Picked Up In Winter <31>
After hearing what I said, he didn’t speak for a good while. I also couldn’t say more than that. I just bit my trembling lips and waited for him to continue speaking.
Why wasn’t he saying anything? Did he not remember me? No, aside from remembering, I didn’t even reveal who I was. Then he should at least ask who I am, no? Why wasn’t he saying anything.
I thought that maybe, he was taken aback due to my actions, who took his words that were just out of politeness too seriously. That’s why he couldn’t easily answer now while looking for words of refusal.
Like that, my mind was full of only negative thoughts.
If he refused, I really would have nowhere to go. Even though I didn’t run away this time, I still had nowhere to go. This… was the real start of wandering/feeling lost. Just when I was about to laugh at my self-deprecating thoughts.
He calmly opened his mouth.
“… You couldn’t be.”
Saying so, the end of his voice slightly trembled.
…… He remembered.
And at that, even my name.
At that moment, I was somewhat relieved and slowly lost the strength in my lips I had been still biting. Through the gap of my lips, I exhaled the long supressed breath. With the sound of rough breathing, haa haa, the sobs I had been holding back escaped.
“What’s wrong? Did you leave Jun Hyung’s house?”
“Hey… Wait. Wait a minute. Are you now, maybe, crying? What is it? What happened?”
“…… place to go.”
“… don’t have… I… place to go…….”
Like a person that went crazy, I mumbled those words over and over. As if he was lost for words, he closed his mouth for a while.
Only after a long time has passed, in a low voice did he quietly say.
“…… Where are you now?”
Han Sangryeol, alumni from Jun Hyung’s junior high school.
After I told him where I was and hung up the phone, it occured to me… I wondered if I did the right thing.
Anyway, he was a person related to Jun Hyung. Was it really wise to form a relationship with him? From now on, I intended to live dismissing everything that happened when I had been living in his house as a dream. I was intending to live believing that nothing had been real.
…… If I didn’t do that, there might come a day where I’d run to that house without realizing. I was afraid of that. Sometimes, when I would be really missing his face, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to resist. So let’s get rid of the root right from the beginning. I thought as such.
So while just standing in front of the front door of the apartment complex where I had made the call, waiting for him, my mood was unspeakably complicated. I kept hesitating, glaring at the luggage below my feet with a piercing look.
What should I do? Should I just run away like this? If it’s now, it still wouldn’t be too late.
…… But where?
Finally, with the counter-question that came from the depths of my heart, I couldn’t move a step as if I had been nailed to the spot. Only then had I realized for the first time. It was a big difference between thoughtlessly not wanting to go home then, and not having a house to return to now. I was really lonely. I haven’t even had the time now (to spare) to wander around thoughlessly. What I needed at this time was someone who would call me ‘Hagil’. Therefore, I wanted to feel that I existed in the reality with the whole of my body. Someone who would make me feel that, I needed that person now.
I wished I had a place to return to…… wherever was okay. I wanted to believe that there was a place I could go back to.
I heard a voice call out to me.
I slowly lifted my eyes that had been staring at the luggage bag and looked in the direction where the voice had come from. Han Sangryeol, whom I had met once before, was running towards me. I was just blankly watching his figure.
“Haaa… haaa. The hell……”
He ran all the way to me and breathed violently.
“What’s wrong? Don’t tell me you were kicked out of Jun Hyung’s house? Eh?”
“Hey there. Hagil-hyung? What is going on?”
“… Say something. The frustration is driving me crazy.”
I just watched him for a while, then slowly opened my mouth.
“Nowhere to go…”
“I can’t go to that house anymore…….”
Even I could feel that my voice, that had said this, sounded really empty, similar to how my heart has been feeling. He just stood there, stared at me dumbly, and didn’t ask anything else.
And so, his house where we’ve went after, and where he was living alone, was a one-room apartment. I stood there for a while, not being able to easily bring myself to step inside. Then he mumbled out of the blue, ‘Well, it’s cramped so it might be a little uncomfortable…’ and went in by himself. For a moment, I just stared at his back and then slowly followed after him.
The floor was littered with books, clothes and other clutter all over, and each time I walked I kicked something. While making my utmost effort in trying to avoid them, I awkwardly entered the house. But when I put my bag down in a corner and turned around, I couldn’t but hesitate for a bit about where to sit.
“What’re you doing? Sit down.”
