And I'll be, right outside your front door on my 12 speed
I got your emotions tattooed on my sleeve
I think about you all the time
I've waited for you all my life, I need you right here by my side
-Empty, Kevin Abstract
His bike skids roughly on the rocky pavement in front of Hansol’s house.
After at least a decade of biking through these suburbs, he should know to avoid the ever-present rough patch there. Seungkwan seems to forget every single time, has shown up at Hansol’s door with bloody hands and knees year after year only to be cleaned up by Hansol’s mom as if he was her own son every time. It’s a warm, humid August night, about an hour until sunset and the light is golden. He pulls at the fabric stuck to the back of his neck as he walks his bike up the drive. There’s a car that he doesn’t recognize, an outdated but clean white sedan.
He raps his knuckles on the metal frame of the squeaking screen door. Hansol’s younger sister lets him in.
“Who’s car is that?” He asks, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at the sedan. Sofia cranes her neck to take a look, shrugging.
“Some girl,” she smirks.
After giving a wave to the parents, he takes off his shoes and bounds up the stairs in his socks. He doesn’t knock on Hansol’s bedroom door, but he wishes he did; when he swings the door open, Hansol jumps away from the girl sitting next to him, startled.
“Shit, Seungkwan, I thought you were my dad,” Hansol laughs. Seungkwan takes in the scene. Hansol’s room is cleaner than normal, as if he’d made an effort. His bed is made, but anyone could see the wrinkles on the comforter from where someone had moved around on top of it. His eyes immediately move to the girl. She’s short but pretty, with long bleached blonde hair and sharp eyeliner. She’s wiping her mouth on the the back of her hand, and when he looks to Hansol, his hair is messy, he’s got lip gloss smeared around his mouth. Some girl .
“This is Yebin,” Hansol clarifies.
“Hey, Seungkwan,” she grins. He realizes numbly that he knows her, he’s had a few classes with her, and of course she knows him. He doesn’t shut up in class. Looking at the two of them, he suddenly feels awkward, standing in the doorway in his sweaty t-shirt. He shifts to the other foot.
“Nice car,” he says. He feels self conscious, which is horribly unfamiliar in Hansol’s home. He amount of times he’s stood in this doorway, lay on that bed that Hansol and Yebin are awkwardly on now, probably exceeds the amount of bones in his body, so why does he feel so weird? The atmosphere goes stale, the three of them unsure what to say. Crickets chirp appropriately outside the open window.
Yebin coughs. “I’m gonna get some water really quick.” She stands up, and Seungkwan moves aside for her. She’s careful to not hit his shoulder in the doorway, which is too nice of her, considering that Seungkwan’s not giving her much room. Her footsteps are quiet on the carpet. She stops and the end of the hall and turns around, confusion on her face. Seungkwan wordlessly points her to the bathroom door. Her face lights up red in embarrassment and she bows her head in thank.
When Seungkwan glares at Hansol, he has the grace to look embarrassed.
“So when were you planning on telling me about your new girlfriend?” Seungkwan rolls his eyes, roughly sitting down on the bed next to him.
“Look, it all happened kind of fast,” he begins. Seungkwan grumbles, shoving a box of tissues at him, muttering something about get that shit off your face . “And she’s not my girlfriend,” he mumbles through a handful of tissues.
“A bunch of us went to the movies, right, and I left my headphones in her car. So I called her about getting them back and when we met up I just kinda asked if she wanted to get something to eat, and it kinda turned into a date? And then we made out in her car?” Hansol balls up the tissues and throws them into his trash can. Seungkwan scrubs his face with his hands, his eyes rolling out of his head.
“What do you mean, “a bunch of us?” He makes irritated air quotes with his fingers. Hansol shrinks.
“You know, a few of the guys and some of the girls they know. I’ll introduce you if you want, there’s a lot of them.”
“Which ones, the guys or the girls,” He grumbles.
