THE BUCKET LIST
8 weeks left.
Thursday. Jimin swears it's the worst day of the week. Close enough to Friday that you can taste it on your tongue, the sweet relief of freedom far enough that the agony of watching the clock tick past makes every aching moment feel eternal. Almost makes you want to run into the street.
Barely anyone ever comes into the shop on Thursdays either. Half the time Jimin's just staring into space. The other half Dawon orders him around for the hell of it. But even that's better than doing nothing.
Jimin traces the red ribbon wrapped around his bicep with the tip of his finger — thorns and roses, a yellowing skull in the thick of it, a burst of blue butterflies fly up his shoulder — and wonders when Dawon's free to ink him again. It's been a while..
Or maybe he could ask her to re-do his hair. It's not like there's anyone in the store. The dark orange's faded, lighter but still bright against the medley of colors on his body. Maybe Dawon will let him take some dye for—
The bell rings as the door swings open, jolting Jimin out of his daze. Speak of the devil. He practically runs into the store, panting like he's just jogged five laps around the block. Jimin's entire body perks up at the sight.
Jeon Jeongguk. Fresh-faced and bright-eyed, purple hair tucked into a baseball cap twisted backwards on his innocent little head and tattoos displayed proudly in a short sleeved shirt. AC/DC. Jimin remembers giving that to him, back when he'd found a bunch of old tees in a cute little thrift store during their trip to San Francisco. Jimin swears all of his are in Jeongguk's closet by now.
The grin he's wearing is undeniable. Jimin feels the joy from five feet away. He has to grin back.
"Have you finally gotten laid?" Jimin drops his cheek onto his palm, watching as Jeongguk paces the small space in front of the counter like a madman. "What's with the smile?"
"Hyung —" Jeongguk slams the piece of paper on the counter, a little breathless. "Hyung, I got it."
It takes a second to process in Jimin's head.
"Got it? Got what?" Jimin stares at Jeongguk's ecstatic face as it clicks. His jaw drops, hand reaching over to clutch at Jeongguk's wrist. "Oh, shit. Holy shit , you mean college? The scholarship? For that place in Sacramento?"
"Fuck yes. " Jeongguk looks like he's ready to jump for joy, right through the roof. "God, I didn't think I'd get it. I can afford it now. I'm — fuck. "
The high is infectious, filling the empty store with a kind of buzzed energy Jimin can't help but drown in. Jimin has to laugh, watches as Jeongguk walks it out like he usually does, bouncing on the balls of his feet. That's always been how it was with Jeongguk — a nervous kind of electricity flowing through his veins, like he'd never get tired of life. Of course he'd go college.
"I knew you would." Jimin feels his cheeks bunch up, pride swelling in his chest. "You don't have a criminal record like I do."
Jeongguk wrinkles his nose at him. Jimin wants to pinch it.
Now's a good time as any, Jimin thinks. He reaches under the counter and pulls out a full unopened bottle of Jack Daniels. Jeongguk's eyes dilate at the sight, the glass shining under the cheap lights.
Jimin taps his fingers across its surface, smirking.
"We gotta celebrate, bitch. Move over." Jimin hoists himself up on the counter and swings his legs over to the other side. Just as his boots land on the ground with a thunk, Dawon comes out the back curtain.
" Hey ! I told you to stop fucking doing that, you punk." Her voice is just short of a screech, the fire in her eyes making her tiny frame seem tall. The shop had always been an extension of her — when she yelled, it was as if the shelves bent down to tut at Jimin too.
"It's not like I'm hitting anything, Dawon." Jimin shoves the whiskey into his leather jacket, gesturing with his chin for Jeongguk to head to the door. The younger boy obliges, throwing Dawon the bright kind of smile they know she can't resist.
It works. For a second. Dawon smiles back at Jeongguk, all sugary sweet, but then her eyes narrow into slits when she turns to Jimin, perfectly sculpted eyebrows sinking down. She looks something sinister.
"You're an asshole, Jimin."
Jimin sticks his tongue out at her as he walks backwards towards the door.
"You love my asshole!"
Dawon rolls her eyes so hard it's a miracle they don't fall out of her head.
"You fucking wish, homo!"
"We're taking your whiskey."
" Hey —"
The second the bell rings, Jimin takes off, running down the street. It's familiar, the sound of his boots slamming against the pavement, the wind whistling in his ears. Jeongguk follows him, their laughter leaving them a little breathless. Dawon doesn't follow them. She never does.
The small town's shops zoom past them as they maneuver their way through the streets. A bakery, a pawn shop, a haberdashery, a shoe repair, all with peeling paint and decaying wood, the same scene that's been branded into their mind's eyes since childhood.
Everyone's used to seeing the two of them like this — Jimin and Jeongguk, those two Korean brats who live on Wayford Lane — the wind in their hair and mischief twinkling in their eyes. People have learned to look away.
