I am lonely in a room of lonely people
I’m slow-dancing with myself again
The music plays
Sometimes, it is devastatingly easy to feel like a stranger on a train. Namjoon is surrounded by people, but he is not seen, he is not heard. He exists in a vacuum of polite distance and distracted thoughts. When someone catches his eye, he smiles and quickly glances away. A forgettable moment in time.
It is not often that it happens these days. Namjoon has friends who know his tells and a therapist who teaches him about mindfulness, but he still loses himself to the vastness of his thoughts, walking along the edge of his own abyss. Not staring it down. Just meandering.
It is like this now, looking at the pages of his book, black on white, a glaring contrast that makes his eyes protest. The general noise of the room is not helping, Hoseok chatting with Jieun-noona on the left, another stylist blow-drying Seokjin’s hair on the right.
Seola-noona keeps twirling shades of gold onto cheekbones, the movement of the brush distracting, just like her perfume, something exotic, oriental , something like orange blossoms and frankincense. He breathes shallowly through his mouth, catches his own eye in the mirror.
He is dressed up like a mannequin. Underneath the make-up, his skin feels like plastic, drawn taut over his cheekbones. In half an hour, he will have to be on stage, will have to shine and be sincere.
The corners of his mouth pull up as he practices his smile. It is poised and perfect.
“There you go,” Seola-noona says, fixing one last flyaway hair on his head. “Beautiful.”
Namjoon thanks her and clambers off the chair. His fingers are tightly clenched around his book, thumb caught between the pages. He doesn’t even remember the last sentence he read.
He’s not close to cracking. His numbness is a solid one that keeps the rest of him tightly contained. He knows that the physical exertion and mental concentration of performing will slowly let him thaw up again, until his soul feels like it is wearing the right size body again.
He knows that, usually, he just has to wait it out. To keep calm and keep breathing and not think about it too much. Time passes, and so will this.
He meanders over to the large sofa in the corner, to get a few more minutes of sitting down before he has to be on his feet for the next few hours. In a little while, he will have to be Bangtan’s leader again, but for now he can just hide behind his book some more.
Jeongguk and Yoongi are already done as well, Yoongi with one of his legs casually thrown onto the sofa, Jeongguk already hyped up for the concert, sitting down, wriggling up, starting to do squats. Taehyung joins them and immediately he and Jeongguk begin to squabble, something about betrayed trust and a stolen candy bar.
Taehyung is making accusations, Jeongguk swears up and down he didn’t take it, Yoongi tells them to be mature and make up already.
“But he took my candy-“
“Taehyungie, don’t you think that sharing and forgiving are virtues?” Yoongi admonishes, and Taehyung pouts.
“Yes,” he grumbles at length. “But he still should have asked-“
“I didn’t take it!” Jeongguk insists again. “I’m not lying.”
“But can you forgive your friend for eating your candy bar without asking for permission?” Yoongi plows on, a faint smile on his lips.
Taehyung’s pout intensifies.
“Yes,” he drawls out, not sounding very happy about it.
“Good,” Yoongi says. “Because I ate it.”
“Hyung!” both Jeongguk and Taehyung exclaim at once, but Yoongi is laughing and holding his belly, even as the two berate him for leading them on.
At the other end of the sofa, Namjoon cannot help but smile as well.
When they are back at the dorm, Namjoon showers until he feels like a person. The exhaustion just means that his body holds meaning again, and he hopes a full night of sleep will do the rest.
The mirror in the bathroom is all fogged up, especially since Seokjin went to shower before him, and it helps a little. On days like these, his own face looks foreign and staring at himself for too long always makes it worse. When Namjoon is old, he wants to live in a house without mirrors. He only wants to see his reflection in dark ponds, wants to feel his growing wrinkles with his fingertips. He thinks that would be an easier existence. Just him and Time, without any of the pressure.
He doesn’t grab anything to eat, knows he probably should, but his stomach feels squeamish and he doesn’t want to weigh it down before bedtime, afraid that it will make it harder to sleep.
He throws a vague Good Night into the living room where Jimin and Hoseok are sitting with sheet masks on their faces and giggling over something on Jimin’s phone. Then he disappears into his room and closes the door behind himself.
He sits in his bed, tries to write some lyrics in his notebook, but cannot quite concentrate on it, gets distracted by a text message from his mother, answers her, checks Twitter, reads some comments underneath their most recent tweet, finds a negative one, bites his cheek, tries not to feel petty, closes the app, sets his phone aside again. When he picks up the notebook once more, he has lost the mood of the song.
