“We’re the most successful band in the world, so why the hell can’t we get a decent elevator? This metal hunk is slow as shit.” Seokjin grumbled petulantly as he and Jungkook stepped into said metal hunk. The company had just relocated into a much larger and nicer building, but Seokjin was still a complainer at heart.
“Chill, it takes eleven seconds at most, and that’s only if it’s coming from the top floor.” Jungkook quipped. “It you don’t want to wait, you’re more than welcome to walk up the three hundred and thirty eight stairs.”
“Wait—what the fuck—you counted that?” Seokjin
Jungkook shrugged. “I haven’t counted all of them individually, but every time I go between floors I’ll count them. Why, haven’t you?” There were exactly thirteen stairs between floors in the new BigHit building, an odd number, so taking them two-at-a-time felt awkward.
“No, you weirdo. I’m not surprised that you have, though.” Seokjin laughed and tried to chop the back of the younger’s neck.
Jungkook stuck out his tongue and stepped out of Seokjin’s reach. He liked his numbers and knew them well. They were comfortable.
But more than numbers, he liked feeling in control. When he wanted something, he would achieve it, no matter the cost. He was nothing if not disciplined.
Some admired Jungkook for being so committed and assured. Moments of uncertainty and indecision were very rare for him, and he was unfailingly consistent. When he said he would do something, he would always remain true to his word, even at his own expense.
Indeed, Jungkook’s diligence was one of the reasons why he was talented in a multitude of areas, supposedly ‘good at everything,’ the eternal golden maknae. Of course, though, he never wasted his time on things he didn’t care about, or weren’t worthwhile to him.
When he was a boy, he wanted to be good at Taekwondo, and so he was. In fact, he was the best in the class.
During his first year of middle school, he joined his school’s chorus. He fell in love with singing. However, he wasn’t immediately talented. His teacher said that he was gifted . But the other side of that coin, was that his natural ability had rough edges, which needed to be smoothed and shaped with practice, confidence, and proper technique.
Jungkook became very good at singing. It was never uncertain in his mind; he would be perfect, because he had to, because he wanted to, because he needed to.
It didn’t take long until pretty women from agencies were offering to buy him lunch, and their cards were piling up on his desk.
He chose BigHit. Something about Namjoon made Jungkook want to be as incredible as the young man before him. Namjoon knew so much, and Jungkook realized he was just an innocent ewe, entering the wolves’ den of the K-Pop industry. He wanted someone capable to lead him, and Namjoon was far superior to anyone else Jungkook had ever met before.
From the way he pronounced the lyrics which he wrote and rapped himself, to how he thought carefully about his own spoken words, to the pensive and considering look of attention and contemplation that overtook his features during a conversation, to his velvety deep voice which became even more exquisite when he spoke English. (Even though Jungkook’s boy-crush had since faded, he could still appreciate how sexy Namjoon’s voice was.)
For the first time, Jungkook had encountered someone with a talent he could not fathom ever having himself.
Namjoon had the gift of words.
Surprisingly, Jungkook was not jealous. How could he be of someone so intellectually driven yet willing to share his trove of omnipotent talents, and never boastful? What made it different was that Namjoon inspired Jungkook to also strive to be just as ineffably and impressively amazing.
Some of Jungkook’s happiest memories were his English lessons with Namjoon.
His experience was similar when he danced with Jimin and Hoseok. They were talented, he was talented. Why should he wish to surpass them? They were each talented differently, it wouldn’t even make sense.
He was firmly part of every line within his group and he was satisfied. Perhaps he was growing up, maybe he was losing his perfectionist side, the greedy gremlin festering beneath his skin.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Just because he found a safe place, that didn’t mean he would grow complacent.
His fate was in his own hands, and he would be damned if he didn’t control it.
At any given point in Jungkook’s adult life, it was probable that he had abs. He was proud of that fact. It wasn’t intentional, just a nice side effect of his love for the gym. With every bench press and push-up, he strove to better himself and grow stronger. Being the strongest in the group satisfied the tar-black parts of Jungkook that wanted to be the best, the most, the greatest, and not have to share that status with anyone.
When an abs reveal was included in the Fake Love choreography, Jungkook knew he’d have to prepare for it, but the foundation of a toned and muscular torso was already there.
After their comeback stage at Billboard, his secret stan twitter account was flooded with HD fansite pictures of him. He looked great: lean yet strong. His abs were well defined and nicely sculpted. Objectively, he couldn’t have asked for more.
It wasn’t enough.
