His name is Park Jimin and there is nothing that he detests more than the dusk. His name is Park Jimin and there is nothing that he abhors more than the twinkling stars. His name is Park Jimin and there is nothing that he hates more than the sky.
For many people, the sky meant freedom, meant flapping your wings and being a small part of the universe, a single grain of sand on a beach, nothing but a speck of dust in a long-winding infinity. For others it was hope, nothing different than a wall on which you hang those you called dreams. You would patiently wait for a shooting star, even as obscure as an idea that it was nothing but a falling, fiery ball of gas that you thought could grant your wish. It was even weirder to wish upon a blinking star, hoping on a decaying matter, dying and pulsing at its last heart beat millions of years out of your grasp. It was an irony, when a dying figure gave you hope in some incomprehensible, twisted way.
The sky meant a lot of thing for many people, but for Jimin the sky was a person.
The sky was a boy holding your waist on a bicycle ride. The sky was a boy screaming at you not to cry. The sky was a boy that hurt his neck for looking too long up at the stars above.
The sky was vast, beautiful and enchanting. It was a warm sunny day at times, before it turned into a raging storm at the next. It was black and demeaning at night, before the stars lighted its way into the background, proving that no matter how hard you showed that black soul you pretend to have, twinkling lights would always seep in to claim you wrong. You wouldn’t even realize all of it.
Before long, you would be the brightest and most beautiful thing that one would ever witness.
Thus, Jimin hated the sky more than anything else. His apartment in Seoul didn’t have a window. Friends would say how ‘stuffy’ it seemed. He on the other hand, saw it as a blessing. His friends didn’t even know the reason why he refused to go home after a tiring dance practice around six in the evening, when he knew he would be greeted by the dusk as he stepped his foot outside.
Because nothing, nothing in this world could hurt him more than a sky could.
The first thing that greeted him as Jimin opened his eyes were green. It was the never-ending string of green, blinking back against his iris. He had closed his eyes to the grays of concrete building and the snaking Han River, and now it was lines of trees welcoming him with a slight melancholy under their wavering hands. The car was going through a bumpy road and a particular jolt sent his head knocking against the window. Great. Even the newly-formed dull ache on his temple required some attention now, not only the ones that were hiding behind his bloodshot red eyes.
Shuffling from his fetal position on the passenger seat of the car, Jimin tried his best to close his eyes and hoped that sleep would take him once again. He was thrown away from its realm of dream and silent cries, as the upbeat music playing on the radio regained volume instead. This certainly didn't help his mood at all.
Blinking furiously underneath the sunlight that seemed to want nothing but mock him, Jimin focused his attention to his surroundings instead. No, not to the interior of the car he knew too well, or to the back of two heads that belonged to his parents, siting on the front seats. Talking about parents, he silently thought in his head how cynical of them to drive their only son back to this god forsaken nowhere, when throwing him out on the train track would be something deemed more proper in conduct. After all, they were indeed throwing him out.
It had been almost seven years since he set foot to Yeoryang-myeon, a little city south west of Seoul where his grandmother resided. It wasn't that he hadn't gotten the time, nor that he loathed the sight of grandmother Park with her missing front teeth. His parents were simply too busy, or Jimin should have known that it was an ass of a reason to tell their child. He wasn't one to complain either way, as he was also busy with what Seoul could offer him, the thought of his grandmother living alone in a small village slowly dwindled into the background of a disrespectful grandson that he was.
He had been to the village only thrice in his life. The first time, he was too small to even remember. The second, he was a toddler and he could only remember flashes of this and that, things that weren't even significant for him to store in his frontal lobe. The third one was during his grandfather funeral, and in that trip, the only thing that he could remember about Yeoryang-myeon was this particular fish-shaped restaurant he once dined in. Either way, thinking about this small village would only bring Jimin to the color of green, just like what he was seeing right now as the trees lined endlessly out the window.
Soon enough, he would learn to correlate the feeling of despair, loneliness and self-hatred to its name as well.
(And he probably already had)
“Oh my god, Jiminie, look how tall you are,” was what his grandmother said immediately as they knocked on her front door, the old Park buried him in a hug. She took some time to gaze back into her grandson's eyes, and Jimin honestly felt a little bit uncomfortable right there.
Jimin's parents greeted the old Park, exchanging some hugs before they worked silently and brought all of Jimin's belongings to his new room upstairs. Following them slowly, his eyes caught the open window right adjacent of the door on his first glance, giving him a full view of green and rows of hills outside. It was such a plain room with very little furniture, something that people would deem just enough. Once upon a time it belonged to his father and Jimin doubted that his father would ever go on into some nostalgic tale about the teenage life he spent inside the room.
