Pàthei Màthos - πάθει μάθος
Zeus, whoever he may be,
if so it please him to be named,
so I do address him.
I find no other image,
though I ponder all,
than Zeus, if from my mind this senseless burden
truly must be thrown.
Nor will whoever once was great,
bursting in his battle pride,
be counted as having been.
And he who next arose
was thrice thrown and is gone.
But who with lusty song cries Zeus the victor
hits the soul of wisdom.
He steered the mortal mind to thought,
making one law: suffer and learn.
Drop by drop on hearts in sleep
falls pain, remembering woes;
and so to the unwilling
comes wisdom when it comes.
Violent is the grace of powers
at the terrible helm.
Hymn to Zeus (vv. 160-183), Agamemnon, Aeschylus.
Yoongi scrunched his nose and rubbed his eyes, waking up from one of those nights that began very differently and ended up all the same: he would find himself in his room, not knowing how the fuck he managed to get there, and with the most terrible migraine crowning his head.
He moaned in disgust when he realized how greasy his skin was. How long had he been sleeping? Yoongi never used to wear a watch and his phone was nowhere in sight, so it could have been midday as well as eight AM. As he slipped his hand under his neck, Yoongi sighed in pain.
It was worse than the last time, way worse. His muscles were incredibly sore and tensed.
I can’t do this to myself anymore, he whispered, but instantly narrowed his eyes.
The very sound of his feeble voice was more than he could physically take.
Even his thoughts were untenably loud.
He needed an aspirin, and he needed it as soon as possible.
Yoongi tried to lift himself up, succeeding only after a few failed tries, where he ended up bumping back on the mattress.
Without even taking a look at himself, he walked down the stairs leading to the kitchen.
He grabbed a glass and filled it up with tap water, then fumbled in one of the cupboards until he felt the familiar shape of a tube of aspirins in his hand and sank one tablet in the water.
Oh fuck, oh no, here we go again with this bullshit, he thought to himself as soon as he heard his mother’s glacial voice cutting the air behind his back.
He sighed and rested his hands on the marble counter for a second, before slightly turning his head to acknowledge her presence.
“Eomma.” He answered, tiresomely, in a sleepy voice that sounded like a plea.
He already knew, he could feel it coming: she was about to give him the talk, for the nth time of his life and, in that moment, he knew he could not bear it. His knees automatically clenched when he felt the sound of her heels getting closer.
She had never been very motherly, to be gallant.
Except when it came to be scolding him, as she would say, or making him feel like utter shit, as he would’ve rather put it.
The aspirin kept fizzing, hypnotically.
Yoongi was so absorbed contemplating the oscillating movements of the tablet that, when she touched his shoulder, he jumped in shock and raised his arm, still not perfectly conscious or sober.
When he realized what it must have looked like, it was too late: his mother was staring at him, with her hand covering her mouth, eyes filled with both fear and astonishment.
She took a step back and pointed her other, shaking hand to Yoongi, as if she needed to prove herself that that one really was her son, that she wasn’t hallucinating.
“Of the many things I could have ever imagined to be lurking within your soul, Yoongi, believe me: violence was the last one I could have ever thought of.”
Her voice stabbed him like an ice shard and Yoongi felt her disappointment and disgust hit him like an avalanche. He tried to get closer, trying to grab her and hug her, desperate to explain the misunderstanding, desperate for a hug, but she turned him down. Again.
What’s new? Yoongi thought, heartbroken, feeling his teeth gritting in an empty bite of bitterness.
“No, eomma, please, please, listen...this is not...I didn’t mean... I...I was just focused, I am still waking up and I was not in my right mind.”
Yoongi tried to explain himself, but by the way his mother kept looking at him it didn’t seem to work.
“Look at yourself, Yoongi.”
For the first time that morning, he took a long gaze at his body. He was half dressed, with the zipper of his jeans disclosed and his shirt unbuttoned, stained with sweat and what looks like red wine.
“You’re disgusting.” She sentenced.
“Take that aspirin and wash yourself. I’m going to call your father. We need to discuss a solution to this behavior. A permanent one.”
She didn’t even give him time to beg her not to call his father, but in the end, even if he tried, his mother was not going to listen.
Yoongi drank the medication and went for his room. He mindlessly undressed, throwing his clothes off with lazy strokes of his limbs. As the steam began to diffuse inside the shower, he took a look at his face in the mirror. He touched his cheeks and pinched his dark circles.
His mother was right, he looked disgusting, his skin was dull and the inner part of his lips was stained with red wine from the night before. Yoongi walked into the shower and remained still as a statue while the hot water carved red streaks over his white flesh.
He knew this was not going to work out well for him, he knew how he had to find another way. The fact was, he just couldn’t pull himself to accept it. He felt stuck in the middle, torn between the awareness of needing to change his coping mechanism and the fear of facing the pain.
Before he knew, he found himself sobbing with his eyes closed as his body slowly crawled on the shower tray. He allowed himself to let out his suffering for a while, before he could muster a glimpse of strength and get back up on his feet.