For an idol, it was unusual that Jungkook had never been on a crazy diet before—one that makes fans trend glowing hashtags in your namesake. Sure, there had been times when he had watched his intake the week before a photoshoot, sticking mostly to protein shakes and vegetables, but he had never done anything like Seokjin’s chicken-only diet, or Jimin’s nothing-only diet—if it could even be called a diet.
“You’re such a normal eater.” Jimin sounded strangely envious.
“Thanks?” Jungkook asked around a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
In lieu of breakfast, Jimin crunched on ice. Jungkook sent out a silent prayer for his molars. “I don’t get how you do it.”
“Do what? Eat? I don’t know, I just eat what I feel like.” At the time, Jungkook had been still innocent to how daunting meals could become.
Jimin laughed humorlessly. “Sounds easy enough. You’re lucky that normal works for you.” And with that cryptic remark, Jimin stood from his chair and left the room.
It was months later, following the Boy with Love era, that Jungkook understood.
Jimin genuinely hated himself on bad days. He believed he deserved to be punished, to be cold, to be hungry. He didn’t feel deserving of a single centimeter of the space which he displaced.
For Jungkook, it was different. Of course, he had bad days, but they were nothing like Jimin’s. For Jungkook, it was a feeling of revulsion, of unease that settled in his bones and made him want to tear his skin off.
He found comfort in his numbers, controlling the eye of the storm.
Like most things that end in tears and pain, it began with a diet.
Jungkook didn’t need to lose weight. It was something he knew. He wasn’t terribly unhappy with how he looked.
What initially spurred him to diet was Jimin.
And Jungkook hated himself for it.
The selfish, inconsiderate, ugly parts of his mind crooned to him, whispered that he needed to be better. Jungkook had tried to fight those thoughts. Jimin had real problems. Jungkook was just a greedy bastard.
Jungkook needed to beat Jimin. He needed to be thinner than Jimin. He wanted Jimin to be jealous, to be worried. It was sick, how he wished to be better at having a disorder.
He hoped no one would ever find out how awful he truly was.
“Why aren’t you eating, Jungkook?” Seokjin raised an eyebrow, pointedly staring at Jungkook’s untouched plate.
“It’s too early, I’m not hungry.” Jungkook lied easily.
Seokjin gazed at him warily, but then shrugged and turned away to tend to the eggs sizzling on the stove. Jungkook was a grown man and could take care of himself.
Jimin stared at his own food as though it had wronged him, “I’m finished.” The plate was still mostly full.
“Jimin, please.” Seokjin sighed, but it fell upon deaf ears, as Jimin slinked back to his bedroom.
For the rest of the morning Seokjin glared at Jungkook, in a way that said ‘look what you did.’
It was easy to ignore the guilt and shame he felt for his actions, when his mind was consumed with numbers. It was easy to pretend like his actions weren’t putting Jimin on the verge of a relapse.
It was easy to blame Jimin for his own disorder.
Just shy of a month later, Jungkook’s numbers had grown smaller; his caloric intake nearing the point of nonexistence. But so was he. He had once been the heaviest member in his group, but he was now surely one of the lightest.
His weight loss was visible, but not yet unhealthy, so no one seemed to care much. Except Jimin, who was also starting to rapidly shrink, struggling to keep his head above the murky water.
Sometimes, in the small hours of the morning, Jungkook could hear Jimin crying softly from behind the wall. It distracted him from the stabbing pain in his abdomen.
Sometimes, in the small hours of the morning, Jungkook cried too. He was a despicable human being, and a fool for wanting an eating disorder. (He told himself that he wanted this. It gave him the illusion that he was still really in control. Deep down, he knew it had never truly been his own choice.)
“Jungkook, you’re looking skinny lately.” Yoongi mentioned casually one evening, sipping a mug of steaming coffee as he leaned against the kitchen counter, but something about his tone screamed ‘I know what you’re hiding.’
“Won’t that keep you up? Caffeine isn’t good to have so late in the day, you know.” Jungkook knew it could only be so long until someone realized what he was doing.
“Don’t play dumb Jungkook, you don’t eat.” Yoongi’s expression was unreadable—his usual scowl with something unfamiliar beneath it.
“Woah, that’s a stretch. I mean, I guess I’ve missed a few meals, since we’ve been busy with the upcoming comeback. I’ll make sure to eat more!” Jungkook smiled innocently.
He grabbed two granola bars from the cabinet above the sink. “Almond coconut—my favorite!”
Jungkook pocketed the bars and turned away from Yoongi, leaving the room so he wouldn’t have to face the disappointment in Yoongi’s eyes, or have Yoongi call him out on his blatant lie.
The garbage ate well that night.
As their comeback neared, it became easier for Jungkook to fly undetected under the radar of his bandmates’ watchful eyes.