His father wouldn't talk about how he had his first sleepover, or how the view of the town greeted him every morning, nor would he ever talk about how the summer breeze would feel as they filled the small room with their presence. No, his father stood by the door instead with his mother right next to it, looking back at Jimin as they unloaded the last of Jimin's belongings.
“This is it, son,” he said.
In the back of his throat Jimin wanted to beg. No, he wanted to say. Please take me back, he wanted to scream. I don't wanna live here, I wanna go home.
But did he still have a home?
“I hope you'll behave here.”
Jimin's finger shook, but he tried his best to hide them. If only he hadn't cried himself to sleep last night, he would have probably cried right that instance. But alas, he had simply found that there was indeed a limit to someone's ability to produce tear. He should take it as a blessing, actually, for his father would probably hit him again if he saw that his son was crying (again for the hundredth time).
“This is your last chance, Jimin,” this time his mother chimed in. “Don't disappoint us. We do this for your own good.”
For his own good or theirs? Jimin wanted to ask. Wanted to scream it to their faces again and again, but he found himself simply nodding. He had grown tired of arguments, of countless nights screaming and fighting.
“Good. New terms start in a week and you're going to enroll in a school here as well. Be a good student and by a good student, I wish you would be wise not to repeat your old mistake.”
It wasn't a mistake.
But it was to them, and it was to Taekhoon as well, as the boy made a tear-jerking confession upon snots and pathetic sobs.
With that, his parents turned their back and closed the door. Yes, they even closed the door, leaving Jimin standing there awkwardly in the middle of the room. They closed the door as if trying to imply how the same door to one particular house that he had lived in for the rest of his life in Seoul was now closed to him. He was just another stranger to his parents now and that was one of the million other things that hurt.
He didn't know how long he stood there with fingers still shaking and feet fidgeting, until he heard the sound of the car's engine being turned on. Jimin didn't dare to move an inch. He was still there, standing with his face on the door where his parents just stood minutes ago, wondering whether it would open in any seconds for the second time. Or maybe with the car engine revving on, he thought that it would suddenly stop, his parents coming out of the car, entering the house and climbing up the stairs once again to tell him that yes, he got a second chance and he was allowed back in Seoul. Even in the depth of his heart, Jimin still hoped for that, that his parents had been pulling a joke on him all along. This whole driving to Yeoryang-myeon had been one hell of a big bluff, one that proved Jimin what would really happen when he screwed up for the second time.
He didn't dare to turn his back towards the window and saw the car driving away. Yet he didn't have to. He could hear it clear as day as his parents did leave, the car swerving from the road, its engine roaring and disappearing into the distance.
Even until the end his parents weren't joking. It was only Jimin that hoped they would.
Jimin's grandmother wasn't the first person that he would call after a successful dance recital. She wasn't also the person he talked excitedly over the phone in a monthly basis. She was someone whose death he knew in the back of his mind wouldn't mean much to him, just like his grandfather's did. The old Park didn't do anything wrong, actually, which made Jimin feel bad about himself even more. She simply held no big role in Jimin's life.
It probably got to do with the fact that Jimin's father left the village at a very young age before he even graduated from school. He actually got another older uncle who used to live in the village as well, before the said man died before Jimin was even born. His father was always the estranged one of the family, rarely mentioning the town he was born in or the early adulthood that he had. The talk that the two of them shared was usually about Jimin's performance in school or his very little knowledge about any sport whatsoever.
At one part, it felt as if his father had thrown his grandmother away and Jimin tried his best not to put it that way, since the kind-hearted Park certainly didn't deserve any of that. His father rarely visited his mother, though Jimin knew that he still supported her financially. Once or twice she had come to Seoul and back then he was simply too busy with school to spend much time with her.
“Come on down, Jimin. The food is ready,” she said, calling Jimin from downstairs.
He just realized that he had been spending almost two hours gazing into the white wall instead of unpacking. It was time for dinner already.
Picking himself up, Jimin walked slowly down the stairs and peeked his head into the kitchen. His grandmother was putting up bowls and newly-cooked rice upon the table.
“Jimin, I cooked plenty for you because I know healthy young boy like you should eat a lot,” she said, noticing himself standing by the corridor.
The kitchen itself was small, but Jimin could feel something different from it if he had to compare it with his own kitchen back in Seoul. It wasn't the different decoration nor how the furniture was set. It was the kitchen table, being placed at the center of the room with two seats adjacent to each other. The one he had in Seoul had three seats. His grandmother had two, when she certainly only needed one each day. Did she eat there each time in front of an empty seat, looking at something she had been missing?
“Thank you halmeoni, but I'm not really that hungry,” he said with a soft voice. That was the truth. Eating was the last thing that he got in mind. Frankly, all he wanted to do now was to fall asleep. A very very deep sleep, in which he wouldn't have to wake up for years.
“Oh, nonsense,” she said, flailing her hand on the air. “You certainly still have room for a bowl of rice. You've hardly eaten anything since you got here.”
