When I came back home, there was no one in the house as usual. Before I closed the front door, I bid farewell to Ban Yeo Ryung and came into my room. As I sank back into the bed, across me, the calendar hung right above my desk came into my sight.
I realized that summer break was just around the corner. I rolled myself on the bed.
What did we do during our break throughout middle school? Eun Jiho and Yoo Chun Young, the heirs of the wealthy families, went abroad for about a week or two as always. When they came back and had their spare time, they would hang out with us.
We went to a vacation home that belonged to Chun Young’s brother. There, the six of us walked along the sunset shore while holding our sandals in our hands.
The horizon where the sea and the sun met was as bright red as a fire. The dark gray clouds and the gray smoke rising from the summer house near the beach… We spent so much time together, but the kids sometimes showed utterly different sides.
Today, Eun Hyung revealed his unexpected color, which looked like a mirrored image of Yoon Jung In. The naughty Eun Jiho’s unbelievable calm behavior also surprised me, and so did Yoo Chun Young. His sweetness that he would exhibit once in a while astonished me as well.
And there was also Jooin.
‘No matter how hard I think about it, I really hate ignoble people.’
I could clearly grasp how the kids might have reacted to him when he said that remark. Looking at the dusky ceiling, I slowly closed my eyes.
Jooin was famous after Eun Hyung for using graceful words without utilizing any adverse or bitter terms. The person whom he would willingly expose the sharpness inside him was limited to Eun Jiho, someone he has known for a long time, at the farthest.
Jooin could show others what he wanted them to see. He behaved like an unimpeachable little brother to people; many of them believed it was Jooin’s true nature.
That kid revealed the wickedness he had hidden for so long before them for the first time.
The pair of eyes gleaming under his dropped down brown lashes burned gold against the sunset.
‘What goes around, comes around. It’s obvious and inevitable; however, people get very desperate to avoid and reduce what comes around to them… They try to turn the arrow to someone else or justify their actions by adding idle or useless words.’
Laying one leg above the chair and lifting his head, he continued his words with a look of a petulant child.
“I hate that kind of people the most because they harm others. They make a frantic last-ditch effort to saddle their things upon those who endure silently to take responsibility for their actions. ‘Since you’re used to living a tough life, why can’t you share my burden as well?’ This is their logic, isn’t it funny…?’
The kids might have just seen the burst of his laughter scattering away under his chin.
Ditching his usual, friendly smile, he revealed a surprisingly horrifying face underneath as if it were made of wax. That face looked indifferent, severe, cold-blooded, and scarred.
After suffering through so many wounds already, perhaps he only had a vain look to showcase, but he covered it desperately with a smile. When I looked at Jooin’s face sometimes, I came across those things in mind.
He kept on his words in a monotonous tone.
‘I hate that kind of people the most. They hurt those remaining silent by all means and scar them eventually. They take advantage of others’ goodwill but disregard others’ pain, although they know how painful it is when it comes around to them. Just like what Choi Yuri did before.’
As Jooin began to tell that story out of the blue, Eun Hyung ended up speaking suddenly too. That was what Eun Hyung told me. Jooin then turned his body immediately and left the classroom before anyone could stop him.
Eun Hyung also said that during the few minutes when Woo Jooin went outside the classroom, deafening, catastrophic silence enveloped the entire class.
The girls stared at Jooin’s empty chair in confusion or fright, whereas the boys looked as if they were retracing his words in a furrow.
‘I’d say that, instead of getting angry because of your incident, he’s rather looking at something else through you. What he was trying to suppress for so long seems to have exploded, you know. Hmm, anyway… since Jooin said those words after always being friendly and smiling, the girls were shocked, but they aren’t backbiting Jooin or anything like that. Jooin is very popular for being so tender-hearted, so…’
‘He’s such a sweet little brother to everyone in everywhere.’
‘Yeah, so… since it’s none other than Jooin who got angry, kids seem to think that there is a reason for him to behave like that. After Jooin’s remark, the boys looked like they had changed their minds regarding their thoughts on the girls. They asked the girls if they apologized to you. The boys even said that talking like this without apology made the girls look like they don’t want to admit what they’ve done wrong, so they are just disparaging you instead…’
When Woo Jooin returned to the class, the shock passed by, and a state of stability prevailed all around. A few girls then asked Woo Jooin hesitantly if he was mad. Jooin just smiled and said, ‘Oh, I just said those words because I felt comfortable. Why would I be mad?’
His smiling face was the same as usual, so the kids in his class all felt relieved; however, honestly, if it was me, I would not be at ease.
As Eun Hyung said before, it was highly probable for Jooin to show a completely different thing as opposed to what he truly had in mind; therefore, when he got angry, he began to laugh first.
Anyway, Eun Hyung told me that there was nothing to worry about. Such a thing would not change Woo Jooin’s position in class; besides, some girls might fear Woo Jooin for a while, but after a few ordinary days, everything would be fine.
Jooin, in the first place, wouldn’t intend to make a big deal out of what he couldn’t face. I also trusted him.
I stretched my hand out to the air in silence. Then I clenched and opened my fist.
Jooin got angry. He would not have done it for me, but the fact that he got mad was something new to me.
For the last four years that I’ve known Jooin, did he ever get angry with me? No, there wasn’t such an incident. He never expressed his anger to me for sure. Strangely, he seldom lost his temper… When he had to solve something or find an answer, Jooin would show his capabilities. He would provide a solution almost immediately. When it came to something that Jooin could solve through a sheer amount of patience, he would just move on with a smile.
Especially Jooin had a very close relationship with his classmates, so regardless of their personalities, the students would still ask for something to Jooin.
Sometimes, a few kids would try to ask stupid favors to use Jooin’s friendly character. Even in those situations, Jooin would just help them out regardless.
When I disappeared from this world, it was Jooin who was the most considerate among all my friends.
Were there any sides of Jooin that I didn’t know until now? I never contemplated much about the unfamiliar colors that he sometimes showed. Because it was Jooin…
He always tried to say to me, ‘I’ll cover it,’ by his back; he actually settled most of the things on his own.
Frankly speaking, the smartest among us would be either Jooin or Eun Hyung; however, Eun Hyung wouldn’t really have enough patience to handle a few things sometimes. If he kept his composure for the fourth time, he would burst out what he was feeling after the fifth time.
On the contrary, Jooin wouldn’t allow toxic things to linger in his mind… If Eun Hyung could keep his feelings within him, then Jooin was the kind of person who would drain everything out, leaving nothing behind. When there was something to resolve, he just embarked on it as soon as he could and wouldn’t look back.
While following that train of thought, I lifted my hands spiritlessly and covered my eyes. I was lost in conception, but no conclusion arrived. What came out through my mouth, at last, was this.
“I have no idea.”
I truly had no idea.