently offering their support. Well, Jian isn’t being all that silent. They understand this is Hyun and my moment.
The policeman introduces himself.
“I’m Park Sooha,” he says reaching out a hand. Recognition courses through me.
“I’ve heard of you,” I say. He nods
He cuffs me gently. Hyun has to let go off my hands. We make our way to the large wooden doors at the side. I turn my head at the last to see them all there. Watching, waiting.
“We’ll meet again,” I say.
Eight years later…
Some say the sunlight blinds them as they leave the jail. That wasn’t the case for me. I’d been out several times before that for my retrial and the reduction of my sentence. They said that good behaviour is its own reward. I’m beginning to understand that now. They all visited me during the past while. Myungwoo even smuggled in case details on a notepad and asked for my help, about four years ago. I became an unofficial consultant for the team. Hyun’s white car pulls up by the door I’ve just left. The door to the past that I’ve shut firmly behind me. He turns off the ignition and comes out. I realize how much older he’s become. There are new lines in his face but they don’t appear to be from stress. He looks good.
“Get in,” he says with a grin.
I nod before launching into a bear hug. Hyun returns it in full fervor, clapping both hands on my shoulders. Neither of us comment on the fact that we’re both teary. I get in, and Hyun drives me home. The world doesn’t appear to have changed much these eight years. Then again, it’s not like I knew much of the world anyway. Only the darker side. I have the rest of my life to find the other. I relax against the seats. Hyun shoots me sideways glances.
“You look happy,” he says.
I smile. “I am.”
The car pulls up in the driveway. I’d thought I’d feel nervous, returning to where it all began. But it feels different now. It feels like home. Hyun suspiciously indicates for me to enter first. Surely…I think, just as I spy Myungwoo’s foot poking out from underneath the table.
“SURPRISE!” yell the worst surprise party-givers in history. Myungwoo presents me with apples of all things. Eunbok’s here too. My trial and reduced sentence had a similar effect on his own. I meet his eyes in understanding, as a fellow former child of Lee Joonyoung, finally having found my own feet. He tilts his head towards the table, creaking under the weight of plate-loads of food. They’ve made chocolate cake, I realize and make the beeline for it. Jian waits until I’ve had a slice and managed to get a bite down among claps on the back, on the shoulder and on any other part Myungwoo can get of me.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” she beams, clearly its maker.
It really isn’t. Hyun wince as I take another bite before I realize I’m wrong. My first laugh in twenty years wells up within me, gushing forth like water from a newly discovered wellspring. Hyun’s eyes widen, then tear up at the sound.
When they all leave, save Jian. I climb into my old bed and stare at the ceiling before unpacking my meager belongings. The pamphlet Sooha gave me falls out. I take another look at it. “Police Academy.” I wonder…
Hyun enters and I hide the pamphlet. I’ll surprise him this time around.
“Want to watch a movie?” he asks.
I sigh in exasperation.
“Hyung, you’re 35 now. Are you going to continue like this forever?”
He finally realizes that I left to give them some privacy. His cheeks redden every so slightly before Jian enters, ducking through the hand he has against the door frame.
“Let’s watch a movie, Min-ah. You’ve eight years worth of movies to catch up on. Noona will watch them with you.”
I allow myself to be dragged out of bed. She doesn’t treat me like a child but like a co-conspirator, someone she’s planning a bout of mischief with. Like a brother.
There is one crime that I can never truly atone for. I remember seeing her sitting, beaten and bruised in her apartment. I debated on telling her for years. But there are some things that should remain secret. Thankfully, I have much fewer secrets than most. I’m grateful I have only one.
Hyun takes Father’s chair, stretching out, his right leg over his left. I take the plush leather armchair to his left and adopt a similar position. Jian perches on the ottoman as the movie starts playing. I notice my brother ever so casually perch his right foot next to her knee and stifle a smile. It takes precisely a minute for Jian to give us dirty looks.
“What about subtitles?” she asks.
I stare at her in surprise before realizing that of course she wasn’t the type to have studied English. Hyun gives me a commiserating glance before shaking his head, but the smile remains. Jian looks between the two of us and gives up.
We go shopping the next day. I hadn’t realized how used I was to the orange jumpsuit until I entered a department store. It felt unfamiliar at first, but the memories of how to interact in such a place slowly returned. I shove them away. My life begins anew now. My first time in a department store won’t be as a child, desperately wondering what my brother would have thought of this T-shirt, or hoping that my brother would swoop in from the crowd and rescue me. It was- it is now. This moment. I walk with Jian who keeps trying to shove me into pastels and Hyun who has me measured for a suit.
I will replace my past.
Laden with bags, we stroll by the same fountain Hyun and I passed nine years ago, before Lee Joonyoung vanished. Jian suddenly pauses.
“Should we take a picture?” she asks, already whipping out an enormous selfie stick.
Hyun’s surprise mirrors my own. He hadn’t told her of the last one we took here.
“Isn’t this a great spot,” she chatters happily, flinging an arm around my shoulder and trying to sling one around Hyun’s and hold the selfie stick at the same time before realizing that she lacks one too many arms for that. She leaves the hand around me and gives the camera a wave.
3,2,1. A faint click sounds.
“Smile a bit, you two,” she looks from the picture to us with exasperation. Hyun and I exchange glances, as she readies the camera once more. I put my arm around her neck, my fingers just managing to reach Hyun’s broad shoulder. He returns the gesture. We stand like that for an instant, arms interwound around each others necks and shoulders. The knotted bonds of a family that began anew. Jian sniffs suspiciously. I feel for my handkerchief with my free hand but she recovers, raising the selfie stick high.
Sunlight glints off its appalling shade of pink.
A barely perceptible breeze lifts the hairs on the back of my neck. I inhale it all in, in the three seconds before the click of the phone’s shutter. The bustling crowds, the sweltering heat, the male hand firmly on my shoulder, the much thinner female hand around my neck.
The years rush backwards and I see a child standing in my place searching for something he’s not sure he’ll ever find and taking the wrong path to receiving it.
“It’s okay,” I tell him. “It’s alright now.
The child pauses, the words sinking in before he smiles widely, a toothy grin stretching from ear to ear.
I hug them both tighter and feel my lips do the same. We beam radiantly at the future.
That’s it folks! I really hope you enjoyed this! Let me know what you think below! 😀
Thank you, I Remember You for a phenomenal ride. I’m honestly grateful to having been able to see a show of such calibre and intensity. I’ve gained new appreciation and respect for Seo Inguk, Jang Nara, Choi Wonyoung, Lee Chunhee and Park Bogum. Especially Bogummy. I’d also like to thank all the subbers and segmenters at viki, the recappers at dramabeans, and everyone at soompi and dramabeans who fangirl over the awesomeness that is this show and make the thread feel like a second home and all those uploading the show for torrents! xD I have a serious case of farewell blues for this show already. Thank you everyone! ❤