Jongdae looks at the others in the living room. He's been hiding inside his room for the past two days. Sure, they've been trying to drag him out of the safety of his room, but Jongdae can't. As if it's not enough to be in the limelight constantly when they're promoting. Everything outside his own, small room is dangerous and he can't. The only reason he's even looking out into the living room is because the loneliness is eating him up alive. There's just this small, very important detail that Jongdae can't be with the others. They'll get bored of him, they'll find him absolutely horrible, they'll ask themselves why they're even spending time with him - and Jongdae rather they just didn't think of him at all. He closes the door silently in front of him and is left in his safety, the only place where the world hates him but at the same time doesn't. The only place where people aren't going to badmouth him, the only place where he can be alone even though he doesn't want to.
It's not that there's something out to get him, it's just ... people. And Jongdae really doesn't like it when there are people around him. He can't tell you exactly what started it but he knows when and he isn't sure it's ever going to disappear. But Jongdae doesn't hate people. Not at all. No, in fact, he wishes he could be more than what he is. Which is why he usually avoids all people because isolating is so much easier, so much safer, than looking at what could have been if only he had been different. If only he had better with people. But Jongdae isn't so right now he ignores the pain inside, the little voice that constantly tells him how bad he is, how his social skills are lower than lowest. He sighs and sits on his bed and stares into the white wall in front of him.
When he first became a trainee he had decorated his walls with posters, inspirations, quotes. Everything was there, ready to be shown to the world, ready to motivate him. This was his dream afterall. This was everything he wanted. When he had to move in with EXO when they started training for their debut he hadn't been bothered to put it all up again, so he'd only put up a poster or two, just to make his room seem personal. Now there is nothing decorating his walls, they're white, pale, just there. Just like Jongdae. There's no passion left, no motivation. And sure, Jongdae still wants to sing, he still sings in the safety of his room and enjoys it. But before he'd been happy, he'd been with people, he'd been there. Jongdae had at least tried to make friends.
He still remembers. That fateful day in elementary school, 10-year-old Jongdae and there they'd been, all his classmates. Yet instead of talking to him they had all ignored him. He'd tried everything, a joke, a serious conversation. He'd said 'hi', he'd tried to be a part of all the fun and nobody saw him. Jongdae isn't sure what happened overnight, but he was pretty sure his classmates hated him. It went on like that and 10-year-old Jongdae apparently never got over it. The feeling of being insignificant still sits in him, still waits to eat him alive everytime he leaves his room and try to talk to people. He'd been sure he'd gotten better during middle school, hell, he even found friends. But friends aren't friends anymore.
He knows what they say about him. The jokester, the pranker, a part of Beagle line - but he's not. Nobody knows because nobody sees them in the dorm. Jongdae isn't awfully aware of how he manages to stay alive with his heart beating a thousand miles a minute whenever he steps in public or how he manages to sing without breaking on the stage when his hands are shaking and he's sweating like no one else. He doesn't know how the fans don't see it how he avoids speaking in interviews and how they don't notice that his voice stutters whenever he does say anything but it's all good because that means no questions - and no questions is better than a lot of questions, a lot of questions Jongdae can't answer.
Someone knocks on his door and opens it slightly. Yixing sends him a smile and tells him that there's dinner and that he should join them tonight unlike the last three evenings. To be fair though, Jongdae has had schedules the two out of three evenings, so it's not like he had a choice. Had Jongdae actually had a choice, he would've chosen his room where he could be safe. He nods and lets Yixing know that he's aware of dinner. Jongdae gets up from the bed and when he opens his door he stares at the floor of the hallway. It's like the floor is lava and every step can send him into hell, he'll die if he takes a wrong step, they'll all think badly of him if he says a wrong word or slurp a little too loudly on the noodles. Out there everything he does is dangerous because there's a standard that Jongdae can't even hope to live up to.
He takes a deep breath and takes the step out and it feels like he's free-falling. He isn't. His hands become a little clammy as he slowly moves into the kitchen. Sehun pushes past him and Jongdae almost clings to the wall. He's too big, he takes up too much space in the small hallway. Jongdae closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. This is ridiculous. He's gotten through years in the spotlight, he's a part of EXO. Why is it so difficult to move from his room to the kitchen?