Which only had been approximately five hours.
“Oh, come on, Jimin. I've prepared this for you,” she said, smiling again.
And it probably got him in the heart. Jimin probably loathed this day as much as he could, but his grandmother had seen it as something else entirely. For a very long time she had been eating alone and when her estranged grandson finally had a reason to sit there in front of her, she was more than happy to welcome him with an open arm.
With a soft smile, Jimin found himself giving up to her request at the end, sitting at the dinner table in front of her with chopstick in hand. Her food was delicious, of course, there was no arguments about that. It was his own appetite that he couldn't find.
“Eat up a lot and take a deep sleep. Tomorrow if you're up for it, I could give you a little tour of the town, show you the Auraji Bridge and the beautiful Songcheon River,” she said.
But he wouldn't be up for it. He wouldn't be able to sleep for the rest of the night, feeling the foreign bed underneath his back, looking at the same foreign ceilings with memories playing itself on repeat in his head. Only then would he find himself crying again before sleep soon followed afterward. Tomorrow he wouldn't want to do anything but lie on his bed, simply because that was the only energy that he had. To open his eyes and breath.
“You would love this town, Jimin,” she ranted on. “I know it's nothing compared to Seoul, but there's a lot of other things that Yeoryang-myeon has that Seoul doesn't.”
Like a life to offer for someone like him.
“I hope that you would be having a lot of fun living here, Jiminie,” she said.
Jimin found the chopsticks between his fingers really heavy. The beef in his mouth felt like rubber and the kimchi was tasteless. The air he breathed in felt suffocating and all he wanted to do now was to lie on his new bed and do nothing. He wanted to get away, not because his grandmother was annoying him or how she clearly didn't have a clue at all. It wasn't right of him to blame everything on her and he knew that she didn't do anything wrong. It was just him.
Or just like everyone said it, it was always his fault.
“Are you okay, Jiminie?”
Jimin lifted his head towards his grandmother who was looking at him with watchful eyes.
“You've been staring at your bowl. Is something wrong?”
Everything. Everything was wrong.
“No, it's okay,” he said, disregarding her and continue eating what was left of his rice. He needed to finish them quickly so that he could lock himself in his room and cry just like he wanted to.
“It's okay, you could tell me. You could tell halmeoni everything,” she said, trying to comfort him.
Yet Jimin bet she didn't know anything, her only son dumping his grandson out of the blue without any details. She would gladly take him without questioning the weird act, as long as it was a family member that was in need of help. Or maybe she knew, playing dumb and waiting for Jimin to spill the words himself, though the former was more likely to be the situation.
“Everything?” he asked.
At this point Jimin certainly didn't think that it could get any worse. What would she do if she found herself being disgusted by Jimin? Throw him out to the street again? If that happened, Jimin would probably laugh instead right now.
“Yeah of course Jiminie,” she said, taking out her hand to grab hold of his.
He eyed those wrinkled fingers against his. Would it stay right where they were when he was finished with the story?
“There was this guy in school. His name is Taekhoon,” Jimin said softly. All story always started the same. A certain guy, a certain girl, it was either of the two. Sadly for Jimin it started with the same sentence. A guy, not a girl. “We were in the same class and we got into the same dance group.”
The memories started to play on Jimin's mind again. The first day of second year, the faces he glad to meet in the same classroom as he was, his new seatmate for the month, the horrible homeroom teacher that the all students grimaced to. Taekhoon was just a fellow classmate at that time, one that he simply knew.
“He's nothing but a-, friend, at first. I didn't know him well but he turns out to be great.”
The charming Taekhoon who joke with him during dance practice, the caring Taekhoon who offered him his drink, the kind Taekhoon who took him home and stayed last with him. It was nothing but someone being such a great friend and Jimin respected that about him. But of course, it slowly turned into lingering gaze and touches that stayed there for too long. It turned into him questioning the said kindness to Jimin feeling butterflies fluttering in his stomach.
Because even before Taekhoon, Jimin already knew. He knew he was different, even if it was slightly, but Taekhoon made him feel even more sure about himself. That was why he found dancing more appealing than swinging a bat, or how a random handsome face in the street of Apgujeong caught his attention more than a certain girl with a short skirt. He always knew and Taekhoon was just an opportunity for him to prove himself right.
“He's just a really great friend. He's really nice from the very beginning even until-,”
Until it turned into him confessing his love, into saying that Jimin was different, that he was different, that all he wanted to do was to kiss Jimin, to hold his hand and not just stand there next to him knowing that Jimin wouldn't want to do the same thing.
Tears started to pool in his eyes. He had cried about Taekhoon countless of time. He had remembered about all the beautiful things that they did, all the love that he had in his heart and the love that he received. Seemed like he would keep crying about it, just like what he was about to do right now in front of his grandmother who still hadn't said a word.
