God of Tennis - Chapter 6.2
“Two servings of grilled eel please!”
“Yes! It’ll be right out!”
The ahjumma that owned the food stand went inside and brought back out the menu. Han Woo Jin’s father sat down on the chair while looking at the menu and opened his mouth.
“Is your wrist okay?”
To a person that was not a part of the family, it may have sounded like his father was speaking coldly but Han Woo Jin knew that his father was asking out of concern for him and he couldn’t help but feel warm inside. He laughed and waved his wrist a couple times.
“I just can’t play tennis for a while. It doesn’t hurt. You don’t have to worry about it.”
Truthfully, there was still a little bit of pain, but he knew that it would go away with time. Even though Han Dong Hoon was his father, he couldn’t let him know that he was hurting. His father nodded his head and poured water into his cup to drink it.
The two people waited for their meal, and two plates of eel were placed in front of them. The owner gave them a lot of side dishes so the table looked really full.
“We shouldn’t start with alcohol right?”
“Yes, I can’t drink for a while.”
Whenever someone gets injured, they should stay away from drinking and smoking. Han Woo Jin shook his hands while talking and his father looked disappointed that he couldn’t drink with his son. He only ordered one bottle of soju. All fathers in this world always looked forward to the day that they could drink with their sons.
Han Woo Jin already knew what his father was thinking about. After he was completely healed, he planned to win the next tournament, and when they go out to eat again, he’ll drink a bunch with his father.
They put the eel on the pan and heard the sizzling sound of meat roasting. His father, Han Dong Hoon, didn’t let him roast the eel because of his wrist injury. So he cooked the eel and other fish well.
“You can’t use the tongs because your wrist is injured. Just be thankful and eat.”
His tone sounded angry but his words were very warm as he was worried about his son’s body. Han Woo Jin held his chopsticks instead of the tongs that were slowly changing in color.
As soon as the eel was roasted, the two began eating without speaking. Half of the eel disappeared from the pan quickly and his father Han Dong Hoon drank half of the soju bottle before speaking to him.
“Woo Jin ah, I, your father, regret that I made you play tennis.”
Han Woo Jin’s eyes widened. Not only his eyes, but even his mouth was wide open in surprise. Han Dong Hoon continued speaking.
“Your mother and I went to watch tennis players during our honeymoon. If we had a baby we thought that we had to raise him as a tennis player.”
Han Woo Jin knew about this much. His parents played tennis every week and whenever the four major tournaments were on air, they ordered chicken and watched the tennis games. If a stranger was watching, they would think they were watching the world cup.
Yet Han Woo Jin never heard his father say this, not even during his past ten years of life.
“It was when you were in middle school. We enrolled you in Chung Woo Middle School that was really famous for their tennis team.”
Han Woo Jin couldn’t remember that well but just nodded his head. He didn’t remember how he did during middle school at all. In short, the tennis he played during that time had no impact on him.
“Do you remember that you joined a tennis club?”
Mentioning that, Han Woo Jin was able to remember bits and pieces.
Chung Woo Middle School.
It was a school that was famous for its junior tennis team. His parents that wanted a bright future for their child enrolled him there, and then as soon as he got accepted, he registered for the tennis club.
“But the coach who was taking care of the tennis club never let you play a game. I had to personally go talk to him.”
It was a story that he didn’t know about. Han Woo Jin was young at the time so he just picked up the ball and practiced swinging his racket. That’s what he thought was normal back then. He thought that if the coach didn’t let him go to the tournament, he thought he couldn’t go.
“There is no talent. That’s what he said. Words are cheap right? He said that so easily and that crushed me.”
Han Woo Jin wanted him to stop.
Han Woo Jin looked at his father’s face and imagined how much pain he went through. He wanted him to stop talking, but his father shook his head and kept going. He might have been a little drunk so he was a bit more emotional than usual.
“So I held your hand and we just left the tennis club right away because I didn’t want you to be with a coach who discriminated and talked about talent.”
Han Dong Hoon’s depressed voice made Han Woo Jin’s chest hurt. He remembered a little bit about that time.