It's noisy in the kitchen, nobody really noticing him when he slinks into the last chair as silently as possible because he can't make a noise, can't make himself actually seen. That will only make matters worse. His hands are shaking a little when he picks up his chopsticks and Jongdae takes another deep breath. All he needs is to eat a small portion and he'll be free to go. He can always get another portion if he's hungry later on when everybody is sleeping and the night is saving him from everyone. He knows how ridiculous it is when Chanyeol shouts at Baekhyun who shouts back at him and Kyungsoo glares at them while Joonmyun silences them because he has a headache. Jongdae shouldn't be tongue-tied but he is because there are so many people around him and it's almost too much, it reminds him constantly of what he does and how he acts and it's horrible. When he finally leaves the dinner he hasn't even eaten his one portion and he's definitely still hungry but he couldn't, he can't stay with them anymore. Too many people.
Back in his room Jongdae scolds himself for being so ridiculous. What person can't handle a dinner with their band members? He's known them for so long, for so horribly long, so what on earth is wrong with him. It's pretty safe to say that Jongdae hates himself but hating himself is not going to make him any more social because why would anyone be with someone that hates themselves?
"'Morning Jongdae, can't you do me a favor and get some more painkillers?" Joonmyun greets him the moment Jongdae steps out of his bedroom the next morning at 5 AM in the hopes that he could eat breakfast before the others. He's about to ask why Joonmyun is awake right now but catches himself in time and nods instead. Body language is better than words. Words are dangerous. It doesn't take a lot of time to get dressed but as soon as Jongdae actually leaves the dorm he feels his heart speed up. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He's pretty sure he's going to faint as he waits for the elevator and his clammy hands as the elevator takes him down isn't helping any better. He feels
He feels sweat run down his neck even though it's 4 degrees outside and feels his tongue swell in his mouth. A deep breath isn’t helping him and as Jongdae enters the grocery store he finds himself in a small corner, staring at the water in the refrigerator, just trying to focus and calm down. He avoids the panic attack but then he remembers what he has to buy. Painkillers. Painkillers are over-the-counter. Over-the-counter means he has to speak to the store clerk and Jongdae really doesn’t want to. But he also promised Joonmyun to fetch him some painkillers and he can’t leave the store until he has bought them. He can’t come home empty-handed. Jongdae wanders around between the aisles for what feels like years while he tries to find the words. He’s supposed to say ‘hey, I would like a package of painkillers’ and the clerk will say ‘Sure’. The clerk will then reach for the painkillers, scan them and put them on the desk while he says their price and Jongdae will most definitely have found the money beforehand. Jongdae is going to pay, take the painkillers and leave. That’s how it’s supposed to go. That’s the manuscript. So he braces himself, lowers his head and the clerk may think he just doesn’t want to get recognized but Jongdae really just doesn’t want to look at him. Eye contact is horribly scary and it’ll only have him stutter more.
Jongdae wanders around between the aisles for what feels like years while he tries to find the words. He’s supposed to say ‘hey, I would like a package of painkillers’ and the clerk will say ‘Sure’. The clerk will then reach for the painkillers, scan them and put them on the desk while he says their price and Jongdae will most definitely have found the money beforehand. Jongdae is going to pay, take the painkillers and leave. That’s how it’s supposed to go. That’s the manuscript. So he braces himself, lowers his head and the clerk may think he just doesn’t want to get recognized but Jongdae really just doesn’t want to look at him. Eye contact is horribly scary and it’ll only have him stutter more.
“I… I would like a package of painkillers,” he says and it’s almost smooth. Except the clerk hasn’t read the script when chews on his gum and looks at Jongdae curiously and asks ‘what kind?’ Jongdae panics. What is he supposed to say? He feels his heart speed up again, he feels his hands shaking and becoming clammy and he almost drops his wallet as he swallows lump after lump in his throat, trying to force the words out. It feels like hours while the clerk stares judgingly at him until he gets a short ‘the cheapest’ out. He’s awful at being social. Absolutely awful. Who does this willingly? Another deep breath when the clerk turns around in his chair to take the medicine. Jongdae fumbles with his bills but he’s not going to stay here for longer than he already has been. It’ll only prove what
Another deep breath when the clerk turns around in his chair to take the medicine. Jongdae fumbles with his bills but he’s not going to stay here for longer than he already has been. It’ll only prove what horrible horrible person he is and just how bad he is at dealing with people. He doesn’t want to be around anyone right now.
