D Y S J U N C T U R E
Song Mino x Lee Seunghoon. Nam Taehyun x Song Mino. Kang Seungyoon x Nam Taehyun. Kim Jinwoo x Lee Seunghoon.
15. n o t e n o u g h
It was a day of seemingly some years ago, when they were still trainees.
But a person like Jinwoo always learned the lesson the hard way.
“No, I’m fine. I’m actually fine, don’t worry for me, Seungyoon.” I said as I retreated into the corner, putting the headphones on top of the hood over my head. Kang Seungyoon stared at the face mask and the glasses on my face.
“Hyung, are you sure you’re okay? You’re, like, having a hundred layers on. What’s the matter?”
I closed my eyes and turned his back to him, nodding my head as if I’m listening to some hardcore music. It wasn’t that far from the truth. Underneath the thick gray hoodie, I could hear the sound of my heart beating violently, like drumbeat against the wall, like screams echoing in the mountains.
“You have been acting like this for days. You can’t expect me to leave you alone.” Seungyoon’s worrisome voice reminded me of the times when I locked myself in the bathroom and cried until I passed out upon the news that Lee Seunghoon was eliminated on that audition survival show. Back then, I didn’t even know who he was. I should have known that if a stranger could pain me like that, I should take extra measures to be cautious if he ever becomes a loved one. Kang Seungyoon was the one who witnessed me being at my absolute worse; yet I couldn’t tell him a thing. He didn’t know me like that, despite how caring he was.
“You can talk to me, hyung. Did something happen? Did you fight with Seunghoon-hyung?” Seungyoon asked patiently, even though the strength he forced onto my arm told me otherwise. “It wasn’t like you to act like this.”
“Nothing. Nothing is the matter.” I pulled my arm away.
“I knew you could hear me.” Seungyoon insisted.
“Fuck off, Seungyoon.” I said without looking at the younger guy. He froze for a moment before withdrawing his hand. Moments later, I heard the footsteps drifting away and the door closed behind me.
“Nothing is the matter.” I kept mumbling to myself while writing extensively onto a piece of paper. I stretched harshly on the pencil; soon enough, the lead broke in half. It didn’t matter anyway, because whatever I was writing at the time wouldn’t turn into lyrics, nor would it become a song. I’m not Seungyoon, or Taehyun, or Mino. Especially Mino – especially him. I’m the guy with nothing but seven years of training and a pretty face. The one who got nothing but determination and loyalty. The one who needed nothing but someone whose gazes didn’t look like sympathy and pitifulness. I’m the poor little guy, the talentless, the rejected, the bystander Kim Jinwoo. And as of today, I got nothing left.
+ + +
One day of February, years ago. It was a few days short of Lunar New Year. They were sitting in their usual coffee shop, getting their caffeine on to make up for the endless training sections. Seunghoon was on his tablet playing mindless game when Jinwoo brought over their orders. Seunghoon ordered a seasonal peppermint mocha – they always had that flavor during this time of the year. From early December, to celebrate Christmas, but the special drinks were served well until late January due to popular demands. Jinwoo got a black coffee and Seunghoon raised his eyebrows while scoffing under his breath – “so pretentious, trying hard to be cool” – to which Jinwoo just smiled and motioned his hand to dismiss. Seunghoon didn’t know Jinwoo wasn’t inclined to sleep much anyway.
“Song Minho.” Jinwoo exclaimed. “He sounds like a cool guy, helping you with your practice and all.” Seunghoon just smiled without saying much. “I figured.”
“How did he agree to help you?” Jinwoo asked, curiously. “He looked a little bit scary at first to me, honest.”
“Well, Wooya, everyone is intimidating to you but me.” Seunghoon slightly chuckled; the warm sound made Jinwoo a little bit flustered. He quickly explained himself:
“If you were me, you would feel the same way.” He pressed his lips. “Except for me, everyone else in the group seems so comfortable with their skills.” Seunghoon glared at him for a while, then reached over to rub his messy hair. His eyes almost turned into two straight lines as he smiled:
“You forgot about me.”
“You got talents though.” Jinwoo protested. “Your dancing skill is recognized even amongst the higher-ups. They love you.”
“I wouldn’t be so quick to conclude that, Wooya.” Seunghoon shrugged as if he didn’t want to continue the conversation. But then he continued. “BigTone hyung thought I was hopeless in rapping, and I got criticized a lot. Not that he ain’t right.”
“That’s not fair. You just started rapping recently.” Unlike me. I have trained for almost eight years. Jinwoo didn’t finish the sentence, but the look from Seunghoon’s eyes said everything. He spoke up, in the most serious manner possible:
“Well Wooya, to be honest, I could train forever and still wouldn’t have your face.”
Jinwoo was taken aback; he wasn’t prepared for this comment. Almost right away, he realized that it was another cynical joke, available 24/7 in Seunghoon’s repertoire. The older started giggling and hitting Seunghoon’s shoulders.
“Ouch. Why do you hit me for??” The slightly younger guy complained as he shielded himself. “Wasn’t the truth spoken in all earnest beauty?”