Partners in crime, Bonnie and Clyde, the two troublemakers of their small town of Longview. Their golden boy and their problem child. Two sides of the same coin, Jeongguk's parents would call them, destined to have each other's backs.
When they reach Jeongguk's backyard, Jimin steadies himself against the old oak, catching his breath, cradling the whiskey in his arm. While Jeongguk fumbles with his keys, Jimin's fingers brush over the old carving, done when they were just shy of three feet tall. It's risen up over the years, growing with them.
Jimin & Jeongguk
Friends 4 Ever
- ◆ -
Jimin pours another drink for himself. It's boring, drinking out of a plastic cups, but ever since that mishap with Mrs. Jeon's finest glassware when they were thirteen, they've learned to stray away from the breakables while intoxicated.
It's a familiar scene. The floor of Jeongguk's room, faces pressed down on the carpet, practically draped over each other, taking sips from obnoxious red plastic cups in between conversation. This was their way of celebrating, from when Jeongguk's parents started letting them drink to now. Birthdays, graduations, good grades, suspensions, break ups with shitty people. Everything.
Better to drink at home so you can puke in your own toilet. That's what they've always said. Jeongguk's parents rarely gave shoddy advice.
"Depressing that I have to leave here so soon." Jeongguk lifts himself up, only to sway back around, cheek planting firmly into Jimin's shoulder. "I feel like I didn't get to do much in high school."
Jimin brings a hand up to pet Jeongguk's hair, runs the locks through his fingers. Jimin remembers dyeing it, just a couple months ago. The younger boy relaxes into him immediately, Jimin's arms like a second home.
"That's cause your nerdy ass was studying the entire time." Jimin chuckles. When he glances down, he can see Jeongguk's bottom lip sticking out in a pout, shiny with spit.
"Yeah, I know." Jeongguk glances over at his desk, still overflowing with papers left over from finals. He practically sneers at it. "You spent half the time watching me."
Jimin tugs on his earlobe. The are three silver studs in it, neat in a line. Orion's Belt, Jimin had joked. Jimin remembers picking those out with him, a couple of weeks ago.
"Not much else to do when you're bored out of your mind." Jimin thinks back to afternoons basking in the sun while Jeongguk answered problems on his SAT review book and wrote essays for teachers who hated Jimin more than their own sad, unfulfilled dreams. Jeongguk could succeed in a way that Jimin never figured out. Or chose not to.
Fire and ice. North and South. That's what Jimin's father calls them. Somehow Jimin the Screw Up's still with the Golden Boy of Longview. Jimin won't complain. He's always been known to be greedy.
The back of Jeongguk's neck is warm, the small hairs soft. Jimin doesn't even flinch when Jeongguk sighs and slides down, head fitting perfectly in the hollow of his neck.
"Besides, you have time. We got time." Jimin whispers.
"What do you mean?" One more drink and Jeongguk will be done for. His voice trails off, soft and mumbly, the way he gets when he's halfway to sleep. Jimin jostles him a little as he gets up, keeping hold of his hand to keep the younger boy steady.
"What are you—" Jeongguk nearly falls face first into the carpet. Jimin strides over to Jeongguk's desk and rummages through the chaos for a piece of paper. Once he's back, he sits right across from Jeongguk, and uncaps the pen.
"We have to make a list." Jimin waves the pen around. He presses the tip down, his tongue sticking out from the corner of his mouth.
When Jeongguk leans over the empty sheet, planting his hands flat on the floor to hold himself up, their foreheads press together, the heat of the alcohol mingling in their exhales. The tips of his fingers brush against Jimin's.
"Like, what's that called?" Jimin taps the pen to his lip, and then grins when it comes to him. "A bucket list."
Jeongguk tilts his head at him, confusion sobering him up better than anything else could.
Jimin taps Jeongguk's nose with the cap end of the pen, making him wrinkle it.
"For you." Jimin says softly, but it's a declaration. A promise. "For the summer. I'll help you through it."
"Really? You'd do that? For me?"
There's a sparkle in Jeongguk's eyes that ignites something in Jimin's gut. For Jimin's entire life, he's watched people's gazes shift into disappointment, to regret, one way or another, the sadness pooling into their eyes like it was all Jimin could ever offer.
Jeongguk looks at him with all the trust in the world.
Jimin blinks back at him, and hopes he won't remember this tomorrow.
"Anything for you, Gukkie."
About fifteen minutes later, there's a sizeable list. Jeongguk sips on his whiskey while blurting out things he's never done before — regrets, wishes, just outrageous things Jimin's done that he hasn't — and Jimin notes it all down, throws out dates, times, locations, possibilities. A last second pilgrimage through their hometown, where they grew up. Together.
