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a melancholy sweeter than common joy

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[KIM YERIM and SON SEUNGWAN sit on the bed in Seungwan's room in varying degrees of boredom—Yerim is on her phone, face set in an impassive pout and Seungwan tries, but in vain to focus on a book. She ultimately gives up and looks at Yerim.]

Seungwan: I wish I could've gone to LA with you. How was it?

[Yerim glances at Seungwan then back at her phone once, types in a reply and turns her phone off.]

Yerim: You mean the photoshoot? It went okay.

Seungwan: No. [drags out the syllable, playful] Going there alone.

Yerim: Eh. [shrugs] I mean—it was fun, yeah.

Seungwan: Just fun, huh?

Yerim: Are you tryna to get something outta me?

Seungwan: [obvious in her curiousity] Yeah.

Yerim: Wait, what?

Seungwan: You look different and I want to know what happened[wiggles her eyebrows]

Yerim: Oh my god, no. Nothing happened! LA was cool, really cool. Everything's different there.

Seungwan: Culture shock much?

Yerim: Shut up. It was my first time going there alone, it was different than when I went with you guys.

Seungwan: Should I be offended?

Yerim: It's not my fault you guys are insane.

Seungwan: [places her hand on her chest in mock hurt] Ouch.

Yerim: Just stating the facts.

Seungwan: Right. So, tell me—anything interesting happen? [shifts to get closer to Yerim and starts poking her] Get lucky?

Yerim: [flushed, pushes her away] God, no!

Seungwan: [shrugs in mock humility] I'll just assume you got laid.

Yerim: No no no no. Nothing like that happened!

Seungwan: [grins] So, what did happen?

Yerim: I met someone.

Seungwan: What! You met someone and you didn't even tell me!?

Yerim: Keep it down! [gets up to hit Seungwan on the arm] I haven't told anyone yet.

Seungwan: Not even Sooyoung?

Yerim: No.

Wendy: Must be something scandalous.

Yerim: Unnie.

Seungwan: Fine. I won't say anything, have it your way.

Yerim: Whatever.

[Yerim falls  back on the bed, gaze locked at the ceiling above, trying to gather her thoughts.]

Yerim (cont'd): You know... they're all so accepting of everything? They're like you but better.

Seungwan: [dramatically] Only I can be a better version of myself!

Yerim: Sure. But—it was so cool. No one gives a shit... most people aren't judgy as they are here. After the photoshoot they let me wander around and I saw stuff that'd never be accepted here and it really felt nice to see that... out there in the open. [nostalgic, vacant] To be free.

Seungwan: I'm glad you got to see that.

Yerim: Yeah?

Seungwan: Yeah. [smiles] So, what stuff did you see?

[Yerim pauses but pushes herself up to sit on the bed.]

Yerim: You know how we're not so accepting of... [hesitant] the LGBT culture?

Seungwan: Mhm.

Yeri: It was nice to see people be true to themselves without being afraid. There was a drag queen at the pier—some people took selfies with them. A gay couple kissed on the beach during the sunset. Not many people cared, and those that did smiled and all that. Like, there wasn't any prejudice. You get me?

Seungwan: Totally.

Yerim: And there's so much more to sexuality than just straight and gay.

Seungwan: I know.

Yerim: [instantly looks at Seungwan in surprise] You know?

Seungwan: Yeah, of course. One of my friends back home is pan.

[They're both silent for a while.]

Yerim: You've never told me that before.

Seungwan: We've never had this conversation before. [she tilts her head to the side and smiles mischievously]

Yerim: Why are you doing that?

Seungwan: You met someone.

Yerim: I did.

Seungwan: And I'm curious, tell me!

Yerim: [sighs] I met a girl at the beach. That's it.

Seungwan: Oh? And you spoke to her in English? I highly doubt that.

Yerim: What? She understood me just fine, besides—she's Korean American.

Seungwan: Did she know you?

Yerim: Uh, no? She didn't.

