Wedding Belle

One lucky day, she became more than just a memory.

May/June 2016

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Wedding Belle

Illustration: David Anson Russo

Through the end of college, it was your typical beauty and the geek. 

Jea-Hyoun and I met our freshman year at Rinconada, where she often dropped by to visit one of her high school friends. After that, we saw each other periodically, probably a couple of times a quarter. But the memories of our infrequent interactions remain vivid in my mind’s eye: biking away from Mudd after a slumber-inducing chem class; carpooling with our dates to an off-campus Screw Your Roommate dance; dinner at a Korean BBQ joint in Los Angeles shortly after graduation. 

Jea-Hyoun, however, remembers none of this. 

Perhaps it’s not surprising that I never really registered on her radar. Jea-Hyoun was gregarious, pretty and popular, with an infectious smile. I, on the other hand, sported big glasses and holed up in my dorm room most Friday evenings doing problem sets. What’s more, the only woman I felt comfortable talking to was my mother. 

So, as far as unrequited crushes go, things might’ve stayed just that way: unrequited. In fact, we lost touch for almost a decade after leaving the Stanford cocoon. Jea-Hyoun hopscotched around the world before settling in Brooklyn for med school. Meanwhile, I pursued my own medical career in Southern California. 

Browsing the Class Notes in this magazine, I sometimes wondered what she was up to. I expected that she would be one of those people who’d over the years flit into and then out of my life, leaving a warm, if ephemeral, impression before fading back into the ether. At best, Jea-Hyoun was a wistful memory for a rainy day.

But fate intervened when we ran into each other a couple of years ago at a medical clinic in Sacramento. 

When I approached to say hello, she shot me a dirty look. Later, she told me she had assumed I was a random guy trying to hit on her. To be fair, Jea-Hyoun wasn’t herself that day; she was at the clinic getting tested for thyroid cancer. But giving her the benefit of the doubt, and thinking that I had nothing to lose, I messaged her on Facebook that night, and we agreed to meet at a local Italian place. 

Over ravioli, we rehashed our experiences at the Farm. She enjoyed the scientific rigor of being a biology major, while I appreciated that human biology emphasized the humanities. She wished she had studied abroad, while I should’ve studied less, period. We stayed until closing time, but the strands of conversation that began that evening continue through the present day.

The ensuing courtship has been a whirlwind of new memories. A bumpy first meeting with her parents. Tango lessons in Buenos Aires. And an engagement at Point Lobos State Reserve. Shortly after we started dating, I also held her hand at a follow-up appointment where the endocrinologist gave her the good news that, no, she did not have thyroid cancer. 

While our story may have a certain aw-shucks quality, in my mind it’s also a sly nod to what we were told during Commencement: that, despite our best efforts, Stanford stays with us for the rest of our lives. 

So, thank you, Stanford. For the memories. And for the education. But most important, thank you for introducing me to my future wife—even if she doesn’t remember.

Charles Feng, ’04, will marry Jea-Hyoun Kim, ’04, in May.

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