Kim Sunoo will always remember the day he met Park Sunghoon.
It was in the spring of his second year of university. The day was bright, sun shining enough to make him sneeze and perspire through his clothes.
He was rushing across campus to get to his next class on time. By accident, he had spent all of his break reading on the roof, having the decency to look at the watch only when it got suspiciously silent. Needless to say, he proceeded to run with all his might to his literature course.
He had never been a people person. But, and much to his own dismay, he had somehow gained a reputation within various faculties and years, which made him uncomfortable and awkward, but it had never been a problem.
That day, however, everyone seemed to take his hurry as an invitation to chat with him as if he even knew their names. Countless were the greetings and attempted grabbings he faced whilst looking for his classroom. No matter how much he tried to brush them off, it was only when he finally got there, with wrinkled clothes and sweating even more than before, that he was able to breathe.
Honestly, when he signed up to be a Spanish major he expected nothing but lovely readings of his favorite authors and a space to study the language he loved. Not whatever his whole journey was being.
Technically, he couldn’t really complain. Besides what his life had turned to be in the social sphere, he had gotten to analyze one of his favorite books: “The Truce” by Mario Benedetti. Just being able to pour into an essay the melancholy and happiness of a love that wasn’t destined to be had given him enough serotonin to ignore the love letters that received him in his lonely bedroom every night.
Loneliness, a word that often carried a negative connotation with it, but not for him. He neither liked it or disliked it, but just assumed his presence as something that happens, and as such, something he would let exist without it hindering his path.
(Thing was, loneliness was a feeling too.)
Sometimes, people (normally of his age) asked him how he spent so much time with his head between pages and didn’t get bored or done with it. That was a perfect example of a difficult question with an easy answer, for who would debate his own liking for reading?
The difficulty of the question, with this one and many others, came when he was forced to give a simpler answer instead of the complex feelings hidden at the tip of his tongue.
In that way, it was all connected. There were either easy questions with easy answers or difficult questions with easy answers. (He never gave answers that weren’t easily inferred.)
If he had to answer the question to himself and himself only, he would say that, apart from enjoying the methodical process that reading conveyed, he liked losing himself in another reality. A reality where there wasn’t a Kim Sunoo that was Korean, lived in Seoul, was a Spanish major, and was fucking lonely.
(Remember that he didn’t mind the last part that much.)
And really, the reason why he was so closed off from everyone and didn’t even let a fly get in, was that he had enough of the gazes that pitied his indifference to life. He also didn’t have the energy to explain that, whilst he abhorred his own existence in his own particular world, he didn’t exactly want to leave it.
Not yet, at least.
Coming out of his last class of the day, he made his way back to the dorms.
Visibly much calmer, he started reflecting on what he had learnt today. He was sure his never ending late entries to his classes made him look like an uninterested guy that chose Spanish just to torture himself; but he liked it very much, mind them.
There was something about the creation of other worlds that completely fascinated him. Even when they didn’t get his heart racing like the romance stories he preferred, texts from authors like García Márquez and Ruiz Zafón (both the main topic of the course he almost missed) mesmerized him in the way they carried their characters and developed a story that drew their readers in.
Immersed as he was thinking about the pure majesty that was One Hundred Years of Solitude, he didn’t notice the seniors in the hall animatedly getting into place to pull out another prank of theirs (things he would never understand), nor how everyone, when he was the first that crossed the doors of the common room, stepped aside and left him walking on his own.
He liked sweet things. When he was stressed or didn’t have much to do with the restless energy of his body, he sneaked to the kitchens and baked as if he had a bakery of his own.
That said, the feeling of buttercream frosting on his face and neck was not nice.
At that moment, he wanted to cry.
Because he was supposed to be Kim Sunoo, that was Korean, lived in Seoul, was a Spanish major, (fucking lonely too,) and someone everyone wanted to talk to for some reason. Not the Kim Sunoo no one cared about if it meant they could laugh.
Apparently both were the same thing.
“Sorry, mate, it’s just— term tradition, y’know?”
“Of course, of course” How could he have forgotten?
His day would have been decent if it had ended right there and he omitted the sugary accident, but no.
