“Hmm, I came to think of it after going through this incident that… um… Well, it’s not about like I felt how precious our life is…”
When I noticed the sudden change on Eun Jiho’s face, I quickly added, “It’s just that I came up with this thought after going through such things this time and listening to what others said.”
“What kind of thought did you have?”
“You guys keep changing, but it seems only me, who has been too paused.”
Eun Jiho became wordless for a second. Holding the swing ropes, I lowered myself and dug the sand with my toe again.
I continued, “I actually was aware of it, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t able to change even if I tried to do so.”
“In the end, I didn’t want to change. I was afraid of it.”
Pulling my chin up high, I looked up at the sky full of dark clouds, then I detached my lips again.
“However, life isn’t something like a book or video, so when we start to have feelings or if something happens, we can’t rewind it.”
I then swallowed the words left unspoken.
If we have a crush on someone, we couldn’t go back to the time when it didn’t happen. In other words, when a character inside a story began to have some feelings, it always became a starting point of change.
I held the swing ropes with a tight grip then slightly tilted my head to look at Eun Jiho.
I continued, “But one day when I came to myself, I realized that you guys were already way too far ahead.”
“Think about it. You, also Jooin…”
Eun Jiho then looked as if he was lost in thought. He would know best how many changes he had undergone.
Back then, when we were freshmen in middle school, Eun Jiho was sharp, and he sought perfection in everything. He was still a perfectionist but utterly different from the Eun Jiho in the past. Thinking about him back then, Eun Jiho usually reminded me of Procrustes in the Greek myth, the horrifying monster who attacked people by stretching them or cutting off their legs so as to force them to fit the size of an iron bed. Likewise, Eun Jiho at that time had no tolerance or understanding.
Having that thought in mind, I suddenly burst into laughter. If Eun Jiho right now was the same as him before, we wouldn’t be sitting here side by side and talking about our future. The only people he might consider as equivalent conversation partners would be just the Four Heavenly Kings and Ban Yeo Ryung. Maybe Yi Ruda could also belong among them.
However, he might not put me in that league.
If I asked him for my career counseling at best, Eun Jiho wouldn’t have dealt with me while saying it was because of my lack of effort. Eun Jiho, a hard worker, was as strict with others as he was in his efforts.
So was Jooin. He began to reveal his true colors, at least, in front of us even though he started to behave that way quite recently. It was fortunate that there were people around him who could tell Jooin how sweet and kind he was even without Jooin pretending to be nice.
I spread my fingers and folded one by one.
“I clearly see that Eun Hyung looks more comfortable than before, and so is Chun Young. He has notably changed compared to the beginning.”
“Yoo Chun Young??”
Asking back, Eun Jiho tilted his head. He didn’t seem to have spotted any difference in Yoo Chun Young, unlike the change he discovered in other boys.
Yikes, I smiled aimlessly then replied, “Maybe his communication ability?”
“Did it increase?”
‘Is that what we call an increased ability?’ Ignoring his usual, sarcastic remark, I turned my head to somewhere else then concluded my words.
“Anyway, Yoo Chun Young really did change. Maybe he became more patient as he got older. Isn’t there any term for something like that?”
Eun Jiho, beside me, replied while looking dumbfounded, “Didn’t he pass the time to be more patient with age?”
“But he quite changed anyway. He seems notably different than before.”
Looking at Eun Jiho roughly shaking his head, I frowned. Geez, why was Eun Jiho not accepting it?
I, however, also came to realize the change of Yoo Chun Young pretty recently, which was through the conversation I had with him at the party and the short phone call we had lately. Thus, it wasn’t that strange for Eun Jiho to not notice such a difference of Yoo Chun Young.
Anyway, I kept on speaking.
“And lastly, I could feel Ban Yeo Ryung getting strong-minded as years go by, but only I’m not progressing… I keep having conflicts and repeating such problems endlessly.”
Even if I was aware of that, it was, however, still not easy to choose change.
Of course, there would be some retrievable changes, which would let me go back to the time when things were unchanged. Some transitions were, however, irreversible that I wouldn’t be able to return to the time before then.
That was what I feared, so I…
“I want to do something like recording or archiving things.”
Eun Jiho, who was listening to my words from beside me, looked goofy.
“You know, something like a photographer or writer…”
“Can I ask you why?”
Hmm, I rolled my eyes. Raising my hand, I continued to speak.
“Even though I’ve learned what my problems are right now, we can’t just suddenly change; besides, as you know, I’m really slow. I can hardly step forward without hesitation.”
“I just want to make sure that even if everything changes someday, the good old moments won’t disappear without a trace. That would probably make me more lighthearted.”
I lifted my hand and scratched my cheek.
“Um, you know, there is this moment that remains clearly in our memory.”
“Those special moments that don’t just end in a moment…”
Eun Jiho became wordless again. Scratching my cheek, I kept on talking.
“It’s sad and scary to feel like things are gone if they are invisible or left unrecorded. I want to become someone who can capture those things.”
Speaking to that extent, I continued to utter like a murmur.
“And if I record things that I can see right now or shelve them somewhere in my room in this way, I might… move on eventually.”
Eun Jiho still didn’t say anything.
Scratching my cheek continuously, I smiled awkwardly and said, “Well, you know that I can’t do such things that go so fast, so even if I look back and move on at a slow pace, you guys will gonna wait for me from ahead.”
“I decided to think that way.”
I then said to myself in a small voice, ‘even though I mess up CSAT and need to take another year to enter college.’
So, that was me, a freshman in high school already worrying about retaking the college scholastic ability test, but what could I do? I didn’t want to be out of town and move to a different province for college life when my hometown was Seoul.
Flaunting a grin, I continued to speak.
“Now that I’m thinking about it, you’re also chicken-hearted.”
That was when Eun Jiho raised his head and looked in this direction. He then asked back with a peal of laughter as if he felt ridiculous.
I recalled the conversation he had with Yoo Gun.
When I eavesdropped on their conversations, I thought Eun Jiho was just heartless at that time. He was able to cut out non-essential things in his future while drawing a line between here and hereafter. That was such a cold-hearted attitude I could never have or even think of.
However, the day when I got kidnapped, Eun Jiho asked me if I wanted to end our friendship.
He was uttering those words to me in the present while being afraid of losing me in his future. Eun Jiho’s suggestion to end our friendship was his expression of fear, not because he was in cold blood.
Likewise, I behaved similarly in the past… back then, I promised myself that I would stay alone from the beginning instead of losing them and ending up alone; therefore, I tried to break up my friendship with Ban Yeo Ryung and the Four Heavenly Kings.
Dwelling on that thought for a while, I uttered, “Hmm, you are surely timid.”
“Whoa, I never thought I would hear such words from you, Ham Donnie.”
With that reply, Eun Jiho stretched out his arm to squeeze my cheek, so I giggled and swung high to avoid his grip.