• Note: Songju Jeil School Complex includes Songju Jeil High School, Songju Jeil Middle School, and the Storeage Classroom

  • Songju Jeil School Complex can be seen in the You Never Walk Alone graphic lyrics book and in the House of Cards graphic lyrics book!

    • We went to the center of the classroom. Old desks, chairs, and rolled-up event placards appeared under my phone flashlight. The unused classroom seemed older and older. I looked around myself. What had happened here? Jimin sat curled up against the far wall, and Yoongi hyung perched on the piano bench. Namjoon hyung wrote something on the window with his fingertip.

      After a long while, Namjoon hyung spoke. “Reminds me of high school,” he said. “Since we’re all here in the middle of the night.”

      “High school? No thanks.” Yoongi hyung said, sneering a bit.

      “Why does the world look like this? We didn’t make this world. It was already like this when we were born. So how come we’re thrown into it to survive without any tools? Namjoon hyung asked.

      Just then, Jimin spoke. “Look over here,” he said, straightening up. “Seokjin hyung’s dad’s name is here.”

      We went over to the place Jimin pointed out. The wall was densely packed with scribbles, but among them was one person’s name. Everyone’s flash-lights pointed at that name. Jimin pointed out another name. “That’s the man from the mental hospital,” he said. “I don’t know the rest of them, though.”

      Yoongi hyung pointed out another name ‘Choi Gyu-Ho. He went missing, right?

      Namjoon hyung read the sentence written underneath the names. “Everything started here.”


      Lunch was especially good that day. It was weird, because it was just an ordinary school lunch. I didn't show it. That kind of thing didn't suit me. As usual, I sat carelessly in my chair and held my utensils between my fingers like I couldn't be bothered to lift it but today's lunch was definitely good. Taehyung and Jungkook were raising a fuss about getting some sunlight, hitting the curtains and changing their seats, and there was dust in the air. Namjoon shouted at them to at least be quiet while we were eating. I held my spoon as I thought. How long had it been since I'd eaten this comfortably?

      For as long as I remembered, there hadn't been conversation at our family's table. No one said the food was good, or asked for more, or said they'd eaten well. To our family, meals were no more or less than something we had to do as part of our daily routine “Min Yoongi. No talking at the table.” I didn't remember exactly when my father had said that to me. All that remained was the huge sound of his utensils as he set them down. He hadn't raised his voice or gotten angry. No. He hadn't even been looking at me. Even so. I shut my mouth. I cut off my own words and instead stuffed a huge bite into my mouth. Then I bit the inside of my cheek. I tasted coppery blood, it hurt, and tears came to my eyes. But I didn't say that it hurt. I couldn't speak at the table. I forced myself to chew the blood rice and swallowed.

      Someone stole a side dish from my lunch tray. I scowled in spite of myself, but I wasn't unhappy or annoyed. That was just my normal reaction to everything. Hoseok called out, "Yoongi hyung is mad Taehyung. What are you gonna do? And Taehyung made a show of being overly sorry. It was a very Hoseok-and-Taehyung-like thing, not a bit out of place. Despite myself, I bit out. "It's fine. You eat it.” But another noisy round of talk and laughter burst out. Nobody realized that I had spoken during a meal.


      When my mom said we were almost there, I used my sleeve to wipe away the steam that had fogged up the car window. Through the window, I could see a sign that said Songju Jeil Middle School. My mom had said that there were no more schools I could attend in Munhyeon. And that I didn't know what a relief it was that Songju Jeil Middle School had agreed to take me. I had transferred schools many times while in and out of the hospital. How long would I last at this school? While I was thinking, we passed through the school gate and into the exercise yard. There was nobody there, maybe because of the cold, my mom parked the car in a corner with a swing and a set of chin-up bars.

      I looked at the chin-up bars as I got out of the car. When I look back on my childhood, there's one memory that stands out clearly. A memory of a sky so clear it may as well be from a movie., and of white clouds flinging themselves at me with frightening speed. Before what happened at the Flowering Arboretum. I had liked playgrounds so much it was almost weird. My mom said I would go out in the morning and play at the playground until night time. What I liked the most was the swings. I would kick my feet hard and bring myself so close to the sky I'd get dizzy. I liked that feeling, exciting but a little scary.

      One day, I got curious about what it would be like to ride the swing all the way around. It was something none of the neighborhood kids had ever done. I told my friends to push my back with all their strength. And I used my whole body to go higher and higher. The blue sky and white clouds rushed toward me. At the highest point, I was overcome by vertigo and I fell off the swing. When I opened my eyes I was laying in the sand. I had a handful of sand in my mouth, and my knees were scraped and bleeding, but strangely, it didn't hurt. I was just mad that I hadn't managed to swing all the way around.

      I remember how I looked riding the swing, like I'm borrowing it from other people's memories. Maybe that Park Jimin, who swung that intently, is growing up somewhere I don't know, looking just like that. With just that personality. I looked at the swing with those thoughts in my mind. And then I heard my mom calling me. I headed toward the school doors. Songju Jeil Middle School. It was the fifth school I'd attended.


      A single flowerpot occupied the window of the storage classroom, its origins unknown. Who among the dongsaengs would bring a flowerpot? I took out my phone. The classroom was always dark, being without electricity, and in the vague light that came in the dirty window I could distinctly see green leaves. The photo I took with my phone didn't come out well. It wasn't only that it was taken with a phone. I thought it often, that a photo could never capture what the eyes can.