He scribbles down a poor drawing of Rapmon, and then another prettier one of Ryan. He grabs his phone to check the time and ends up reading first a news article and then progressively dumber clickbait until he is staring down dumb clickbait about himself, and his life is seriously so weird.
By this point, he has given up on the lyrics and on the pretense of productivity in general. He could work out but feels too physically exhausted. He could jerk off, but even that seems like an effort. Frustrated, he kicks at the blankets and wriggles to roll onto his side, reaching over to shut off the bedside lamp.
And if I weep
Or if I fall right back to sleep
Who would know? Who would see?
It’s two hours later when he gets up again because sleep is elusive and only seems to be getting farther away the more he tries.
He knows insomnia is made worse by not resting at all, but they only have a light schedule tomorrow so he figures he will survive. After all, his career was built on sleepless nights.
He steals out of his room, doesn’t bother to close the door, just sneaks through the apartment on bare feet. When they had first moved in, he had been prone to banging his toes into unexpected obstacles but, by now, he knows the way by heart and can blindly pick his way through the dark.
No one else seems to be awake anymore, the TV in the living room shut off, no light in the bathroom, no sounds coming from the other rooms. Quietly, Namjoon opens the glass door to the balcony.
It’s cool outside and he shivers, dressed only in his pajamas. It’s the good kind of cold, though. The kind that makes him feel alive. The fine hairs on the back of his neck stand up and his arms and legs cover themselves in goosebumps.
Namjoon blows out a breath and watches as it turns white in front of him. He loved doing that as a child, and he still loves it now, this undeniable proof of being alive, of having a beating heart and a warm body. When he raps and dances, he is always short of breath; here, his breath is plentiful, filling his lungs with each deep inhale.
He sits down on one of the benches where they sometimes have dinner when the weather allows it. The wood is cool and slightly damp through the fabric of his pants, chilling his butt. But he pulls his feet up, too, to get them off the cold stone, closes his warm hands around his ankles and leans back to look up at the sky.
He loves Seoul, in many ways, but if there is one thing he hates more than the noise, it’s the light pollution. There are all the neon signs and glowing billboard ads, many with his own face on them. There are fast cars with bright headlights, millions of windows and phone screens and computers.
Simply put, there is never enough night.
Namjoon does not fear darkness, but he does not crave it either. If he wanted dark, he’d close his eyes and pull the blankets over his head. What he wants instead is a night sky that does not have to compete with the harsh glare of Seoul.
The moon is there, somewhere, a fuzzy outline behind a nebulous veil of clouds that is yellow with the city lights reflecting off it. And instinctual part of Namjoon wants to check whether he is not wearing his glasses, but he knows he is and that neither perfect eyesight nor a telescope would grant him a better view. All he has is this: Seoul devouring the diamonds that are stitched onto the dark velvet.
And Namjoon has jewelry and golden credit cards but, more than anything, he wants the stars.
There’s a sound behind him, a quiet one. A moment later, something warm and heavy is being draped over his shoulders from behind, and Namjoon recognizes one of the woolen blankets they keep in the living room.
“You’ll get sick,” Yoongi chides. It’s not a real admonishment because he knows Namjoon and knows that he cannot change his fancies. It’s more of an explanation, a waving off the thoughtful gesture, so Namjoon just hums and doesn’t say anything.
Yoongi sighs. A moment later he rounds the bench to sit down by Namjoon’s side, pulling up his knees and slinging his arms around them.
He is dressed in his pajamas as well, looking a little sleep-rumpled. Maybe he got up to get a glass of water or go to the toilet and saw Namjoon’s door open and his bed empty. Here, Yoongi must be tired and cold.
Carefully, Namjoon lifts one of his arms and the blanket with it. He puts it around Yoongi’s shoulder, not the arm, just the blanket, so that they share a space but barely touch. Birds on a branch, all fluffed up and fuzzy.
It’s the end of winter, a terrible time of year, really, when compared to all the other seasons. But spring will be there soon, the very edge of it. Namjoon and Yoongi once wrote a song like that, and the world still loves it. Namjoon does, too.
He imagines how pink the tip of Yoongi’s nose must be right now. How his eyes are drooping and his mouth pouting. He doesn’t have to look to know it. Looking is dangerous, sometimes, but the corners of his eyes are familiar with how easily Yoongi’s ears turn red and how his lips quirk when he is trying not to laugh.
This far up on the balcony, shuttered away in this part of Gangnam, few noises from the streets below reach them. There is a certain hum to the city, the wind in the distance but, other than that, it is calm.
