The voice in my head just wouldn’t leave. It was persistent, annoying and repetitive. Turns out present-day me was very unhappy with the choices I made yesterday. She obviously thought she had better taste than the person I was just nine hours ago who sat in front of my wardrobe to pick out my outfit the night before. The strength of her conviction would fool anyone into thinking she had a Ph.D. in fashion, but she felt quite strongly about that orange sweater I was about to put on. I caved in and back on the hanger it went – fast too. I went for a different colour and style, brown and cropped. She nodded in agreement, and I felt in my gut that was the right choice. Frankly, I’m not sure why I was fussing about the shade and colour so much. “After all, it’s a Sunday just like every other”, I thought to myself as I shrugged in the mirror.
That shade of brown was the first thing I got right. That thought was the first thing I got wrong.
Simply, it wasn’t a Sunday like any other. For starters, I had plans for once that didn’t involve a cosy duvet, yummy food in paper boxes and Netflix series after church. Instead, I knew I’d be spending most of my day circling the highlights and pretty buildings in Manchester. I’ve lived here long enough now to find the architecture and city vibe mundane, but my cousin wouldn’t necessarily say the same. She had arrived in the city for the first time less than 24 hours before that morning and we had agreed I’d take her sightseeing. I didn’t mention that there wasn’t that much to see, I figured she’d learn soon enough that not much happens around here… That was the second thing I got wrong.
So, my day went along as I imagined it would. My sister, cousin and I squeezed in the back of a black cab as home got lost behind us quickly. After church my sister rushed into town for an afternoon shift at her new job. I didn’t know it then, but it would be about six hours later she’d be telling me just how much she regrets having the job she prayed for after what happened. Wait a second! I’m getting ahead of myself.
The afternoon went by pretty fast. My cousin Barbara and I filled it with long walks down Piccadilly Gardens, a late lunch at Nando’s, touristy type pictures, a stroll in the Arndale mall, and even more pictures. As my feet began to crave warm cosy socks and my hands a large warm cup of tea, we decided perhaps it was time to go back home. The sun was still dancing around in the sky, almost as if debating whether it was time to leave or if it could stay up there a little longer.
On the tram ride back, I thought to myself just how good of a day it was, like it was already over. Little did I know…
It was hard not to notice the ride was a lot slower than usual and it was even easier to know why. The vibrant crowd walking back into the city was the giveaway. A sea of blue shirts, jackets and scarves was all I needed to see to know there had just been a match in the Etihad Stadium The jolly atmosphere it seemed many were happy with the result – at the very least content.
We got off at the stadium. It was all part of the whole ‘must-see attractions in Manchester’ I believed Barbara would appreciate. The stadium holds a capacity of over 50 thousand people, but by that point it was clear most supporters had already made their way home. While some people still lingered around, we weren’t swimming in a multitude of passionate fans, so when Barbara suggested we wait in line to watch the players exit. Suddenly, black mini vans with tinted glassed rolled round for pick-up in front on the main entrance, hence, I had no reason to oppose. That was the second thing I got right.
How long is too long to wait to see footballers I wouldn’t recognise even on a good day?
My cousin and I agreed over thirty minutes was the threshold above which patience was no longer something we could afford. We began heading for the gates when it happened. Before my mind was able to register what was happening, my lips were already saying the words my brain struggled to comprehend. There. SHE. Was. The SOLO QUEEN herself. Right in front of me.
It was just less than two months ago I stood in that queue; hopeful and expectant. The weather was perfect by British standards, but I still kept my jean jacket on. August in London wasn’t warm enough to not warrant one. My sister and I bagged our t-shirt merch, said goodbye to the kind staff at the venue, and were just about to be on our way back to the train station to crash at my brother’s place. We were still high from the adrenaline that the live show pumped in us, and we decided to roam around the venue a little longer with a small group of people. “Maybe, I’ll get to see Sunmi a little up close when she comes out” I thought to myself.
We made small talk with some girls who also stayed behind and had been waiting there way longer than we had. We talked about how great she was live, how she was undoubtedly a master at commanding the stage, and how I got to hear all the songs on my concert wish list.
Well, she had probably gotten away fast right after singing ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’ as the encore. Needless to say, none of us got to see Sunmi that night. If you’re an avid reader of my blog, you knew that already, because I had much to say about the Good Girl Gone Mad Tour.
Yet, there she was. Standing with a small entourage of people surrounding her as she spoke to the camera pointed at her face. Somehow, my lips were able to put together a messy sentence that explained to Barbara what was going on. Without hesitation she nudged me to get a little closer. An imbalanced mixture of fear and joy made a home in my lungs leaving me breathless and a little – a lot – delirious.
What happened next is honestly a blur in many ways. I bet she could see it in my eyes; the look of a fangirl who had just lost her last brain cell. She asked me if I knew her which I found funny because, duh?!
Every melody. Every lyric. Every interview. Each glorious moment in her decade long stellar career as a solo artist that I had caught up to meticulously. Instead, the only thing I was able to draw out of the tip of my tongue was a very tight yes while I nodded so hard as though I was trying to stretch out every muscle in my neck. I wonder if I was breathing at that point – chances are I forgot how to.
When I managed to put two sentences together, I did just that. Only two.
I told her I saw in her in London, which seemed to surprise her again. It’s quite simple for me, Sunmi is an artist I believe everyone should get to with. The artistry, creativity and truth she puts into her music in unmatched. It’s not one that can easily be replicated as she knows her own flavour and voice better than anyone else. Going to her show in London was a no brainer!
Of all the things that didn’t just roll down my tongue smoothly, there was one thing in particular I was glad I was able to say. When I found the courage to look her in the eyes, I told her just how much I love her music. It was simple words, but it was important to me that I conveyed that to her properly. Unexpectedly she looked at me right back and promised to keep doing it for a long time. “For you”, she added.
She suggested we take a picture and at that point I was too over the moon, I wasn’t picturing the come down.
It was easy to smile for the camera. A smile had been glued to my face since we first locked eyes. She kept waving goodbye even after I had turned my back to leave and was headed my merry way. That’s when it reality hit. “O.M.G. I just met Sunmi!”.
Internally, I was squealing while doing cartwheels and summersaults. Externally, I was squealing on the way home because I was too stunned to speak. It was only much later, through Twitter, I learnt she had been invited by ManCity to watch the match.
Frankly, I’ve always been better at writing than I’ve been with spoken word. Hence, the blog. But there were some thoughts I wished I managed to blurt out somehow but didn’t.
I wish I told her just how much her music means to me. Like how I played ‘Siren’ for years over and over till I knew all the words. I wanted her to know ‘Heart Burn’ was the song that ruled my summer – the soundtrack behind every picnic in my back garden and holiday getaway. It would have been nice to tell her that songs like ‘Borderline’ and ‘1/6’ are the type of depth that is sometimes missing in the genre of K-pop. I wish I told her how ‘Nobody’ by Wonder Girls was the first K-pop song I ever became obsessed with all those years back, even before I had ever heard of K-pop. Or how my sister would have loved to be there too but wasn’t because of a new job she would surely regret.
Those words never made it out of my mouth, but I felt like she knew already. It seemed she understood just how much that moment mattered to me really. I’m happy knowing that. I’m grateful for every right choice that led me to that moment. They say never meet your idol, but I’m so glad I met mine!
Your restless romantic roamer