I’ll Take Care of My Heart First - Chapter 1
The last thirty-six years of Heeyeon’s life had not been particularly fortunate. She had lived with an indifferent husband and needlessly rude in-laws, and her parents nagged her endlessly as if she was their sounding board for all their complaints with life.
There was also the matter of her colleagues who never missed an opportunity to stab her in the back. Her children felt like a burden, but she was too afraid to say it out loud for fear of censure. Nobody could really understand. Her husband might have as he should have, but he was too busy with his own affairs and expecting favor after favor from Heeyeon to pay attention to what a struggle motherhood was for her.
Heeyeon was barely getting by in life, what with all these tangled, messy and complicated relationships surrounding her. Perhaps they were the reason she had picked up the habit of saying, “I’m sick of this,” every now and then. She wondered when life had become so intolerably boring.
Every day in her life seemed to drain the energy out of her like a parasite. Her life after marriage had become a nightmarish reality, one where she was failing an exam as there was no right answer to the problems. Her life repeated a mundane cycle of work and home and Heeyeon was rapidly nearing exhaustion.
Today was another one of those days. She boarded the elevator holding a bag of compost with her gloved hand. A warm and dry breeze swept the hair off Heeyeon’s eyes as she approached the steps leading outside her building. The breeze felt comforting and she looked up at the night sky almost subconsciously. Though the night was cloudless, not a single star could be seen. The waning crescent of the moon lit up the ground weakly, as did the streetlight. As she walked toward the dumpsters, she looked around her, noticing the cozily lit apartments and their warmly decorated balconies. The night was quiet except for the rustling of the young leaves that seemed to be enjoying the breeze as much as she was.
Heeyeon let out a deep sigh. “I wonder what is the purpose of my life,” she said out loud to no one.
Having disposed of the bag of compost, she took her time walking back to the apartment. She walked to her building and stopped right under her balcony and looked up. Her apartment seemed similarly cozy to the others, and yet Heeyeon felt a sense of dread looking at it. Instead of security, her home seemed to elicit a sense of imprisonment in her heart.
Nevertheless, she soldiered on as there was an endless list of tasks still to be completed that evening. Heeyeon put her kids to bed, then made a weak attempt at cleaning the living room. She managed to do all the dishes and caught up with some menial tasks that her husband would never help with. Dedicated to finish her chores, she didn’t realize when it was already past midnight. That was usually when her weeknights ended. Every night Heeyeon would pass out from fatigue and begin a new day with the same tasks and the same drudgery.
Maybe it was her predictable future and the repeated nature of her chores that made way for her frustration, but that evening Heeyeon decided to make a stop at the bench near the entrance to the apartment. A cherry tree provided sweet escape from the blazing heat.
‘I’ll take just 5 minutes for myself.’
Being five minutes late should not flip her world upside down, and being five minutes early would not make her husband and kids more appreciative of her.
Heeyeon sighed. It had been eleven years of being trapped in this cycle of work, parenting, and forced relationships.
Her relationship with her husband had long since withered, and Heeyeon believed she did not know her husband any longer. It was like living with a stranger. She didn’t know if all marriages turned similarly sour after a time, but social media stories seemed to tell a different story. The little bit of time she had for herself on the commute to and from work, Heeyeon spent it on her smartphone.
“I guess this means not every man in Korea is like that.”
The relationship with her husband was one-sided, and he did not bother to show her any consideration just because she was his life. He seemed to want to stick around because of the convenience Heeyeon provided by being there and completing all his chores without complaint. This same dutifulness made her feel humiliated often. The rare moments of intimacy that came out of nowhere would end before Heeyeon could really acknowledge the excitement, and as always it was expected of her to make up for any shortcomings or unsatisfied desires. Disappointed by her marital life, she had stopped trying to open herself up with him.
Couples who suffered from sexual incompatibility often cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for divorce. But Heeyeon’s marriage was not failing just because of an unsatisfactory conjugal relationship alone. The simplest and most benign of arguments would make her think of divorce.
On such days, she often recalled the words of a divorced friend, “Heeyeon, you should never get divorced. From the divorce you see the lowest and worst side to that person…it’s something one should never willingly put oneself through”.
‘I want to just escape. Simply disappear one day.’