      As I approached, I saw an 'H' written below the flowerpot. I lifted it up. The words 'Hoseok's flowerpot' appeared. I chuckled. The only one of the dongsaengs who would bring a flowerpot was Hoseok. I put the flowerpot down so that only the 'H' was visible, then looked around. I had never noticed before, but the windowsill was covered in scribblings. Not only the windowsill, but even the walls and ceiling had scribbles on them. "Pass or die." The names of unrequited crushes, dates, and countless names that had by now become unreadable.

      This classroom hadn't always been used for storage. Students would have come every day for class and then emptied out in the afternoons. It would have been empty during vacations and then filled with boisterous students when school started up again. Would there have been students like us, who were late and received punishments and ended up missing class? Would there have been mercilessly violent teachers and endless tests and homework? And would there have been someone like me? Someone who told the principal all about their friends.

      I wondered if my father's name might be among these. This place was also my father's alma mater. My father was someone who believed that attending the same high school and the same university was a way of preserving one's family dignity. I scanned all the names and discovered my father's. It was in the middle of the left-hand wall, amid several others. Underneath, another sentence was written. "Everything started from here."


      "Hyungs, what are your dreams?" At my words, the hyungs looked back. "It's because I have to write a paper about future hopes." I hedged, but Seokjin hyung opened his mouth to say. "I don't know. I don't think I have a dream. If I have something I hope for, it's just to the extent of... wanting to become a good person?" Hyung cut himself off, seemingly embarrassed. Then Yoongi hyung, who had been stretched out on the piano bench, spoke in a lingering tone. "It's okay not to have a dream. I don't have one. I'm just going to become whatever." Everyone burst out laughing at these very Yoongi-like words.

      "I'm going to become a superhero. Saving the world from bad guys." Taehyung hyung stood up on his chair and posed, stretching his arms up toward the sky, and Hoseok hyung told him off, telling him to get down and saying he would get hurt playing around that way. Then Hoseok added, "I want to find my mom and live happily. Being happy is my dream." Hyung smiled so happily as he spoke. "Then are you unhappy now?" The one who asked that was Jimin hyung. Hoseok hyung said "is that how it works?" And affected a ridiculously worried expression. Then he asked Jimin, "what's your dream?" "Me?" Jimin hyung blinked, flustered, and then said, "when I was in preschool I wanted to be the president, but I don't know what I wanted to be after that."

      Now only Namjoon hyung was left. Perhaps feeling everyone's gazes on him, hyung shrugged and opened his mouth. "I want to say something nice, but I don't really have a dream either. I just wish my part-time job paid more." I nodded and looked down at my paper. The paper on hopes for the future was divided into spaces for 'student' and 'parent.' What do I want to become? I couldn't think of anything to write.


      I opened the storage classroom's door and went inside. The smell of mold and dust was mixed in the not-yet-cool air. In a moment, several scenes cut across my mind. The way the principal's shoes had sparkled. Namjoon's expression as he stood outside the door. The last day, when I had turned away from hoseok and gone home alone. All at once, my head hurt and I felt a chill. A complicated emotion came over me like an ache, one that could be called annoyance and could be called fear. The signal that I felt with my heart and body was obvious. I had to leave this place.

      Taehyung grabbed my arm, perhaps having read my expression. "Hyung. Just try a little more. Try to remember what happened here." I shook off Taehyung's hand and went in. We had already been walking around for several hours in this heat wave. I was absolutely exhausted. The others looked at me with expressions that said they didn't know what to say. Memory. The memory of which Taehyung spoke was something meaningless to me. That I did this, that this happened to me, that we did this together. We could have done so. It seemed like we could have. But memory is neither acceptance nor understanding. It's not the interpretation of an experience. It's something that must take root deep inside your heart, your head, your soul. But to me, all the 'memories' that remained in this place were bad things. Things that hurt me, things that made me want to run away.

      An argument arose between me, wanting to leave, and Taehyung who was blocking my path. But we were both tired. Our attempts to hit or dodge or push felt sluggish and heavy, as if we were moving through a warm, viscous liquid. My feet tangled momentarily with taehyung's. I wondered if my shoulder had hit the wall, and in the next second I staggered, senseless.

      At first, I had no idea what had happened. Because of the thick dust, I could neither open my eyes nor breathe. I coughed without end. "Are you okay?" Someone asked, and I realized that I had fallen to the floor. As I raised myself up, I realized that what I had thought was a wall was in fact crumbling. Beyond the wall was a vast expanse. For a moment, nobody moved. "What on earth? We spent so much time here..." Someone said. None of us could have imagined that such an expanse lay beyond the walls. "But what is that?" As the dust settled, our eyes turned to a cabinet that was standing in the empty space.

      Namjoon opened the cabinet doors. I took a step forward. Inside there was a single notebook. Namjoon picked up the notebook and turned the first page. My breath caught for a moment. The first page of an old book. Written there was a name I couldn't have anticipated. It was my father's name. I snatched the book away as Namjoon started to turn the page again. He stared at me in shock but I didn't care. I went to the desk. I turned the pages with my fingers as if they would crumble.

      The notebook, written in my father's handwriting, was an account of the things he and his friends had done in their high school days. It wasn't an everyday account. Sometimes it skipped a month, and there were some pages that were made unreadable by something like bloodstains. Even so, I understood that my father had endured the same things I had. He had made mistakes and blunders just like I had, and had run and run to try to make up for them.

      My father's notebook was a record of his failures. In the end, my father had given up and failed.He had forgotten and turned away and ignored. He had betrayed his friends. On the last page of the notebook were nothing but smeared black ink stains. The stains had permeated to the blank next page, and the next, and the one after that, all the way to the very last. Those stains announced my father's failures.