As Jimin's finalizing it, rewriting the list onto a fresh sheet of paper, Jeongguk falls asleep, right there on the carpet. He doesn't even notice until Jeongguk snores lightly, plastic cup tipped over and empty.
Jimin leaves the list on the table. With only a little bit more effort than usual, he carries Jeongguk to his bed, and tucks him in, and places his favorite stuffed rabbit in his arms. When he goes to clean up the alcohol, he smiles at Mrs. Jeon in the kitchen.
Same old routine. Jeongguk always falls asleep first. Jimin's used to it.
After he switches off the light, Jimin curls up on the far side of the bed, over the blanket, by the wall, and falls asleep.
SPRAY PAINT SOMETHING ON THE SIDE OF A SCHOOL BUILDING
3 and a half years left.
Jimin's wallpaper is ugly. That's it. That's the problem. He's been stuck in this room for a solid seven hours, staring at nothing but this ugly wallpaper that he picked out when he was seven years old and fucking stupid.
Maybe that's what's driving him mad. Maybe that's why he wants to claw his own eyes out. Maybe that's why he got caught. Because this wallpaper has been fucking with his vibe for his entire childhood. That's, what, eight years? That's eight wasted years. All cause of this ugly blue pattern.
Suspended. Grounded. When have his parents ever grounded him? Even when he used to get into fights in elementary school, his parents never really officially grounded him. Jimin grounded himself. Or grounded himself in Jeongguk's room.
It was just some spray paint. No big deal.
The principal wasn't even that mad. Kind of. She didn't yell. Not that she ever yells. She's this dumpy white woman who can't seem to find it in herself to punish Jimin for anything, even if he's clearly the most rotten egg in the entire goddamn school. Something about his parents being some of Hudson High's best and brightest. Too bad Jimin didn't inherit any of that. Genetics fucked him over.
Jimin's mom wasn't pleased though. FUCK YOU GUYS, all across the inside of a bathroom stall on campus. The one near the cafeteria. One of the most used and frankly, the trashiest bathroom on campus. The walls are usually covered in piss anyway. If anything, the spray paint was a goddamn improvement. Some shady snitch just saw black paint on the hem of Jimin's shirt. Jimin's mom didn't really elaborate on her pissed-off-ness. Maybe she just thought he wasn't creative enough.
Jimin swings his legs in the air and sits up, staring at the ugly wallpaper surrounding his window. Maybe if his mother hadn’t threatened to install bars in his windows like in that one Harry Potter movie he'd consider sneaking out. The last thing he needs to actually feel like he's in prison. Stripes aren't a good look for him.
There's a small clink against the glass. Jimin shuts his eyes for a second, letting a smile creep onto his lips.
There he is. When Jimin pushes his window open all the way, Jeongguk's already there, sitting on the roof of his dad's small study, directly underneath his bedroom window, staring up at Jimin.
"You wanna go to the skate park?" Jeongguk asks, fiddling with the strings of his hoodie. Jimin pouts.
"My parents would skin my ass," Jimin huffs, leaning his folded arms onto the windowsill. Hopefully the bathroom window is shut. Would suck if his parents could hear them.
"What a waste of a great ass." Jeongguk tilts his head to the side, and Jimin nearly chokes on air.
"Shut up. Oh my god." Jimin's face burns red. He almost considering throwing his guitar out the window just to see if he can dent Jeongguk's skull. Cheeky freshman.
"Stating facts," Jeongguk shrugs, cheeks bunching as he grins. He really does look like a fucking rabbit and Jimin hates it.
Dawon always said their houses were something straight out of a teen movie. Their bedrooms are on the sides, windows facing each other. Underneath Jeongguk's room is his father's study, and underneath Jimin's is the downstairs bathroom. Both rooms extend just a little bit so there's just enough room for both of them to sit on either side, their houses so close together that the roof tiles nearly touch.
Somehow, none of their parents ever thought to change that. Jimin's scared that one day they might come to their senses, but for now he has this.
Jimin swings a leg over the windowsill, and then the other. He sits there, a couple of feet above Jeongguk, and lets out a sigh he'd been holding in all goddamn day.
The birds chirp in a nearby tree, and a dog barks in some distant backyard. The sun peeks over the houses just to their left, and the light stretches long shadows across Jeongguk's face.
"So, um," Jeongguk brings his knees to his chest, "Do you just wanna sit here?"
Jimin smacks his lips and taps the edge of the window with his fingers. Over the years, they've spend hours here, talking about everything and nothing, gossiping like assholes about the assholes at school, about girls, about anything, really. Dawon said they were gross. Jimin just figured it was normal.
"Do you have a snack?" Jimin asks, scratching the back of his neck. "I'm too scared to steal from the pantry."
