title: the beautiful side of somewhere
rating: pg-13 (domestic violence, language)
pairings: jaemin; jongkey; sunye/changmin frienship; various others
disclaimer: I am not LSM or JYP. I don't own any of the artists in this story.
jaejoong's in love with a beautiful boy and a beautiful girl he doesn't know. But they give him hope, so he watches. (from an alleyway, a hidden booth, the curbside, the motorbike, and his little box at the Fulton River stop.)
'Cause I'm looking at you through the glass
Don't know how much time has passed
All I know is that it feels like forever
But no one ever tells you that forever feels like home, sitting all alone inside your head
How do you feel, that is the question
But I forget you don't expect an easy answer
When something like a soul becomes initialized
And folded up like paper dolls and little notes
You can't expect a bit of hope
So while you're outside looking in describing what you see
Remember what you're staring at is me
Through Glass Stone Sour
The blue buttons were torn off- one, two, three, four, five- and they clattered deafeningly, piercingly, as they fell to the floor (six, seven, eight, nine, ten, don’t breathe). From the ground, they stared, like beady little eyes, intruding, accusing, as witnesses. Soundless, but there, but watching. Like me.
There wasn’t much else that I could do. (Lies.)
They had a switchblade. It glinted in their back pockets like a dwarf star, like Venus. They were heavy, and masculine, and potent, and lusting with a voracious hunger for golden skin, russet locks, the pungent smell of sex.
I couldn’t have stopped them if I was brave enough to make a sound. (Lies.) I couldn’t have, even if I wasn’t scared for my own life, even if I wasn’t small and scrawny and hungry and sleepy. (Lies.) Even if I wasn’t selfish and covered in ice and so used to this. (Lies.)
I couldn’t have saved that golden skin, those russet locks, that long –misplaced innocence.
So I watched, unblinking, from behind the blotting shadows, until they were done with her, and her shattered body lay like a carcass, bloodied and devoured, on the flooded cement, crimson fluid from her body painting the puddles like a scene from an urban horror movie. She wasn’t dead, I knew, from the wracking sobs that shook her body as I tiptoed closer and stole a glance at her tattered, naked body; it was bruised and slapped and stained with long gashes. I bend at the waist and crept my fingers close to her face, caressing swollen lips and just barely brushing soft, flushed cheeks, when her glassy eyes snapped open and she stared at me with hatred that brought me to my knees, saying “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” to a stranger I didn’t want to know.
Later, when I brought her home, cloaked in my red jacket (so the blood that seeped through blended right in), I found out that her name was Yoobin Kim and that, for months, she had hitchhiked, walked, stolen tickets and rode the train, through cities from Philadelphia to Chicago.
Home was a minuscule storage-room-turned-bedroom tucked between the first floor and the second floor of Brewed Awakenings- owner, Yunho Jung. Few people had ever heard of his café, and it wasn’t a surprise. His coffee was about as appealing as a dried mud cake. But endorsing his coffee wasn’t the reason Yunnie allowed me to stay.
When I carried Yoobin in, Yunho peered at her with something like sympathy and skepticism at once before nodding, and allowing her to collapse at one of the perennially deserted tables. She lived with him from then on.
Weeks after that, when I had assured her that Yunho would be nothing like her stepfather, (the one that leered at her when he caged her on her own bed, the one that kissed her mother gently and lovingly before work, then destroyed her daughter when he returned, drunk and monstrous. ) she still stared at me with those glassy, loathing eyes. And I guess she had the right to, after all.
My fingers strummed a tune lazily- I couldn’t even remember the name of it- and I blinked up at the ceiling. It was freezing, and rainy, I guess, except I couldn’t see outside without windows, so I had no way of knowing but for Yunho’s sopping, dirty-smelling hair when I wrung my fingers through the strands and kissed him full on the mouth. He’d long since peeled his clothes off the floor and left, clanging the glass doors shut. I’d watched him from the top of the stairs, as he flipped the pointless “OPEN” sign to “CLOSED”, and went out into the rain with a chime. It was around ten o’ clock, and his boyfriend (didn’t know his name. He was always: isn’t the “boyfriend” going to wonder? Isn’t the “boyfriend” coming in today?) was no doubt wondering where the hell he was on a Saturday night.
But fucking Yunnie was okay sometimes, because I didn’t love him, and sex was just a tool of pleasure and comfort between us. Like those evenings where he’d close up the restaurant, march upstairs (I could hear those footsteps, needy, hungry), fling open my door and thrust me into the bed, or the wall, or the window, where everyone and no one could watch. Then he’d kiss me tenderly and go.
I didn’t mind that he left me alone every night- actually, I was grateful that I could finally roam around and pretend that the whole café was mine. A musky-smelling, dinky castle just for me. On hot, foggy nights I’d stretch myself under a table and sleep on the cool wood, but, other times I’d lock that undersized storage room and listen to myself breathe.