      I was unsure how much time had passed. Seeing how wind from beyond the windows had become cool, it seemed like the darkest time of day, the time right before the sun rises. Namjoon and the others were asleep where they had sat down. I lifted my head and looked up at the wall. Somewhere here I had seen my father's name written before. Underneath had been written a sentence like, "this was where everything started."

      The moment that I started to close the notebook, a sensation started at the end of my fingertips and moved up my arm. I saw faint letters appear atop the smeared ink stain. From beyond the window I felt a murky kind of energy. It seemed like the sun would rise soon. But the night was not yet over. It was a time that was no longer night, but not yet dawn. Like the tangling of darkness and greyish light, letters emerged between the lines in the black spot.

      The notebook held more memories than what were recorded. Atop the letters, between the margins and the empty spaces were the. Things my father had decided to forget, things he had decided not to remember. Like the indentations of writing left behind once the color has faded, beneath my fingertips whirled my father's many struggles and fears, the despair he couldn't overcome and his weak hopes. The map of my father's bent soul was right here in this note.

      As I closed the notebook, tears began to fall. I sat for a long time, and when I lifted my head my friends were still asleep as ever. I looked at each one of them. Maybe we had been meant to come back to this place. Everything started here for us. I came to understand the meaning of doing something together and the delight of laughing together. My first blunder, the mistake I had never once acknowledged aloud, remained like a wound.

      The thought occurred to me that maybe none of this was by chance. Maybe I had to come to this place in the end. Only then could I find the meaning of my mistakes and blunders, and the pain and anxiety that we suffered as a result. I was, for the first time, able to take the first step to find the map of my soul.


      Past the school doors, the sound of cicadas pricked my ears. The school yard was crowded with kids laughing and playing and competing in races. It was the start of summer vacation and everyone was chattering. I ducked my head and walked in between them. I wanted to leave as quickly as I could.

      "Hyung." I lifted my head, surprised by the sudden appearance of someone's shadow. It was Hoseok and Jimin. They looked at me, their smiles as wide and bright as ever and their eyes full of mischief. "Today is the start of vacation, are you just going to leave?" Hoseok asked, tugging at my arm. I muttered 'sure, sure' and a few more meaningless words, then turned my head away. What had happened that day was clearly an accident. It wasn't intentional. I hadn't imagined that Jungkook and Yoongi would be in the storage room at that time. The principal suspected that I was covering for my dongsaengs. He said that he could tell my father that I wasn't being a good student. I had to say something. I had mentioned the hideout because I thought that it was empty. But in the end, Yoongi had gotten expelled. And nobody knew that I had been complicit.

      "Have a good vacation, hyung! I'll call you." Maybe having interpreted my expression, Hoseok let his hand drop slightly and forced an even brighter greeting. I couldn't answer this time, either. There was nothing I could say. As I passed the school gate, I thought of the first day I had come to this school. We had all been punished for tardiness together. We could laugh because of it. I had ruined those moments.


      I slid down the hallway, my feet making noisy sounds. Then I stopped. I could see Namjoon standing in front of 'our classroom.' Our classroom. Nobody knew this, but I called that place our classroom. Me and the hyungs and Jungkook, it was ours. I caught my breath and approached. I was going to startle him.

      "Principal!" I had barely taken five steps when I heard an urgent voice through the open classroom window. It seemed like Seokjin hyung. I stopped walking. Was Seokjin hyung talking to the principal right now? In our classroom? Why? Then I heard my name and Yoongi hyung's, and I saw Namjoon hyung draw in a startled breath. As if having sensed it, Seokjin hyung suddenly opened the door. There was a phone in Seokjin hyung's hand. His shock and confusion was plain on his face. I couldn't see Namjoon hyung's expression. I hid and watched. Seokjin hyung opened his mouth, maybe to make an excuse, but Namjoon hyung lifted a hand and spoke. "It's okay." Seokjin hyung looked confused. "Hyung must have had a reason." After he spoke, Namjoon hyung passed by Seokjin hyung and went into the classroom. I couldn't believe it. Seokjin hyung told the principal what Yoongi hyung and I had done for the last several days. He told everything, about skipping class and climbing over the wall and fighting with other kids. But Namjoon hyung said that was all okay.

      "What are you doing here?" I turned around in shock. It was Hoseok hyung and Jimin. Hoseok hyung pretended to be even more shocked, then slung his arm over my shoulders. In a moment of confusion, I let Hoseok hyung pull me into the classroom. Namjoon hyung and Seokjin hyung were talking, and they looked up. Seokjin hyung got up in a hurry and, saying something had come up, left the classroom. I looked at Namjoon hyung's expression. He had watched Seokjin hyung retreating back, but now he laughed as if nothing was wrong. At that moment, a thought occurred to me. Namjoon hyung must have had a reason. Because hyung knew more than me, and was smarter and older. And because this was our classroom. I went into the classroom, smiling the foolish smile that the others teasingly called my 'square smile.' I thought that I wouldn't tell anyone else that I had overheard that conversation.


      "Jeon Jungkook. You're not still going there, are you?" I didn't answer. I just stood, staring at the toes of my shoes. When I didn't reply, he hit me on the head with the attendance file. But even so, I didn't open my mouth. It was the classroom I used with the hyungs. After the day I had followed the hyungs around and we had discovered that classroom, there wasn't a single day I hadn't gone. Maybe the hyungs didn't know. Sometimes they didn't come, because they had other plans or were busy with part-time jobs. I hadn't seen either Seokjin hyung or Yoongi hyung in a few days. But not me. I didn't skip a single day. There were days when nobody came at all. But that was okay. Even if it wasn't today, then they would come tomorrow, and if not tomorrow then the day after, so it was okay.

