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angle of refraction

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autofocus: system in a camera in which the lens automatically focuses on the image of a prominent area

 


 

The first time that Jungkook sees him, the man is five seconds away from getting himself killed.

It's mid-April (but it is still cold), sometime in the early afternoon, and Jungkook is standing by the fence beside the train tracks, a hundred metres away from the Shijonawate station. The cherry blossom trees lining the path are in almost full bloom, soft pink amidst faded, small green leaves. There is a light breeze, sweeping the fallen petals three centimetres off the floor before they settle back down again, like dust.

Jungkook lifts his Nikon D7200 to eye level, and the shutter clicks.

Fresh out of grad school, Jungkook had thought that it'd be a great idea to take his camera and his Masters qualifications on a trip around the world. As a sort of self-congratulatory for surviving all these years of education.

Unfortunately, his savings would only allow him a maximum of three weeks someplace nearby, so he’d found himself scanning his Pasmo card against the station gantry and making his way up the escalator to the metro platform.

Jungkook's flight had landed in Kansai International Airport at about nine in the morning, and the first thing he'd indulged in was ramen, because there's nothing better than authentic ramen in its origin country.

Three hours on the train had seen Jungkook with his palms pressed against the windows, warm breath misting the view before he'd pulled back, suddenly aware of how childish it is, to anyone looking, for a twenty four year old man to have his nose pushed up against the glass. He gets off the Hanwa line at Tennoji and switches over to the Loop line, only breathing out a sigh of relief when he's at the last transfer, awkwardly standing by the metro doors as his carriage rumbles amiably along the Tozai line to Shijonawate, where his residence will be for the next six days.

The apartment he's renting for his stay in Osaka had been a pain in the ass to find. With his luggage rolling behind him and his phone in hand, he had probably rounded through the entire fucking area before his gut instincts led him to the left and down a creepily narrow path. When the path opens up, there’s the small field, a stone bench beneath a lone cherry blossom tree, that Jungkook had found resemblance to the blurry picture that he’d seen on the Airbnb website. He’s got the right place.

Communication is a key problem, and Jungkook realizes this when he’d bumbled through a conversation with the owner of the apartment with the vaguest Japanese he’d been able to muster, together with some broken English. Though, that aside, he’d spent nearly half an hour scouring the area for the apartment keys.

The email printout (half crumpled due to frustration) in his hand had specifically mentioned that the keys would be kept in a safe in the shape of a hollowed out lock by the fuse box outside the unit. He’d eventually found the safe, but it was code locked, and five minutes of trying different number combinations on the dials nearly drove Jungkook insane.

Desperate, he had called the owner, who’d apologized for forgetting to include the code.

The apartment is small, a compact space but with two decent sized rooms: one has a bedframe with a mattress, and the other is in the style of a ryokan, a neatly made futon tucked in one corner over the tatami mats while a full length sliding window peeks from behind blinds.

Jungkook had dumped his baggage in the tatami room and slung the strap of his Nikon around his neck, picking his way through the still unfamiliar streets back to the station from where he’d come, recognizing the fence and the train tracks.

There is a muted blaring sound, loud and clear, it slices through the air, amber light flashing on and off above the tracks. The quick, efficient voice of an female announcer rings out through the speakers, in crisp Japanese, and the man startles from where he is standing in the middle of the tracks, lifting his head in mild confusion until he catches sight of the oncoming train, headlights blinding.

Heart in his throat, Jungkook watches the man tug clumsily at his compact luggage and stumble the rest of the distance to the other side of the crossing, ducking beneath the metal safety barriers before they are lowered completely. He catches the muffled yelp of a swear word. The man is Korean.

The train rushes past in a flurry of clicking noises, wheels scraping against metal alongside the insistent chime of warning signals. The gravel jumps beneath it, some clattering out onto the path, and when Jungkook turns, the man is already halfway up the small street leading uphill, faded lavender coloured hair tousling in the wind.

 

The next time that Jungkook sees him is when he’d finished touring the neighbourhood a few hours later.

The man is sitting cross-legged in front of the sliding window in the living area of the apartment, his back towards him. The window is open, the sky a soft blue grey until the part where it flares deep orange, stained by the setting sun, and the man has his arm stretched out towards where the cherry blossoms are falling, trying to catch the petals in his open palms.

“Hello?” Jungkook's voice is careful, cautious even. He sets his camera down on the dining table as the man startles and turns around, blinking at Jungkook with wide, but gentle eyes, full lips parting in mild surprise.

“Oh,” he says, and Jungkook finds himself thinking that the man has got a nice voice, a low lilt where it smooths out into somewhere in between a bass and a baritone. “Hello, you must be my roommate.”

Vaguely, Jungkook remembers that he’s supposed to be renting the apartment together with someone else, because he’s a cheapskate (though not by choice) and the halved rent means he’d be able to afford more of other things. He’s lucky that he’s got someone who shares the same mother tongue as him. God bless.

“I’m Taehyung,” the man— Taehyung — says, breaking out into a wide smile that leaves Jungkook somewhat stunned, and then he puts his hand out. “Kim Taehyung. It’s nice to meet you.”

When Jungkook clasps his hand with Taehyung's, the other’s skin is pleasantly warm. “Jeon Jungkook. Pleasure.”

Before Jungkook can start assessing his new roommate for the inevitable first impression judgement, Taehyung has hooked his arm with his and dragged him towards the front door which Jungkook had entered through about three minutes ago, declaring that their bonding activity for the night would be grocery shopping because the refrigerator is empty as fuck and I’m hungry, but I cannot afford fancy restaurant food because I’ve spent all of today’s budget on vending machine drinks during my train ride here.

