30 August YEAR 22
Can anyone remember the moment they fell in love? Can anyone predict the moment their love will end? What could be the reason that humans don’t have the ability to recognize those moments? And why was I given the power to return all of those things?
The car comes to a sudden stop, the headlights flash, crashing, bouncing, falling. I did nothing but stand defenseless in the face of all of those moments. I heard no sound and felt no sensations. It was summer, but the wind seemed cold. There was the sound of something tumbling along the street. Then there was the scent of flowers. Only then did a sense of reality come to me. The bouquet of Smeraldo flowers fell from my hand. She was laying there in the middle of the street. There was blood flowing in between the strands of her hair. The dark red blood flower along the street. I thought, “If only I could turn back time.”
12 July YEAR 20
Past the school doors, the sound of cicadas prickled my ears. The school yard was crowded with kids laughing and playing and competing in races. It was the start of summer vacation and everyone was chattering/ I ducked my head and walked in between them. I wanted to leave as quickly as I could.
“Hyung.” I lifted my head surprised by the sudden appearance of someone’s shoulder. It was Hoseok and Jimin. They looked at me, their smiles as wide and bright as ever and their eyes full of mischief. “Today is the start of vacation, are you still going to leave?” Hoseok asked tugging at my arm. I muttered, “sure,” and a few more meaningless words, then turned my head away. What had happened that day was clearly an accident. It wasn’t intentional. I hadn’t imagined that Jungkook and Yoongi would be in the storage room at that time. The principal suspected that I was covering for my dangsaengs. I had to say something. But in the end Yoongi had gotten expelled. Nobody knew that I had been the complicit.
“Have a good vacation hyung! I’ll call you.” Maybe having interpreted my expression, Hoseok let his hand drop slightly and forced an even brighter greeting. I couldn’t answer this time either. There was nothing I could say. As I passed the school gate, I thought of the first day I had come in this school. We had all been punished for tardiness together. We could laugh because of it. I had ruined these moments.
15 June YEAR 22
I was aware of anything other than the sound of music playing in my head. Not how much I had drunk, nor where I was, nor what I had been doing. I didn’t know, and it wasn’t important. When I went outside, stumbling, it was already night. I swayed as I walked. I bumped into pedestrians, news kiosks, walls. I didn’t care. I just wanted to forget everything.
Jimin’s voice was still ringing in my ears. “Hyung, Jungkook…” My next memory was of running like crazy up the hospital steps. The hospital hall had been strangely long and dark. I passed people wearing hospital gowns. My heart pounded. Everyone’s faces were too pale. They had no expressions. They all seemed like dead people. The sound of my breathing was harsh inside my own head.
Inside the slightly opened hospital room door. Jungkook was lying there. I turned my head without realizing it. I couldn’t look at him. At that moment I was suddenly heard the sound of a piano, of flames, of a building crumbling down. I clutched my head and sank down. “This is your fault. If it wasn’t for you…” It was my mother’s voice- no my voice- no someone’s voice. At those words I was tormented by countless moments. I wanted to believe it wasn’t so. But Jungkook was lying there. Jungkook was lying in a hall full of corpse like patients passing by, I was utterly unable to go inside. I couldn’t check for myself. When I stood, my legs threatened to give out. I left with tears flowing. It was funny. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had cried.
I went to cross the street, but someone grabbed my arm and I came to a halt. Who was it? No, I didn’t care. No matter who it was, it was all the same. Don’t come near me. Go away. Just leave me be. I don’t want to hurt you either. I don’t want to be hurt. So please, don’t come any closer.
12 June YEAR 19
I thoughtlessly ditched school, but truthfully I didn’t have anywhere to go. It was hot. I had no money, and I had nothing to do. It was Namjoon who said we should go to the beach. The younger kids seemed excited, but I didn’t particularly feel like it, nor did I dislike the idea. “Do we have money?” At my question Namjoon made everyone shake out their pockets. A few coins, a few bills. “So we can’t go.” The one who said we could just walk was probably Taehyung. Namjoon made a face begging them to reconsider, but the kids just chattered away laughing and pretending to roll around on the road before starting to walk. I wasn’t in the mood to talk back so I just fell behind. It was midday, so even the gingko trees couldn’t provide shade, and the cars kicked up dust as they passed us on the sidewalkless road.
“Let’s go there.” It was Taehyung this time too. Or was it Hoseok? I didn’t care so I didn’t look carefully, but it would have been one of them. I had been walking along with my head down, kicking dirt. When I almost collided with someone I lifted my head. Jimin was standing there as if frozen in place. The muscles in his face trembled as if had seen something terrifying. He was staring at a sign that said “Flowering Arboretum, 2.2 kilometers.
