The shaman that could not help me


My name is Tae-Wong, and this is my story.

There is barely anything extraordinary about my life. Every morning, I wake up, shower, eat my breakfast and go to school. At school, I’m neither a popular kid, nor an outcast. I’m pretty average, tbh. In elementary school, I was popular with a certain type of girls because of my big grey eyes and long eye-lashes. As everyone’s coolness standards changed towards junior high, I became popular with my two male friends, Andre and Pashta. They sort of look up to me and I’m the ringleader in our small circle of friends. Maybe that’s because I’m magically good at any sport I try to play, but I’m not sure. (By the way, I don’t like sports and it kind of annoys me when people say what a waste of talent it is that I don’t take it seriously.)

There is one extraordinary element in my life, though. Her name is Sui-Yoon. Hey, I know what you might think, “Oh, how sweet, how romantic”. But there is nothing sweet or romantic in it for me. This girl has been a curse my whole life, and this is how it all started.

I’ve known Sui-Yoon forever. Our families live in the same neighborhood, so we often played together as kids. My first memories about this world already include Sui-Yoon. Unfortunately.

One of the first childhood memories I have of her is us being together in the playground and Sui-Yoon making a big lump of dirt with her plastic spade and water, then throwing it straight at my face and laughing out loud when it landed on my left cheek near the ear. I don’t know why I didn’t react to this unwarranted act of aggression. I am peaceful by nature, so I just cleaned my face with a sleeve and moved to the other side of the playground, away from the crazy girl. That one incident sort of solidified the nature of our “relationship” moving forward.

Like I said before, our families are neighbors and so they often hung out together when we were kids. They would tell Sui-Yoon and me to go and play on the lawn, or something. Whenever we played together, she would pick at me, chase me, mock me and just would not leave me alone for a minute. Once, we were playing ball and, instead of catching the ball, that silly girl just stood there, smiling at me, until the ball hit her on the head. “You’re bad!” she yelled and ran away to complain to her parents. Although it was clearly a setup, she often nagged me about that incident afterwards, saying I was a monster for hurting her. Who, me? Really?

When we started school, we ended up in the same class. That was when things escalated, and I will tell you all about it in a minute.

By school age, Sui-Yoon turned into a big, stout girl. She wasn’t really taller than me, and, to be fair, she wasn’t that fat. But she had big shoulders, full arms and full legs, which made her look like a scaled down version of a sumo fighter. Her hair grew thick and unruly. She wore bangs and two ponytails, but even that failed to subdue her hair. She dressed in girly outfits, but even that could not cover up the malicious air that she gave off.

At school, she would often giggle when I made a mistake in class, kick the back of my chair with her foot (as if by accident), and annoy me in a million other ways. At that time, I thought that I had a perfectly good life, and the only thing that poisoned it was Sui-Yoon. I guess I forgot to say that our families were very well-off, you know, the doctor-lawyer type. (I noticed that rich people never say they are “rich”. Only a poor person can say that someone is “rich”. We usually say that someone is affluent, well-off, has a good job… But never “rich”, really).

For as long as I remember, Sui-Yoon has been an annoying, malicious presence in my life. I didn’t know any different, so I wasn’t paying much attention to it.

Then suddenly things changed. We were in third grade. I was a Saturday, and I had an extracurricular class. The school was nearly empty. In the hallway, I almost literally bumped into Sui-Yoon – I was walking fast, and she popped up out of nowhere. When I saw her freckled grinning face at minimal distance, I got annoyed and thought “Now what?”

“Hey, Tae, you must come with me!” she said. “I was hoping you’d be here”. Of course, you must have studied my schedule, I thought.

“What happened?” I asked her. I wanted to say I’d be late for class, but she already knew that.

“I was walking by the storage room when I heard a noise”, she said. “I think there is a cat or another animal trapped in there”.

“Why didn’t you tell the security guy?” I asked.

“He is off duty today and has a replacement. I don’t know their name”.

Jeez, I thought to myself. Constantly asking me for help was yet another way that Sui-Yoon was annoying the crap out of me.

When we got to the storage room, there was no sound of any animal to be heard. Sui-Yoon turned on the light and suggested that I go in first and see what’s there. Foolishly, I did just that. Suddenly, when I was several feet away from the entrance, she slammed the door shut and turned the key in the lock. “It’s a freaking trap!” I thought. Blood ruched to my face and I felt as if my ears were on fire. I panicked. A thousand ideas rushed through my mind in an indistinguishable cluster. “What’s she planning to do with me?” the storage room was at the blind end of a narrow corridor. No one will probably come here until Monday.

“Hey, Tae” called Sui-Yoon in a soft voice from behind the door. I did not like that malicious softness, because it obviously meant no good. However, I didn’t expect what came next.