"Give me a few minutes." Jeongguk says, laughing at him, and in a few swift movements he's back inside his room. After almost no time at all, he's headed back out, two bags in his hand. He settles back on the roof, the edges of his sneakers fitting perfectly against the dip in the tiles.
"Cheetos," Jeongguk holds up the two, "or Ruffles?"
"Hot and spicy?"
Jeongguk grins, tossing him the bag across the gap. It lands perfectly against Jimin's stomach, his hands prepared to catch.
"What else?" Jeongguk says, ripping open the Ruffles immediately. It's Jeongguk's favorite flavor: sour cream and onion.
"Thanks, Gukkie." Even though Jeongguk's not bothering to look at him, Jimin still smiles, watching the boy tears into the chips like he hasn't eaten in days.
"Anytime." Jeongguk bites into a chip, letting himself crunch, loud and unbothered, "When do you get unsuspended?"
Jimin snorts. "That's not a word."
"I know it's not a word, dumbass." Jeongguk throws a chip at him, but it falls against the tiles. "When?"
Jeongguk's the one to snort this time. "They went easy on you."
"Cause I'm irresistible," Jimin winks when Jeongguk looks back at him, and the younger boy pretends to barf over the edge.
"Your mom's just a lawyer."
"She wouldn't be able to protect me anyway," Jimin admits, thinking back to how red in the face she was earlier, seething in anger. She never exploded. Jimin admires her self control. He can't imagine how badly she must've wanted to bitch him out in front of the principal, but appearances, appearances. Typical.
"Do you want me to bring you your homework?" Jeongguk asks, completely fucking genuine, and Jimin almost laughs. When was the last time he even did homework?
"Hoseok hyung can do it."
"I just offered," Jeongguk says immediately, his voice taking a dip, on the edge of sad. Jimin waves it off with a cheeto.
"Don't want your spotless reputation being sullied by your shitty rebel friend." Jimin cocks his head to the side, thinks about how pure Jeongguk's image has gotten since they started high school. Even as a 5-piercings-an-ear, punk ass skater, he still manages to evoke the most goody two shoes aura imaginable.
"Everyone already knows you're my best friend," Jeongguk points out, almost dejected. "It's no big deal." His bottom lip juts out and he puffs out his cheeks, and even though he's grown a lot in the past couple of years, Jeongguk still manages to pull off the baby face with little to no effort. It should be a crime to be that cute and that fucking tall at the same time.
Jimin can't say no to that face. He shrugs, "If you're sure."
"I'm always sure." Jeongguk's smiling again. That's what matters. Jimin throws a cheeto at him, and it hits him on the cheek, leaving a bit of dust.
"You're so dramatic."
Jeongguk grins wide from across the gap. Jimin's boy next door.
"Only for you, dummy."
SPRAY PAINT SOMETHING ON THE SIDE OF A SCHOOL BUILDING
7 weeks and 6 days left.
"First off the list." Jimin turns the corner, tugging Jeongguk along, and brings them in about ten feet deep before stopping. The side of the school gym is pretty much always deserted during the summer. During the year, it's home to the senior punks, skateboard fuckers, the people who want to vape in peace. Jimin doesn't fuck with that electronic stuff. He's fine with gas station cigarettes. Can't be very picky when you're not a rich kid.
It's an old decaying building, with deep peach paint that's been peeling since before either of them were born. Hudson High's glorious staff doesn't bother to fix it up, so the yearly paint job's done by the rebellious kids and cans of spray paint. Over the years, layer after layer of profanities and MICHAEL WUZ HERE have covered the wall by the fence, facing dense forest, left alone as a relic to an aging piece of shit school no one in the past two decades has actually liked.
At least, that's the story that graffiti tells him.
Jeongguk stands before it all, feet planted firmly on the patchy grass, cigarette butts littered around him. When his eyes trail up the wall, trying to make out phrases, sentences, overlapping letters, he looks a little intimidated. Jimin chuckles, gets the urge to chuck the can of spray paint at his cute little nose. Doesn't.
"Come on, baby stuff," Jimin nudges Jeongguk's shoulder with his, "No one ever goes on this side. There's probably graffiti by your mother."
Jeongguk swallows, his Adam's apple bobbing with it. "Yeah. Totally. Easy."
Swear to the heavens, Jimin's seen Jeongguk take on tasks a million times more terrifying than this. He's stood up to a teacher who gave him unfair grades, fought against bullies in his senior year when Jimin wasn't around anymore. Jimin's watched Jeongguk grind on the rail of some steps at the park that were about 10 feet long. Spraying like two or so words onto a wall should be a piece of cake.
Somehow he looks terrified. Jimin reaches over to squeeze Jeongguk's shoulder, presses his thumb into him until he relaxes just a fraction.