“I didn’t want to walk.” I heard Jungkook’s voice. Sweat dripped from Jimin’s face. He went pale, as if he might collapse at any second. What is it? I had a strange feeling. “Park Jimin.” I called, but as I expected he didn’t budge. I lifted my head again and looked at the sign.
“Hey, it’s so hot. Why would we go to an arborem? Let’s go to the beach.” I said as if dragging my feet. I didn’t know what kind of place the arboretum was, but it didn’t seem like we should go. Whatever the reason, Jimin’s expression was strange. “We don’t even have money.” Hoseok replied. “That’s why we’re walking.” And Taehyung added, “If we just walk to the train station we can probably make it.” Then Namjoons said, “Instead we’ll just starve at dinner.” Jungkook and Taehyung pretended to cry, and Seokjin hyung laughed. Jimin only started to move again once it was decided that we would take the road toward the train station. Walking with his head down and his shoulders trembling, Jimin seemed like a small child. I looked up at the sign again. The characters spelling “Flowering Arboretum” were gradually getting further away.
13 July YEAR 22
I rested my head against the bus window. From the library to the gas station. The scenery passed by the window, almost frighteningly familiar since I took this route everyday. Would there come a day I could leave this scenery behind? I felt that it was impossible to predict what tomorrow would bring, nor to hope for anything.
I could that there was a woman sitting in front of me, her hair tied with a yellow rubber band. Her shoulders lifted and then dropped as if she was sighing. Then she rested her head against the window. For around a month already, we had studied at the same library and gotten on the bus at the same stop. We hadn’t spoken a word to each other, but we looked at the same scenery and lived on the same time and sighed the same sighs. The hair tie was still in my pant’s pocket.
The woman always got off the bus three stops before I did. Every time I saw her leave, I wondering if she was going to distribute fliers. What kind of time was she spending, what kind of things was she enduring? How strongly did she feel stifled at the thought that tomorrow might not come, or that from the beginning there had never been such a thing as tomorrow? I thought things like that.
The woman’s stop began to approach. Someone pressed the stop request button and other passengers for up from their seats. But in the midst of this, that woman didn’t stir. She just stayed in her seat, her head against the window. It seemed like she was asleep. Should I go and wake her? I fought with myself for a moment. The bus approached the stop. The woman didn’t move. People disembarked. The door closed and the bus started to move.
The woman didn’t wake, even as we passed the next three stops. As I moved to the bus door I fought with myself again. It was clear that once I got off the bus, no one else would pay attention to her. She would wake up somewhere far from her stop, and it was impossible to know how much more tired she would be today because of it.
I left the bus stop and started to walk toward the gas station. The bus took off and I didn’t look back. I had left the hair tie on top of her bag, but that was it. That wasn’t a beginning, and as such nor was it an end. It was nothing to start with and there was no reason for it to be anything. So I thought it really didn’t matter.
17 December YEAR 21
The people waiting for the bus rubbed their hands together in the cold. I looked down at the dirt, clutching the strap of my bag. I was trying to not make eye contact with anyone. It was a countryside village where only two buses stopped per day. From a distance, I saw the first bus approaching.
I boarded the bus behind everyone else. I didn’t look back. When I was passionate about something, when I barely had something in my grasp, when I had nothing left but things to escape- I had conditions. I wasn’t to look back. The moment I looked back the efforts I’d made until now became little more than seafoam. Looking back, that was a kind of suspicion, a kind of lingering attachment, and a kind of fear. Only when I had overcome these things could I finally escape.
The bus started off. I had no plans. I had nothing I was passionate about, nothing in my group, no particular reason to escape. It was closer to thoughtlessly running away from my mother’s tired face, my wandering sibling, my father’s illness, starting with the situation in our house that grew more difficult with every passing day, from my family, who enforced sacrifice and tranquility, and from me who pretended to know nothing and restrained myself trying to adjust and grow resigned. And most of all from away from poverty.
If anyone asked if it’s a crime to be poor, everyone would say it’s not. But is that really the truth? Poverty gnaws on so many things. Things that were precious become meaningless. You give up things you can’t give up. You grow suspicious and fearful and resigned.
The bus would arrive at a familiar stop in a few hours. When I left from that place a year ago I had left no message behind. And now I was returning with no sign or warning. I tried to recall my friend’s faces. I had cut off contact with all of the. What were they all doing these days? Would they be glad to see me? Would we be able to get together and laugh the way we had back then? There was frost on the windows and I couldn’t see the scenery outside. On top of the frost, I slowly moved my finger.
“I have to survive.”
4 July YEAR 22
I stood in the hallway the whole time she was receiving first aid. Even though it was night, the hospital hallway was bustling with people. Moisture dripped from my hair, wet with sweat and rain. I dropped the bag I had taken off of her. A variety of things tumbled out of it. A few coins rolled away, and a ball pen and a towel. In the middle of it all was an airplane e-ticket. I picked it up and scanned it.