      "You only learned bad things, following them around." He hit me again. I lifted my gaze and looked at him. He hit me again. The image came to me of Yoongi hyung being hit. I gritted my teeth and endured. I didn't want to lie and say I hadn't been going.

      Now I was standing again in front of that classroom. It seemed like the hyungs would be there if I opened the door. It seemed like they would look up from the game they were playing and ask me why I was so late. Seokjin hyung and Namjoon hyung would be reading books, Yoongi hyung would be playing the piano, and Hoseok hyung and Jimin hyung would be dancing.

      But when I opened the door, only Hoseok hyung was there. He was cleaning up the things we had left behind in the classroom. I held the door handle and just stood there. Hyung came over and put his arm around my shoulders. Then he led me outside. "Let's go." The classroom door closed behind us. I suddenly realized--those days were gone, and they would never return.


      A damp smell came from the principal's room as I followed my father in. It had been ten days since I came back from America, and yesterday I had heard that I would be entering school one year behind, since the school system there was different. "Please take care of him." My father put his hand on my shoulder, and my whole body flinched without me realizing. "School is a dangerous place. There need to be regulations." The principal looked straight at me. Whenever the principal spoke, his wrinkled cheeks and the skin around his mouth sagged, and the inside of his black lips was pure, dark red. "Don't you think so, Seokjin?" I hesitated at the abrupt question, and my father rested his hand more heavily on my shoulder. It was a grip strong enough to make the veins on his neck stand out. "I believe you'll do well." The principal met my gaze with tenacity, and my father put increasingly more weight into the hand on my shoulder. It hurt so much I thought my shoulder bones would crumble, and I clenched my hand into fists. My body trembled and I broke into a cold sweat. "You must always speak to me. Seokjin, you must become a good student." The principal looked at me with an unsmiling face. "Yes." The agony disappeared as soon as I squeezed out a response. I heard my father and the principal laugh. I couldn't lift my head. I only looked down at my father's brown shoes and the principal's black shoes. I didn't know where the light was coming in from, but they seemed to shine. I was afraid of that light.


      I took my t-shirt off again. The reflection in the mirror seemed entirely unlike me. The t-shirt with "dream" written on it wasn't my type, no matter how you looked at it. The red color, the word 'dream,' even the tight fit didn't sit right with me. In a fit of annoyance, I pulled out a cigarette and grabbed my lighter. It wasn't in my jeans pocket, so I turned out the contents of my bag, and only then did I remember. [They] had taken it. Without restraint, [they] had plucked it from my hand and taken it. And what [they] had thrown back to me afterwards was a lollipop and this t-shirt.

      I messed up my hair and stood up, then heard the sound of a text message arriving. As soon as I saw the three-character name on the screen of my cell phone, my surroundings went white and my heart fell out of my chest. I snapped my cigarette in two as I went to check the message. In the next moment, the me in the mirror was laughing. Wearing that tight, red t-shirt with "dream" written on it, laughing like an idiot as if something about it was good.


      As I crossed the storage classroom that had become a hideout for those of us with no place to go, I set a few chairs straight. I picked up a desk that had fallen over, abandoned, and wiped the dust away with my palm. Endings make people emotional. Today is the last day I would come to school. Two weeks earlier, it had been decided that we would move. Maybe I would never come back here again. And maybe I would never see my hyungs and dongsaengs again.

      I folded a paper in half and set it on top of the desk, and even got out a pencil, but I didn't know what words I should leave behind, so I just passed the time instead. In the middle of scribbling a few useless words, my pencil lead snapped with an audible sound. 'You have to keep living.' On the paper, which was covered in the smudges of the fragments of pencil lead, I had scribbled without even realizing. In between the black lead dust and the scribbles were scattered some stories of poverty, parents, dongsaengs, moving.

      I crumpled up the paper and put it in my pocket, then stood. I pushed the desk away and dust rose up. As I started to leave, I paused and breathed out onto the dirty window, then wrote three characters. No goodbye would be enough, and even if I said nothing, this would convey it all. "Let's see each other again." More than being a promise, it was just a wish.


      I stroked the piano keys with my fingertip and smudged the dust. I put some strength into that finger, but the sound that came out was different than the sound of hyung's playing. It had been ten days since hyung hadn't come to school. Today, the rumor had gone around that he had been expelled. Namjoon and Hoseok hyung didn't say anything, and I was too afraid to ask. On that day two weeks ago, only hyung and I had been there in the hideaway classroom when the teacher opened the door and came in. It was a visiting day for the class parents. I didn't want to be in the classroom, so I went thoughtlessly to the hideaway. Hyung didn't even look at me and kept playing the piano, and I put two desks together and closed my eyes like I was pretending to sleep. Hyung and the piano seemed slightly different, but also seemed so much like one and the same that I couldn't separate them. While I listened to hyung's playing, I somehow wanted to cry.

      Since I felt tears threatening to flow I rolled over, and the door suddenly slammed open and the piano sound came to a stop. I was slapped across the face, stumbled backwards and ultimately fell. As I crouched to withstand the violence, suddenly the voice stopped. When I lifted my head, I saw hyung standing over me, pushing at the teacher's shoulder. Over hyung's shoulder, I saw the teacher's shocked expression.