"Why now, though?" Jimin asks, voice going a little soft. Maybe it'll calm Jeongguk down. "Why did you never do it?"
"You got caught for one," Jeongguk says simply, and Jimin remembers that day like it had just happened. "I was a freshman, and that scared the crap outta me, I guess." Good grades, good rep, good boy. Good little Jeongguk. Jimin could never compete.
"Besides, I," Jeongguk speaks up again, and his shoulders go limp. Finally. "Um, I hate the fumes."
Jimin bites back a laugh.
Jeongguk pouts -- the stuck out bottom lip, the wrinkled nose, the works -- and shrugs Jimin's hand off his shoulder.
"I have a sensitive nose!"
Jimin shoves him lightly. Doesn't manage to move him an inch.
"I know you do, you big baby." Jimin shakes the can, and the sound echos. "Now just write something. I even got your favorite color."
The little metal shaker clinks inside the can when Jimin shoves it into Jeongguk's hands. At least he's not shaking. His hand wraps around it over Jimin's.
"Red," Jeongguk breathes out.
Jimin rolls his eyes, and withdraws his hand.
"You're welcome, asshole." Jimin crosses his arms over his chest, and stands back. Leaving the artist alone with his canvas. "Now think of something."
When Jeongguk puts the tip of his finger on the nozzle, he closes his eyes, and looks like he thinks for a second. Jimin watches in muted interest as Jeongguk reaches up, stretches his arm as far as he can, and paints words as big as he can muster.
It's angry and red. Large, stark and bright against the rain-washed rest, at the very forefront of decades of petty teenage angst and rebellion.
Jeongguk turns to look at him, smiling full and wide, fingertips stained red. Jimin takes the can from him, and ruffles his hair.
Jimin pulls the list out of his pocket. Without a word, he grabs Jeongguk's finger, and crosses out the item with the red; it's bright, and just enough to bleed through the other side.
BREAK INTO OUR CHILDHOOD PLAYGROUND AT NIGHT
13 years left.
The swings are always too hot when it's sunny, but Jimin doesn't care. Jimin wants to go on the swing. Maybe he can get Dawon noona to push him so he can go up really high, maybe he can reach the sun. He totally could. But when Jimin goes over to sit down, the backs of his thighs burn against the metal, and when he tries to grip the chains on either side of him, he has to jump back up.
"Ow." Jimin mumbles, rubbing his hands together. That just makes it hotter. What a bad idea.
"Hyung!" Jeonggukie calls over from the sandbox. Jeonggukie's always in the sandbox. Last Christmas Jimin picked out some really cute toys for him to play with on there, but some of the mean kids from Jimin's school took them one by one. Maybe one day he'll take Jeonggukie to a real beach, with a lot of sand, and no bullies.
As fast as his seven year old legs can take him, he heads over to the sandbox and plops himself down next to Jeonggukie. When reaches over to grab a clump of sand, Jimin notices that Jeonggukie's bottom lip's sticking out, eyes glassy.
"No, no, don't cry. Gukkie." Jimin turns, facing his friend, sand sticking to his legs, "What did they say? What did they do?"
Jeongguk rubs sand out of his hair, and points to a pair of boys Jimin's age halfway across the playground. They'd just stopped running, holding onto their stomachs as they laugh. Even though he's young, Jimin can feel how callous their laughter is, and his blood goes hot.
"They put sand in your hair?" Jimin asks Jeonggukie, pointing at the bullies, eyes narrowing into slits. "Those punks?"
Jimin gets up, and dusts the sand off his shorts. He even rolls his imaginary sleeves up, just 'cause he can, and huffs a little bit. This wouldn't be the first fight he's gotten into. Jimin could scrap with the best of them.
"They're never gonna do that aga—"
Jeongguk grabs onto Jimin's hand, tugs him down onto the sand. Jimin lands on his butt with an oomph . There's something like fear in his eyes. Jimin doesn't know why Jeonggukie would have to be scared when he's there to protect him.
"Jiminie hyung, no," Jeonggukie begs, holding onto Jimin's hand. "Dawon noona?"
The bullies are still laughing. Jimin looks over at them, ugly faces screwed up in amusement, and Jimin tries to calm down his beating heart, his heated face. He takes one, two deep breaths, and squeezes Jeonggukie's hand back.
"Okay. I'll take you to Dawon noona."
Jimin stands up, Jeonggukie's hand still in his, and then heads over to the bench where Dawon noona is. She's sitting with a book on her lap, and a pair of earbuds attached to her walkman. Jimin tugs on her sleeves. When she looks down at them, she has to blink a few times before realizing maybe she should say something.
"Aw shit, I mean, crap, I mean." Dawon tugs out her earphones, puts her book down, and reaches for Jeonggukie, putting both of her hands on his shoulders. "Ugh. I was supposed to be watching you. Are you okay, honey? You hurt?"