“You’ve lost weight.” Jungkook’s trainer frowned at the number on the scale.
“Have I?” Jungkook feigned ignorance, when he was in fact painfully aware of the number on the display before him.
He was still on the larger side, but undeniably getting there. He was probably the lightest in the group, but he still had a few kilograms to go until he would be satisfied. He wanted to be indisputably the thinnest.
The rational side of him, his last ounce of self preservation screamed at him. ‘Why do you even want this? What’s wrong with you?’
He ignored that voice.
“You’ve lost a lot. It’s worrisome how much you’ve lost in such little time. Is the company pushing a flower boy concept or some shit now?”
“Yeah, sure, you could say that.” Jungkook didn’t want to explain his sudden weight loss. His reasons were shameful, irrational, and vain.
His trainer sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “Alright, fine. Just don’t lose any more. You look gaunt, and some of your weight loss I suspect has been muscle mass, considering your already low body fat percentage.”
“Aye-aye captain!” Jungkook mock-saluted his trainer, whole rolled his eyes and huffed good-naturedly.
Jungkook wondered when he had become such a brilliant actor.
“Jungkook, care to explain why your comeback outfit doesn’t fit?” His stylist grumbled as she forced one of her keys through the leather of Jungkook’s belt, poking an additional hole after the previously smallest one.
It was two hours before the prerecording of their comeback stage, and the stylists were making last-minute tweaks and adjustments. Jungkook’s stylist was certainly getting a run for her money. His skinny jeans hung loosely from his hips and bunched around his boney knees, and his shirt was oversized in an unintentional and unfashionable way. He looked like a Dior scarecrow.
“I lost weight.”
His stylist rolled her eyes. “Clearly.” She rummaged through a rack of clothes, instead of the usual sleek black labels on the hangers, shiny gold plastic labels rattled on the metal.
“Try this.” She handed him another outfit, and he disappeared behind a panel.
The outfit was definitely not Jungkook’s style, but he was grateful that it at least fit better. Even though the trousers were slightly too short, and the shoulders were obviously meant for someone narrower, at least he didn’t look like a child playing dress-up.
His stylist pinched an inch of loose fabric that gapped at the waist of the pants. “Wow,” She marvelled, “you really have gotten small. Even Jimin’s stuff is loose on you. We can try something from Yoongi’s rack, but I suspect it’ll fit the same, if not a bit worse.”
“No, I’m sorry for inconveniencing you. This is fine, thank you.” Jungkook tightened his belt to the homemade additional hole. The edges were jagged, but it did the trick, he wasn’t trying to moon the whole country. A vindictive smile crept onto his face. He indeed was the slimmest, the best, the thinnest, the strongest.
“Try not to lose any more weight, Jungkook. You’ll be wearing kid sizes if you keep this up.” She bit her lip with uncertainty. “I know I’m just your stylist, but you can talk to me if something is bothering you.”
“I’ve never been better.” Jungkook flashed a cheeky grin. Despite how his hands shook from low blood sugar, he genuinely meant it.
“I’m glad.” She replied softly, unable to mask the sadness infiltrating her voice.
Jungkook could not hide that he was fifteen kilograms thinner than he had been for their previous comeback. He didn’t want to. People have never worried for him before. He was selfish, so he liked the attention.
Or, so he tried to tell himself. It was becoming hard to enjoy anything when his existence was growing increasingly more miserable with each day that passed. He tried to convince himself that this is what he wanted, that he should have been proud of every single gram he lost. At some point control had slipped from his grasp, and at some point, an actual eating disorder had found its grip on him.
He was trapped.
But this is what he wanted, right?
At some point, meals had stopped being a group thing. Instead, they became divided. It was obvious to Jungkook that they were trying to keep him away from Jimin. They didn’t want Jungkook to see how much Jimin ate, and vice versa. Sometimes, it seemed to Jungkook that they were trying to keep Jungkook away from Jimin, in general.
He felt like a monster.
But he couldn’t stop.
Jungkook started to resent Jimin, which further solidified in his mind how revolting he truly was. He hated Jimin for making him like this. But more that that, he hated who he had become.
If he carved Jimin’s name into the flesh of his thigh with ten precise slices, no one had to know. The sensation of his skin separating fiber by fiber was indescribably terrible, yet euphoric.
He sobbed silently into his bloodied lap. His tears felt viscous and slimy with remorse and psychological suffocation.
Despite the carmine beads that dripped down his legs, he still wondered if he was human.
A familiar line from one of his favorite books came to the forefront of his mind. ‘Real or not real?’ He wondered as he slowly, painstakingly dragged the blade across older, faded scars for the eleventh time that night.
