I have not known a proper night of sleep in a month—and I’m usually a stickler for my eight hours. But I’ve begun to slip into this delightful Korean drama rabbit hole and have no intentions of leaving my newfound wonderland anytime soon. Trixie would be proud.
It takes me two, three days to speed through a sixteen-episode novella. And all through each show, I’m calling Trixie every couple of minutes to gush about: a. the agony of unrequited love, b. the unabashed spine-tingling joy of a montage set to K-Pop, c. the impossibility of finding a real life guy who’s just like *insert name of lead character*, and/or d. all of the above.
I get a rare, lucid moment between episodes where I get back to regular programming and manage to finagle some work. Never have I been happier about giving up my magazine job and going freelance. So I may have taken a fifty percent pay cut and I’m barely making ends meet with the meager paychecks I get from the odd racket each month… but the trade off is quite gratifying. Nowadays, it’s three hours of serious work hashing out one article after another (of which half the time is spent doing “research” over the Internet)—and after that, it’s fifteen solid hours of TV time.
My soul has been sold to the Korean persuasion.
I am so beyond “just liking bibimbap and cute stationery,” it isn’t even funny. I don’t know what it is about these shows—they’re just as cliché-filled as your run of the mill soap, but they’ve got an unbelievable pull that sets you into a manic-obsessive spree. Maybe it’s the dragging out of unresolved kilig over hours and hours, maybe it’s the glossy treatment or the infectious music, or the convoluted plotlines that forever highlight the arrogant, ridiculously good-looking rich guy (with a heart of gold).
I’ve saved the last three episodes of Coffee Prince for today, to mark the occasion of the ex’s wedding. I haven’t completely forgotten, in case you were wondering. It’s been better—heartbreak’s been reduced to a smidge of what it used to be. But I’ll need something to get me through today. Just in case.
Trixie was coming over to re-watch Coffee Prince with me. She said she’d be bringing reinforcements, whatever that meant. I was thinking a bottle of soju (or two) would complete the pity party.
She’s been feeling a little down lately, too. She’d just quit her high-paying corporate cubicle farm job, blaming it for the lack of anything going on in her life. It isn’t like Trixie to go off the deep end and leave everything (or anything, for that matter) to fate. But I guess even the best of us needs the occasional jolt out of our comfort zones.
My parents have gotten used to me claiming the couch, littering the den with boxes of chocolate-covered pretzels, sweet potato chips and other Korean mart finds. Don’t get me wrong, my mom and dad were worried at first—there’s no tolerance for excessive couch potato-dom at our house. I mean, if I could have astral projected myself out of there and seen me on that couch, zombie-faced one episode after another, even I would have been worried.
The big consolation for my parents (and myself) came when Trixie jumped the gun, left her job, and joined me in my bandwagon of sap. I think the parentals were just relieved that their only kid had half a mind to find some “real world” company. I once overheard my dad call Han-Gyul, Eun Chan, and Han Sung (the lead characters from Coffee Prince) my imaginary friends. Which I guess they are/were.
I’d just come home with mandatory Korean takeout (our staple fare for drama-watching over dinner), and was preparing the BBQ chicken I’d bought when I got a text from Trixie. “OMW, bringing Cesca.” It was a Saturday night and this, apparently, was where the party was at.
Cesca, who I secretly call manic pixie dream girl, is Trixie’s futsal BFF. They’ve been playing together during weekends for a couple of years now, but apart from a few birthday parties, we’ve never really had a chance to hang out.
I’ve always found her likeable though. She’s low maintenance, quirky, cute and witty, just like Kirsten Dunst or Kristen Bell (who she even kind of looks like). She left her job as a junior copywriter in an ad agency to try her hand at photography, which is pretty perfect, since she’s always lugging her camera around anyway (and I mean this in a totally non-annoying non-hypersensitive artist way). I wouldn’t have taken her for a Korean drama person, though—but she was definitely a welcome addition to our secret, freemasonry meetings.
I carefully laid out pickled radish cubes onto little plates on the living room table, set the deep-fried chicken onto a big platter and loaded up a huge serving bowl with steaming hot rice. I had to busy myself with something, just to avoid hitting the play button.
“EEEEEEE! Hurry! Want to watch NOW!” I texted Trixie.
Overeager was an understatement—I couldn’t wait to see how the story would pan out. The wait was driving me crazy. The two leads had just finally gotten together but there was a hint of her leaving him for another country, and if I understood the subtitle-less spoilers right, there was going to be an epic kiss very soon. *squeal*
I rearranged the dinner trays a few more times, made sure the speakers were working just right, and was about to sneak a peek at the behind-the-scenes special at the end of the DVD when finally, the girls came in with bags full of junk food. And soju!
As soon as Trixie and Cesca stepped into the living room, there was a five-second silence as we all looked each other in communal anticipation. I pointed at the freeze-framed shot on the TV that read “Episode 15” and as if on cue, we all started jumping up and down, shrieking and bound by an unspoken sisterhood of fandom, looking forward to the immense kilig we all knew was about to come.