      I pushed the piano key. It was a mimicry of the song hyung used to play. Had hyung really been expelled? Would he never come back? Hyung always said it was ordinary for him to get beaten up a little. If I hadn't been there, would hyung not have had to stand up to the teacher? If I hadn't been there, would hyung still be here, playing the piano?


      All at once, the images in the photos on the floor appeared to move. Jungkook turned around to look at me, as if he had heard the sound of Hoseok and Jimin's laughter. In the next moment, I could hear Yoongi's piano. Namjoon and Taehyung laughed and ran on the beach. Those moments lifted from the photos and hovered in the air like a movie. There was music and bursts of laughter in the bright sunshine moment after moment overlapped and movie after movie played, and it felt like something unidentifiable was released from my heart. It flowed through my veins into each corner of my body. Some kind of dam in my head crumbled and memories gushed forth like a flood. They whirled around my head so furiously I couldn't come to my senses. The entire room was alight with memories. Sad memories, nostalgic memories, troubling memories, and enjoyable memories eddied around me. As I watched them. I felt something unbelievable. How could I have forgotten all of these moments? Then I saw it. Something was shimmering inside my pocket.


      I sent the music file to Seokjin hyung and then laid down in place. I had found something written in the margins of the sheet music I'd brought from the storage classroom. “If we're together we can laugh” it wasn't my handwriting. I remembered something from a while ago. It was on a foggy day. Somehow, Seokjin hyung and I ended up crossing the athletic field. We were awkward with each other. I shoved my hands in my pockets and walked slowly on purpose. I hoped he would leave me behind, but hyung wasn't like that. Instead, he made fumbling attempts at conversation, and each time he did, it got a little more awkward. I asked despite myself, "when was the last time you laughed for real, hyung?” Hyung didn't answer. I didn't ask again.

      If we're together, we can laugh. Somehow, this sentence seemed like the answer to my question. I wasn't sure that hyung had written it. I didn't need to be sure the melody on the sheet music was childish. It had only been two years ago, but my music from back then was underdone and aggressive. It didn't connect smoothly and it wasn't beautiful. When I thought of high school, I thought only of getting drunk and staggering around, but it wasn't like every day had been like that. I stayed up all night polishing my song from back then, and I gave it the name, “if we're together, we can laugh.”


      I killed time wandering around the convenience store. I used to sometimes skip school by jumping over the back wall of Songju Jeil Middle School, and I would sometimes wait for the hyungs in the small park across from the convenience store. I looked around me. It had been a while since I'd visited this neighborhood, but nothing much had changed. I remembered that Yoongi hyung and Jungkook's houses were in this area. As I looked around, I saw something that looked like graffiti inside one of the alleyways to my right. It looked like Taehyung's work. I walked over that way.

      Unconsciously, I stopped in front of the drawing. It was someone's face, scribbled in rough black lines without any sort of warmth. I say 'someone's,’ but I knew whose face it was. It was Seokjin hyung. As soon as I thought of hyung, someone else's face was superimposed on top of it. It was an entirely different face, but both of those faces looked identical. They had the same eyes. Soulless eyes. Only then did I realize who I had to find.


      I drew a line of black spray paint. A thin face. A mouth that had lost its words. Dry hair. In crude lines. I started to draw the face I had seen in my dreams on the gray wall. Now it was time to draw the pupils. I reached out, then stopped and took a step back.

      In my head, the face was clear. The pupils were so definite they gave me goose-bumps. I just didn't know how to express them. They were eyes from which all the emotions like happiness or sadness had disappeared, leaving behind only disinterest and coldness. They were many colors and one color crushed together, eyes that said nothing and in doing so, said everything. I gripped the spray can several times, but in the end I couldn't draw the pupils.

      It had been two years since I last saw Seokjin hyung. I heard he had gone to America, but besides that I didn't know anything. This was the first time I'd dreamed about him. I had sometimes wondered how he was doing. I had thought about what happened in the classroom, when hyung had called the principal. I had good memories of him, and things I didn't understand but he had never once been as cold and gaunt as he had appeared in my dream.

      I looked up again at the face I'd drawn on the wall. It was clearly Seokjin hyung but it wasn't the hyung I knew. Why had I had a dream like that, all of a sudden? The dream had been anxious and terrible scenes over and over. Hyung had watched all those misfortunes happen with an expressionless face. My hand shook as it held the spray can. I felt like the chill from the dream was grabbing me by the neck again. From a distance, I heard a police siren.


      I took photos as I walked down along the beach. The look of the beachfront neighborhood was constantly changing, but the ocean itself looked the same no matter what. I got out of the car and walked down to the shore. I sat on the sand and looked at the pictures I'd taken. The locations and times were different, but the pictures themselves were the same. The sky and sea touched in the center of the photo.

      It had been a year since I fled Songju and came to Los Angeles. My mother's family's house, where I had spent my childhood, was neither strange nor familiar. Hiding my emotions and smiling, a little awkwardly, after a place for me was found. The way to become a good person that I had learned from my father--in most cases these things were useful, and this was no different.

      After coming here, I didn't take photos of people. There was no particular reason. I just didn't want to. Instead, I took pictures of the ocean. Maybe I wanted to take photos of something that didn't change. It's funny, looking back. It wasn't that my friends had changed, and it wasn't that I had changed. I had always been that kind of person, and now I had just gotten caught. I didn't bring a single photo from high school with me. The me from back then was too different than the me of now. I didn't hide my feelings, and I had no reason to find a piece for myself. The awkward smile looked the same, but it was different too. Back then, I was smiling for real.