Yoongi never makes conversation just to fill the silence. Namjoon has always liked that about him. With the others around, it is sometimes easy to forget how togetherness can be a quiet little thing.
It seems like such a paradox that Namjoon should feel isolated when everything is happy and boisterous around him. That he should feel more understood when someone just sits next to him without speaking.
Sometimes, he wonders whether most people are afraid of silence because they find themselves left alone with their thoughts. Namjoon understands that fear but he thinks not being able to hear himself would be even scarier.
More often than not, his thoughts get turned into songs.
“Do you think the moon ever gets lonely,” he asks non-sequitur, and there is another beat of silence, a tacet, a rest between the sounds.
“Only you would think to ask such a question,” Yoongi says and there is a smile caught in his voice. “And I think only you can find the answer.”
The words have a shiver run down Namjoon’s spine. Very carefully he does not look at Yoongi.
The moon is not quite round yet, but the lunacy seems to be full-blown anyway.
Do you think the moon
Has ever felt alone?
Do you think the stars know
That they make us see?
Do you think the world will wait
for you and me?
A few days later find Namjoon sitting in his favorite armchair in the living room, his notebook propped up against his knee as he scribbles away.
Seokjin and Yoongi are in the kitchen, cooking together. It’s a rare occurrence and sounds like it is going to end in divorce, but then Seokjin is cracking up, his wheezing laugh followed by Yoongi grumbling something unintelligible. The small commotion and the general noise of clanging pots and whirring blenders should be distracting, but Namjoon doesn’t really mind.
Suddenly, Hoseok is there, sitting down on one of the armrests, casually tipping into Namjoon’s side because personal space is a foreign concept to him.
“Something new?” he asks, peering down at the page of Namjoon’s book and Namjoon fights the urge to hide it against his chest.
“Uh, yeah,” he says. “It’s not all done yet.”
“You gonna pitch it for the album?”
“Wasn’t planning on it,” Namjoon admits. It’s very personal song. Most of his songs are, in one way or another, but this one is different.
“Fits the concept, though,” Hoseok points out. “Could be a unit song.”
He says it like a suggestion, but it’s clear that he must have noticed the absence of the usual flow of Namjoon’s rap in the lyrics. It’s a ballad through and through, and Namjoon is no vocalist.
“Pitch it,” Hoseok repeats. “I think the sunbaenim will like it. Or at least let Yoongi-hyung look at it.”
Finally, Namjoon does hide the lyrics, pushes the open pages against his beating heart.
“Maybe,” he mutters.
Just because the words are there doesn’t mean they are ready to be sung yet.
(These are the thoughts that never make it into Namjoon’s notebook: the exact shade of pink Yoongi’s lips have when he has just worried at them; the way his nose scrunches as dust dances in the air around him, illuminated by a wayward ray of sunshine; the grace in his fingers as they descend onto piano keys or the strings of a guitar; the sound of his voice pitching low low low when he is all calm.)
“Dinner is ready in ten minutes!” Seokjin calls from the kitchen, sounding like an auntie selling fish on the market. “Tell the kids to set the table! And that Yoongi burned the rice!”
“Because you were hitting me with the spoon!” Yoongi protests and, by the sounds of it, starts spanking Seokjin with a dish towel, to which Seokjin responds with loud, borderline indecent yelps of pain.
(The little cat fights Yoongi sometimes gets in don’t make it into the notebook either, but Namjoon adores them as well.)
It grows so cold in winter here
Won’t you stay with me till spring
When the larks will sing again?
A few months later, carefully wedged between the fifth and the seventh track of their new album, sits a little song named Stargazer.
It’s an instant success, almost as popular as their title track, which is saying something, considering it is only a vocal line unit song and doesn’t have an MV or any extra promotion.
It’s slow and soothing, all strings and piano, few embellishments but the poignancy of Seokjin, Jimin, Taehyung and Jeongguk taking turns harmonizing with each other.
(“Joonie did such a great job with this song,” Yoongi says when an interviewer asks them to pick a favorite track of the album. “A lot of people like it, it’s very popular for a B-track. It shows how strong our vocal line is, but I think the lyrics are very nice, too. On the surface, they look simplistic, like a regular romantic ballad, but it’s very understated. I can’t think of a lot of songs that manage to convey that feeling.”
“Can I pick my own song?” Namjoon asks when it’s his turn which causes a round of laughter from everyone and eases the tightness in his throat. Of course, each song is his in a way, carries his message and his touch.
But Stargazer, after all, is special.)