Up to this day, he was confused on whether the next events of the night made it all unbelievably amazing or terribly worse.
Either way, what he did know was that if it hadn’t been for his pale face covered in bits of cream, he wouldn’t have gotten a letter (more like a sheet torn off a notebook) that, for once, didn’t preach of attributes and qualities he was doubtful of possessing. Instead, it was an apology, written in Korean and a broken Spanish, that belonged to one of the masterminds behind the peculiar amusement.
Park Sunghoon was his name.
So maybe he had been lying when he had said that he would always remember the day he met him, because it wasn’t until a week later that he put a face to the name.
One thing he didn’t know to be relieved or worried about was his ability to disregard his most immediate surroundings. Having had more than one surprise through his academic life, he wasn’t as shocked as he should have been when a tall boy he had never seen before suddenly approached him at the end of his literature class and asked him if he was forgiven.
Sunoo merely threw him a perplexed stare.
Turns out, Sunghoon had been enrolled in the class since entering university. Trying to hide the fact that he hadn’t noticed the other boy until now, Sunoo inquired about him not taking the more advanced courses like most other seniors did.
“Oh, I just quite disagreed with the professor’s point of view on Javier Marías’ works. Instead of finding them ingenious, I thought that all the extra descriptions and rambles his characters get on are rather distracting (and annoying) for the reader and shouldn’t, therefore, be taken as an example to follow for other contemporary authors.
“Don’t get the wrong idea, though, she didn’t cut me off her class because I simply thought differently. The thing was that I used words that were… not very academic, if you will. My fault, really."
For some reason, Sunoo thought that it had been very cool. Or maybe it was the paused way he talked and his relaxed figure that differed so much from his own, uptight manners he always carried.
And if that hadn’t picked Sunoo’s interest, the fact that he hadn’t left his side after their first official meeting definitely did.
It’s just— he looked like he genuinely wanted to be his friend
Sharing his time with someone else was weird, he quickly realized. Having lunch with the company of a full-fleshed human instead of fictional characters that didn’t expect him to utter a word or follow a conversation… he wasn’t used to it.
Of course, there had been countless people in the past that had tried to do more than small talk with him, but their motivation quickly depleted when he showed no further effort than not shushing them away when his avoidance didn’t work.
Sunghoon stayed, though.
Even when he only greeted him with a tone that was everything but enthusiastic, or when he only gave him a court nod after he finished one of his long rambles, or if the day had been particularly grueling and he pulled out a book to read and ignored whatever he was saying…
Even then, Sunghoon stayed.
Sunoo didn’t intend to come off as mean or plain antisocial, but there was something about talking to another person, another sentient being, that added a pressure on his chest that left him with no wishes to engage in conversations.
Situations that didn’t require his personal input or expressions, the ones where he wasn’t expected to show a personality, those were alright. But when they wanted to hear something that came from him, he went blank.
No one had actually waited for him to be comfortable enough.
No one until Sunghoon.
Maybe that’s why he became his first love.
And it was all so silly, right? Becoming infatuated with his bright smiles, lost in the beauty marks on his face, enamoured with the grace of his movements and captured by the way he looked at him.
Him, the Kim Sunoo that was so many things but that was also broken. The same one that hated looking at his body in the mirror and being seen by other people, but that also wanted someone to hold him and tell him it was okay, because he was so tired of writing essays no one cared about (not even himself) and learning words no one would hear.
Because— because maybe he did mind not being invisible in the eyes of his peers, and the loneliness, that sadness of having no one by his side, it bothered him too, it did and it hurt.
But it had never mattered.
Not until Sunghoon came.
Sunghoon, that was pretty from head to toe. Sunghoon, who was like a gulp of oxygen in the bottomless abyss he was drowning in. He came and changed his life in so many ways, petties to the popular eye, but that meant so much to him.
And so, on one afternoon, months after the cake fiasco, he finally got the courage to utter what would be his most resented yet precious sentence:
“‘Some people think that being in love or infatuated is a modern invention that appears only in novels. Be that as it may, it nevertheless exists, the invention, the word, and our capacity for such a feeling.’ Don’t you think it’s a pretty quote?”
“‘The Infatuations’ by Javier Marías?”
After that, it was much easier to fall and keep falling.