Jeonggukie sniffles a couple times, but he nods.
"No, noona. I am okay."
Dawon noona looks at Jimin, eyes demanding an explanation. There's something absolutely terrifying about her when she thinks someone might've hurt them, even more fiercely protective of little Jeonggukie than Jimin is. Jimin wishes Jeonggukie didn't feel scared. Not when both of them are here.
Still, Jimin doesn't answer. When he shakes his head, Dawon noona sighs and packs up her things. When she's done, she stands up, the two of them on either side of her. Jimin takes Dawon noona's left hand, and Jeonggukie takes her right.
Dawon takes one last look across the playground. Jimin does too. The bullies have stopped laughing, but they're still there. They don't look at him. When Jimin looks up, Dawon noona's smiling.
"Let's go home, huh? We can play there. Just us. I think Hoseokie's back from his lessons too."
Jeongguk smiles through his tears. Jimin knows that's Jeongguk's favorite way to play.
BREAK INTO OUR CHILDHOOD PLAYGROUND AT NIGHT
6 weeks and 4 days left.
11:30pm. Now that Jeongguk's eighteen apparently his parents don't really give a fuck about a curfew anymore, even less so since he's about to leave for college and start his own life and shit. Jimin wishes his parents stopped giving a shit once he started earning his own money, but then again they're Jimin's parents. Maybe he should move out.
"Never pegged you for a nostalgic sap." Jimin shoves his hands in his pockets, thanks the heavens it's not too cold out. Ripped jeans in the winter is a fashion statement Jimin stands by, but he's not going to lie. Hurts like a bitch.
Somehow Jeongguk still looks better than him, decked out in nothing but some skinny jeans and a red hoodie, without a single shred of effort. Though Jimin preferred him in well-fitted shirts that showed off his tattoos — most of which are Jimin's work — he could get behind this too.
"Maybe the prospect of leaving my hometown for four years is making me a little more sentimental." Jeongguk always tries to be a little too cheerful when he mentions leaving. Even though the whole reason the list exist is because he's about to head off into the world, he doesn't bring college up as often as Jimin thought he would.
Jimin gets it. Knowing Jeongguk's leaving hurts like a bitch too. Much worse than the cold of winter, but Jimin would never say it out loud.
"The playground, though." Jimin kicks a stone on the curb. "When was the last time you were even here?"
"I don't even remember. Maybe when we were 12." Jeongguk sways back and forth as he walks, enjoying the cool air. It's kind of adorable.
"When we realized it was kind of shit place to skate and switched to the park behind school," Jimin laughs, remember just how badly they'd tried. It was closer to their houses and they were lazy shits. At least the park by school had a proper rail they could grind on, and less children they could accidentally run over.
Jimin ignores the way Jeongguk's voice goes soft.
"I remember that scrape." Jimin would've broken his arm if Jeongguk hadn't broken his fall, both of them landing chest to chest on the pavement. He doesn't mention that. Neither of them ever do. "Scar's still there."
"Ouch," Jeongguk winces. From the memory of the scar or the memory of the moment, Jimin's not sure. He doesn't ask. "Yeah, that was awful."
"Anyway, here it is. Old Wayford Park."
The park looks the same. Rusty swings, a couple of slides. A jungle gym. Benches for parents. A sandbox. The moon's full and high in the air, draping everything in a pale blue. Crickets chirp in the grass, and owls hoot in the trees just past the far end.
The gate's right by the sidewalk, with little vines wrapped around the base. Overgrown and unkempt, but it still fills up every weekend. Longview's never had a shortage of children. Jimin rattles the chain link fence, and Jeongguk nearly jumps back in shock.
"Should you be making that much noise? It's the middle of the night."
Jimin wants to laugh. For their entire lives, anyone who's ever known both of them called Jeongguk Jimin's conscience. Said something about how Jimin wouldn't know up from down without Jeongguk to anchor him to the ground. He's not sure if he's ready to be untethered.
Six weeks. Jimin tries not to think about it.
"Calm down, kid. It was just a shake. Here, it's never really locked. The chain's just looped around the gate." Jimin circles his fingers around the chains, tugs until one loop's been undone. The chain clanks loudly as it hits the floor.
Jimin can almost feel Jeongguk cringe as every sound they make echoes across the empty streets. A flock of birds flies off in the distance. Soon, the gate's undone, and it doesn't take much for Jimin to wrench it open.
"You've done this before." Jeongguk runs his fingers across cool metal. He looks a little awed, despite the fact that they probably spent half of their childhood here. Jimin just goes right into the park, stretches his arms out wide, and spins.