Namjoon is sitting in the Rkive and the red light that announces the on-going V Live recording glows like a firefly in a dark field. Namjoon stares at it, transfixed.
“Originally,” he explains, trying to collect his thoughts to talk about the sixth song, “I didn’t even plan to put it on the album. Or any album at all. It was pretty rough around the edges when we went into the pre-production process but, uh, Hobi convinced me. He helped me with the melody and the bridge. And Rabbit-PD who was the producer for this song helped with the overall arrangement. He was the one who finally decided when it was done; I probably would have tried to keep tweaking it and only messed it up. Wait, I can show you the demo.”
He fumbles through his folders, draws up one of the earlier drafts when he had Taehyung record the first guide for the others. He does a double click and, moments later, Taehyung’s voice filters out of the speakers, slow and languid like honey.
For a moment, Namjoon sits and lets everyone listen. He awkwardly bops his head along, even though it is not really a head-bopping song.
“I like how deep his tone is here, a bit like in Singularity ,” he continues, lowering the volume a little. “But I think it sounds too sad. Because it’s not a sad song - it’s a hopeful one. It’s a- a love song, in a way, about loving someone whom you know you can’t have, and how difficult that is, not because they are far away but because they are so close.”
He knows he’s weaving a noose here, runs the danger of strangling himself with it, so he swallows, grapples with the words.
“It’s not a Tantalus kind of hunger, but a quiet yearning. Silent adoration. Reverence. Watching from afar and knowing it’s enough.”
(“Namjoon and I have lived together for nine years.”)
“I’ve seen a lot of people talk about the meaning of the lyrics and whether everything is connected to Moonchild and…” Namjoon takes a deep breath, stares up at the wood-paneled ceiling. “In a way it is but… you might think the moon is the main attraction of the song or- or in the night sky, really. But the truth is, the moon is just a cold stone somewhere out in space, right? It’s only glowing because of the sun, and the sun is a star. So, the moon is only reflecting starlight; that’s what makes it special. Essentially, the moon itself is the stargazer.”
The moon may be bright, but the stars shine.
“So I think…” Namjoon says slowly. “I think the moon cannot help but be in love with the stars.”
The moon grows fuller every night
Have you ever seen it glow?
Has it ever been so bright?
A few weeks pass. They perform their title track and two other B-side tracks on a number of shows, but it is only a month after the release of the album that they begin their new tour.
It’s always exciting to go on stage with new songs because it means new choreographies, new outfits, new. Namjoon’s own hair is bleached white, nothing unusual as such, but the dye glows under blacklight as the audience will find out as soon as the rap unit track comes up.
For now, though, he, Hoseok and Yoongi are waiting at the side-lines, peering down the dark stage. The have already changed their clothes, have gotten their make-up freshened up while the fans were entertained by the pre-recorded ments on the screens. Namjoon’s breathing has finally evened out after the draining choreography from before and the sweat has cooled on his skin. They only have about half an hour to go and he can feel exhaustion starting to fray at his nerves.
The moment of respite, therefore, is welcome.
The audience is mostly dark, too, safe for some ARMY bombs not synced via Bluetooth, and an anticipatory hush has fallen over the whole arena, only some scattered screams piercing it now and then.
Finally, the lights lift. Immediately, all ARMY bombs switch on as well, bathing everything in a golden hue, and everyone starts screeching and yelling. When the floor opens up and Seokjin, Jimin, Taehyung and Jeongguk ascend, it only gets louder because the fans now know which song to expect.
Stargazer has not lost any of its popularity but, as a unit song, it had not been given the privilege of being performed live yet. If the writing process was the conception, and the producing and recording the birth, then these are surely the first steps taken by another of Namjoon’s children, and he cannot help but wait with bated breath.
The outfits of their four vocalists are simplistic as not to distract from the atmosphere of the song, soft-looking tunics and gradients of silk; Seokjin in white, Jimin in pearl grey, Taehyung in anthracite, and Jeongguk in jet-black.
Even from this far away, Namjoon can hear collective sighs and gasps coming from the fans, fitting themselves into the spaces between the opening notes of the song.
“I am lonely in a room of lonely people,” Taehyung begins plaintively, his voice settling across the arena like a heavy cloth.
“I’m slow-dancing with myself again,” Jimin continues.
“The music plays,” Seokjin cuts in, almost a little overeager, almost rushing ahead of the melody.
“In monotone,” Jeongguk joins, much more mellow, and then-
“I’m monochrom e,”
– all of them together, harmonizing, their voices lifting into the open sky.