      I lifted my camera and took a photo of the ocean. It was cloudy, and the sea and sky were the same color. The horizon was blurry, of all the many photos I'd taken of the ocean, there was no photo that was the same. The weather was different, or the light, or the wind. My gaze was different, or my heart was different. This was also true of the photo I took today, and of the many photos I took during high school. A photo contains the gaze and heart of the person taking it. Maybe that was the reason I hadn't brought any photos from that time. I was afraid to look directly at the me of back then. I was afraid I would miss the person I was. How were they doing, what did they think of me? I was afraid I would wonder things like that, so I had put their photos in a box and closed the lid.


      I skimmed past the magazine advertisements and lifted my head. For the last few days, a different face had been sitting at the table window seat across from me. The thick book, large bag, and white paper cup were the same, but it wasn't her. I returned my gaze to the magazine. I had been looking at the same page for more than an hour. Because of my repeating thoughts, my eyes weren't picking up the letters at all. Why was I sitting here? No answer came to me. Among people who were all absorbed in something, I was just lethargically rummaging through a magazine. I felt impatience for something to start, but I also knew it wasn't going that way.

      I returned the magazine and moved between the bookshelves. The books were in rows on bookshelves taller than I was. A breeze from an open window carried the scent of books and dust into the air. I thought of my high school years. The books I had read when I spent time with my friends in our hideout classroom had smelled the same. Had the 'me of now' grown at all from the 'me of then'? I couldn't willingly be positive. It could be that everything about me had stopped in time back then. I moved over to the opposite bookshelf. Then I picked up a book I used to study from back then. I had to start again. Everything that I had given up, one at a time.


      When I looked back, the hospital was really far away. I could no longer see the bench where I had left the wildflowers, nor the window through which I used to watch the river with that kid. Upon reflection, that kid had been a space to breathe in the otherwise stuffy hospital life. As we sat on the hospital bench in the late afternoon and talked about this and that, before we knew it the sun had set. I told [her] about playing in the hideout and going on vacation to the beach, and about walking all the way to the train station. [She] told me about all the corners of the hospital. Which window you could see the river from, about which staircase to take to secretly climb up to the roof. There was nothing [she] didn't know about the hospital.

      [Her] hospital room was empty. Had she been discharged, or moved to another hospital? I asked the nurses, but none of them could tell me. For some reason, a corner of my heart felt empty. I turned around and kept walking. In the distance I could see the school. It seemed that most of the things I had told [her] about had to do with the hyungs, and almost all the stories I told started with them. To me, who had been totally alone, the hyungs had become my friends, family, and teachers. My story was contained within their stories, and I only existed inside my relationship with them.

      But at some point, I started to think like this. That there may come a day when they would no longer be at my side. I might go looking only to find them gone, without giving any reason. Or maybe something even more could happen, I didn't know.

      I thought of that night. When the huge moon rose in the sky, the world turned upside-down, the headlamps I saw from an inverted view, the shape of the car that passed by me and disappeared. The sound of an engine, familiar for some reason. I didn't want to jump to conclusions. But even so, I kept thinking about that moment.


      When I came to my senses, I was walking along the bridge. The sun was so bright that it was hard to open my eyes. I wondered how I had gotten here, but then I felt dizzy and my vision blurred. I wondered if my legs were collapsing under me, and the sounds of car horns coming and going assaulted my ears. At one side of my vision, I could see the black water of yangjicheon.

      The auntie at the orphanage was the first person who comforted me after I lost my mother. She had been at my side when I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever, in my empty bed after a friend was adopted, when I woke in the hospital after a narcolepsy seizure, from my elementary school entrance ceremony to my high school graduation.

      She had gotten sick. The voice on the other end of the ordinary phone call had been that of a friend from the orphanage. I couldn't remember how I made it to the auntie's house. What I remembered was her house, and her face through the open window. She was talking with someone, and then she laughed. That she was sick, that she needed surgery. That there was no hope--all of it sounded like lies. When we almost made eye contact, I hid myself. I felt like I would burst into tears if I saw her face. I felt like I would spit out words of resentment like, “even you're going to leave me?" I started walking. It seemed like someone called to me. But I didn't look back.

      A large bus kicked up a wind as it passed me. “Mom,” I muttered as I watched the bus drive away. On the day I lost her, we had ridden that kind of bus. Would the auntie leave my side too, just like my mom? Would I lose another person who was so precious to me? I lifted my head and sunlight poured down. Then the world started to collapse. The sibilant noise of tires on asphalt, the wind coming off the river, and all the memories I had with the auntie all crumbled under the sunlight. I collapsed to the ground.


      A thin beam of light shone down onto the desk. It was a light that had finally bored its way in through the window where the academy's name was written at the front of the classroom, the teacher was talking into a mic, but it didn't even reach my ears. I was sitting in the farthest row of seats, in the corner, with my head down as I wiggled my fingers as if to try to catch the light that streamed between them.

      Nothing had been solved just because I'd left the hospital, instead, it felt like I'd taken several steps backward. Even going to classes had been because of my mother's worries about what I would do without a diploma, and her suggestion that I at least go to GED academy. I had no response. Now I had nothing I wanted to do and nothing I could do.

      I had no desire to go to the academy. Taking up studying again was burdensome, but more than that, I was afraid of being among strangers. What would I do if someone recognized me, what would I say if someone asked why I hadn't graduated high school? I was afraid of remembering the times at school that I had pushed off into a far corner of my memory.


