Smoking when sober is the first habit that Baekhyun picks up once he’s back in Gwangcheon. After about three days in his tiny hometown, he finally understands why every ahjussi seems to permanently have a cigarette between his fingers.
Small town life is just that uneventful, and smoking is something to do. Something to look forward to, something to structure his idle time away from the company of the semi-familiar faces of his past that he’s surrounded by every day.
As he raises the cigarette to his lips, he smells the eau du radish of his fingertips. Ignoring it, he draws a heavy puff, closing his eyes and leaning back against the cool concrete wall.
“It’s a temporary thing,” he reminds to himself as he exhales. They’re the same words he’d told his mother when he arrived back two weeks ago. Instead of his usual overnight duffle in-hand, he’d come with two full suitcases and the heavy weight of disappointment on his shoulders.
It’d been the most obvious thing to his mother: post-grad and directionless, Baekhyun would return to his hometown and help out at the family’s kimbap shop until he figured out a plan. Perhaps the mundane work will knock some sense into him, force him to muster up the drive he’s been lacking the past few months in Seoul. His grandmother, of course, had been more than happy to accommodate him. She always tells him how much she misses the commotion of a full household.
His mother had joined him for the two hour journey, using the opportunity to pay her respects to her former mother-in- law. Never one to explicitly state her disapproval, she’d followed him into his temporary bedroom as he was unpacking to let him know he would start working at the restaurant on Tuesday. Given that he’d be all but living off of his family for the time being, he had been in no position to argue.
She had returned to Seoul the following morning alone, and that was that.
Baekhyun peeks in to check on Miss Lee just as she’s barking orders at the delivery worker, Changmin. His eyes shift from watching her pack up the delivery boxes to surveying the small back kitchen, and he’s hit with a strange wave of deja vu. He remembers curling up back behind the counter, EBS textbooks spread all around him as he crammed for the high school entrance exams. He remembers Miss Lee sneakily letting pre-teen him read comics in the back when they weren’t busy, and showing off to his middle school friends that he could roll a whole delivery set in under three minutes. He even remembers scalding his hand on the jjigae stock when he wasn’t paying attention as a child.
The place is littered with so many memories. But that’s the thing, they’re supposed to remain memories. He isn’t supposed to be back at 25, clad in a red apron, rolling tuna rolls for the middle aged office workers who frequent the shop during lunch time.
He’s supposed to be in Seoul. Preferably causing a ruckus with Joonmyun somewhere in Hongdae and actually putting his communications design degree to use at a marketing firm.
A temporary thing. He snuffs out the cigarette and returns to his post. Things don’t always work out as planned, and maybe that’s what disappoints him the most.