There are squeals and cheers as the song continues, supportive screams when Seokjin nails a particularly tricky note, screeching when it is revealed that there is a choreo, more wrists and hands than thighs and hips, but sexy in its own way, seductive and evocative.
One of the cameras catches a closeup of the tear running down Jimin’s cheek as he sings and the crowd goes wild, almost drowning out his words.
“Aww, hyung, are you crying, too?” Hoseok teases. He is standing next to Yoongi, seems to have caught sight of his face, while Namjoon stands a little farther away at their backs.
“I’m not, you idiot,” Yoongi huffs. His voice sounds steady. “I just really like the song.”
A few moments later, he surreptitiously wipes the corner of his eye and quietly watches the rest of the performance.
Namjoon watches Yoongi.
And as we speak
What things will grow beneath the snow?
Who’s to know? Who’s to see?
It’s a few hours later when Namjoon still has exhaustion and satisfaction battling for victory in the depths of his bones. Concerts, especially first concerts, always feel like both an eternity and the blink of an eye.
He cannot help but obsessively review the mistakes, when Hoseok almost got hit by pyro works, when Namjoon’s own in-ear malfunctioned, when Jimin lost his shoe halfway through their big medley. But the precious moments are there as well, new and old lyrics sung by heart, by thousands of voices, banners held up and ARMY bombs shaken. Every concert is like unwrapping presents on his sixth birthday. Every light stick is a candle on his chocolate cake.
Now it is night, Namjoon’s ears ringing with the silence in them, and his hotel room feels bland and confining. He can’t go out, is too tired for it and wouldn’t want to bother the managers if he weren’t. Jimin and Taehyung are doing a V Live together, but Namjoon doesn’t much feel like joining that either, so he just stretches, pops his joints, and gives a big yawn.
He has showered and changed into his sweats, his hair still damp, his face pleasantly bare. In a bit, he’ll sleep, in yet another unfamiliar hotel bed, but for now he’ll hold on a little longer.
He plucks up his glasses from his bedside table and then steps out on the balcony.
It’s May, nice and warm in the day, surprisingly chilly once the sun has set. Namjoon does not mind, though, lets the shudders wake him up a little as he leans against the railing, gazes out at the outskirts of yet another metropolis.
Then he tilts his head back and blinks up at the sky.
“Are you looking at the stars again?”
Yoongi’s voice doesn’t quite startle him, but Namjoon is still surprised. He had known that Yoongi was set up in the room next door, but he hadn’t considered that that included adjacent balconies.
Yoongi is dressed much like Namjoon is, t-shirt, sweats, a face that is still puffy from jetlag and too little sleep.
“Just enjoying the view,” Namjoon returns with a little shrug. There are no clouds tonight and the stars are clear and cool like pinpricks.
Yoongi gives him a considering look.
“Lemme come over,” he says and then he is stepping inside, closing the balcony door behind himself.
Namjoon stills, frowns, but then there is already a somewhat impatient knock on the door to his own room.
So Namjoon goes and opens it, steps aside to let Yoongi enter.
“You’re slow,” Yoongi gripes and then makes a beeline for Namjoon’s balcony. Namjoon follows at a more sedate pace, feeling strangely cautious, as though he might trip if he moves too quickly.
“The moon is full,” Yoongi notes idly when Namjoon joins him. There are no chairs out here, so they just stand beside each other, arms braced on the railing.
“Yeah,” Namjoon says, squinting at the round yellow face. “Guess it is.”
Yoongi hums quietly, thoughtfully. “It’s beautiful.”
They stand like this for a handful of minutes, luminaries above them and concrete below.
Namjoon’s gaze keeps creeping away from the sky and over at Yoongi, the jut of his lower lip, the way his long fingers are loosely gripping the metal bar of the railing, the veins running along his forearms.
“I thought you meant to look at the stars,” Yoongi teases when he finally catches him at it. There is a point of light in his eyes and maybe it’s the moon.
“I am,” Namjoon says, with quiet confidence. His arm moves a little to the right, gently presses against Yoongi’s.
Yoongi smiles, a small precious thing, but doesn’t say anything in response. Instead, he just leans farther into Namjoon’s side.
It’s almost summer and neither of them is cold.
You are the Northstar in my dark
I will follow after you
If we ever are apart
(One day, Namjoon will write another song, and Yoongi will write it with him. They won’t let anyone else sing it for them, and they won’t let anyone misinterpret it either. They will write some kind of history with it. Mostly, though, they’ll write their own story.)
(Few constellations have happy endings. Theirs does.)