Then he swept away the things that were next to me with his hands and made a room where one person could sit.
I sat there in a perfectly awkward movement.
Seeing me sit down in that seat from his corner of the eye, he asked ‘Wanna at least watch TV?’, and turned on the computer at his desk.
But when I saw the table, I remembered something I didn’t want to and looked away. Sitting in the chair, he turned on the TV screen, looked at me, who had his head turned, and asked with a puzzled look.
I didn’t respond. In fact, I couldn’t respond.
He looked at me, who was like that, with a weird look, then searched his drawer and took out a pack of cigarettes. He soon took one out, bit it, and turned on the lighter to light it. Huu-he let out a long drag of smoke before asking while looking at me.
“Do you want to smoke one, too, hyung?”
I stared at him silently and slowly nodded my head. He casually asked ‘Is that so?’ and turned his face back to the computer. The small room was soon filled with the acrid cigarette smoke.
I crept back, streching my body, and sat in a corner with my back against the wall. The TV program I usually watched with Jun Hyung in the living room, in this small room full of cigarette smoke, appeared distorted.
Somehow, one spot in my heart throbbed unbearably, so I just lowered my head. That’s how our cohabitation started.
Throughout the time we lived together, he was kind to me. No, in fact rather than kindness, it might be better to say that he made it relaxing. Anyway, he was nice. That was what I was desperately in a need of at this moment.
From his point of view, I was just a mere <baggage> that was living off of him. But he told me, who was such a burden, that I could stay until I wanted to. Although he laughed and said that it’s lonely to be alone anyway, these words were like a salvation for me who had nowhere to go right now. But even so, because I knew there were certain limitations to living together, I had to mull it over from now on. How we’ll spend it from now on was way too unknown.2
The first realistic question that came to me was if I should quit school as is and get a job or keep attending it…. If you don’t graduate from high school, there was zero chance to get a decent position. But even then, I didn’t have the ability to attend school for 1 more year even if I did continue. It was a really hopeless reality. In fact, I didn’t even have the desire to live, I was just enduring it day by day blindly, so what the hell should I do in this kind of situation?
Fortunately, Han Sangryeol never blamed the me who was like that. He didn’t even interfere. Just when it was time to eat, he only called me to go eat, and lived as if I hadn’t even been there from the very beginning. While occupying the same space with him like this, something like affection formed in its own way.
He who was so considerate to me, and even though his eyes didn’t reveal kindness, and although he earnestly helped support the me, who had nowhere to go, I didn’t actually feel the same way I had felt when I first met Jun Hyung.
I just felt apologetic. Why were you so good to me who you didn’t know at all… I felt like asking, I just felt grateful to him for being so good to me.
What struck me suddenly was what Seon Hyung-nuna had said to me.
‘What activates Jun Hyung’s affection code doesn’t seem to be just a simple <puppy>.’
…… Was that so. Was not the activation of my own affection code also just a simple <kindness>?
When I thought like that, the inside of my heart became more chillingly sore, so I tried not to think about him.3 I also tried hard to dissmiss/avoid any thoughts about mother.
When my eyes were open, I was pretty okay. It felt like the inside of my heart was completely emptied, but I had the habit of not remembering the things I didn’t want to think about in my consciousness. However, I was used to this. Still, the future was too bleak, and again lonely… whenever I opened my eyes, I managed to somehow or another get through it.
But the problem was the time when falling asleep.
No matter how much I am me, I couldn’t do anything about the unconscious stream of thoughts. Rather, trying not to think of things consciously, it got more intense in the unconscious world. It was not even a whole day since I last dreamed about my mother and him.
If I dream about mother today, the next day it’s going to be about him. It was a pretty painful time. When I woke up from my sleep and opened my eyes, I was always crying like a wreck.
…… Eventually, I started to fear the time for sleeping.
Since there was only one room in the apartment, Sangryeol always turned off the lights when going to bed. So I went to the bathroom when he fell asleep. Under the orange light, I wanted to somehow spend the time, so I read a textbook thoughtlessly. Other than that I didn’t really have a book I wanted to read, and I also couldn’t afford to sit there and study. I didn’t want to think about anything. And so I just read a textbook mindlessly. I endured until I could endure, and once I reached my limit, I fell asleep without realization. Then I woke up in tears once again.