At that moment, the doctor called me. He said it was a mild concussion and nothing to worry about, and after a moment, she came out as well. “Are you okay?” She said that her head just hurt a little, and she took her bag from me. Then she spotted the e-ticket peeking out, and looked up at my face. I shifted my bag to my other shoulder and said that we should go, pretending that it was nothing. As we left the hospital it was raining as hard as ever. We stood side by side outside the door.
“Hoseok-ah” she said. It looked like she had something to say. “Wait a second. I’ll get an umbrella.” I ran off thoughtlessly into the rain. There was a convenience store in the distance. I knew that she had auditioned for an overseas dance team some time ago. The plane ticket meant that she had made it. I didn’t want to hear her say it. I didn’t have the confidence to congratulate her.
23 July YEAR 10
When I counted to three, I heard the sound of laughter like a hallucination. The next moment the young me passed by holding someone’s hand. I looked back quickly, but there was no one there except my classmates staring at me. “Hoseok-ah,” the teacher called my name. Only then I did realize where I was. It was a class field trip. I was counting the fruits that were drawn in the textbook. Five. Six. I kept counting, but as I did my voice trembled and my hands grew sweaty. The memory of that time kept surfacing.
I couldn’t clearly remember my mother’s face that day. I only remembered the chocolate bare she gave me as we looked around the amusement park. “Hoseok-ah. Count to ten and then open your eyes.” When I had finished counting and opened my eyes, my mother was gone. I waited and waited, but she never returned. I had only counted to nine. If I counted one more it would have been fine, but my voice wouldn’t come out. My ears were ringing and my surroundings grew cloudy. The teacher kept pointing, telling me to keep counting. My friends were staring at me. I couldn’t remember my mother’s face. It seemed like if I counted one more, my mother would really never come back for me.
Just like that, I collapsed to the ground.
4 July YEAR 22
By the time I returned to my senses, I had washed my arm so much that I was losing skin. My hands were trembling and I was short of breath. My eyes were bloodshot. What had just happened came back to me in fragments.
For a moment I had lost focus. I was dancing with a noon from the dance club, a collaborative dance, but I had lost my flow and we collided. I fell to the rough floor and my arm started to bleed. At that moment I had remembered what happened at the Flowering Arboretum. I thought that I had overcome it. But that wasn’t the case. I had to run away. I had to wash it away. I had to look away. The me in the mirror was the same eight-year-old kid who had run away in the rain. Then all at once I realized. Noona had fallen down too.
There was nothing I could do. All I could do was fall and hurt someone, leave them behind, and tremble at my own pain only to run after them too late with an umbrella before stopping. Every time I took a step rainwater soaked my sneakers. Car headlights passes me by. It wasn’t okay. No it was okay. It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t that serious of an injury. I was really okay.
19 May YEAR 22
In the end, I had to go to the Flowering Arboretum. I had quit telling myself the lie that I didn’t remember what happened there. I had to stop living in hiding in the hospital and stop having seizures. If I wanted to do that, I had to go to the place. With that intent, I went to the bus stop every day, but I couldn’t ride the bus to the arboretum.
Yoongi hyung came and sat next to me after I’d already let three buses go by. I asked what was up, and hyung said he was bored and had nothing to do. Then he asked why I was sitting here like this. I thought about why I was sitting here like this. It was because I had no courage. I wanted to pretend I was okay now, that I knew a little, that I surpass it on my own, but in truth I was afraid. I was afraid that I might encounter something that I might not withstand, that I might have another seizure.
Yoongi hyung looked relaxed. He slumped down like had not a thing in the world to worry him, and said that the weather was nice, said all kinds of useless things. After I heard that, I realized the weather really was nice. I had been so worried that I didn’t bother looking at my surroundings. The sky was so blue. A warm breeze blew on occasion. From far off, the shuttle bus for the arboretum was coming. The bus stopped and the door opened. The driver looked at me. On impulse I spoke,
“Hyung, do you want to come with me?”
17 July YEAR 22
My side hurt so badly it seemed to be tearing. Sweat fell in drops. In the nooks and crannies of the railroad in the vacant lot behind the convenience store under the overpass- the girl was nowhere to be found. I had even run to the bus stop, but as expected I didn’t see her. The people waiting for their buses looked at me strangely. What had happened? We hadn’t promised to meet, but it was still strange. That girl always appeared from somewhere and followed me around. Even if I told here it was annoying, it was no use. But now she was nowhere to be found, even in the places we used to go together.
I came to a familiar wall and slowed my steps. There was graffiti there we had drawn together. It was the first thing she had ever drawn. On top of it there was a large ‘X’ drawn. It was her. I hadn’t seen her do it, but I knew. Why? There was no response. Instead, several after images overlapped on the wall.
