You let out a long sigh as you sink into your first class, leather cushioned seat. It is going to be a struggle to stay awake the next two hours. You get herself organized; Kindle out, bag stowed, sweater pulled on, ear phones in and hood pulled up. Traveling isn’t pretty and you aren’t going to care. No one knows who you are, no one is interested in snapping pictures of you; as long as you stay out of other people’s pictures, you wouldn't have a problem.
You snap your seat belt on, tilt your head against the airplane window and close your eyes. Peace at last, or at least until you find out if the seat next to you is occupied. You really hope the travelling companion isn’t one that likes to talk the entire flight, your head just isn’t up for it. There is commotion around as others board the plane, stow carry on’s and find seats. The seat next to you shifts so you peek open one eyelid. A man sits down, dressed very similar to you in fact. Hoodie and earbuds; except he has one of those dust masks on. He doesn’t need to worry, you aren’t going to breathe on him and you hope he keeps to his designated space as well. You finally sit up when the flight attendant stands to show the safety features of the plane. Pretending to pay attention, you glance around at those on the plane you can see. It doesn’t seem to be full which will make it easier to disembark; allowing you to get to your hotel room and a comfy bed much faster. Unknowingly you let out a sigh and attract the attention of your seat mate.
Tong noticed his seat mate was female when he boarded the plane, his only hope was that she didn’t recognize him. She was travelling in much the same attire as he. He’d spent too many hours on airplanes and unless he was going from the airport straight to an event, he wanted to be comfortable. He pulled the hood on his jacket up when he first sat down. He isn’t against being recognized, being asked for an autograph or photo; but he was just hoping for 2 hours of nothingness. He left the dust mask up knowing it would make it harder for anyone to see or recognize him. He’d seen his seat mate crack an eye when he sat down, thankfully that was all she had done and she went back to ignoring everyone. When he got situated, he pulled his seat belt tighter, and focused on the flight attendant when a body deep sigh sounded next to him. He smirked under his dust mask, acknowledging to himself that he felt very much the same way. Without turning his head, he glanced over and realized she didn’t even realize that her sigh had been out loud. That produced a full smile that reached his eyes and crinkled the corners. The fact that he could tell the woman next to him was trying to avoid eye contact with him left him unsure. Was she avoiding him because she was tired? or did she recognize him? He said a silent prayer for it to be exhaustion and turned his attention back to the front of the plane.
You have no patience for over excited fans, you've just spent the last 5 hours amongst them at the group concert. You hang her head, hoping desperately that you don’t show up on any of the videos and if you do, that people would not recognize you. You recognized the entrance of the idol group with their entourage onto the plane. You were hoping you were wrong, for this meant more fanatics at the Seoul airport. The flight attendant finishes her safety spiel and tours the aisles to make sure that all the seats are in their upright position, trays and electronics put away. As the plane taxies to their place in line for take-off, blankets and small pillows are distributed. You ask for a pillow, deciding it will be better than resting your head on cold window pane.
You must have fallen asleep shortly after take-off, turbulence awakes you. Within minutes of awaking, the cabin lights are turned back on and the seat belt light blinks on. The Captains voice comes over the intercom announcing the storm they could not go around as it was directly over the Seoul airport. Turbulence is going to be really rough; therefore, they are asking for all electronics to be shut off, seats to be upright, and seat belts to be fastened. The flight attendants walk quickly up and down the aisle to check that everything is locked into place before sitting in the jump seats and strapping themselves in.
A light touch on your arm, has you turning towards your seat mate. The dust mask has been lowered, the sweater slid slightly back. Glasses or no, you recognize the highly acclaimed idol who has sat next to you for the last hour and a half. You return the favor, sliding your hood off and pulling the now useless earbuds out of your ears. He graces you with a small smile and dips his head in a slight bow. You return the pleasantry and wonder why he decided to reveal himself.
In perfect English you hear, “You understood the Captains announcement?”. Your smile grew a little more; you should have realized he would be concerned about the foreigner sitting next to him on the plane. It is ingrained during training, each idol is the epitomy of courtesy, honor, and aegyo.
“Yes, thank you. It is very gracious of you to ask me.”
His smile turns up a little wryly with another slight nod. A few more minutes pass before his curiosity gets the better of him and he turns to you once again.
“If you don’t mind my curiosity, you are American no?”
Turning once more towards him; you realize he really does have the most beautiful eyes, even when they are exhausted.
“Yes, I realize we stick out like a sore thumb.”
Shaking his head he replies, “No, I noticed you in the gate area. It was you that stopped the woman following me, was it not? The same woman that pushed me into you?”
Heat infuses your face, anger in the heat of the moment had cost you in your life; you know better. If he saw your actions, you can almost guarantee that someone took a picture or got it on video tape.
“Aegyo was never a strong attribute for me. I hope it will not look badly on you or your members.”
He reaches over and shakes his head, “No. I would thank you. Being always polite brings curses with it at times.” The smile is real, the light in his eyes showing his gratitude.
“It is unusual for Americans to speak Korean, unless they are from Korea. You do not look Asain, military family?”
“No, not military, not Korean. I did work and live in Seoul for a few years. You could say it was required that I learn to speak the language.”
He nods his understanding and turns away. You pull your hands into your lap and turn to stare out the window at the storm.