“I need to tell you something”, continued Sui-Yoon. She let out a strange suppressed noise, like a “whew”, as if she was being nervous. I became all ears, my heart pounding loudly against my chest. “Thing is… I love you, Tae”, I could now believe what I was hearing. “I have loved you since we first met”, she added quickly.

Now, dear reader, you may not understand why I freaked out after hearing that strange confession. That’s because you don’t know Sui-Yoon the way I do. She is a master of intrigue and deceit. Even though we were only eight at the time, I seriously believed she was capable of playing some horrible trick on me, even if “out of love”.

“Tae, are you listening?” she called timidly from behind the door.

I took a moment before I could reply. “Yes”, I finally said in a coarse, dry voice. Once I opened my mouth, I started to breath heavily, as if I needed extra oxygen to process what was happening.

“Do you perhaps love me, too?” asked Sui-Yoon unexpectedly. I didn’t know what to say. I was lost for words. My first instinct was to tell her that I hate her and to demand that she let me out (right now!) because I didn’t like being locked up in a semi-dark room. However, I tried to calm down – I had already survived so much of her bullying because I always met it with calm indifference. If I told her something unpleasant now, who knowns how she would react?

“You are a nice girl, Sui-Yoon”, I said, telling her a flat-out lie. “I don’t know if I love you. I haven’t been in love with anyone yet”, another lie – I was in love with Jeannie, a girl from my extracurricular class. “Could you let me out now, please?” I just could not be there any longer.

“Okay, I will let you out, if you promise not to tell anyone”, said Sui-Yoon.

What? That’s it? That’s all she wants?

“I won’t tell anyone. Promise!” I said quickly and loudly. Then I heard the lock click and turn. She actually opened the door of the storage room.

We avoided looking at each other. It was awkward. Sui-Yoon just stood there, studying at her shoes. I looked away to the side, then ran out of the storage room, out of the school building, into the street full of light, full of fresh air, without saying a word to her.

I didn’t know what I was feeling. I could sense turbulent future gathering its dark clouds around me, but I didn’t care. Come what may – at least, I was free and determined to never fall into any Sui-Yoon trap ever again.

***

Ever since that “confession day” things changed drastically between Sui-Yoon and me. It was as if we used to be enemies and then signed a peace treaty. She became sort of shy with me. She would still taunt me mildly, so that didn’t go away completely. But her actions now had different context and that made me feel strange about the whole situation.

At first I was happy that her attitudes changed. But I still felt trapped and stalked upon, so it didn’t make that much of a difference that Sui-Yoon loved me.

Plus, the confession that she made messed with my head. I really liked Jeannie from my extracurricular class, but now I had a hard time confessing my feelings to her. After Sui-Yoon’s confession, it seemed to me that confessing your love was an act of aggression, and that the other person may actually hate it.

Logic and reason were telling me that that was not how things worked, but my subconscious was painting pictures of my confession to Jeannie going horribly wrong. In those imaginary scenes, I would confess, and Jeannie would feel hurt, disgusted, scared, taken aback – she would get all those feelings I got when I heard that Sui-Yoon “loved me”.

So I stayed loveless and girlfriend-less till senior high. Others thought I was cold and proud, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I simply avoided imposing my feelings on others as much as I could, carefully guarding their freedom from my intrusion. Although I could not defend my own territory from Sui-Yoon…

When we turned eleven, our school bus was cancelled, and Sui-Yoon tricked her parents into talking to my Dad and arranging a system where my Dad would drive us both to school in his car . She would sit behind my Dad, making sure our eyes met in the rear-view mirror when I looked. I never looked, but I could feel her gaze on my face. So I would turn away and look at the street.

Soon my Dad picked up on the vibe between Sui-Yoon and me. “Tae, I think Sui-Yoon likes you”, he told me with a wink. “You are wrong, Dad,” I said. “What she really likes is to get on my nerves”.

But, as years went by, and Sui-Yoon’s passion for me didn’t seem to wane, others began taking note of it, too.

By the age of thirteen, Sui-Yoon tuned into this gorgeous chick, frankly speaking. She was still stout and athletic, but had a charming face with a pair of extremely light blue eyes, beautifully arched eyebrows and a cute freckled nose. But I was completely blind to her beauty. I understood it logically. Like, “Okay, this girl would be considered good-looking by most people”. But considering the history between us, I saw Sui-Yoon in totally different light.

To me, her beauty was toxic and malicious. Her fiery energy and unruly hair was a sign of belligerence. She was still my enemy number one.

Now, like I said, eventually everyone else at school noticed that something was going on between us. One day, we were rehearsing for a school play. I was a prince and another girl was a princess. There was a scene, in which I was supposed to pretend-kiss “the princess”. The rehearsal was taking place in our school drama hall that had a stage. I heard about what happened from other people because I didn’t see it myself. When I was “kissing” the princess (as I should have), Sui-Yoon came came into the drama hall. When she saw what was happening, she froze in the aisle, her eyes got big and her lips trembled. She then burst into tears and ran out of class.