In the mornings I always had a giant double chocolate chip and vanilla mocha at Starbucks, after dumping the bland coffee Yunho stirred me up into a plant pot. I’d watch them there, from my designated table in the corner- the beautiful boy and the beautiful girl. They were there, every weekend, without fail, at five-thirty. The girl would drag in the drowsy young man and order the same things- “A small Strawberry Cobbler, extra sugar, and a Caramel Chai Frappe, please.” They’d sit in the best booth, the third one from the entrance, on the left, and the boy would try to close his eyes and sleep, leaning his head against the hard back of the seat, but the girl wouldn’t let him. I caught traces of their conversations when the words floated by. The boy never touched his drink, and the girl would take it after she finished her pink, creamy cup.
Sometimes, he was furious at her, and they’d glower at each other from either side of the table, arms crossed. Other times, she made him laugh and both their gorgeous smiles submerged the room. I think I was in love with her for that.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the boy would stumble in alone with this burlap bag he always carried. He’d order a caffe macchiato, and finish it at the serving table, after stirring in four extra packs of sugar. I always meant to get up and clasp his wrist and let him know that I was Jaejoong, that I knew things about his life that no one should have known and that’s why I was different and that’s why he should talk to me and listen to me or I’d let the world know his secrets. But I never did, and when he’d turn his back to my shadow and leave, I watched, heartbroken, because I was, after all, in love with him too.
At work- a run-down Burger-King-turned- Chinese-restaurant crammed between sleek espresso bars on Randolph Street- on Sunday afternoon, Jonghyun couldn’t understand why I kept laughing every two minutes, but I couldn’t explain it to him, because I didn’t understand either. He scowled at me from the shoddy tables he was cleaning as I closed the register for my lunch break. Fifteen minutes later, he joined me on the sidewalk curb.
He crouched next to me with a groan and made himself comfortable. A can of Miller Lite was passed off to me, and I accepted it graciously. “What’s up, Shin?”
I giggled, cupping my palm over my mouth. He stared at me with something like disgust and incredulity, so I laughed more.
“You’re so weird,” he sighed, and tugged at my platinum mane. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were in love or something.”
I remembered the way his fingers brushed mine when I gave him back his dollar, and the way he asked for my name. And that I was no longer in the shadows and that he knew I existed. And I wondered if he understood that, when he was walking away, the song I strummed was like a sanguine parting cry. We’ll meet again.
“Uh-uh-uh.” I seized the beer away from Jonghyun just as he was about to take a sip. “You’re mom would kill me.”
Later, Yunho asked me to get Yoobin from school because he was busy, so I took his bike and went past their apartment complex, like I usually did. Once in a while I’d look up and meet the eyes of the beautiful boy or the beautiful girl, but I was just a fleeting moment in their lives. I whirred past the rackety bridge and onto the high school’s boulevard, where a string of yellow buses chugged by slowly, adolescent faces plastered to the windows of their mobile prison, staring down at me. I could imagine a strange, wild, dangerous party going on in there; they all looked like intoxicated, malformed, displeased animals, laughing and joking and chanting, while I waited out in a better world.
Yoobin held onto me stiffly and grudgingly as I revved towards Yunho’s apartment. He wasn’t there, but Yoobin had a key and she disappeared into the glossy maple wood without asking me to come in. I rode Yunho’s bike back to Brewed Awakenings because I was afraid to walk by alleyways at night.
I had wanted to become a musician since I was four and my dad bought me a small, plastic replica of a guitar with nylon strings and a rounded pick. I rocked around in my diaper, screeching my vibrant version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and my mom would pick me up, laughing and cooing, and twirl me into the galaxy along with Jupiter and Saturn and Mars.
Years later, my mom left with an ivory skinned, blood-red haired, sharp smiling woman named Cynthia, and I didn’t feel like I could reach Jupiter anymore. Still, I bought a ‘58 Strat copy for two hundred and thirty dollars when I was twelve. That guitar was crushed in my father’s face two years afterward, the night before I ran away from him and his new fiancé and began falling forever.
I think I roamed around Seattle for a while after that, but I don’t remember the haze of starvation and always wet sneakers and heartache before I bought a bus ticket to Chicago with all the money I had left. I still dreamed about being a musician, about being famous- I’d never forsaken that. Most nights, the subway station was my stage, and I catered to starched gentleman in their business skins. They liked me enough- sometimes they’d stop and smile, or offer me a quarter. I took it if I didn’t like them, gave it back if I did.
Whether my parents were looking for me (or looking hard enough), remained a mystery. But they were looking for Jaejoong Kim, who didn’t exist anymore, who was curtained in the grown body of Shin Chin-Mae.
And I think the only one who knew me as Jaejoong was that beautiful boy I was in love with.