“3200 won,” the clerk says and Jongdae starts and hands him a 10.000 won bill because that’s what he holds in his hands right now. The clerk sends him a look and Jongdae instantly crumbles. He did something bad. Maybe he paid too little but when he’s handed his 6800 won spare change and the medicine he takes off so fast he doesn’t even put the money back in his wallet. Jongdae has a lot of spare change in his jacket pockets, he doesn’t even know how many money he have accumulated on his way out of stores.
He almost runs home, he takes the stairs because waiting for the elevator is bringing back his anxiety and when he finally enters the dorm, he’s met with Joonmyun in the hallway. It takes seconds for Jongdae to hand over the pills before he disappears into his room and hides under his blanket. He’s pretty sure Joonmyun said thank you but he can’t be sure because he didn’t hear it. Not that he doesn’t understand it if the other didn’t say anything, who honestly would thank him for doing something that should be an everyday thing. He’s not supposed to be scared of grocery shopping. He didn’t succeed anything other than doing what he should have been able to do in the first place. Not good enough. He’s just not good enough when he can’t even succeed daily grown up life. Jongdae lets out a shaky sigh and stares into the darkness under his covers.
He’s not supposed to be scared of grocery shopping. He didn’t succeed anything other than doing what he should have been able to do in the first place. Not good enough. He’s just not good enough when he can’t even succeed daily grown up life. Jongdae lets out a shaky sigh and stares into the darkness under his covers.
Schedules are just as horrible as grocery shopping. Scratch that, schedules are so much worse. The vocal trainer is judging him as if he’s the worst singer she has ever had to help, Baekhyun and Kyungsoo are looking at him as if his voice is the worst in the world and Jongdae almost crumbles under the pressure. Dance practice is even worse, to have people see him move in every direction and to stare in the mirror. He can’t hide at all, exposed for all of the members to see, for them to judge the way he dances and Jongdae almost can’t stand it. But he has to.
The worst, however, is not the judging stares or being exposed in dance practice. No, the worst is going to and from schedules, meeting fans and smiling big and wide and being Chen. Jongdae doesn’t like Chen. He doesn’t like it when he’s not him and Chen is not him. Chen is confident and loud and awfully good at being social - Chen is everything Jongdae isn’t. And pretending is so extremely hard. Jongdae wishes he could go back to being a misfit, that way he wouldn’t have to care about being anything he isn’t. Right now there’s no way though, not with the way the fans are waving at him and trying to gain his attention. He forces a smile on his lips and waves back enthusiastically while anxiety bubbles in his stomach and his thoughts attack him like they do daily.
Jongdae knows everything, he’s thought it hundreds of time. Jongdae can’t be social, Jongdae doesn’t have any sincere friends, Jongdae is stupid, Jongdae is boring. Jongdae shouldn’t be around people because he bores them. It doesn’t make the longin any lesser when he sneak peeks out of his room again in the evening and hears Minseok talk to Luhan on the phone and sees Jongin and Taemin playing some stupid game on the playstation in the living room. They all have friends. Close friends, many friends. Acquaintances. All the things Jongdae doesn’t have and the only thing he really wants. And Jongdae really wants friends. He really wants that friendship with someone as well. He just can’t become friends with anyone because he’s Jongdae and Jongdae doesn’t do social nor is he worth the company.
“Hey, Jongdae, wanna come play with Baek and me?” Chanyeol says as he passes Jongdae’s room and catches the other in the doorway, hiding yet still looking jealously at his band members. But Jongdae can’t so he shakes his head.
“No, you’ll just get bored of me. Really.” Chanyeol tilts his head and looks at him incredulously. As if he’s said something wrong but he hasn’t. Jongdae knows this, he’s pretty sure of this.