That incident revealed her feeling for me to everybody. Ever since that day, everyone knew that “Sui-Yoon had a crush on Tae.” So all the boys that liked Sui-Yoon began asking her if that was true. She just gave them an arrogant look and said it was none of their business. She was cold and reserved towards others, too.

But not to me. You may think that Sui-Yoon would now keep her distance from me out of consideration or something. Well, if you did, think again. She still treated me as if we were besties, relatives, a couple, siblings, business partners – you name it – she was still being clingy, stalking me when she could, sending me text messages, demanding my attention, coming to my house, and making my life a hell.

***

Things changed when I met Ernesta. Ernesta was a loud, magnetic brunette who had just moved to our neighborbood. We met at a friend’s house. I liked Ernesta so much, I had completely forgotten that I had Sui-Yoon breathing down my neck.

I asked Ernesta out. Ignored all Sui-Yoon texts. Locked myself in my room and stayed with Ernesta on the phone. Refused to come out when my parents told me that Sui-Yoon had come to visit. And that had consequences.

I didn’t know what had happened, but in a few days’ time, Ernesta just ghosted me. Andre told me he had seen Sui-Yoon talking to Ernesta at a local cafe when they both stood in the line for coffee. “They seemed like best friends”, said Andre. I frowned.

Consider me a coward, but I couldn’t bring myself to confront Sui-Yoon about it. She was to me like an oppressive parent that you grow up with, and, even though you become twice their size, you are still intimidated by them.

As much as I hated the idea, I decided to go find Ernesta. I could not just go to her house uninvited, so I tried to bump into her in the street. Finally, when I got lucky and asked her what happened, Ernesta told me:

“Why didn’t you tell me you were seeing Sui-Yoon?”

“What? I’m not seeing Sui-Yoon. Who told you this?”

“She told me you’ve been together since junior high. That she comes to your house pretty much every day…” Ernesta sounded disappointed.

“No, no, that’s not what it’s like!” I protested. “We have lived in the same neighborhood since we were kids.” But I didn’t know how to explain the rest of it. How could I explain Sui-Yoon coming to my house? Should I tell Ernesta that Sui-Yoon has a crush on me? What will Sui-Yoon do if she finds out?

“Then why does she come to your house all the time?” asked Ernesta. “Also, she seems to know just everything about you. That doesn’t seem like an ordinary friendship to me.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“Ernesta, look, I don’t know how to explain this, but I don’t even want to be friends with Sui-Yoon”. I still didn’t want to tell her that I had been a victim of Sui-Yoon’s stalking all these years, because I didn’t want to seem weak to Ernesta.

Suddenly something horrible happened. Turns out, Sui-Yoon was walking by and heard me saying “I don’t even want to be friends with Sui-Yoon” to Ernesta. We both looked at Sui-Yoon. She got tears in her eyes. Impulsively, she buried her face in her palms and quickly walked away from us.

“See what you did?” said Ernesta. “Please make up your mind and stop hurting people’s feelings”.

Having said that, she turned around and walked away from me, too. I was left alone and just stood there, crushed.

What if Ernesta is right? I thought. All these years I never explicitly cut Sui-Yoon off (lol, cutting Sui-Yoon off, what a joke!). I never clearly told her how I felt about her. I was so eager to stay comfortable that it never occurred to me I might be hurting Sui-Yoon’s feelings. In fact, I never considered her feelings – she’s always been ‘the bad one’ in my imagination. Heartless. No feelings.

Then it was my turn to groan and rub my face with my palms. Stupid me! Why didn’t I do anything about it all these years?

Then I decided to see a therapist. I thought a therapist would know how to talk to a person who is obsessively in love with you. That pleasant middle-aged man told me, “Some people tend to become fixated on things. It’s a form of mania. Maybe the girl you are talking about has an idée fixe that you are the one for her. The only way to overcome this is to physically distance yourself from her. You should move somewhere where she will never find you.”

I did not like the idea of moving to a secret place. Ernesta won’t be there. Plus, it will be only a matter of time before Sui-Yoon finds out where I am through my parents. There had to be another way to break the spell…

Just as thought about “breaking the spell”, I got a crazy idea to go see a shaman. This is how it went.

***

Yes, I know, sounds crazy. But where else could I go?

I found the shaman, Kyle, through Pashta’s sister. His little sister liked to surround herself with all sorts of freaks.

When we just met, I was surprised how normal Kyle appeared – he didn’t look like a shaman one bit. Just a ordinary teenager like me. He would totally mingle with the crowd.

But things got weirder when I saw his home.

Kyle’s parents lived in a decent neighborhood, in what looked like a normal house. As we walked through the gate, he pointed to a remote cabin outside of the house and said “I don’t actually live with my parents. I live over there”.

