Sung-min Kwon knew that there was a difference between thinking you’re in love and knowing it. Back in Korea, growing up, there hadn’t been many Caucasians to observe. During the war, that changed some, what with all of the white soldiers coming to the aid of the South Koreans, but Sung-min and his family had been too busy trying to survive to take the time to scrutinize them.
When the killer came to Hawai‘i, this changed. Especially due the changeover from flying prop planes to jets, the influx of all types of people soared. Many more white people were moving to the Aloha State. There were concerns about the influx of people buying homes. Not only would this population explosion drive up the price of homes, but it would mean that locals, who were generally not as well off as the newcomers, might have increasing difficulty purchasing houses.
All of this concerned Sung-min not a bit. One afternoon he was on the wall bordering Ala Moana Beach. A blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian – a Haole, they were called here – came out of the water and showered near where he sat. Sung-min admired the athletic body built in part, he assumed, from swimming laps, which he’d watched this Haole do with great grace.
“I admire your swimming ability,” Sung-min said.
“Oh, ah, thanks,” said the stranger.
“You must swim here often?”
“Yes, as often as I can. Most days.”
The Haole came and sat by Sung-min on the wall.
“How about you, do you swim?”
“Oh, no, I never learned,” said Sung-min. “Back in Korea, growing up, I never had time. Really, I never had time for much recreation at all. My family was very poor, and my father died during the war. My mother and I struggled all the time.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Hey, I tell you what. If you want to learn, I’d be happy to teach you.”
Sung-min smiled, and he thought he might be in love. “I would like that very much,” he said.
And so their friendship was formed. And it grew. Almost every day, the two would meet at Ala Moana. After he’d been taught to drown-proof, the actual swimming lessons began. A very good athlete, it wasn’t long before the Korean killer could swim laps at Ala Moana Beach.
And one night when the two friends were sitting on the couch watching television, the beautiful Haole came back from getting them beers and sat down very close to Sung-min.
Sung-min took the beer and wondered about how their thighs were now touching. Taking a sip of beer, his heart shifting gears, Sung-min lifted his right hand and placed it gently on his teacher’s knee. He felt a tinge of embarrassment for doing something like this, something he’d never done before.
But that embarrassment evaporated in a moment when his swimming instructor’s hand covered his. The two sat this way for a few minutes. And then, as if it were happening in a dream, Sung-min’s felt his hand being led to his instructor’s crotch, and the next lesson began.
The rising sun slipped through the window curtains. Sung-min had been wide awake for an hour. A virgin, he’d begun to think of himself as asexual, immune, he thought, to what he assumed was the mysterious journey toward being in love. And now, lying there in bed staring at that sinewed back muscled by so many hours in the water, Sung-min knew for certain that he was in love.
Reaching out, he stroked the shoulder of this beautiful Haole. Gradually stirring, the teacher of more than just swimming now, finally came fully awake and turned to look at him.
“Good morning,” said Sung-min.
“Good morning,” echoed Bobby Stillman, his face lit up as magically as Sung-min’s.