Coffee Prince Chapter 17: “A Woman I Don’t Know”
(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
July – “이별” (farewell), an instrumental track [ zShare download ]
CHAPTER 17: “A Woman I Don’t Know”
Han Gyul drives to work one gently raining morning in particularly good spirits. He reflects on his mood, realizing that he’s come to like running the cafe, now that things are going well.
It was true that he was enjoying working at the cafe more and more, now that they were busy. To be honest, it wasn’t only because of work. There was one more reason. Go Eun Chan. Seeing him made Han Gyul happy. It was fun arguing over their clashes of opinion; bickering over their words was the best thing for dispelling boredom. One of the things Han Gyul liked to do was to provoke Eun Chan a bit, just to see his temper flare. Being together made for fun times, and it occurred to Han Gyul from time to time that he was happy.
Furthermore, he’s not the only one enjoying the work — the Coffee Princes seem more invested too, thinking of various ways to promote and service their customers.
Although the drama’s exploration of the relationship between Han Gyul and Eun Chan uses many of the elements and situations from the novel, as we’ve seen, the context has been different. Novel Han Gyul wrestles with jealousy, as does Drama Han Gyul, but the novel version is much less conflicted. It’s not his preference to be gay, but it’s not as tortured a struggle for him. To wit:
What was this feeling? He’d even told Eun Chan about being an orphan. For some reason, he’d wanted to tell him about it. Maybe he needed to get it off his chest or something, but he wondered why he’d done that. Why’d it have to be him…?
Han Gyul let out a sigh and said:
“I should just go with the flow…”
Gay? What’s that? What’s the problem with being gay? If you like someone, that’s all you need. Isn’t it better than being with a cheater or adulterer? Anyway, I’m not going to yield to something that other people have decided. And I don’t care a bit about the way others’ll perceive me. What’s so bad about falling for a guy? It’s not like I’m going to do anything about it, it’s just how I feel……
“It doesn’t have to mean that I’m gay, either. As one person to another, I could want to hug him as a friend, too, in friendship or whatever… The guy acts so cute anyway… It could just be that that feeling went a little overboard… Argh, dammit!”
It isn’t that Han Gyul is without reservations — he does debate with himself, since he’s not completely ready to embrace the idea that he’s gay. He figures it’s only natural since he’d been educated according to society’s views of morality. But he does leave room open to accept the possibility of being gay:
I should live according to what my body tells me. Yeah, just go with the flow. Thinking too much about it only gives me a headache.
He then gets a call from his grandmother instructing him to meet her for dinner that evening. Han Gyul doesn’t know what she wants, but he’s pretty certain it’s got to do with the company. He’d had a conversation with his older brother the day before, when their father was released from the hospital, wherein his brother tried to convince him once again to work for the company. Their father would like to rest for his health’s sake, but can’t because he’s too overwhelmed with business concerns. His brother tells him, “The fact that he was so hard on you just proves that he trusts you more than me.”
His brother also comments that when they were kids, Han Gyul was always the good one, who made his parents proud by being a good student and listening to them and being perfectly agreeable. His brother, on the hand, was the troublemaker. But at some point, Han Gyul not only stopped listening to his parents, he seemed to act purposely contrary to their wishes. Everyone just figured it was him going through puberty, but that kind of behavior has persisted until now.
At work, Eun Chan greets him cheerfully (“Without realizing it, a gladdened smile spread over Han Gyul’s face”), and while she chatters on about how they’re busy and need his help, Han Gyul thinks: “That’s a guy no one can hate.” While doing some morning prep work:
He felt the loveliness of the gently falling rain. For some reason, his mood turned sentimental. He felt like sitting with Eun Chan in front of the window, drinking coffee and listening to music, nice and leisurely……
A familiar regular customer arrives — a grandfatherly type who always comes in wearing a hat with a feather, who will only be served by Eun Chan even though he always voices a complaint with the coffee. Despite being a hard-to-please, gruff man, for some reason he keeps coming back.
Normally, he doesn’t talk much at all, but today, he tells Eun Chan: “My grandson doesn’t talk to me at all.” He asks if he’s scary-looking, and Eun Chan says no, in fact he looks quite dapper, especially with his cool hat. The grandfather complains that there’s no use speaking with youngsters because there’s no substance to their conversation. But still, he continues talking to her. He goes on to describe his coffee’s particular roast and flavor to Eun Chan, who doesn’t really understand. But she does realize something: All this while, the grandfather’s complaints weren’t really complaints at all.
After the grandfather leaves, Eun Chan becomes motivated to learn as much about coffee as she can. Figuring that what the grandfather really wants is company, she wants to be able to treat him even better, to really understand what he’s saying.
And then, Ha Rim returns. Bruised, barefoot, beaten.
Broken-down and crying, Ha Rim explains how he got into another fight with his father. He admits he did speak rashly out of frustration, saying it would’ve been better if he were an orphan. But his father went completely overboard, beating him, locking him in his room for two days without food or water, and even going so far as to nail the door shut. Ha Rim finally managed to escape.