“But why?” I asked.

“In that house, the entrance is facing South-West. I could not live in a house like that for the life of me!”

The cabin was properly oriented, though, he said. The entrance was facing East, and the back wall was perfectly aligned with the magnetic West.

The interior looked normal and abnormal at the same time. The smell of unfamiliar incense filled the air. The scarce furniture looked ordinary: a dark leather sofa, a low rectangular wooden table, a charging laptop sitting on a broad windowsill. However, there were strange unfamiliar objects on the shelves and an exotic chart with geometric shapes on the wall over the sofa.

As Kyle turned on the light, a weird song blared of the sound system:

The shaman has three arms

Golden eyes painted on his palms

Kyle made me some tea “to make your mind relaxed,” he said. I asked him if there was anything illegal in it, and he said “No”.

As I was drinking the tea that he gave me, Kyle sat next to me, in an armchair, watching me closely. He had some real candles on the shelves. Reflections of little fires danced in his eyes as he watched me, talking with me about nothing in particular. Bit by bit, I noticed how Kyle’s eyes were the only thing I could focus on in the room. They miraculously became hypnotic. His voice was quiet and soft, and it suddenly became music to my ears, I wanted him to go on talk forever. It was as if I had yielded my willpower to Kyle. He could give me a command or ask me to do something for him, and I would do it.

Luckily, he didn’t ask of me anything of the sorts. Effortlessly, he steered the convo to why I was there. People don’t come to shamans just because. I told him briefly about my plight with Sui-Yoon.

“Hmm, ” Kyle rubbed his chin pensively, looking at one of the candles. “I don’t think it’s an ordinary attachment, since it’s so persistent.” he said in a low voice.

He gave me a bright shiny object with engravings on it that looked like a coin. He asked to keep looking at the “coin” and, should I begin to feel sleepy, succumb to the feeling. I stared at the “coin” while Kyle sat next to me and chanted a monotonous, repetitive tune.

Eventually, my eyelids grew heavy. I was overcome by a feeling of supernatural sleepiness. I don’t remember how this happened: I closed my eyes and saw what felt like a very realistic dream. It was as follows.

***

I was a poor young man in a strange land. My father was a gardener to a local landowner. That landowner was rich and had three kids: a daughter and two younger boys. His daughter and I were approximately the same age. In a distilled form, I relived our childhood together: we played together a lot, since she was often in the garden and my father was the gardener.

As we came of age, I realized that I was hopelessly in love with the rich landowner’s daughter. She was perfection itself: quick-witted, beautiful, good-natured, kind – there was not a single bad thing about her. However, I realized she was completely out of my league, for I was only the son of a gardener.

When she was eighteen, she got engaged to be married to the heir of another rich estate. She took it wisely, realizing that such was her fate. I came to see her shortly before the engagement and asked whether she loved the rich heir. Perhaps I was hoping she’d say that she loved me, but she said no such thing. “What is love?” she asked me, looking at me with her extremely light blue eyes. My heart skipped a beat. Either she was a great actress, or she really did not know love.

Heart-broken, I left the house of my beloved, took my late mother’s only precious necklace and went to a holy place outside our village. That place was known among local folk. Those who wanted to attract luck into their lives left “sacrifices” there and prayed to the gods and spirits. I placed my mother’s necklace on the altar and whispered, wiping tears with my sleeve:

“Divine Mother Goddess! You are the love of this world. I am sure you can see how much I love the landowner’s daughter. I would give everything I have to give just to stay by her side. I can’t be close to her in this life. Please, make it so that she always stays by my side in our next life and that she loves me just as much as I love her now.”

***

Suddenly, everything went dark in front of my eyes.

I emerged back from my trance and saw Kyle still murmuring shamanic mantras or something. He saw that I opened my eyes and asked me how I was feeling. My body was buzzing and my mind was still focused on the gardner’s son life that I just experienced.

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of love I just remembered after experiencing that lifetime. I knew with 100% clarity that my beloved from that life was now Sui-Yoon, I had just forgotten my love for her. I wanted so badly to look into her eyes.

“Sorry… Thank you.” I murmured to Kyle. “Sorry, Kyle, I think I have to go. I remembered something important.”

I left and went straight home. On my way, as I thought of Sui-Yoon, I was picturing her face and her shiny eyes and a new feeling of tenderness overflowed my heart.

I came in and there she was – Sui-Yoon sitting in our living-room on the couch. Reading a newspaper, probably waiting for me to come and be cold and unwelcoming to her.

As she heard me, she looked up and gave me a kind, tender look. I could barely breeze, overwhelmed with emotion, like a person who had waited for a precious moment for a hundred years.

Quietly, I sat next to her on the sofa and looked thirstily into her light blue eyes.

“Sui-Yoona,” I said. “I think I love you”.

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