"A couple of times." The wind cuts through Jimin's hair. He watches the colors of the night blur just past his eyelids, and then stops, wobbling a little as he gets his footing back. Jeongguk looks like he wants to reach out and grab him, but he keeps it to himself. Jimin doesn't think about it.
The air is a little thick tonight, like Jimin's wading through water. Dark clouds looms in swirls around the moon, closer to the horizon. It's almost mystical, the way they frame the light. Jimin's been here dozens of times at night, but for the first time it feels real.
"I don't even fit in the sandbox anymore."
When Jimin turns, Jeongguk's perched himself on the little mound of sand, legs folded and fingers sifting through the grains. It looks absolutely ridiculous, like a giant Gulliver on a tiny island.
"You practically lived in that thing as a baby." Jimin goes over and pushes Jeongguk a bit to the side, balances his own ass on top of the mound with him. It's a tight fit, and Jimin's back presses up against Jeongguk's side, their heads resting against each other.
Jeongguk's warm. Soothing. It reminds Jimin of when they were kids, cuddling together on their couches to keep warm in the winter. He wonders why they stopped doing that.
Ever since Jeongguk's senior year started, the two of them had drifted somewhat. With Jimin having to work a fulltime job and Jeongguk having to do homework and football and all of his other ridiculous extracurriculars, they'd lost each other a little bit, defaulting to only seeing each other once a week, or through their bedroom windows.
Jimin misses him. Maybe Jeongguk misses him too.
College won't help with that.
"Growing up is weird."
Jeongguk's voice, right by his ear, jolts Jimin out of his thoughts. And just like that, he's little Jeon Jeongguk from next door again, Jimin's best friend, capable of reading Jimin's mind without so much as a glance.
Jeongguk's head tilts downward as he rests his cheek against Jimin's hair.
"Yeah, it is." Jimin hates how small his voice is, but he's always let himself be a little vulnerable around Jeongguk. "Sucks that we gotta deal with it."
The wind picks up, making a few goosebumps climb up Jimin's arms. He turns so they're side by side, and Jeongguk lifts his arm up like it's nothing, lets Jimin fit perfectly in his arms. Jimin presses his cheek against Jeongguk's chest, and listens to the steady thud of his heart. He tries not to think of what it means. What matters is that he's cold.
"What do you wanna do here then?" Jimin breaks the silence, his voice a little muffled by Jeongguk's hoodie. "We've done the breaking in the park bit."
"I dunno. Talk, I guess?"Jeongguk flicks a finger against the sand and tosses some onto Jimin's shoe. "What else could we do?" They don't move. Jimin wraps his arms around Jeongguk's waist, scoots in that much closer. They don't have to do anything.
"I'm surprised I've never taken you here," Jimin says, his nose brushing lightly against Jeongguk's neck. "At night, I mean. I'm here all the time."
Jimin feels Jeongguk's snort more than hears it.
"The fuck do you do here alone?"
Jimin shrugs, "I'm never alone."
The way Jeongguk's entire body stiffens is hilarious, his spine straightening, his neck stretching longer, heartbeat picking up. Jimin can't help the laugh, and squeezes the younger boy's middle.
"You sound surprised."
"It's just —" Jeongguk feels a little warmer, body still tense. "A playground? Do you fuck in the jungle gym or something?"
"What? God, no." Jimin wrinkles his nose. "Mostly I make out with people on the benches. Sometimes push them on the swing if they ask."
Jeongguk glances at the benches, and Jimin listens to his heart rate ease back to normal. He doesn't say anything for a bit, just looking at the benches. That's where Dawon used to watch over them, hunched over her books, listening to her walkman. Time does fly.
"How come you never told me?" Jeongguk asks then.
Jimin shrugs again.
"I don't have to tell you everything."
It feels a little like a betrayal, but their friendship runs deeper than that. Two decades is a long time. Longer than most people. It occurs to Jimin that this might be the first time that Jeongguk's realized how different their lives have become, how many times their paths have splintered and broken, running parallel rather than together.
"I suppose you don't."
Jeongguk gets up so fast Jimin nearly falls over. The night air is freezing. Jimin watches Jeongguk as he goes over to the swings, and sits himself down comfortably.
"When was the last time you sat in this?" Jeongguk tests it out, lifting his massive legs up. He has to keep them completely straight to even get off the ground. Adorable. Jimin pushes away his doubts — doesn't stop to wonder what that short moment of bliss meant for them — and heads over to him, sand dusting the ground as he goes.
"Dunno. Usually only the girls wanna sit there."
Jeongguk throws his head back and laughs. At least Jimin knows he didn't upset him.
"Liar. You loved the swing. You never let it go."
"I did." A long time ago. Jimin can't suppress the grin. Will never be able to say no to Jeongguk. Maybe for old time's sake. "Let's see if i can manage."