Suddenly, he found himself smiling and giggling at the weirdest things he spurted, blushing when his tone got slightly deeper and sharing stories of his own. Like a whole new person.
At some point, he stopped baking with the moon as his accomplice and started giving him the sweets he baked in the morning so they stayed warm.
He knew better than to get his hopes up, but even he couldn’t deny the similar glint he saw in the chocolate eyes that had taken a liking to locking with his own.
But it wasn’t until he opened that ugly part of his heart that he truly thought they had something.
It had been a bad day, with too much noise around him and a disappointed teacher that did nothing to improve his mood. With tears pricking at his eyes, he followed the familiar way to the roof, sat in their usual corner, and cried.
And then he arrived. Sunghoon crouched in front of him and with the gentlest voice asked him what was wrong. Sunoo couldn’t help it anymore.
So he told him. He told him about the days where he felt so empty and hopeless. The times where he wondered what the hell he was doing. Multiple occasions where he had just wanted to give up. Stop whatever madness was going on inside his head.
He told him, and Sunghoon replied back.
“You know you’re allowed to have these kinds of thoughts, right? I won’t tell you that it will all end, that someday it will all work out and that you will be happy, because I don’t know if that will be true and I would be lying to you. However, I can say that even if you don’t feel it, you really are like the Sun, darling. What most people forget, is that the Sun is not always shining; it is often covered by clouds or taking a rest with the help of its friend the Moon. I’m not saying you’re like the Sun because you’re always shining, I’m saying that you are like the Sun because when you want to shine, you do it so brightly it blinds anyone who looks at you, including me, Sunoo.
“I don’t know how to reassure you, how to keep the darkness behind your eyes at a distance safe enough for me to not worry about you being a danger to yourself. I really don’t know. But whilst I think of an answer, of a way to get you back the precious smile I love so much, until that day comes, I will only tell you, as many times as it takes for it to stick in your cute head, that I will be here for you. Forever and ever.”
Sunoo kept crying, and was convinced he wasn’t imagining things.
It was soon after that that he told him. He didn’t know what to expect.
He had never been the best at gifts or crafts, but he thought his creativity had gotten him somewhere. It wasn’t anything special, he didn’t arrange a super fancy dinner with dim lights and slow music, nor did he confess his love for the whole university to listen. It wouldn’t have felt like theirs.
He only waited for Sunghood at their usual meeting place on the roof, at their usual meeting time. The box he held between his hands was light, paper was always light.
It looked even smaller in Sunghoon’s hands. He probably had thought it was another of his culinary novelties, not the small polaroids Sunoo had taken of the sun and the moon with cheesy quotes from his favorite books scribbled on the back.
Overall, all the notes followed the same sappy, honey lustered tone one would expect from love letters. The last one was different, though.
The last photo was of the two of them smiling at the camera, the only one in the bunch. On the back, the quote read:
“Perhaps that moment had been exceptional, but still, I felt alive. That pressure on my chest means being alive.” ‘The Truce’ by Mario Benedetti.
Sunoo hoped Sunghoon caught the honesty of his feelings with that last piece of paper. He had to know how much the book meant to him, and how he wouldn’t throw quotes of it (of any book) at anyone.
He had to, and that’s why it surprised him when he saw his box on the floor.
At first, he had thought that it had fallen from his hands. From nerves, excitement. But when he looked at him, his eyes looked so cold.
A mix between fury and mockery.
“You— all this time, you seriously thought I was being serious? For the love of God, just look at you, you did! Hey, I didn’t mean for this to last this long, but she wanted to see how long I could keep up with this joke.
“Stop staring at me like that! Look, there’s nothing wrong with you —well, maybe you’re a bit too weird, with all the reading and not talking stuff—, we just… aren’t a match. I didn’t mean to hurt you, I swear, so if we could just forget this and go each one’s own way, that would be great.
“I, I will leave now. Just— about what you told me the other day, you should really see a therapist, y’know? I wouldn’t want to be involved in anything nasty. Well, hm, take care? Yeah, I’ll just go...”
And he took a part of Sunoo’s heart with him.
But Sunoo— Sunoo will always remember the day he met Park Sunghoon.