After a few more minutes, that felt like hours, he headed out of the bathroom, feeling somehow better after his meltdown in the shower. Yet the relaxation wasn’t meant to last long: before he knew, Yoongi started to get anxious again at the thought of facing his father later on, the familiar feeling of a pincer tearing his stomach apart getting ahold of him.
He laid on the bed, trying to chill or at least breathe, but it wasn’t long before he heard a loud knock on his door and had to forcefully go back to reality.
“Yoongi!” a male voice called.
“It’s open, hyung” he said out loud.
His brother walked in, followed by one of their childhood friends, Seokjin, and they both sat down on his bed.
Seokjin was the son of a CEO whose company was one of the most relevant business partners of their father’s. They had known each other since kindergarten, he was more like family than their own relatives (like that took much effort).
“How are you feeling today?” His older brother asked.
“Yoongi, I know you hate it when I tell you, but you really need to get a grip. You can’t go on like this, it’s unhealthy. Forget what eomma says, forget appa. I’m talking about you. You’re destroying your life. You’re throwing yourself away.” His voice was warm and soothing.
Yoongi let him hold his hand and gently caress his still wet hair.
“Like anyone would care anyways.” He sighed.
“Well I care.” His brother said, fastening his grip around the boy’s hand.
“And so do I, or we wouldn’t be here.” Seokjin’s voice reached his ears as well.
“Listen, I’m gonna leave it here. I have a friend who’s going to Seoul, he’s majoring in western philosophy and literature. He’s looking for a roommate. How about you go with him? Some time alone may help to clear your mind and maybe you’ll even find the motivation to follow that dream of yours to become an architect. You’re still in time to take back your studies.”
Jin’s voice sounded like a wave, softly caressing his ears.
Yoongi tightened the grip on the sheets and took a deep breath.
“I don’t know...sounds like exile to me.”
“Oh, come on, no one wants to exile you. It’s just that this situation is extremely unhealthy for you. It’s not like it’s going to get better in time. If something, it’s going to get worse. You know that.”
His brother was right and he knew that.
It was unhealthy. Living with his parents had always been hell for him. The younger child, the rebel one, who always got compared to his brother and never seemed to be smart enough, determined enough, capable enough, ambitious enough...even man enough.
Sudden memories from the night when he came out to his parents began to surge in his mind like a tide, an oil slick that had contaminated every inch of joy within him.
His father screaming at him, addressing him as “a disgusting fag”.
The look in his eyes when he stood up and walked towards him, all curled up on himself in a corner.
The harsh whiplashes his father inflicted on him with his belt, the utter pain he felt when the sharp edges of the buckle hit his ribs, the raw flesh ripping under his shirt at every stroke.
His desperate gasps for air.
Yoongi had to squint his eyes as tight as he could and gasped for air in order to not let it get to him.
He pulled himself up to sit with his legs crossed on the bed and brushed a hand over his wet, reddened eyes.
“Yoongi, we’re not trying to send you away… I swear to God that’s the last of my intentions. I just mean to protect you, even from yourself.”
His brother speaks softly, while cupping Yoongi’s face in his hands and wiping away the tears with his thumbs.
“Do you understand that?”
“Yes…Yes, I do…” The words hardly slip out of his lips, but the room is in such a deep, religious silence that even his whispers are audible enough. “I...I guess I could do that. I guess I could give it a try and see how it goes. Maybe I could fit.”
Jin gave him one of those big cheerful smiles of his and lightly patted Yoongi’s thin thigh with his hand.
“I’ll call him then, let’s plan to have dinner together, see if you get along.”
Yoongi rolled his head.
“Oh come on Jin, it’s not like I have to marry him, we’re just going to share a home.”
Jin looked at him with one of his most dramatic expressions, with his eyes wide opened.
“Of course you don’t have to marry him, he’s the guy I’m into!” He said, in a louder tone, and then started laughing.
Yoongi looked at him with disbelief.
“Excuse me, he’s the WHAT now?”
“He’s my boyfriend, he just doesn’t know yet.”
The three of them laughed out loud at once.
For a little while, every concern had left Yoongi’s mind.
But, as every other time, it wasn’t going to last long.
The thought of having to face his father was still lingering in his brain and, when he came back home that night, Yoongi was as tensed as a violin string.
The four of them sat together for dinner. No one seemed to care much about the food, though. As a matter of fact, Yoongi could have thrown up that very moment. His bowel was painfully clenching and his lungs didn’t seem to be able to work properly, as his breath got heavier.
“So, Yoongi, I have received a very detailed phone call from your mother concerning your behavior, this morning. As much as I am not surprised at all, since you have put us through each and every kind of shame, I would very much appreciate an explanation on your behalf.”
Yoongi froze, holding the spoon in midair. He breathed deeply and tried to open his mouth to speak, but got immediately interrupted by his father’s still, ice cold, monotone voice.