Jimin has to squirms a little in the seat. When he manages to get in, it's just barely. There's not a single millimeter of space left, and the metal on the sides digs into his jeans. When he pouts, Jeongguk busts out laughing again.
"My ass barely fits in this anymore," Jimin whines.
"Not everyone's as blessed as you are." Jeongguk reaches over and pokes Jimin's side, making the swing sway away just a bit. Jimin sticks his tongue out at him.
"Fuck you. You're literally a tree."
Jimin knows Jeongguk can't fucking deny it. There's barely a foot between him and the ground, the metal seat almost at a curve from the weight. The chains creak, but it manages to hold him up. Jimin swears if he tries to go too hard the entire thing will fall apart.
An owl hoots in the distance and Jeongguk nearly jumps out of the seat.
"It's kind of…" Jeongguk looks like he might be blushing. Even under that perfect little punk prince exterior, he's still Jimin's nerd. "I dunno, unnerving here at night. I've never been."
"It's cause humans are ruled by context." Jimin explains. "You see this playground as a place to go through during the day. When it's not filled with kids and just sitting here, late at night, it's a little bit creepier than it should be."
"Wow, you're the one spouting fun facts for once."
Jeongguk almost looks impressed. Normally he's the one bringing up random bits and pieces of information to their conversations, usually picked up from his unnatural habit of Wikipedia page hopping. Or when Jimin lay in Jeongguk's bed while he studied, he'd lift his head and read out a sentence from his book, the widest smile on his face. It was rare to find someone who enjoyed random bits of bullshit like that kid did.
"Hey, I got expelled for disorderly conduct, not cause my grades were shit." Jimin grins when Jeongguk laughs. The moonlight hits his face just right, making him glow.
"Your grades were kinda shit."
"By choice!" Jimin swears. It was a conscious decision not to do all that homework. A lot of 'fuck it's were thrown around.
"The teachers all hated you too."
"I can't imagine why," Jimin says, "I'm irresistible."
"That you are." Jeoongguk swings so his shoulder nudges Jimin, and they sway together, their shadows stretching long across the playground. "The world's most charming. They stopped buying your bullshit eventually."
"Do you think it was the tattoos?" Jimin shrugs, looking at the sleeve that goes all the way up his arm. Tilts his head for the ones by his ear. "It might've been the tattoos."
"Never did anything to me." Jeongguk's smile is so cheeky, Jimin almost wants to smack him.
"They're balanced out by your adorable face," Jimin points out. He's only a little bitter about the bias. "No one can give that face shit."
"You do it all the time."
"I'm just more powerful."
"Hey, remember when you kicked Trevor Garcia's ass when I was, what, 5?" Jeongguk asks. "All cause he called my teeth goofy-looking."
It was sunny and they were playing on the see-saw. Jimin remembers getting up and accidentally letting poor Jeongguk fall on his butt, but that didn't matter. Trevor Garcia never spoke to either of them ever again. Even now, when they buy shit at Target, Trevor never looks them in the eye when he mans the cashier.
"Only I was allowed to call you goofy-looking."
Jeongguk smiles at him. All soft around the edges, nose scrunching a little. Eyes shining.
"I'm serious. I was a bit overprotective, wasn't I?"
"Was?" Jeongguk snorts, "You still are."
"No way." Jimin draws a line between them in the dirt. "You've got your own life now."
"And you've got yours." Jeongguk almost looks confused. When Jimin stands up, Jeongguk follows, like a puppy. That's always how it's been — the two of them trailing after each other, each other's shadows. All their lives, tied together. Jimin and Jeongguk. Jeongguk and Jimin. Inseparable.
"Sure I do." Jimin looks up at the sky. The clouds have shifted, drifting across the abyss, and a few stars have started to twinkle. "But you're gonna be so much bigger than I am, Kookie. You're gonna go to college and change the world and all that shit. I'm stuck here."
Jeongguk stands next to him, so close that their shoulders are touching.
"You're not stuck," Jeongguk says. Jimin shakes his head.
"I am." Jimin shrugs. "That's not really a bad thing. I don't think I'm meant for much. That's okay."
"Hyung, you— "
"I'm glad we still have the summer, though."
There's silence after that. Summer, or what's left of it. A couple of weeks and the Jeongguk will have to go. Maybe Jimin will help him move. Drive his truck across the state just to help Jeongguk settle in, maybe say a stilted goodbye at the door of his dorm room. Before driving away. Back to his tiny town, in his dead end job, in a corner of the world. Jeongguk deserves more than that.
"I'll come back."
"You can't promise me that." Jimin holds back a frown. "I won't let you."
"I'm gonna do it anyway." Jeongguk sounds so sure. Determined. And Jeongguk's known not to go back on his word. Never. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."
Jimin wants this to be the only promise he breaks.
"Sure, Jeonggukie. Sure."