“I was being serious and you made fun of me!” Jinwoo stopped attacking Seunghoon with his tiny arm and focused on wiping his eyes instead. The tears were coming out, either because of the joke, or that from the inside, Jinwoo knew it wasn’t just a laughing matter. As he predicted, Seunghoon said again:
“I wasn’t making fun of you. I’m stating a fact. Nobody could ever have your face – and believe me, it’s goddamn gorgeous. It’s equivalent of a certain type of talent. And I’m not saying you only got your face. No, you were born with it – but you also work so fucking hard, god, you worked so diligently, and that’s another fucking talent, Wooya.”
Jinwoo drifted his fixed gaze from Seunghoon into an uncertain part of the room. His eyes opened widely, as widely as possible, as he tried to fight back the tears. Seunghoon didn’t look at him either. He got back to switching between apps and songs on his tablet. Maybe he was embarrassed after the pet talk. It was unlike him to have such compassionate and supportive comments. Jinwoo knew Seunghoon – he ain’t the talking type. That was precisely why it was that much more precious. After moments of silence, Seunghoon continued as he held Jinwoo’s hand tightly:
“You are enough. For me.”
Jinwoo almost believed Seunghoon.
Until he shoved the chair back and hurriedly left, leaving Jinwoo all by himself at the coffee shop.
I never brought up what happened in the coffee shop with Seunghoon again. It was almost natural that we never even talked that much again – like everything happened before just dissolved into thin air. I spent most of the nights in the studio looking at my own notes and tried to think of a melody that would fill the hole inside my heart. It didn’t. Not when I could hear quite well on the other side of the wall the faint laughter of the two rappers.
I never found out exactly why and how I came to this point, drinking dark coffee without dinner and staying up all night training for that high note that always made my voice crack. But then I realize that has always been my life. Sometimes, I would turn around to see if I was mistaken about my current state – what if nothing ever happened and Seunghoon was laying somewhere in the same room, quietly listening to music on his ipod, as he always did.
I kept looking for him like that for months.
When they found me sleeping in the corner of the practice room, it was almost 11pm. Less than twelve hours until the battle against team B and JYP trainees started.
“You need to memorize the lyrics. It’s the only way, hyung.” A worrisome Kang Seungyoon, along with a greatly horrified Nam Taehyun tried to shake some sense into me. “We don’t have much time. What’s wrong with you? It’s not like you at all.” To fall asleep like a human being and not slaving myself away practicing, you mean. I looked up at the two young faces, not saying anything. The terror on their faces was news. I never saw anything like that; it wasn’t like the composers-singers duo expressed a lot of sentiment regarding me anyway. But that might be a lie, I don’t know. I was so, so tired. I didn’t want to wake up.
“Please, hyung. We can’t fuck this up.” Seungyoon kneeled down to hold my body up. Behind him, Taehyun slowly backed off until he reached the chair against the wall and sat down. He still couldn’t make sense of the scenario. Perhaps, he didn’t know what to make of it. In the end, Kim Jinwoo, the trainee that spent more than seven years of his life training (without getting any better), acting up in a way that could sabotage his own debut, was the last thing that he had to worry about.
“It’s not my fault you guys choose to make a mash-up for the competition.” I said under my breath. It wasn’t my fault that Seunghoon and Mino pulled themselves off the team to join team B’s rappers for the performance either. I knew I was being an asshole, and none of the boys deserved my attitude right now – it wasn’t just my, but also their debut depending on my hand. It wasn’t like I could step back and train a few more years either. But I was there, in the studio, looking at them discussing between each other about how to make the most complicated combinations of notes, melody, and harmonies, without remotely paying attention to what I would, or could, do. In the corner of the room, Taehyun sniffed; he didn’t say anything but I could hear it clearly from the way he leaned down, both elbows on his knees, his legs anxiously tapping on the floor. If it were just Seungyoon and I, we would have made it so easily. I closed my eyes once more as Seungyoon begged:
“We can make it, hyung. If you would just memorize the lyrics and practice.”
“All night long, yes, that would do.” I finally opened my eyes. Slightly pushing Seungyoon out of the way, I got up and grabbed my stuff before heading toward the recording room, leaving the younger guys behind who exchanged gazes of doubt and disbelief.
Of course that wouldn’t do.
Once again, I fucked up an one-in-a-million opportunity given to me; this time, in front of everyone. I was overwhelmed by the strange place and the strangers’ faces. The songs were strange, the beats were strange, and here I was, being on something less than a stage of which the consequences were much greater. I avoided looking at the people surrounding us, whose expressions almost looked like unsounded jeers and taunts. It didn’t help that the cameras were everywhere, or that the whole world would witness my absolute failure when the program was broadcasted. The voice that came out of my mouth sounds as foreign and deformed as it could be – no matter how clearly I remembered it in my head.
But now, after meeting you, the belief I had kept in my heart has fallen apart.
I couldn’t finish the sentence and left the beat empty on its own. After a few moments, Seungyoon picked up singing and finished the chorus with Taehyun’s help. I tried to focus but continuously made mistakes until the very end. The band mates, along with other trainees put their heads down really low.