Hansol dares to grin at him. “Either.” Seungkwan smacks him on the arm, the pit in his stomach widening.
“What, and this is serious enough for dinner with your parents?” Seungkwan says.
Hansol smiles weakly. “No, but that’s why you’re here. To, you know,” he makes ambiguous gestures with his hands. “Diffuse.”
“Diffuse.” Seungkwan repeats incredulously. He flops down and shoves Hansol with his foot. “You so owe me. How did she even end up here then?”
“Sofia ratted on me,” He sighs. “I’ll make it up to you.”
Hansol moves to the desk chair and Seungkwan spreads himself out on the twin bed, trying to occupy as much space as he can, maybe so Yebin will need to find a different place to sit. He turns his head and the bedspread still smells like the fabric softener Mrs. Chwe uses, the same smell that sticks to Hansol’s clothes. It brings back all the memories of times he and Hansol shared this bed as kids before they got too big, and he suddenly feels intensely possessive of this stupid bed.
He tilts his head on the other side to look at Hansol and his stomach kind of clenches. He looks like he’s always looked, really, spinning in his desk chair like an overgrown 10 year old. He’s always been good looking, handsome actually, eyes that shine, straight teeth and a chiseled jaw. He had fluffy dark hair when he was a kid, but the both of them have since kept up with dying their hair lighter. There was a time when Seungkwan envied Hansol’s looks, but that jealousy doesn’t pop up much anymore. These days, the only way he feels about Hansol’s amazing boyishness is… something he really doesn’t know how to articulate, but it’s not envy.
Anyway, his mom says he’s handsome, and he believes her.
* * *
The dinner with Yebin and the Chwes was about as painful as expected. Hansol and Yebin sat on one side of the table (with maybe more space between their chairs than was necessary) while Seungkwan and Sofia sat on the other, Mr. and Mrs. Chwe at either end. The dinner mostly consisted of Sofia desperately cracking jokes to lighten the mood, Hansol’s parents being perfectly nice, Hansol himself eating third helpings to avoid talking, Seungkwan shooting him glares, and Yebin confused but trying her best. When it was over, Hansol and Yebin went out for a drive in her car and Seungkwan biked home, kind of pissed. Mrs. Chwe frowned as they drove away, watching from the screen door with her arms crossed, and told Seungkwan to take home the rest of the dessert she’d made.
On Wednesday night Hansol facetimes him and asks him to please meet him at work, if that’s okay.
Seungkwan works at this small neighborhood grocery store in the summers, wearing this ugly-as-sin green vest with a name tag. His boss is a large and irritable man in his mid forties who seems quite a bit older, he smells strongly of cigarettes and spits when he talks. The one time Hansol actually visited him at the store, Seungkwan later received a face-full of harsh satoori and said spit, for “disregarding work duties.” Because of this, when Hansol says to meet him at work, he actually means to meet him at the shitty, barely functional park in the lot behind the store. His sisters told him once that the dugout of the baseball field there used to be the designated makeout spot when they were much younger, but now even the 8th grade boys prefer to play basketball on courts that aren’t cracked with hundreds of spider-veins.
These days he wants to look good when he’s with Hansol. He’s viewed Seungkwan in every state, good and bad, but he feels the need to not just be viewed, but to be seen, to show that he’s grown from the round faced fetus that he prays Hansol doesn’t remember as well as he does. Before he leaves work, he combs down his bangs and borrows lip balm from the girl who works the next register. Once he’s out the door, the ugly vest is crumpled and thrown near his bike.
Hansol is waiting for him in that dugout, headphones in and foot tapping in the dirt. When Seungkwan approaches, he yanks his headphones from his ears, smiling.
“Hey,” he grins as Seungkwan sits down next to him on the worn bench. Seungkwan has to remind himself that he’s mad at him when Hansol gently reaches out and tilts his chin. “Are you wearing lip gloss?”
Seungkwan bristles. “It’s just chapstick.” He softly smacks his hand away and Hansol looks suitably chastised, withdrawing his hand and crumpling his headphones in his pocket. Seungkwan sits back with his arms crossed, waiting.