The days continued in such a painful way like this. But I didn’t know how else to live. At this rate, it will get better someday. I just thought so passively. I think I’ve heard that among the things that happen to us there doesn’t exist something that can be referred to as an unbearable pain, if I endure it day by day like this, will it get better someday?
I grabbed my throbbing head from the lack of sleep and just hoped that such day would come sooner.
Then one early morning. Sangryeol quietly opened the bathroom door and came in.
I was a little surprised. And like a child caught up in a bad deed, the moment he opened the door and came in, my body shook and I ended up covering the book I had been reading.
He just silently watched me with a look that seemed even more painful than mine.
“What the hell is with you…….”
Suddenly, he let out a supressed voice.
“What’s so hard…… Why are you living this totteringly…….”
I had no words.
In fact, after coming to this house I have never had a serious conversation with him. He didn’t ask, I didn’t speak. As if it was an extension of my life in Jun Hyung’s house, I only spent the days like that.
While I was hesitating about how to reply, he suddenly walked with big strides up to in front me. Then hugged my head tightly.
At that moment, the pungent smell of cigarettes penetrated my nose and I blinked a little.
Ahhh, I shouldn’t fall asleep, I kept thinking and ended up falling asleep like that.
When I opened my eyes, the foggy smoke of cigarettes was again filling the room. I had returned to the reality with the dream I was still deeply longing for.
When I got up with my blank head, he glanced at me.
“Are you awake?”
I nodded my head softly at his question. It was really fortunate I didn’t wake up today with the unsightly tears…… I thought.
He mumbled and took a smoke again. Empty cigarette packs laid around in the room. He was constantly smoking as if he was a chimney.
“… It’s not good for you.”
Eventually, I spoke meddling a little unable to watch on anymore. Then he glanced at me and spoke again.
“Stress also isn’t good for you.”
It was better to just keep my mouth shut. So I just got up straight from my seat, lost in thought. Whenever my eyes were open, I always worried about the future. But he suddenly opened his mouth again quietly.
“…… I’m saying.”
“I was almost kicked out of my house.”
…… what is he on about so suddenly.
At his unexpected story I opened my eyes wide. He didn’t even look in my direction, squashed the filter of the remaining cigarette into the ashtray and with ptui, spat.
“My dad is a teacher at school.”
“He’s very conservative, and reputation is his first priority.”
“So, he seems to have decided that he would rather not have a youngest son who can’t study and just causes trouble. I was kicked out from such place.”
He spoke casually, shrugging. Seeing that exaggerated gesture, I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t understand why he was talking about this.
He took out a cigarette again, held it in his mouth, lighted it up and continued.
“It seems like that person, probably feeling some guilt as a father, sends me a lot of money for a monthly living cost. That money is more than I would be able to spend alone, even if I spent it frivolously.”
“Anyway, it’s the compensation money for kicking me out, so if I didn’t spend it all every month, it would be somehow unfair. It also takes me a lot to spend all alone…….”
“If someone helped me…… I’m saying…….”
He ended his words oddly and looked at me.
I knew what he wanted to say now. But my throat was dry, choked, I couldn’t say anything.
Why the hell… are you so nice to me. Now, such a kindness, honestly, I couldn’t afford to thank and accept it.
I really found myself, who was trying to relieve this pain by leaning on someone, disgusting and detestable.
But I spoke in a suppressed voice quietly.
“I was so distressed when he called me Happy…….”
“…… You mean Jun Hyung?”
“It was really so hard for me to be seen by him as some other existence……”
“It…… was really straining…… I……”
“… That’s enough.”
He quietly cut off the words I had a hard time mumbling. And in a somewhat pained voice, he faintly murmured.
“… I understand what you’re trying to say.”
After that, I opened my heart to him a little.
It was a start of a new semester. I ended up going to school. Although I still hadn’t decided on whether to continue or not with school, Sangryeol who I have become a little closer with since that day pushed me to continue going to school. So, I decided to keep attending for now. On the first day of school, he saw me in my school uniform and muttered a little surprised.
‘… What. That’s Jun Hyung’s school.’
Then didn’t say anything. In fact, since I haven’t mentioned anything about Jun Hyung after that day, he also didn’t bring anything related to him up.
… there’s another thing I didn’t tell him.
It was about my mother’s death. I didn’t want others to know about her death. Her death, which still didn’t feel real─I couldn’t even attend her funeral─because as soon as I told others, it would have become real, and I felt like that’d break my heart. So I intended to never tell anyone my whole life.