He followed his father while holding his hand, leaving the small middle school. He couldn’t speak to his friends from middle school that much.
“I took you to many different tennis clubs. If you even said one word about hating it, I probably would have stopped.”
Unfortunately, Han Woo Jin really liked tennis. His parents influenced him to like tennis. They didn’t force him to play tennis — it was he himself that forced himself to play.
His parents were sad to hear that their son didn’t have talent, but their son didn’t give up and grabbed the racket. That’s why his parents couldn’t give up on their son.
He couldn’t remember his life having that much ups and downs. Han Woo Jin was so surprised and sad that he couldn’t pick up his chopsticks and silently stared at nothing. His father picked up the eel that was already half-burnt and put it on his son’s plate.
“But look, my son got second place among the pros! You beat the people who thought that you weren’t good enough.”
His throat choked up. He couldn’t finish what he was about to say. Han Woo Jin tried to hide his tears and just drank his water.
He didn’t know how many hardships his parents went through for him.
He thought about his parents who suffered from his lack of talent for those ten years that he continuously lost. Han Woo Jin couldn’t taste the eel in his mouth while he was chewing.
The weight of his father’s words was too huge and there were so many things he didn’t know about.
He couldn’t concentrate on the food’s taste.
“How can I call myself a parent when I didn’t believe in you? Haha…”
“Don’t say that…”
Han Woo Jin stopped him as he was insulting himself. His parents would never know about those ten years. He never heard a single bad word from his parents for ten years. Lose, lose, and keep on losing. He couldn’t earn money and they never cursed him. Instead, they only complimented him.
His father didn’t open his mouth again after seeing his son’s emotional state as he was holding his hand without saying anything. Seeing that his son was now all grown up, he couldn’t help but feel happy and disappointed at the same time.
The father and son let go of their hands and finished up the eel.
Han Woo Jin ate the eel without tasting anything but he engraved this moment in his mind.
“I’ll just walk around before going back.”
Han Woo Jin was really full and wanted to walk around the neighborhood. Han Dong Hoon looked at his son worriedly and answered, “You’re injured, so don’t go too far. If you’re going to be late, call me.”
“Yeah, don’t worry.”
Han Woo Jin lightly laughed at his father’s worrisome nagging. He put his right hand in his pocket and began walking. March had passed and April was already coming up, but it was still cold.
Today was a very eventful day for him. He earned many things for his racket. Han Woo Jin was thinking about his racket that disappeared and clenched and unclenched his hand. He asked his parents about the Ivan Lendyl signed racket, but they had no memory of it. He thought that the racket’s ‘memory’ was gone forever in this world.
“How did this happen…”
His breath exhaled into white steam. He couldn’t feel the pain in his wrist because of the cold night air.
He kept on walking and sat down on a bench, then his phone suddenly started ringing in his pocket.
“Who is this?”
He thought it was from home, but it hadn’t even been 30 minutes since he had parted with his father. Even though Han Woo Jin was injured, his father wouldn’t call him to nag some more. He tilted his head when he saw the unfamiliar phone number that appeared on his phone.
Anyway, Han Woo Jin decided to answer the phone.
lt;lt; Is this Woo Jin?gt;gt;
The voice sounded familiar yet unfamiliar. He’d never heard this voice through a cell phone. He concentrated on the voice and guessed a name.
“Choi Yeon Hyuk?”
Han Woo Jin thought about it for a moment. It was 9:38 PM. If he met up with Choi Yeon Hyuk right now, he would get home past midnight. He wouldn’t be drinking alcohol anyway, so he thought it was fine to meet him.
“I don’t care. We won’t be drinking alcohol right?”
He just ate eel, but he still had some room left in his stomach. Han Woo Jin replied, knowing that he could still eat chicken.
“Where do you want to meet?”
“Alright, see you later.”
Sadang station. He could arrive there in one hour if he took the subway. Han Woo Jin began walking to the nearest subway station and wondered what Choi Yeon Hyuk wanted to talk about.
Anyway, he’ll know when he gets there.