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fast track to the top

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Walking out of the hellish office he’d been working in for three years had seemed like a great idea at the time, especially when Kun’s manager ran after him saying, “If you walk out now, it’s your last day here.” And when Kun flipped him off, it had felt pretty good.


Well, it felt pretty good for about a half mile down the road until he realized he was twenty-six, still lived with parents, had a disgustingly large student loan debt, and oh great , the air in the right tire of his car was low.


But it didn’t matter that he was ugly-crying with his head stuck in a gas station freezer, because pretty soon he’d have three pints of ice cream all to himself, and maybe an overdraft fee. Ugh.


“Damn. Rough day?” The cashier asked and Kun paused his sniffling long enough to snort up the snot dribbling down his face and glare.




“No,” Kun said. “I quit my job.” And what the fuck, even saying it sounded pathetic.


When he was just starting to think about all the ways he could grovel at Doyoung’s feet, the cashier said, “Why are you so upset if you quit? It seems like it was a stinky capitalism job anyway.”


Great, now a gas station employee with roughly a million piercings was offering commentary on his shitty life. Perfect. Wonderful, even. “Well,” He paused to read the name tag, “Ten, that stinky capitalism job was sustaining a life for me. And getting Sallie Mae off my back.”


Ten leaned against the counter and smiled, like he had all the knowledge in the world. “That’s why I didn’t bother with college. If I have to pay a bunch of money to make money, then it’s not education but just stinky capitalism.”


“What the fuck is stinky capitalism?”


Ten was about to open his mouth to enlighten Kun on the wonders of economic systems when his manager notified him that his shift was over. He placed a finger in front of Kun’s face. “Don’t even move. I’m gonna clock out then educate you.”


And maybe it was because his day couldn’t possibly get any worse, or maybe it was because Kun had never ever met someone like Ten, or maybe it was the notification from his bank that he had indeed overdrawn his balance, but he kept his loafer clad feet planted right where they were.


“Alright, let’s hit it,” Ten said, but now he had a beanie on and was drinking a blue and red slushie.


“Where are we going?” Maybe quitting his job had been planned, albeit slightly, but getting kidnapped hadn’t really crossed his mind.


“I’m assuming you have a car, right? You know what, dumb question, all stinky capitalists do. Anyway, I’m gonna make your day better.” Ten pointed to Kun’s red Prius. “That looks like it’d be your car. I’m right, right?”


Kun unlocked the doors. “Just get in.”


Ten informed him that they were going to his place first and no , Kun would not be getting that “good gooseneck”, he just needed to change his clothes and maybe eat. It depended on what was in the fridge.


“So, what’s stinky capitalism?” Kun asked. He had to admit it was kinda catchy.


Ten hummed in delight and pointed to his rapidly melting slushie. “You see the lovely beverage I’m holding in my hand?” Kun nodded. He pointed to the red slush at the bottom. “The red is on the bottom so technically it should be the last to reach the top, right?”


“Are you secretly a pothead?”


“Shut up, I’m waxing poetic. Anyway, the blue should get in my mouth first, like logically. But this straw, this goddamn straw, sucks up the red,” He made a big show of taking a sip of the slushie, “and boom, fast track to the top. Stinky capitalism. Even if pathetic people like you work hard,” Kun punched him at that, “you can’t really make it to the top. Not fast enough anyway. Makes me feel bad for Adam Smith. Totally not laissez-faire at all. What’s your name by the way?”


Kun was kinda still reeling from Ten pretending to know how economics work, and from the fact that his dirty Vans were propped up on his dashboard, so it took him awhile to say, “Um, Kun.”


“Dope. You’re my new best friend, Mr. Kun. Or soulmates. We could totally be soulmates.” He peered at Kun curiously. “Are you opposed to this?”


Kun flexed his fingers against the steering wheel. Ten was so weird. “I literally have negative four dollars in my bank account. I’m up for anything.”


Ten ruffled his hair. “Hmm. Maybe you’re not a stinky capitalist.”


Before they could enter Ten’s apartment he had to offer a quick backstory on his roommate.


“His name is Taeil,” Ten started in the elevator, “and his family is like, ridiculously rich. When he first met me he told me he prays everyday for a proletariat uprising, but I think he was maybe testing me because then I told him I’m not really down with communism, but that I am down with getting rid of stinky capitalism and then he looked like he wanted to kiss me. But he’s kinda engaged or something like that, so he didn’t. He’s really chill.”


There was a lot for Kun to unpack right there, but he didn’t have time because Ten dragged him off the elevator and down the hall and soon they were in an apartment so clean, Kun thought his mom was secretly hiding behind a wall.


“Oh, do you wanna put your ice cream in the freezer?” Ten asked and Kun suddenly remembered the three melting pints in his hands. “Never mind, of course you do.” He grabbed at them.