“You have put us through each and every kind of shame, but this is unacceptable. Threatening your own mother? Being physically aggressive? You, young man, have crossed the line of human decency.”
Yoongi felt his blood boiling and his cheeks flushed with anger.
“I did not-“
“I AM NOT DONE SPEAKING.” His father roared at him, slamming one hand on the table.
“You are beyond forgiveness, Yoongi. If your brother hadn’t interceded for you, I would have disowned you. Now tell me: how much do you want to leave this house and never come back? I am willing to pay. You make the price. I will be reasonable and accept any offer.”
As he heard his father’s words, he felt his head spin and a taste of vomit hit the back of his mouth.
“I don’t- Yoongi took a sip of wine from the finely gold decorated crystal glass and loudly swallowed the knot in his throat- I don’t want anything from you.”
Then, he lifted his eyes, glistening with a flame that set them ablaze, like a caged animal about to fight for dear life, to meet his father’s.
“This is disgusting. I will leave because I decided to, not because you will pay me like one of your whores.”
He stood up as well.
“You’re so full of yourself, so self-complacent, as you patronize me and tell me about the true values of a family. But which family are you talking about exactly? Do you give this talk to the women you meet after work and to the ones you take on trips and fancy restaurants?”
A deadly silence had fallen on the room. His father was trying to open his mouth, as he grasped on the immaculate tablecloth with his knuckles clenched.
“Right, that’s what I thought. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to pack my belongings.”
Yoongi gave a last look at his father, whose eyes were still planted on him, and at his mother, who was sitting still, stiff as a twig with an emotionless face and pale as a ghost, and then left the dining room.
As he reached the handle of his bathroom, he felt his stomach turn.
He threw himself on the ground and threw up all of the few spoonfuls of food he had eaten, then washed his face and looked at his reflection in the mirror.
Yes, it had all been very epic, if it weren’t for the fact that now he had nowhere to go and was completely broke.
Loud noises kept coming from downstairs. Yoongi could hear his father screaming and crashing dishes, his mother sobbing and begging him to stop, his brother intimating both of them to calm down.
It might have seemed absurd, from an outer perspective, but to him this was routine.
He honestly couldn’t remember a single day where he hadn’t been the topic of the evening among his parents.
Yoongi opened the tap of the basin and let the water flow, trying to cover the noises, his hands tightly gripped onto the porcelain surface.
“What do I do? What do I do?”
He kept muttering to himself, obsessively. His head was about to explode, Yoongi could feel the veins on his temples pulsating at an impossible pace while his mind was clouded by fear and anger.
Desperately, and almost automatically, he reached for a blister of pills.
He had never had the nerve to touch them.
The psychiatrist he was dragged to see by his parents had prescribed them to Him a couple of months before, but he never took them.
Yoongi had always been scared of medications, especially when it came to mental health.
But he couldn’t do it anymore.
Not that night.
Not with those inhuman screams coming from the dining room.
Not when he had just doomed himself.
He popped two tiny pills out and swallowed them, then he sat down on his bathroom’s floor, waiting for the meds to kick in.
All of a sudden, a firm hold around his shoulders shook his frame vigorously.
Yoongi had to try a few times to open up his eyes. In front of him, the familiar face of his brother.
“What the fuck happened?”
Yoongi tried to speak but his tongue wasn’t keeping up with the brain.
“Doesn’t matter right now. We gotta pack your things. I’m taking you to Jin’s place.”
“How...- Yoongi muttered sloppily- how long have I... slept?”
His brother lifted an eyebrow.
“Fuck if I know. It’s two A.M. and I came here as soon as I was sure that the old man was asleep.”
"Oh" Yoongi sighed.
"Oh what? How did you even manage to fall asleep on the fucking floor? Geez, Yoongi, I knew you could sleep everywhere, but I never thought you could've come this far."
His brother's voice was a frenzied whisper.
"I used two of those and... And I... Kinda... Forget it, I don't even know how it... Happened."
Yoongi massaged his temples and squinted his eyes, trying to focus his sight.
"Come on, get up, big guy."
He pulled Yoongi up like he were a feather.
"Can you stand up?" he asked, while cupping his face and checking his pupils.
Yoongi tried to pull away from his hold, but he didn't let go.
"Just- he pulled Yoongi's face closer and lifted his lids to look closer- Can you stay still for one goddamn second? Jesus Christ..."
"Oh come on, the light hurts!"
He finally managed to slip out of his brother's grasp and rubbed his eyes. That fucking neon light was about to burn his corneas but he knew too well there was not time to waste. He didn’t want to wake up into that house.
"No more of this bullshit pills, d' you hear me?"
The elder tossed the blister in the trash bin and pulled Yoongi out of the bathroom.
"Grab your stuff, I'll help."
Thank you all very much for reading this first chapter! If you want to, you can follow me on Twitter, I will be very glad to talk to you any time!
See you soon with the next chapter, until then... Lots of love ❤