“Bullshit,” Chanyeol says and reaches out a hand to grip Jongdae’s wrist. Jongdae draws back and removes his hand before Chanyeol can grip it.
“It’s okay, I … I had a book I wanted to read anyway.” He smiles and hopes it’s enough but the other doesn’t seem convinced at all. Baekhyun shouts after Chanyeol and Chanyeol shouts back before he looks at Jongdae again.
“Your book can wait. Come on, we never see you at the dorm.” Jongdae shakes his head.
“No, Chanyeol. Baekhyun is waiting for you.” He shuts the door in front of the taller, younger boy and leans on it. He’s just going to bore them. Jongdae bores anyone, because he’s not good enough. There’s a reason he’s stuck in his room and afraid to leave, afraid to see the outside world. It takes all his energy to be Chen, he can’t possibly be Chen more than in front of the fans. He doesn’t want to act in front of his band members. He just wants to be alone. Because alone is safe and alone is less anxiety-inducing. Anxiety is everything he has and isolation is the only life Jongdae knows. Jongdae wants more, but he’s not sure he’ll ever be good enough to be get it and he’s not sure he’ll ever be strong enough to meet people and actually develop something close to a friendship.
Jongdae doesn’t get any sleep. His thoughts are stronger than his body is tired. Joonmyun wakes him up but he’s only been dressed when Baekhyun latches onto his arm. The other drags him from his safety but he says nothing, sends him a smile. Jongdae tries to get free, squirms, but Baekhyun has a tight grip on the other. Jongdae knows they have schedules today, he has to prepare, but Baekhyun doesn’t seem to care. He can feel his heart beat and his palms get clammy as they reaches the underground parking but Baekhyun doesn’t seem to notice. It isn’t until he’s forced into a car that Jongdae believes something might be wrong. Something is definitely off. Baekhyun sits beside him and Chanyeol apparently drives.
The streets fly by the car windows and Jongdae closes his eyes. Public. He doesn’t want to see it, he wants to be back under his covers. There’s awfully silent in the car and it doesn’t help Jongdae at all that he knows all attention is on him. If it weren’t they would be talking, they would be ignoring him. But they aren’t. When the car stops, Jongdae is about to die from his panic attack. There’s no way to help it now, it feels impossible. Baekhyun takes his hand and silently helps him out of the car. Jongdae sees nothing, hears nothing apart from the inside of his eyelids. It isn’t until Chanyeol clears his throat that Jongdae opens his eyes and he realizes that they’re at the doctor. Not just any doctor though. The sign on the door says Dr. Kim Hyeyoon, department of psychiatry.
“I’m not crazy,” he whispers and looks at the floor. They think he’s crazy. Of course they think he’s crazy. Of course he is crazy. He must be crazy. Stupid, how could he not be crazy? Completely and utterly crazy, no good for EXO, no good for anyone. A knock on the door has Jongdae’s nerves on fire and if Baekhyun hadn’t been holding his bicep he would’ve turned around and ran. There are people here, people who are about to look at him and talk to him. They’ll know how incompetent he is, they’ll know everything. Jongdae has to get away. Chanyeol smiles at someone and Jongdae lifts his eyes to meet a woman in her late 40s. She greets them and Jongdae tries to disguise his nervousness, his panic, his anxiety.
“He’s so silent, it can’t be normal doctor. He hides from everyone, none of us understand.” Chanyeol tries to explain. The doctor listens. Jongdae doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t tell her about his non-existent social skills, about his rapid heartbeat, about his clammy hands, about his thoughts.
“Maybe he’s just introverted?” the doctor suggests and Baekhyun protests. But in the end, the doctor concludes that there’s nothing wrong with him. Jongdae doesn’t feel relieved though. Maybe there really is something wrong with him. He’ll think about it later. Later when he’s no longer in public. Later where no one can see him. Later when he is safe inside his room. And he’ll beat himself up for it, but he’s used to it by now. He’s done it before. But as long as it’s stay inside the safety of his room, then he supposed it’ll be fine. As long as no one knows just how ridiculous he is.