After we said goodbye to each other like that, I went to school, and the classroom became a little noisy upon my appearance. I could hear whispering voices from here and there. Strangely, however, it was just a sound of chattering, not even a single word entered my ears. It was really astounding. While thinking so, I sat down at my desk.
Then suddenly, one word flew into my ears.
“Someone saw him hanging out with Jo Jun Hyung’s group.”
…… It was his name.
I felt like my heart was sinking but I forced myself to stay calm. However, once you hear a word, it continues to haunt you.
“You mean the bad first-year students?”
“Seems like it. I thought he was a well-behaved honour student, but he even ran away from home… Anyway, these days, people who study well are scarier.”
“Hey, hey. But I’ve recently seen that Jo Jun Hyung in Bupyeong every day?”
“Huu, so what. I heard it’s fate if you meet three times, so are you now Jo Jun Hyung’s destined partner4?”
“Nut. That’s not it, Jo Jun Hyung has been sitting alone on the bench on Culture Street5 every day these days?”
“Eh? Why there?”
“No idea. Whenever I have to go to the private institute, I have no choice but to pass by there, so I can’t but be bothered when he’s sitting there always so miserably. It feels just like getting hit by the wind.”
“Did he catch lovesickness?”
They soon giggled and moved onto another small talk like it wasn’t important.
But I was so surprised that I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even think about anything.
But it felt like my heart burned from suffocation.
At the Culture Street, that’s where he picked me up.
That evening. I went out for the first time since I came to Sangryol’s house. The moment I suddenly started to put on clothes to go outside, he asked me, who had had only ever stayed at home, with inquiring eyes.
“Where are you… going?”
But I couldn’t answer honestly. After agonizing over what to say, I was unable to find any particular excuse, and made up a clumsy one.
“To get some fresh air.”
… That was the best I could do.
He looked at me with a very doubtful expression at my words and scrutinized me but didn’t ask me any more and just said he got it. So, firstly, I could get out of that house.
When I came out, the wind was still cold, as was the weather. I slowly walked toward the Culture Street. But as the place where I have met him grew closer, my steps also grew heavier. As if I had fallen into a swamp, with each step it was harder and harder to lift my feet. When I finally reached the corner of the Culture Street, my feet stopped in their tracks.
My heart was beating like crazy.
I lifted my trembling hand and slowly leaned out facing toward the alley.
On the bench I had sat then, I saw someone sitting there.
But I couldn’t see the face well. I went a little closer. I still couldn’t see. I went even closer.
…… It was Jun Hyung…!
The moment I finally confirmed that it was his side profile, unconsciously I felt like bursting into tears right there, and I had to lift my hand to block my mouth. Then the tears flowed down uncontrollably.
On the bench I had previously sat, he was sitting there now. With a face that had somewhat become thinner, and with an expression like he was desperately waiting for someone, he was sat there.
When I saw him like that, I was overcome with unbearable heartache.
Did he come here everyday after I had left? Has he always been waiting for me here?
When I thought that, my heart seemed to be mixed with affection/longing and regret.
…… However. No matter how long you wait there, Happy won’t come back anymore. Happy is no more. The Happy you’re waiting for, doesn’t exist anywhere now…….
So, I beg you, do not wait…….
I slowly moved my trembling body and went back to the corner. I only leaned my back against the wall and without a sound continued crying.
Until he returned home, I couldn’t move one step from there.
1) Heuk – Onomatopoeia for sobbing/crying. Onomatopoeia, the bane of my existence lol.
2) But even so, because I knew there were certain limitations to living together,… – Not sure about this last part, the Korean is ‘하지만 그렇다고 해도 이것은 너무나 한계가 명백한 동거라는 것을 알기 때문에, 나는 앞으로 살 궁리를 해야 했다. 앞으로 어떻게 지낼지가 너무나 막막하다.’ if anyone wants to know.
3) When I thought like that, the inside of my heart… – Also not completely sure, the Korean is ‘그렇게 생각하자, 더더욱 가슴속이 싸하니 아려와, 나는 그에 대한 생각을 하지 않으려고 노력했다.’ if anyone wants to know.
4) patner – ‘상대’ – can also mean opponent, rival etc.
5) Bupyeong Culture Street – A place in Incheon city:
Oof, this was a long chapter… Just two more and the epilogue~~