“Wait— are you sure you don’t need a jacket? It’s not exactly warm out there.”

Taehyung marches them right back in with a sheepish grin. “Sorry.”

And Jungkook is thinking, weird. He’s definitely weird.

“There’s a supermarket nearby,” Taehyung is saying, and Jungkook's still having a hard time trying to match with his energy. It rolls off of the other in waves, seeps into him everywhere, like a dormant volcano, like electricity humming beneath his skin, and Jungkook's feels like a worn out, unplugged household appliance in comparison. “I saw it when I was trying to find the apartment, which took me two hours, by the way.”

Jungkook lets out a soft, knowing laugh. “I’ll be honest, it’s a shit location, but it’s cheap, and it’s clean. I suppose we can treat it as exercise.”

When Taehyung meets Jungkook's gaze, he looks so betrayed that it’s almost comical. “I go on trips for a reason, and that reason is to relax. It’s to become a fulltime lazy person.”

Yup, Taehyung is definitely weird.

The supermarket turns out more packed than the both of them had expected it to be, probably because it’s closing in two hours and it has a convenient location. Taehyung has a basket hanging off his arm while Jungkook looks on in aghast fascination as the other stacks one corner full of onigiri.

“Are you sure you need that many?”

“They’ve got the omurice kinds, they’re filled with tomato sauce and wrapped in egg, it’s heaven. There’s no such thing as enough.”

At least Taehyung doesn’t seem to be judging him when Jungkook loads the remaining space in the basket with instant yakisoba and bottles of mayonnaise. He does, however, mention in passing that too much instant food is bad for health, especially when said instant food contains MSG. Jungkook chooses to ignore him.

 

They get lost on the way back.

Even by the dim light of the lampposts, Jungkook is squinting at the roads that seem to disappear every three steps forward. All the streets look the same, and he can’t read the signs. He wouldn’t have been able to read them even if he knows Japanese, anyway, the light doesn’t reach the words.

“Oh, fuck me,” Jungkook says, and Taehyung lets out a soft grunt beside him.

“Not the time, I need to feed myself.”

“Maybe I should have prioritized location over budget.” Jungkook slips his phone out of his pocket and activates the camera flash, in hopes of brightening up their path, but the light is eaten by the darkness and it leaves Jungkook feeling more hopeless than ever.

When he turns, Taehyung is gone.

Over the sound of his panic, Jungkook hears Taehyung calling out to him, and follows his voice until he’s standing beside him, in front of a fence. There’s a building within the confinement that Taehyung's pointing at, and Jungkook makes out its shape against the sky. It resembles a temple, ridged roofs with its four corners curled up, and Jungkook reaches towards his own chest for his Nikon, but grasps at empty air, sourly realizing that he’d left the camera back at the apartment.

“I like this,” Taehyung announces, though quietly, rippling the silence between them. “I like getting lost and looking at beautiful things.”

Jungkook thinks that he’s crazy, but placing their current situation aside, it is a rather pleasant thought.

Another half an hour of wandering later, they collapse into a pile on the small couch, and Jungkook is ridden with a sense of gratitude towards the pocket WIFI that he’d rented from the airport. Google maps had been a tremendous help, even though it had been risky (and Taehyung hadn’t approved) to follow the robotic voice of the GPS to their address.

Taehyung reaches for their bag of groceries and snags up an onigiri, unwrapping the cling film and pressing the rice ball against Jungkook's lips. Jungkook startles, but opens his mouth and takes a bite, begrudgingly, and is rewarded with a blinding smile. It’s strangely rectangular, and Taehyung's eyes would pull up until they’re crinkling at the sides.

“It’s good,” Jungkook says with his mouth full, and he swears that Taehyung is gloating.

“The rest is mine, though.” Taehyung gathers the mound of rice balls into his arms and flashes Jungkook a wicked grin. “No touching.”

“How old are you? God,” Jungkook's rolling his eyes, snorting as he empties the condiments into his instant yakisoba, picking up the electric kettle to fill the Styrofoam bowl to the line, then puts a pair of wooden chopsticks over the lid.

“I’m twenty six,” Taehyung quips, and Jungkook's eyes widen in disbelief, glancing up to regard him with a skeptical look. “Going on twenty seven. Now,” and he looks pleased. Smug. “I’m pretty sure that you’re younger than me, Jungkookie (Jungkook scrunches his face up at this, unimpressed). Are you going to call me hyung?”

Jungkook says “no”, and stirs the mayonnaise into his yakisoba as Taehyung squawks in mock outrage.

 

Later, on a full stomach and with a cup of coffee in his hand, Jungkook's scrolling through all the pictures that he’s taken that day.

There’s a photograph of the train tracks, cherry blossom trees lining the path, petals swirling in the light breeze, but most of it is a soft blur, blending into the background. The focus is sharp on a man with lilac coloured hair. Taehyung has his head down, luggage abandoned beside him on the railway as he fiddles with a Polaroid camera.

The camera is a bright yellow, and when Jungkook had caught sight of it that morning, it had come across as plastic, cheap. But when he’s looking at it again, from the way Taehyung's holding it, cradling the Polaroid camera to his chest, it’s suddenly precious.

Taehyung in the photograph is completely in his element. Taehyung in the photograph, Jungkook thinks, is beautiful.