They ask him if he really hates the idea of going to medical school that much, and he explains that it’s not that he hates medical school, but that he’s found something he wants to do even more, even if his father disowns him and removes him from the official family register.
At that point, a quietly furious Han Gyul orders Ha Rim to get up, and leaves with him.
Eun Chan worries all day about where they went, and finally gets her answer when Ha Rim returns that evening. First, Han Gyul had taken him to the hospital to get treated, and requested written medical certification of his injuries — to sue Ha Rim’s father. Afterward, they’d gone to see Ha Rim’s father, who’d raised hell. Ha Rim recalls Han Gyul’s words to his father:
“He told him not to see his child as his possession. Don’t make him into a fool who changes his mind whenever he’s hit. He’s an adult who has the legal right to sue him. He should see his son person to person, man to man. A child doesn’t live simply to obey his parents’ wishes and make them happy, but parents often make that mistake. If Ha Rim regrets his actions later, that’s his life. Since he’s already an adult, he has a duty and a right to choose his own life.”
Ha Rim recalls how furious Han Gyul’s face was — he’d never seen such a frightening expression on anyone before. Han Gyul gave his father two days to figure out if he could talk to his son calmly and rationally, and left him his card.
While Ha Rim is relating the events of the day to Eun Chan, Han Gyul meets his grandmother for dinner. To his surprise, instead of telling him to come home and work for the family company, she presents him with a picture, and identifies the woman as Han Gyul’s birth mother. While Han Gyul listens with growing shock and surprise, his grandmother reveals the entire truth of his birth.
When his father was briefly sent away on business, he’d met a singer at a nightclub, and the two had a brief relationship. Han Gyul was the result of that affair, and his father’s initial reaction to her pregnancy was to throw money at her to go away with the child forever. However, Han Gyul’s grandmother didn’t want to send the baby away, as he was a part of their bloodline.
However, they’d felt too sorry to Han Gyul’s (adoptive) mother for the affair, so they decided to go the route of official adoption to deflect suspicion, to make it seem on the surface that he was merely an adopted child. But that lie didn’t last six months, and Han Gyul’s mother found out anyway. And yet, she raised him just as her own. (He’s also shocked to realize his father is actually his biological father, having believed for so long that he wasn’t.)
Brief sidebar: I find it nicely moving how in this passage, Han Gyul refers to his birth mother as “the woman who gave birth to me,” and his current mother as “mother” with no qualifiers (no “adopted,” “step,” “second,” etc.). Rather, Han Gyul realizes how amazing and cool his mother is:
That much was evident just looking at how she raised the child born of her husband’s extramarital affair as her own biological son. But this other woman, on the other hand — he didn’t know her.
His grandmother asks if he wants to meet his birth mother (she’s long since gone to the States), and Han Gyul answers readily:
“No. I don’t feel anything toward her. I don’t miss her, and I don’t feel compelled to meet her. She’s just a woman I don’t know.”
His grandmother explains that she’s bringing this up now because she sees the strain between Han Gyul and his father. The reason his father was so hard on him growing up was because he felt guilty toward his wife, who treated Han Gyul so well. That made him feel so sorry over what he’d done to his wife that he’d felt he had to take it out on Han Gyul somehow. [note: WTF? How horrible.] But his grandmother hopes they can at some point relax their relationship and get along.
Han Gyul cries soundlessly, feeling the pain and grief of finding out that so much of what he knew had been false.
Feeling hollow inside, one face appeared in his mind, and he took out his cell phone.
“Hello! This is Coffee Prince.”
When that kid wasn’t hungry, he always spoke with an energetic voice. With a small smirk, Han Gyul deliberately spoke in a brusque tone:
“Hey, you left out ‘delicious.'”
“You said before to leave it out because it was corny. You’re so fickle.”
“I can be like that since I’m the boss. How’s business doing?”
“Do you really wanna know? We were swamped. Without the Ice Man around, the customers come in droves, you know.”
“You’re kidding around ’cause I’m calling, huh?”
Eun Chan asks what he wants to do about Ha Rim’s situation, and Han Gyul instructs her to tell Ha Rim to head over to his hotel.
Eun Chan jokes around, telling Han Gyul he’s been wandering around and slacking off instead of working, and he pretends to take offense. She cheekily tells him, “If you’re not gonna come in to work, that’s slacking off. Don’t you know what that means? Oh! Hey, it’s time to go home. I’m hanging up now.”
She hangs up without waiting for his response (a belated “Hey, you!”), but he isn’t bothered:
Han Gyul looked at the disconnected phone he’d shouted at, and laughed. He wanted to hear more of his voice and felt disappointed now that he’d hung up. Still, Han Gyul’s spirits lifted. Whenever he talked to that guy, it was remarkable how comfortable and carefree he felt. Eun Chan always expressed himself honestly, and so, it made Han Gyul feel better.
“What a cute fella.”
/end Chapter 17.