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The Adolescence Appendix

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Wonwoo is having a bad day.

Story of his life, honestly. But it’s been especially bad as of late.

He’s flipped out twice on Soonyoung this week because his Philosophy of Politics in Journalism professor is as transparent as a brick and had failed (spectacularly) in mentioning anything about the major research paper due in four days. Then Wonwoo nearly changed his profession from “suffering student” to “actual roadkill” after some asshole ran a red light because some people just can't emotionally or mentally handle waiting thirty seconds for the next light cycle.

And now, from the warm and dry confines of the library, Wonwoo watches what’s probably nature’s response to how much humans keep fucking with the environment.

He realizes, like a disappointed but unsurprised guardian, that he has no umbrella.

“I’d lend you my raincoat,” Seokmin had teased, clearly lying, “but Mingyu will yell murder if you fall in love with me,” before prancing away in his obnoxiously bright plastic parka. Wonwoo saluted him goodbye with a middle finger.

This raining trope is getting old, he thinks wistfully. The universe should find more original ways of telling him that he’s reached another turning point in his life.

But he has no time to ponder what adventures the greater cosmic powers have in store for him this time. The earlier he starts his all-nighter, the sooner he can regret his decisions, get over it, rinse and repeat.

Wonwoo reaches the lobby of his apartment building cold and tired and soaked to every bone, even those he didn’t know existed. But he’d sooner skinny dip in an Antarctic water park than get his notes wet because he still lives in the medieval ages and uses paper notebooks.

“How’s the child?” asks the guard at the front desk, eyeing the way Wonwoo is cradling his bag like his entire life lay inside—which, for all intents and purposes, is true.

Wonwoo glares when the guard offers a dainty handkerchief. He takes it anyway.

“Soonyoung won’t be happy you called him that,” Wonwoo says. “Anyway, I got an alert this morning about some mail?”

“Not expecting any?”

“Not the kind to expect. Deliberately, at least.”

“You should start,” says the guard, smiling. “Good for the heart and soul."

You say that like I have either is hanging at the edge of Wonwoo’s internal dialogue, but any degree of coherence is lost on him when he sees what the guard is nudging his chin at.

The guard clicks his tongue. “I don’t trust your roommates enough to pick it up themselves.”

Wonwoo nods. “Good call.”

Stark against the warped table is an arrangement of flowers—colorful, tall, unnecessarily extravagant relative to the dull blue-grays of the rest of the world. Then the scent hits Wonwoo, fresh and sweet in a way that doesn’t make his nose shrivel because he hates things that are nauseatingly fragrant. Clearly the sender knows that, too.

Who would even treat him to flowers? Not God, that’s for sure. The last time someone sent Wonwoo something, his grandmother had mailed him a can of beans because she couldn’t open it and hoped he could work his can-opening magic and send it back.

But the gift carries a nostalgic air to it, which is weird considering Wonwoo has never been a flowers kind of guy. He can’t even remember the last time he’d been around flowers that didn’t wilt when he so much as looked at them.

Ah, no, that’s not right. He promises he remembers this time.

Wonwoo returns to his apartment and finds it in the panicked disarray Soonyoung always leaves it in before sprinting out to teach underprivileged children how to dance or whatever a heart of gold compels people to do. It’s times like these Wonwoo reminds himself that rent for singles is expensive and severing a limb for money is not a good plan B.

But this time Wonwoo is in a moderately less sour mood, cheeks slightly flushed, and loosened enough with pleasant surprise to think up things like “budding smiles” and “blooming with happiness” despite being severely allergic to such platitudes.

The AC has been broken-stuck on “fucking freezing” degrees Celsius for a while already, but Wonwoo might be sweating because osmosis is a powerful force in the face of so much sugary schmuck. Maybe that’s why it’s raining today. Or why his relationship seems so stubbornly framed by the weather.

After setting the vase in the middle of the dining room table—the only place left untouched after threats of disembowelment—Wonwoo opens up the card. 

TO: My Wonwoo
FROM: Your Mingyu

As I’m writing this, I have this nagging feeling that you’re especially stressed and could use a pick-me-up! Hugs and kisses are hard to send, so this was the next best thing I could think of.

Being away from you is harder than I imagined, but the thought of you trying your hardest gives me the strength to do the same. Hopefully your memory has gotten better by now, too. I miss you! I hope you miss me too. x

“It doesn’t really work when I’m in a perpetual state of being ‘especially stressed,’” Wonwoo mutters through the grin.

On these occasions, Wonwoo would usually warm up with Jihoon’s not-so-secret stash of malt whiskey—top shelf of his wardrobe, behind the stacks of collectible cereal boxes (for anyone taking notes) at a height Jihoon probably thinks is inaccessible to most but requires little effort when backed by tallness and impending hypothermia.

But it turns out that all Wonwoo needs is a fondness for people thinking about him outside of his birthday, and a stable relationship to fuel that fondness tenfold.

At this rate, Mingyu’s Wonwoo senses might be giving Soonyoung’s a run for their money.

“How dare you utter such words in this household,” says Soonyoung, annoyingly dry, from the entrance. “I pay for one quarter of the place. The landlord never specified which quarter I own.”

“That’s not how rent works.”

“Did Jun eat Seungkwan’s potpourri again? It smells like cheap air freshener— I mean the place smells amazing also did you do something with your hair? You look extra handsome today, my friend. My buddy. My bestest of besties.”

At least Soonyoung’s perceptiveness has improved.

“If you manage to wrest all your orange peels from the couch crevices,” offers Wonwoo with ill-concealed malice, “then I might consider not telling Auntie about fall retreat freshman year.”

“But she already—” Soonyoung gasps. Audibly. “Not The Lake.”

“I’ll even throw in The Neck Brace if you don’t get moving.”

As Soonyoung works to unearth citrus skin from the depths of living room furniture, Wonwoo returns to admiring Mingyu’s unexpected—or maybe expected—present.

Wonwoo can see Mingyu’s adamant character in the wallflowers, his greasy declarations of love in the red roses and quiet confessions in the lavenders and jasmines. Hugs and kisses are hard to send, sure, but those heliotropes are doing an A+ job of making Wonwoo’s heart flutter almost the same.

From the kitchen, Wonwoo can hear Soonyoung muttering things around the lines of “I sprain my neck doing a body shot once and suddenly he thinks he’s better than me" and "Ugh, love is dead."

On the contrary, Wonwoo thinks confidently, love is alive and kicking and ready to bust out a kickass research paper.

He smiles again. Maybe today isn’t such a bad day after all.