Her laughing at me after I had lain down on the railroad tracks and hit my head. Her helping me up after I’d fallen trying to help her run away, her angry expression when we passed in front of a photo studio with a family photo in the window. Her gaze following the students we passed by, unbeknownst even to her. As we had sprayed this wall together I had said, “If you have a problem tell me about it, don’t just grumble to yourself.” The ‘X’ was drawn over all of those memories. It seemed like it was saying all of it was fake. I had made my hands into fists. Why? Or course there was no response. I kept walking. We were alone again. Me and her.
20 March YEAR 20
I slid down the hallway, my feet making noisy sounds. Then I stopped. I could see Namjoon standing in front of ‘our classroom’. Our classroom. Nobody knew this, but I called that place our classroom. Me and the hyungs and Jungkook, it was ours. I caught my breath and approached. I was going to startle them.
“Principal!” I had barely taken five steps when I head an urgent voice through the open classroom window. It seemed like Seokjin hyung. I stopped walking. Was Seokjin hyung talking to the principal right now? In our classroom? Why? Then I heard my name and Yoongi hyung’s and I saw Namjoon hyung draw in a startled breath. As if having sensed it, Seokjin hyung suddenly opened the door. There was a phone in Seokjin hyung’s hand. His shock and confusion was plain on his face. I couldn’t see Namjoon hyung’s expression. I hid and watched. Seokjin hyung looked confused. “Hyung must have had a reason.” After he spoke, Namjoon hyung passed by Seokjin hyung and went into the classroom. I couldn’t believe it. Seokjin hyung told the principal what Yoongi hyung and I had done for the last several days. He told everything, about skipping class and climbing over the wall and fighting with other kids. But Namjoon hyung said that was all okay.
“What are you doing here?” I turned around in shock. It was Hoseok hyung and Jimin. Hoseok hyung pretended to be even more shocked, then slung his arm over my shoulders. In a moment of confusion, I let Hoseok hyung pull me into that classroom. Namjoon hyung and Seokjin hyung were talking, and they looked up. Seokjin hyung got up in a hurry and said something had come up. He left the classroom. I looked at Namjoon hyung’s expression. He had watched Seokjin hyung’s retreating back, but now he laughed as if nothing was wrong. At that moment, a thought occurred to me. Namjoon hyung must have had a reason. Because hyung knew more that me, and was smarter and older. And because this was our classroom, I went into the classroom smiling the foolish smile that the others teasingly called my square smile. I thought that I wouldn’t tell anyone else that I had overheard that conversation.
26 July YEAR 22
I sneakily broke a flower off the hospital’s wreath. I kept laughing and having to bow my head to hide it. The midsummer sunlight was blindingly bright. I knocked on the hospital room door, but there was no reply. I knocked again. No one was there. It was only full of a very quiet darkness.
I left the hospital room. I had met here here when I was bored and stifled and pushing my wheelchair like crazy up and down the hallway. She had appeared so suddenly that I barely had time to stop, and there she stood, a girl with her hair tied up in a ponytail. When I left the hospital I saw a bench. I remembered we had listened to music together and drawn, sitting there. I was still holding the wildflower in my hand, there was no one to give it to.
30 September YEAR 20
“Jeon Jungkook. You’re not still going there, are you?” I didn’t answer. I just stood there staring at the toes of my shoes. When I didn’t answer he hit me on the head with the attendance file. But even so, I didn’t open my mouth. It was the classroom I used with the hyungs. After the day I had followed the hyungs around and we had discovered that classroom. There wasn’t a single day I hadn’t gone. Maybe the hyungs didn’t know. Sometimes they didn’t come because they had other plans or were busy with part-time jobs. I hadn’t seen either Seokjin hyung or Yoongi hyung in a few days. But not me. I didn’t skip a single day. There were days when nobody came at all. But that’s okay. Even if it wasn’t today, then they would come tomorrow, and if not tomorrow then the day after. It was okay.
“You only learned bad things following them around.” He hit me again. I lifted my gaze and looked at hi,. He hit me again. The image came to me of Yoongi hyung hitting me. I gritted my teeth and endured. I didn’t want to lie and say I hadn’t been going.
Now I was standing again in front of that classroom. It seemed like the hyungs would be there if I opened the door. It seemed like they would look up from the fame they were playing and ask me why I was so late. Seokjin hyung and Namjoon hyung would be reading books, Yoongi hyung would be playing the piano, and Hoseok hyung and Jimin hyung would be dancing.
But when I opened the door, only Hoseok hyung was there. He was cleaning up the things we had left behind in the classroom. I held the door handle and just stood there. Hyung came over and put his arm around my shoulders. Then he led me outside. “Let’s go.” The classroom door closed behind us. I suddenly realized- those days were gone and they would never return.