“Thanks. Where’s your roommate, by the way?” The apartment was eerily silent save for the occasional spritz from the plug-in air freshener.


“Probably taking a shit or something. I’m gonna put these up then hit the shower. You can go sit on the couch. I’ll try to look for some clothes for you, because this,” He gestured to Kun’s rumpled suit, “is not going to work.”


Kun figured all of Ten’s clothes either looked like he bought them from Hot Topic or a Target clearance rack, but honestly, he had a lot of respect for that.


He was about to plop face down onto the couch and really get his post-stress cry nap on, when a man walked into the living room, pointed at Kun and said. “Blah! Ten! Who’s the man in our apartment!”


Ten slid into the room on his Care Bear socks. “Oh. That’s my new friend.” Ten was also obviously shirtless, and Kun decided making eye contact was extremely disrespectful.


“I thought you gave up on making new friends when Johnny threw up on your favorite pair of Birkenstock’s,” Taeil said. He seemed to be older than Ten and Kun, but he had an adorable quality about him that made Kun want to squeeze him.


Ten rolled his eyes. “You’re getting married to Johnny, you big dumbo. I need another friend now.”


“You treat that damn gas station like a Pez dispenser. You eat one friend and start grabbing at another,” Taeil inspected Kun. “He looks like a stinky capitalist too.”


Kun laughed. The phrase was becoming funnier and funnier. “I promise I’m not.”


“Hmm. I’ll be the judge of that. Thoughts on The Carlyle Group?”


Kun crossed his arms. “Proof that humanity is godless.” He knew he had answered right when Ten blew him a kiss.


“Alright. I approve, I guess,” And that was the last thing Taeil said before slipping some TOMS on and leaving.


Ten slid back out and Kun tried super, super hard to get rid of the burning image of Ten’s torso out of his head because getting the hots for some dude he met like, thirty minutes ago was wack, even for him.


All of his efforts were in vain however, because even when Ten walked back out, fully clothed with glasses on, Kun could practically still see the pretty tattoos lining his ribcage. Dope, as Ten would say.


“Okay so, I figured you could wear a pair of my sweats because they’re all a little big for me, and this hoodie.” Ten thrust a pair of blue sweatpants and a tie dye hoodie into his hands.


“I’m gonna look like Crayola vomit,” Kun pointed out.


“You look like corporate vomit right now, so pick your struggle.”


Kun settled on Crayola vomit and stole a pair of Ten’s sandals while he was changing. He figured Ten would want him to.


“Are those my Birks?” Ten observed in the elevator.


“Yeah. Are you mad?”


“Nah. You have cute feet. If you need money you could just sell feet pics.”


“I’ll punch you.”


“Feet first, please.”


Kun laughed and then Ten laughed and soon it was a mixture of both, and Kun hadn’t felt so relaxed in awhile.

“I need to pick up my annoying cousin and his friend today. Can you drop by the snotty private school downtown?” Ten asked and his dirty Vans were yep, back on the dashboard again. But Kun didn’t have the heart to tell him to put his feet down, not when he was feeling all light and airy because of him.


“Yeah just turn google maps on.”


They made it to the school in about ten minutes, all of which was spent listening to Gives You Hell by All-American Rejects three times over. (“This song is like, my life song. Do you get that?” Ten had asked. “Yeah. That’s kind of how I feel about any Louis Armstrong song.” Kun replied.)


When they got to the school, two teenage boys rushed into the car, both without the uniform on.


“Hey, Ten. Who’s the hot Uber driver?” The one with dark brown hair asked.


“He’s not an Uber driver, Renjun. He’s my new friend. And hello Jeno.”


“Do you have a name, new friend?” Renjun was all up in his face now, staring him down just like Taeil had. The last time Kun had felt this intimidated by a teenager was when his lab partner in chemistry threatened to upend a copper mixture in his backpack if he didn’t shut up about show choir.


“I’m Kun.”


Renjun smiled suddenly and offered him a fist bump. “Chinese solidarity.”


“How was alumni afternoon?” Ten asked.


Jeno groaned. He seemed like an agitated kid. “Renjun let a freshman borrow his JUUL, and then did some weird tricks or whatever for Snapchat, so I had to answer all of the questions for him on the college panel.”


“Chenle is literally a senior,” Renjun corrected.


“Wait, deadass?”


“Yeah. They grow up fast don’t they?”


“It’s not good to use e-cigarettes,” Kun interjected. He belatedly realized he sounded kind of old saying it, but nicotine addiction should’ve died out in the fifties.


“I think it’s hot when you start talking like the FDA,” Ten said before pinching his cheeks, and Kun felt twenty years younger. Awesome.