“Aaaaaaahhhhh… hahaha,” Cesca shrieked, her voice dissolving into peals of laughter. Soon, Trixie and I were collapsed on the floor, half-laughing out of sheer excitement, half-laughing at ourselves in irony. I became inundated with flashbacks of my fifteen-year-old self madly singing along to Justin Timberlake on the karaoke channel. It was that kind of inexplicable high that had us giggling like schoolgirls.
“Oh no, what just happened?” I said, picking myself up, and pulling Trixie up to sit, suddenly self-aware.
“The curse of the Coffee Prince,” Cesca answered, as we all sat ourselves in front of a dinner tray each. “You don’t know how relieved I am you guys are into this, too.”
“Okay wait, how did you two even find out about each other?” I asked. Wow. This is exactly what I imagined group therapy would be like.
“Futsal last week,” Cesca said. “Steven was complaining after training that we never go out anymore because he keeps having to bring me straight home so I can catch my shows. I told him, ‘Look, I am so not apologizing for my obsession!’”
Steven was Cesca’s bass player boyfriend slash real estate sales dude, who I assume, has zero patience for his girlfriend’s Korea mania. I don’t blame him.
“Trixie overheard and asked me what I was obsessing about, so I told her I was watching Boys Over Flowers and Coffee Prince. I only got into it because I was so stressed out back at my old job, but even after I resigned, I just couldn’t stop watching anymore. So there, Trixie told me she just had to invite me to one of your ‘meetings,’ and I’m pretty game for anything, so…” she trailed off.
“Ah, I’m just so happy we can share this,” Trixie added. “It’s so much fun to release!”
“YES! Because they’re so AWESOME!” I said just a little too overzealously. I so wanted to poke fun at myself for my earnestness, but much to my cool self’s chagrin, there was no irony in anything I was saying. I truly meant every word. I was seriously teetering on crazy mode due to my lack of shuteye, and was half-drunk, spouting out these declarations of win.
Enough of the madness, down to business. “Let’s watch na, guys,” I said.
Trixie and Cesca immediately turned their attention to the screen, watching in K-Pop deference as the opening credits started flashing. Let the good times roll.
Four hours later, the three of us were slumped on the floor, maniacally shifting between frowns and smiles, laughter and tears. I was a wreck.
We had finished all three final episodes—complete with obligatory pause-rewind-replays of the best parts. “He loved her so muuuuch,” I wailed, silently bemoaning my real life situation and how pathetic it was that I was mourning ancient history. I have no life, I thought. I downed my fourth shot of soju and wiped my tears away.
Cesca and Trixie poured some soju for themselves and clinked their glasses with mine.
“To Coffee Prince! The best guy ever,” Cesca said, guiltily adding. “I’m so happy Steven can’t hear me right now, haha.” We all hastily drank our vodka and let out a satisfied, throaty, raspy sigh—we’d mastered the way the Korean drama actors did it, and had unconsciously taken up the habit, apparently.
“To the Coffee Princes of the world!” I chimed in. “Even if they don’t exist in real life!”
Cesca and Trixie shot me sympathetic looks and said, “To second life!”
Ah yes. Everything in second life was so much better than first life. We all stayed quiet together, lost in our own thoughts.
“So,” Trixie said, clearing her throat and breaking the silence. “I propose something.”
We turned our attention to her—it sounded so official and important. We were goners, at least in that millisecond, and were willing to buy anything she said.
“We should do this again, like, regularly… I mean, look at us,” she continued. “You and you—” she pointed at me and Cesca. “You guys don’t have office jobs and me, I don’t work.” Trixie stopped for a second, realizing just then that the three of us were all gainfully unemployed and kind of broke. Pathetic, maybe, but somehow, we were all deliriously happy and money was the last thing on our minds.
“Are we going to be miserable about our joblessness, or the fact that we can’t ship ourselves to Korea right this minute because we have no money… or are we going to spread the love instead?”
“SPREAD THE LOVE!” Cesca and I said.
“Exactly!” Trixie exclaimed. “So let’s do this—make this a thing. A regular Korea drama extravaganza thing! Seriously, no one else understands this except us three—we need a support group. A spazz support group,” she said smugly.
Not gonna lie, it was kind of brilliant. Juvenile, but brilliant.
“I’m game. I need to get my kilig fix somewhere and I’d rather get it from guys like him,” I said, pointing to the paused screen shot of Coffee Prince on the TV screen, finally resolved to surrender the torch I’d been carrying for the ex.
“And I really have to get off my boyfriend’s back already. He’s sick of me forcing him to watch my shows,” Cesca joined in. I looked at her in disbelief—she actually made Steven watch this? I chuckled to myself. “He’s going to be so grateful I’ll be off his case finally,” she added.
“Well, me… I just need something to do,” Trixie said, pausing. “With my life.”
We all laughed.
The three of us poured another round of shots and clinked our glasses once more. “Jjang!” we said giggling, imitating another Korean catchphrase we’d just picked up. I didn’t know what it meant exactly, but I think it translated into something like wonderful or magnanimous or, my word for the day, awesome.
And that’s exactly what life felt like that very minute. It was only the beginning, but we knew that second life would be awesome.