It didn’t help either, when Seunghoon looked away, from wherever he was, with Mino next to him, who was probably clenching his fists and closing his eyes to avoid this embarrassment. I held back my tears as I listened to Park Jinyoung and Yang Hyunsuk’s comments. The tension in the room rose by the minutes. Ah, I can taste the disappointment on the tip of my tongue.
“Ya’ll heard YG’s comments.” Seungyoon exhaled as he threw the cap to the floor. “Our teamwork today sucks.”
“It does.” Taehyun aggressively threw himself onto the couch. “It fucking sucks.”
By teamwork, they really meant me. I kept my thoughts to myself as I walked to the corner of the room, the place where I always belonged.
“Our group is in trouble.” Seungyoon said again and scratched his hair. I knew he tried to provoke a response or a reaction from me without being an asshole about it. After all, I did understand their consideration – they wanted to be nice about my failure, but they also didn’t have time to be too polite. The debut was what’s at stake.
“Do you think...” I finally said as I sat down onto the floor. “We got a group?”
Both Seungyoon and Taehyun stood up instantly as soon as they heard me. I guess they remembered their own words. Perhaps because they realized that they could hear me very clearly without seeing me from where they were sitting. They couldn’t see me now, and then, on that day a few months ago, when they had that conversation. Parts of me thought that maybe the reasons for them not seeing me wasn’t because I sat in a hidden corner. They just never really paid special attention to me.
Seungyoon hesitantly walked up and found me sitting neatly in the corner, hidden by all the furniture and messy random boxes. Both of them just stood there as the bitter realization unfolded in their expression. They finally remembered that this was my spot, and that they never really thought of it whenever they discussed sensitive matters. Not very flattered, I thought to myself, to be virtually and physically invisible to those who are your colleagues. Taehyun looked at me all apologetic; he reluctantly tried to say something, but seemed unable to. I shook my head silently. Not that any of them was wrong. It was just that my effort didn’t get me more than, what, a “warm and kind” personality.
“I didn’t know you were there.” Taehyun finally said. “I’m sorry if you were offended.” He wanted to say something else but stopped himself instead. How would you explain yourself when nothing would change the fact that you meant everything you said, regardless of how hurtful it would be to others?
“It was a long time ago, hyung. We didn’t really know anything better then.” Seungyoon continued where Taehyun left off. I shrugged:
“Kids, you know it’s bullshit. Especially you, Seungyoon. You have trained with me the longest.” Seungyoon became so uncomfortable as I spoke. I sighed. “But I fucked this shit up. It’s on me. So leave, I need some alone time.”
Seungyoon was the first to leave. I guess he couldn’t afford the guilt. I felt bad for imposing my uneasiness on him; I somehow always ended up doing that. When I looked up, Taehyun was still there in the room. He sat down next to me; his facial expression became serious.
“Jinwoo hyung, I need to talk to you.”
Despite my feigned ignorance, Taehyun went on:
“I’m sorry I underestimated you. It was our fault today that you messed up.”
I stole a glance at Taehyun, trying to read into his face, expecting to find at least some pretention and mocking. But Taehyun was genuine as he tried to find appropriate words:
“We should have thought harder to incorporate you into the performance and not just make you memorize everything like a goddamn homework. That was our failure, not yours.”
It should have made me feel better; except it didn’t. But then Taehyun looked at me, straight in the eyes.
“But how can we make you our teammate if you are too busy with your own clique? I know nothing about you, hyung.”
“I guess I could say the same.” I smiled at the younger guy and he stayed silent. Then he reached out to me and said something into my ears. I held my breath and slowly turned to look at him. His focus eyes sparkled in the night.
“I wondered if Mino also felt the same way I do about you.” Jinwoo unconsciously mumbled after spending minutes studying the slightly younger guy’s face. He didn’t know why he said that. Maybe he was high on compliments, or that for the first time in years there was someone as talented yet familiar as Seunghoon walking into his life and didn’t find him a burden. “You are enough. For me.” Seunghoon had said. I am enough. The younger’s words touched his ears like golden bell rings; he could feel the warmth spreading from his hand, still being held by Seunghoon, throughout his whole body. “Otherwise he wouldn’t stick to you and offered to help like that, would he?”
Jinwoo learned really quickly how bad of a mistake it was. The sudden jerk in Seunghoon’s hand alerted him. “What do you mean?”
“I thought you knew…” Jinwoo opened his mouth, but he couldn’t even finish the sentence. Next to him, Seunghoon pulled back his hand quickly, as he became flustered. Not in the way Jinwoo wanted. He wasn’t an idiot – he could take a hint. Except, whatever Seunghoon was pulling in front of him is much sadder than that. He looked down into his half-empty cup of black coffee when Seunghoon hurried through the door after barely waving at him instead of saying goodbye.
There Taehyun was, leaning toward me. The whisper burst out from his lips like a deep breath in a cold winter night, freezing at the merest interaction with the air. I couldn’t help but shudder.
Why did Seunghoon-hyung leave you?