      I kept walking, aware of the sense of Jungkook following from a distance. As the train tracks stretched out, containers continued to appear. It's the fourth container from the back. Hoseok had said he had plans to meet Namjoon and Taehyung, and had told me to come too. I said I would, but I didn't really have plans to go. I hated getting tangled up with other people, and Hoseok knew that about me too. He probably didn't really expect me to turn up.

      When I flung the door open, I saw Hoseok with a shocked expression. Then he saw Jungkook and approached with an exaggerated expression of mixed emotions. I passed by both of them and headed into the container. "How long has it been?" I could hear-the sounds of Hoseok trying to pull Jungkook and Jungkook being bashful.

      Soon Namjoon brought Taehyung in. One side of Taehyung's t-shirt was torn. When asked what happened, Namjoon pretended to rap Taehyung with his knuckles. "This kid is late because he got caught by the cops doing graffiti and I had to go pick him up." Taehyung made an exaggeratedly apologetic face and explained, overly talkative, that his t-shirt had been ripped while he was running away from the police.

      I sat in the corner and watched them. Namjoon gave Taehyung a t-shirt to change into, and Hoseok pulled out hamburgers and drinks and the like. In the midst of this, Jungkook stood awkwardly, as if he had no idea where to go or what to do. Looking back, it was just like high school. In the hideout classroom, Namjoon would give Taehyung a talking-to, and Hoseok would move around noisily while Jungkook hovered, unsure of where to go.

      How long had it been since we met like this? I couldn't remember. What had happened to Seokjin hyung and Jimin? A thought occurred to me that was unlike me. This was a place I had come to for the first time, but my heart was already at ease.


      Hoseok hyung's house was in a very high area. A rooftop room of a deadlocked house at the end of a narrow, winding alley, some distance walking from a larger street--that was hyung's house. When I went into the house, which was only one room, hyung bragged that it was the top floor in the whole city, from which could be seen all of the places where we had grown up, laid out under our feet. As hyung said, all sorts of things were visible from his rooftop room. The nearby train station could be seen, and along the train tracks, the containers were also visible. Namjoon hyung was living in one of those. And if I moved my gaze a little more, the school we had all attended came into view.

      After finding the school, I lifted my head and looked at the other side of the city. At the foot of the mountain, there was a line of large apartment buildings. There was my--no, my parents' house. I had run away from the hospital without a word. My parents would have been contacted. Maybe they were looking for me now. I didn't yet have the confidence to see my parents face to face. I had left the hospital but I couldn't yet go home. That didn't mean I wanted to go back to the hospital. But I had nowhere to go and no money. I had stood hesitantly, and hyung had told me to follow him, then led the way. The place we had arrived was here, hyung's house.

      I returned my gaze to the apartment buildings. I had to go there eventually. I had to see my parents and tell them I wouldn't go back to the hospital. I took a deep breath. It seemed like that thought alone would cause a seizure. Truthfully, I didn't trust myself to endure any place other than the hospital. I could be rushed to the hospital again. I was so afraid I couldn't stand it.


      I opened the emergency exit and ran down the stairs. My heart was racing as if it were about to explode. The face that I had glimpsed in the hospital hallway was clearly that of my mother. At the moment I looked back, the elevator doors had opened and people flooded out. I had pushed desperately through the people, and I had seen my mother's form going through the emergency doors. With an anxious heart, I ran down the stairs two at a time. Without rest, I ran down several flights.

      "Mom!" My mother stopped. I took another step forward. My mother turned around. I went down another flight. My mother's face became visible. It was at that moment. The heel of my foot slipped on the edge of the stair and my center of gravity pitched forward. I closed my eyes tight at the thought that I was about to fall flat on my face. Someone grabbed my arm. Thanks to that, I was narrowly able to regain my balance. When I looked back, Jimin was standing there with a shocked expression. Before I even saying thank you, I turned my head again.

      There was a woman there. She looked surprised. Next to her was a young boy, staring at me and blinking his big eyes. She wasn't my mother. I stood at the top of the stairs, staring blankly at the woman's face.

      I didn't remember what I said to escape from that situation. I also didn't ask how Jimin had appeared in that place. My mind was too cluttered to be concerned about the fine details. The woman wasn't my mother. I might have even known that from the start. It had been more than ten years since she had left me alone at the theme park. My mother would be older now, and different than what I remembered. Even if I met her, I wouldn't have recognized her. No, by now I could barely even remember her face.

      I looked back. Jimin was following me in silence. Back in high school, after we parted ways in the emergency room, Jimin said he had stayed here in the hospital. I thought of the way he looked as if he didn't know what to do when asked if he didn't want to leave. Couldn't it be that Jimin was trapped just like I was, unable to either cling to or break away from the memories that bound us? I took a step toward him.

      "Jimin-ah. Let's get out of here."


      I thoughtlessly ditched school, but truthfully I didn't have anywhere to go. It was hot, I had no money, and I had nothing to do. It was Namjoon who said we should go to the beach. The younger kids seemed excited, but I didn't particularly feel like it, nor did I dislike the idea. "Do we have money?" At my question, Namjoon made everyone shake out their pockets. A few coins, a few bills. "So we can't go." The one who said we could just walk was probably Taehyung. Namjoon made a face begging them to reconsider, but the kids just chattered away, laughing and pretending to roll around on the road before starting to walk. I wasn't in the mood to talk back, so I just fell behind. It was midday, so even the gingko trees couldn't provide shade, and the cars kicked up dust as they passed us on the sidewalkless road.

      "Let's go there." It was Taehyung this time too. Or was it Hoseok? I didn't care, so I didn't look carefully, but it would have been one of them. I had been walking along with my head down, kicking the dirt, but when I almost collided with someone I lifted my head. Jimin was standing there as if frozen in place. The muscles of his face trembled as if he had seen something terrifying. He was staring at a sign that said "Flowering Arboretum, 2.2 kilometers."