“Can Jeno and I hang with you guys today? We don’t have any plans and Donghyuck and Jaemin have a panel with their parents later on.”


Ten turned to Kun. “Is that okay?”


“I already told you I’m up for anything.”


Ten twisted around in his seat. “Dope. Do you guys still have your water gun collection?”

It turns out that Ten’s idea of a good time was spraying water at real estate lawyers at six in the evening from a non descript alleyway. Renjun and Jeno must’ve been used to it because they were pretty much on board from the beginning. Kun slowly warmed up to it when he nailed a particularly douchey looking guy in the face.


“You’re a natural,” Ten complimented as his Super Soaker drenched a woman in a red pantsuit. “This is why we’re soulmates. We’re still soulmates, right?”


Kun focused on shooting some poor shmuck on the back of his pants. “Hell yeah. When’s the wedding?”


“Dope. Does Tuesday sound good?”


“I’ll have to check my calendar, but yeah I can probably make it.” Ten giggled and Kun realized he had missed stuff like this, had missed being a person again. Adulthood was draining, and sad, and he was broke more times than not, and having fun was so foreign after so long.


Kun eventually had to pause the fun to answer his phone and regretted that he didn’t check caller ID because,


“Kun, are you on your way home? Didn’t you get off work an hour ago?” His dad asked over the line.


Kun tried not to feel too guilty when he said, “I quit.”


“You did what?”


Oh yes, there it was again, that burning feeling of regret and worthlessness that had been hidden behind Ten-induced laughter.


“Can we talk when I get home please? Don’t tell Mom until I get there.”


His father sighed and he briefly thought he was in the clear until he heard him mutter, “Jesus, Kun, when are you going to grow up?”


Kun didn’t wait around for anything else to be said, just hung up and let the words linger in his system. The water gun in his hand seemed kind of stupid now.


“Hey, what’s wrong?” Ten asked, hand rubbing Kun’s shoulder.


“Nothing. Do you wanna do something else now?” It was obvious that Ten didn’t believe him, not one bit, but he nodded anyway. He said something to Renjun and Jeno, and the two left with the excuse of some last minute plans with their friends.


Ten said he wanted a green tea before doing anything else so they went to Starbucks. And even though Kun didn’t like tea all that much, he let Ten offer him sips of his own, if only because it seemed to make him feel better.


“What happened?” Ten asked softly. Kun had thought he was weird for a few hours now, but seeing him quiet and gentle like this was odd.


“Told my dad I quit. You can guess how that went down.”


“What’d he say?”


“Asked me when I’d finally grow up. I guess he’s right. I graduated from college only to have a series of fuck-up jobs,” Kun admitted and oh god, he could feel the tears again.


“Well, that’s bullshit,” Ten said in the same way he explained stinky capitalism. “Nobody finishes growing up. We’re all constantly bettering ourselves or making mistakes. You’re like what, twenty-five? Who the fuck is done making mistakes at twenty-five? It sure as hell isn’t me.”


“Do you have a dream, Ten?” It seemed like the right thing to ask because fluorescent lighting looked nice on him, and Ten seemed like a dreamer.


“Just to be happy,” Was all that he said, and Kun figured that was the only dream worth having.

As per Kun’s request, the pair bought two slushies at the local gas station. Oh well, really it was Ten because he had a rewards card and a bank account without an overdrawn balance.


They went to the park and sat slouched on the swings, the only noises coming from their plastic cups. Kun took a moment to examine his blue and pink drink and was struck by a realization.




“What?” He looked up and some splatter from the slushie was on the lens of his glasses and he looked sparkly at night. Like a vampire, but not?


Kun pointed to his drink. “You’re the straw.”


Ten narrowed his eyes. “Is that some new slang for a blowjob?” Kun made a face. “No? Okay, continue.”


Kun pointed to the bottom where the pink slush rested. “This is me earlier today.” He pointed to the straw. “You’re the fast track to the top. I was at the bottom but now, I’m like, not.”


Ten looked like he was going to cry for a moment before saying, “What the hell, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. C’mere,” he tugged on Kun’s swing. “I wanna kiss you.”


Their swings met halfway and Ten smiled for the entirety of the kiss, but honestly, Kun didn’t expect anything different.

Kun was nearly asleep when Ten called him a few hours later.


“You left your ice cream here.”


“Oh? You didn’t eat it, did you?”


“No, but now you have a moral obligation to come over tomorrow so we can eat ice cream, make out, and take a nap, all in that order.”


Kun smiled in the darkness of his room. “Okay. I’ll be over.”


Ten made a noise of delight and hung up with, “Good night my stinky capitalist.”


Kun didn’t even have a problem with being called a stinky capitalist. Ten had pulled him all the way up in one day. Yeah, maybe he didn’t have a job right now, but he had Ten and that was pretty dope.