“I shouldn’t have just left you that night,” he begins. “Friends don’t do shit like that.”
Seungkwan huffs, kicking a rock out onto the dusty field. “Did your mom tell you to say that?”
Hansol shrugs. “I mean she wasn’t happy, but i’m not doing this for her. Apologizing, I mean.”
“Is that what you’re doing,” he mutters.
Hansol rubs the back of his neck. “Yeah, it is. I’m sorry.” He coughs, avoiding his eyes. “I’ve made a lot of new friends lately, but there’s nobody really like you.” He looks in the other direction entirely when he says this; “I miss you.”
Seungkwan’s resolve crumples a bit. He toes the dirt with one scuffed up sneaker. “You mean it?”
Hansol is fidgeting on the wooden bench, his earbuds hooked over his ears and little bits of blonde hair curling over those. He’s gotten tan in the summer, a few freckles dotting his nose. His knees are scratched up from making attempts at skateboarding with his new friends, but the scar on his shin from when he fell into a ditch biking as a kid remains. For the second time in a few days, Seungkwan is struck by how little he’s changed, no matter how handsome the girls at school say he is.
He nods in answer, looking him in the eye this time.
Seungkwan exhales deeply, staring at his feet. “I can’t stay mad at you.” Hansol’s face splits into a true smile.
He scoots over on the bench closer to Seungkwan, offering him an earbud, which he accepts. The song begins with melodic strings, tapering off into sharp single piano keys, then into candid rap. He tunes out, looking out across the baseball diamond. The sun is sitting low in the sky, if they stay out here much longer they’ll end up covered in mosquito bites the next day. Fireflies start to blink towards the edge of the woods.
“Me and Yebin are gonna just be friends,” he says. Seungkwan looks at him sharply, to which he shrugs. “She was never my girlfriend anyway. We decided we’re better off as just friends, you know?”
Seungkwan nods. “Friends that make out for ha-ha’s, right?” He smirks. Now it’s Hansol’s turn to push him.
“No, not that kind of friends,” He insists.
“Why not, she’s pretty.” Seungkwan laughs, raising his eyebrows. Hansol huffs.
“Why are you acting like this, you didn’t even like her,” He groans. Seungkwan shrugs.
“She seems nice.” He’s being honest.
Hansol nods. “Yeah she is.”
There’s quiet for a minute. Cicadas chirr in one ear, the music plays softly in the other.
“You know I meant what I said… about introducing you to my friends. They’re all good kids.”
Seungkwan forces himself to nod. He’s not gonna tell Hansol, but his proposal does mean something to him. His friends, most of them are older, chiller than him, from what he’s seen. One of them skates well, one of them works at the convenience store in the neighborhood and deals pot out the back. Hansol told him that said boy also feeds every stray cat and dog in town out the back as well.
He moved from Jeju as a little boy. Met Hansol in grade school when he caught him staring at the food Seungkwan’s mom packed him from home, and offered to share. He always thought he’d been a bit much for the other kids at school, maybe a bit too loud, a bit too dramatic, and with a scalding temper to top it off, but he always had Hansol.
“I think you’d like them, for real.” Hansol says. “And like I said.” He coughs. “I miss you. It’d be more fun with you around, Boo.” He looks away, and his hand falls in the small space between them, tangling his fingers with Seungkwan’s and squeezing, gone before he even knows it.
Seungkwan hides a smile. Hansol always says his surname like it’s a pet name, something with value. “Go on and introduce me then, If they’re so great.”
Hansol nods happily. He suddenly jumps up. “Sleep over at my house tonight, I think my mom won’t believe that i apologized if she doesn’t see you.” Seungkwan nods, and Hansol reaches out a hand to help him off the bench unnecessarily. Their hands fit together like patchwork puzzle pieces.
The bike ride home is dark, but they’ve memorized the way.