“-he said that he luh-loved me,” he forced himself to continue, his voice starting to shake. His other hand grabbed the edge of his seat, gripping the wood underneath his finger tightly. “And t-this isn't just a love between friends, this is how p-people fall in love with other puh-people they want to m-marry,” he said before taking a deep breath, trying to control his emotion.
The handsome Taekhoon who was so kind, who looked at him as if he was the only thing that mattered in this world. He had given the boy everything in his life. He fell in love into dance even more, simply because they were in the same dance group. They would dance on recital or performance and look at each other from each end of the stage, exchanging hungry kisses in the changing room and smacking their own lips in a teasing manner in the middle of class. Jimin would sometimes sneak out of his house at night, climbing down the tree outside of his room to meet Taekhoon and the two would venture the street of Seoul at night with linked hands.
“A-and I was happy. We were happy. H-he would k-kiss me and say that I was the b-best thing that happened in his w-world and-,”
And it all crumbled into pieces.
“-they caught us one day. A t-teacher, in the class. W-we didn't know about it, n-not until we were called by the headmaster.”
Because back then it was deemed as wrong. It always were. No one could understand him, but Taekhoon did. They made a promise, back then. They were Romeo and Juliet, and if this universe was against them being together, then let them be their enemies, for the undying love that they had would be the sole thing that would be their shield. Oh, how naive he was back then.
So when he was called to the headmaster office one day out of the blue, Jimin certainly didn't know what it was going to be. What awaited him was the sight of Taekhoon, sitting in front of the headmaster already with shoulder shaking and eyes wet with tears. Both of their parents were there already, looking at the two of them disapprovingly.
His heart sank to the ground that day. It sank so deep, Jimin thought that he was dead already, that he had simply stopped breathing. He thought that was the worst thing that could happen. Boy, was he proven to be so wrong. It was nothing but the beginning of all the horrible thing that would follow.
“A-and Taekhoon said it was m-my fault. He said that I m-made him that way. That I-i'm a horrible p-person that infected this all.”
He quoted Taekhoon directly. 'Infected'. Even until now, the words still echoed in his head. He just sat there next to Taekhoon on the seat as the boy ranted on to how he knew this was wrong, to how ashamed he was towards himself and how Jimin was the cause of all this. That Jimin seduced him first, that Jimin turned him into something closed to a monster.
That time, Jimin couldn't stand it anymore, he curled his fist and threw himself towards Taekhoon, landing his punch on the face of the boy who said that Jimin was his everything. All those empty promises and sweet words reduced into nothing. Even as much as he tried to explain, people saw that it was his fault. The punch he threw put him into an even worse position, one that drove his parents to take him out from the school due to embarrassment.
“T-that's when father d-decided to bring me here. B-because they were all ashamed of me.”
Even as much as he begged, there was no room for him in Seoul anymore. He was cast aside, thrown out by all the people who claimed to love him for being different.
“A-and I don't care anymore if y-you also w-will.”
He broke down in front of his grandmother, he couldn't control his sobs and the tears that flowed from his face. He just cried there on the dining table, thinking about how everything hurt him terribly. He waited for those wrinkled finger to leave his own, his grandmother finally understanding how shameful of a grandson that she had. He didn't think that being disowned once again would hurt him more than it already had.
But instead she held his fingers tighter. She walked towards him and put her hands towards him, patting his shaking shoulder slowly.
“It's okay Jiminie,” she said, whispering to his ear slowly. She kept on patting his shoulder and his sobs gradually lessened, even though the tears were still running uncontrollably. “You're okay now.”
“N-no, I'm n-not,” he sobbed back. “I'm a d-disgrace, halmeoni. N-nobody wants me.”
“That's not true,” she continued as she pulled back, holding him on his shoulder and looking back to his eyes. “You're my wonderful grandson and I would never be ashamed of you. No one should ever be ashamed of you.”
“B-but I l-like men a-and father s-said-.”
“And there's nothing wrong with that,” she said before he could finish his sentence.
That moment Jimin just sat there frozen. His tears stopped so suddenly and he was at a loss of word. There was this moment of silence, one that muted his universe, before he knew how everything would come crashing back again and he would cry even harder. And he did. His tears stopped for a moment only to rain down even harder. The noises that left his mouth were close to a scream. His grandmother held him even tighter and Jimin just let it all out, he just screamed and let that emotion drown him.
It wasn't because everything hurt anymore. This time it wasn't because he hated himself or how he felt everything was wrong. This time because he was relieved. You could say that he was happy, but more than anything he was relieved.
Because for the first time since his world had crumbled down, someone finally said to him that he wasn't a mistake. At this point, he didn't even believe that he deserved to be seen as a normal human being, until someone finally said it to him.