Seungwan: And you didn't ask her if she knew about Red Velvet?

Yerim: Why would I?

Seungwan: Now I know you're lying! [fake sobs] I thought you trusted me!

Yerim: [rolls her eyes] Don't be overdramatic.

Seungwan: Fine. Was she cute?

Yerim: Who said she was cute?

Seungwan: You met her and didn't even tell anyone, so—there must be something special about her.

Yerim: [mouth hangs open for a moment, she then clears her throat and looks away] I don't know... maybe it's because she treated me like a normal person that I just wanted to keep that moment to myself. That was the only time I felt peaceful in LA.

Seungwan: Good to know you had fun. You got her number? [Yerim nods sheepishly] What about her Instagram? [gasps dramatically at Yerim's flushed cheeks] Do I sense a crush?

Yerim: [mumbles] Would it be so bad if you were right?

Seungwan: No, it wouldn't.

Yerim: What—how did you hear that!?

Seungwan: [smiles softly] You're not really quiet even when you try to be.

[Yerim takes in a breath as though in preparation for something. Seungwan waits patiently.]

Yerim: You're not gonna ask any questions?

Seungwan: It's none of my business, you can like whoever you want to. [a pause then continues] Except when it's someone who isn't a good person then you won't be getting my permission.

Yerim: You don't care?

Seungwan: No? Why should I?

Yerim: Because I'm a girl and... so are you. Most girls would say it's weird or storm out of the room.

Seungwan: I'm not like most girls, Yerim-ah.

Yerim: So... you don't think it's weird? That I might have a crush on a girl.

Seungwan: Let me get this straight—or not—do you or do you not have a crush on her?

Yerim: [purses her lips in thought for a while] I... I do.

Seungwan: Great! It's not weird at all that you do and honestly? Girls are cute.

Yerim: [laughs but it dies down quickly] But you know what is weird? That I felt a lot safer in a foreign country than I do here.

Seungwan: Yerim-ah...

Yerim: No, it's stupid. I'm stupid—it doesn't matter.

Seungwan: It matters, you idiot! Tell me about it. Why don't you feel safe here?

Yerim: I'm not saying I feel unsafe in the physical sense of the word, it's more like, if I were to be true to myself... a number of things could happen and none of them ends on a happy note. I'm more of a hazard to myself, I let you know about it accidentally. And that's just because I had a couple of hours in which I didn't lie to myself or anyone else. What if it wasn't you but someone homophobic? I don't like to lie about myself or my interests yet I can't be truthful about them either. I can't let the others know... [in a sudden realisation she turns to Seungwan fully] You can't let them know.

Seungwan: It's not my secret to tell. [then with extreme kindness] But you can tell them, they'll understand—it doesn't change anything about you as a person, you're still the same.

Yerim: They're not you, they don't share your values! They're different and... [chokes on her next words but clears her throat to hide it] I respect them too much, their opinions matter to me, unnie. If they say anything... it'll hurt. I can't handle that. If the people I love can't accept me for the way I am then what's the point?

Seungwan: [shifts closer to Yerim and pulls her in for a one-armed hug] Hey, I love you and nothing you can do will ever change that. I'm sure if you ever decide to tell them—they'll accept you. They might need time but they will.

Yerim: You know Joohyun unnie won't, you know what she's said...

Seungwan: [deflates] You're not obligated to let anyone know.

Yerim: [quiet for a moment] But I don't want to lie anymore.

Seungwan: It's alright—it doesn't matter if you've gotta lie to protect yourself. [squeezes Yerim's arm] Even if anyone realises or you accidentally tell them the way you told me... I'll protect you, alright? I'm here. I'll always be here.

Yerim: [smiles gratefully] Thank you.

Seungwan: Oh shut up you big baby. Anyway, you didn't even show me her picture! Is she cute? Do you guys share pictures? Or call each other? Will she come to Korea?

Yerim: [trying to get out of the hug] Oh my god, unnie—stop.