I saw a familiar room.
It was a cramped room.
The broken and creaky drawer, and the luggage and boxes in the wrapping cloths that needed to be opened one by one to find out the contents.
The floor was cold.
It was a compact room with a boiler that didn’t work.
I was laying down here.
There was a soft arm under my neck.
Even though the one who used their arm as a pillow was my mother, my arm ached.
I crouched sideways and looked up at my mother.
My mother stroked my hair and cheek.
A warm touch.
Nevertheless, my mother’s temperature meant nothing to the coldness that permeated the floor.
There was a red bruise on her cheekbone.
It was a color that contrasted with the lifeless skin.
When I reached out and softly touched it, my mother grabbed my fingers and smiled lightly.
That smile hurt me.
My mother made me in pain.
I didn’t want to smile.
There was no strength to smile.
It was boiling inside my chest.
At some point, I felt like I had swallowed a volcano.
Something was always trying to explode.
My mother kept stroking my cheek and body.
Yet even though she did that, the cold didn’t disappear.
The coldness permeated the place left by the warmth instead.
As if telling me about reality.
My mother smiled.
I couldn’t understand her.
This wasn’t the time to smile.
Therefore, I wanted to remind my mother of reality.
I wanted to destroy that smile, and I wanted to leave a scar that wouldn’t heal.
“Why are you giving birth to me and making it hard for me”
Her smile turned stiff.
The moment my mother’s smile disappeared, a joy rushed in between the cold.
Although I asked while pretending not to know anything, I actually knew everything.
And my mother would surely know that I knew.
There was no way for my mother to not know that I was trying to leave a scar on her.
Otherwise, she wouldn’t make an expression as if she lost everything.
That night, we spent the time pretending to not know anything.
I was that kind of kid.
A kid that broke everything—so that he felt satisfied.
When I opened my eyes again, something touched the corner of my eye.
Yeon Woojeong wiped the tear that flowed down from my eye with his finger.
It was hazy in my eyes.
It was so hot inside my head that I couldn’t think of anything.
Yeon Woojeong was staring intently at me.
How much time has passed Since when has he been doing this He stretched out his hand and took something.
It was a white towel.
The wet towel wiped my face.
My mouth moved, but there was no word coming out.
“Do you want water”
I showed no response to the low voice, but Yeon Woojeong reached out under the bed.
He brought a bottle of water to my mouth.
I raised my head slightly and wet my lips only.
I was thirsty, but I felt I would throw up if I drank more.
When I put back my head on the pillow and stared at Yeon Woojeong, he put something between his thumb and forefinger and brought it to my mouth.
It seemed like medicine.
When I moved my head away, he stared at me.
“You have a high fever.”
I knew as well that my body was hot, but I didn’t want to take medicine.
I often dreamed about death.
I wanted to die while I was sick, and I wanted to die while I was hurt.
But humans didn’t die easily like that.
Although there were so many vain and despondent deaths in the world, death did not come so easily.
Yeon Woojeong stared at me for a while and then withdrew his hand.
It seemed like he wouldn’t force me to take the medicine.
I slowly closed and opened my eyes.
My eyes were dry.
As if my tears had dried up.
Although it wasn’t tears that flowed down because I was sad, I didn’t want to show this kind of appearance in front of him.
His hand rested on my forehead again.
He stroked my hair softly.
I liked that feeling.
“Talk to me.”
“About your story.
A remark that I couldn’t understand.
As I only stared at him, he tapped on my forehead.
“Tell me anything.
I’m curious about you.”
That ‘curious’ word led me to a strange feeling.
I shut my mouth because I felt like I could tell him anything.
I felt like I would only say useless words because I was not in my right mind now.
Yeon Woojeong waited for me.
Yet I didn’t pay back that waiting.
I felt like I would fall asleep, but my head was only heavy.
Every place touched by Lee Sugeol’s fist throbbed.
My body uselessly reminded me of where I was hit vividly.
“Then should I tell you about me”
A soft and low voice.
It was nice to hear.
I’d like it if he continued on to say anything and didn’t stop.
I wanted to hear a story that would never end.
“When I saw you for the first time.”
“I was reminded of myself.
When I was young, I sat like you and looked at the road endlessly.
What I was thinking about at that time…”
I want to disappear.”
The road where I was sitting that day floated before my eyes.
The empty road where cars passed by occasionally.
The domineering buildings across the road.
The light of Seoul that didn’t suit me.
I put Yeon Woojeong there.
The young Yeon Woojeong.
The difference from him now was that he wore a uniform, not formal attire.
Spiritless and unlike him, thinking that he wanted to disappear.
He closed his eyes shallowly.
It wasn’t a smile.
“But I didn’t want to get hit by a car and die in vain like that.
I wanted my death to be… less insignificant.”
The black eyes swept over my face.
Every place touched by his gaze burned.
“What saved me that day was my petty bluff.
It happens sometimes.
You want to die even though it’s not really a big deal, and you live because of things that aren’t really important.”
“And when you want to disappear, that is always the time when you want to live.
When you want to live well.
What Yeon Woojeong said was like a dream.
That he, who always relaxed and did not seem to be pessimistic but not optimistic as well, had thought such a thing.
His figure that someday looked at the same scenery from the same place as me.
“What did you think that day Did you want to live Did you want to die…”
“Did I save you willingly”
He smiled with his eyes creased.
I couldn’t know what Yeon Woojeong was thinking about.
I also couldn’t know what kind of emotion and feeling he was feeling.
But I was sure about one thing.
His touch was warm.
He was cooling down my fever with his temperature.
“Then live while you’re saved.
Just live—for once.”
It was not a very reassuring and responsible remark.
Nevertheless, I realized it as soon as I heard it.
I might have been wanting to live.
I might have preferred to die because I couldn’t do that.
I felt at a loss.
My chest felt tight, and my throat felt like it was burning.
I didn’t know how to live well.
Because I never lived like that.
Still, it crossed my mind.
If he came to know me because I was miserable, that might be my only good fortune.
Yeon Woojeong reached out the medicine to my mouth again.
As if that was the method of living well.
Although, obviously, he didn’t mean that.
I opened my mouth.
The medicine melted as soon as it touched my tongue, and the bitter taste spread.
He held out the water bottle.
As I swallowed the water, the burning sensation subsided a bit.
Silence fell after I took the medicine.
I suddenly thought that I had to tell any story to him.
Because he was curious about me.
I wanted to answer his curiosity.
In addition, I realized that it was the first time he had told his story first.
It was still not detailed, but somehow I could understand him.
“I, I have worked in a barbecue restaurant… and I hated it because my body kept reeking of meat smell.
It couldn’t be washed away easily, so it irritated me…”
You’re a neat freak.”
“… I thought I could eat the leftover meat if I worked in a barbecue restaurant, but I was wrong.”
The restaurant was so poor that people complained if it was a kimchi buffet.
If there was a good thing about the youth shelter, it was that the food was okay.
I was out of breath, even though I only said a few words.
The wet towel crept into my nape.
I shrank my shoulders, but then I relaxed because it was cool.
“You like it”
Yeon Woojeong, who talked slowly, bobbed his eyebrows playfully.
I had no strength to answer him.
“How long did you work”
“The owner is untalented.
A pretty kid like you brings in regular customers.”
“Don’t say things like that.”
“Why Are you shy”