      "I don't want to walk." I heard Jungkook's voice. Sweat dripped from Jimin's face. His face went pale, as if he might collapse at any second. What is this? I had a strange feeling. "Park Jimin." I called, but as I expected, he didn't budge. I lifted my head again and looked at the sign.

      "Hey, it's so hot, why would we go to an arboretum? Let's go to the beach," I said, as if dragging my feet. I didn't know what kind of place the arboretum was, but it didn't seem like somewhere we should go. Whatever the reason, Jimin's expression was strange. "We don't even have money." Hoseok replied, "that's why we're walking." And Taehyung added, "if we just walk to the train station we can probably make it." Then Namjoon said, "instead we'll just starve at dinner." Jungkook and Taehyung pretended to cry, and Seokjin hyung laughed. Jimin only started to move again once it had been decided that we would take the road toward the train station. Walking with his head down and his shoulders trembling, Jimin seemed like a small child. I looked up at the sign again. The characters spelling "Flowering Arboretum" were gradually getting further away.


      Jimin's mother paced back and forth through the emergency room. After checking that the name on the head of the bed and the IV bottle were properly placed, she brushed a blade of grass from Jimin's shoulder with one finger. I approached hesitantly, feeling that I should tell her why Jimin was in the emergency room, about the seizure at the bus stop. Jimin's mother seemed to discover my presence only then, and she looked at me with a long, evaluative gaze. I didn't know what to do, so I hung back. Jimin's mother said only 'thank you' and then turned back to him.

      The next time Jimin's mother looked at me, the doctor and nurses had started to move the bed and I moved to follow. Jimin's mother said thank you again and pushed at my shoulder. Rather than pushing, it would be more correct to say that she touched me slightly and then pulled her hand away. But I suddenly felt an invisible line being drawn between Jimin's mother and myself. That line was sure and solid. It was cold and sturdy. It was a line that I could never surmount. I had lived at the orphanage for 10 years. I knew that much with my whole body, my sight, the air. In a moment of bewilderment, I took a step back and then collapsed to the floor. Jimin's mother looked vacantly down at me. She was a small and beautiful person, but her shadow was large and chilly. That shadow fell over me, collapsed on the emergency room floor. When I lifted my head, Jimin's bed had left the emergency room and could no longer be seen. After that day, Jimin didn't come back to school.


      I came to the sea alone. In the viewfinder, the sea spread out as wide and blue as it always had. It was all the same, the light that sparkled from the water, the wind that came through the pine forest. The only thing that was different was that this time I was alone. As soon as I pressed the shutter and the scenery in front of my eyes flickered, a moment from that day, 2 years and 10 months ago, seemed to appear and disappear. On that day, we sat side by side and faced this ocean. We were tied and had nothing and were desolate, but at least we were together.

      I turned the car around and stepped on the accelerator. I went through the tunnel and passed by the rest stop. When I approached the vicinity of the school we all used to attend together, I opened the car window. The air was warm and cherry blossoms fluttered in the trees that lined the school's wall. I left the school and passed several intersections, took several left turns and several rights. In the distance, I began to see the lights of the gas station where Namjoon worked.


      While Hoseok hyung was on the phone, I amused myself by kicking at the dirt that was pinned under his shadow. Hyung giggled and made a face that said, 'Park Jimin has grown up a lot.' Walking home from school was a distance that took two hours walking. By bus it didn't even take 30 minutes, and if we only took the big road it would be reduced by 20, but hyung insisted on taking a road through winding alleys, over low hills and across pedestrian overpasses. Last year, I had transferred schools after being discharged from the hospital. School was far from home and I didn't have anyone I knew. I thought it was okay. I had already moved schools a few times and I didn't know when I would be hospitalized again, so I didn't think it was anything special.

      But then I met hyung. It was just a little while after a new semester had started. Hyung had approached me like it was nothing and walked with me for two hours. I only realized a long while afterwards that our houses weren't in the same direction. I couldn't ask hyung why. I only hoped that those two hours with our shadows side by side, walking together under the sun, could stretch the day out just a little longer.

      Hyung was still on the phone, and I kicked his shadow again and ran away. Hyung hung up the phone and started to chase me. Our ice cream melted under the hot sun and the sound of cicadas stung my ears. Suddenly, I felt afraid. How many of these days could be left?


      The Notes 1: 花樣年華 [The Most Beautiful Moment in Life]

      • HOSEOK YEAR 22 JUNE 13:

        Hoseok leaves the room, unable to see Jungkook trying to put up a brave front. He recalls how he had been wondering about why Jungkook did not visit Two Star Burger recently, so he had asked his classmates. The classmates had told him that he had gotten into an accident around 20 days ago. Shocked, Hoseok had opened their GC only to find there had been no message since the beach visit. He informed the group that Jungkook had gotten into an accident. Inside the room, Jimin and Jungkook are talking. Jimin tells Jungkook that he has enrolled in a dance crew. Hoseok checks the message he had sent, 4 people had still not read it. Annoyed, Hoseok wonders if they were only fair-weather friends. He recalls how Jungkook had only been in his third year of middle school when they had all gone their separate ways.He had such a forlorn look on his face on the day Hoseok had come to clean up their things from the classroom. Taehyung calls, asking for Jungkook. Hoseok tries to angrily scold him for not reading the message earlier, he hears Taehyung’s voice as if he was holding back tears.