He was still far from finished.
When Jimin was found with his fingers down his throat and tears on his cheeks, he was hugged and reassured and called ‘baby.’ He was further alienated from Jungkook.
No one called Jungkook ‘baby.’ He was not sweet or gentle. He was malicious and repulsive. He was not a baby. He was subhuman.
Jungkook creeped onto the balcony and smoked a cigarette. It was a nasty habit that he had picked up. It was probably ruining his lungs, and subsequently, his voice, but he couldn’t find it within himself to care.
Jungkook didn’t want to cry anymore, so he pretended to not exist.
It must have worked too well.
Even when it started to storm and thunder, no one came looking for him. He trudged into the apartment soaked to the bone, numbness permeating through his body, from the tips of his fingers to the blood vessels in his heart.
Jungkook checked the fridge. Jin had stopped leaving food for him a while ago. Jungkook tried to convince himself that he preferred it this way.
Jungkook had not been hugged in a long time. He knew this to be true because he had started to count the days. 47.
He missed hugs.
As a child, he had grown familiar with the sting of a palm, rather than the warmth of an embrace.
Jimin was starting to regain his health. He no longer looked sallow or hollow. His cheeks were flushed with life. He looked happy.
Jungkook then understood that he must not have deserved hugs.
He relished that pain with every one of the twenty nine cuts that he marred his skin with.
He was starting to run out of room on his thighs. He took that as a sign that he was doing something right.
Jungkook was pulled from promotions due to the uproar his appearance was causing. He didn’t care.
He struggled to find meaning in his numbers. It scared him that he couldn’t find anything that tethered him to life.
When he looked into the bathroom mirror, he could easily count all his ribs.
It was meaningless.
Jungkook couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten. He groaned as he stumbled out of bed, leaning against the wall for support. He mustered every bit of strength he had, and fought his way, step-by-step, to the kitchen.
Slowly, all 6 of Jungkook’s bandmates, crept into the kitchen and sat down. They attempted to seem nonchalant, but they had always struggled with the art of subtlety. This was tactical and intentional—Jungkook was no fool—the textbook definition of an intervention.
Jungkook’s mind screamed at him to run, but he was certain that his legs would collapse beneath him, so he stayed sitting and mentally steeled himself. His remaining sliver of personality told him that he was the dog in the ‘this-is-fine-house-on-fire’ meme. With just a glance, Jungkook knew that Namjoon was the spark while the others were the flames.
Jungkook expected to be yelled at, chastised, or even kicked out of the group. Instead, Jimin ruffled his hair and offered to make him hot chocolate with marshmallows.
He immediately burst into tears. He didn’t want to fight any longer.
Jimin reached to embrace him, but Jungkook weakly caught his wrists.
“You don’t want to hug me.” Jungkook knew that his bones jutted out in ways that weren’t healthy or normal. He already hated himself enough, he didn’t want to cause Jimin to relapse, again.
Jimin ignored Jungkook’s protests and enveloped the younger. “It’s okay.” He crooned.
“What’s wrong, baby?” Seokjin cooed, tenderly brushing Jungkook’s sweaty bangs from his forehead, motherly in a way he hadn’t acted since Jungkook had entered his adult years.
It was this that sent Jungkook over the edge. If he had been hysterical before, he was now a blubbering hurricane. From his mouth spilled a torrent of pent-up anguish and sorrow. He was held through it.
When he calmed down enough, Taehyung coaxed a few bites of a banana into him, alarmed by the gray, lifeless pallor of Jungkook’s face.
“I’m a bad person.” Jungkook whispered bravely, yet shamefully. It was such a childlike, simple sentence, yet the weight it carried was inconceivable.
Namjoon shook his head in disbelief. “No you’re not, Jungkook. I’m a bad leader. I knew something was wrong—we all did—but I just watched and let you deteriorate to this point. I’m so sorry.” Namjoon sniffled, and swiped at his wet eyes with the sleeve of his blue hoodie.
“Please, don’t apologize. It’s my fault. Why can’t you realize how fucking awful I am?”
“Don’t say that.” Yoongi tried to placate him.
“It’s true, isn’t it?! I’m a goddamn monster. It’s why you protected Jimin from me. It’s why you pretend that I don’t exist.” Jungkook wailed.
“You’re not a monster. I’m so sorry.” Jimin cried.
Jungkook was the reason for Jimin’s tears. How could Jimin not understand how awful Jungkook was, how Jimin’s own words were lies?
“Your anguish became entangled with Jimin’s, so we foolishly believed that your health and well-being was also dependent on Jimin. We thought that we could help you if we focused on the root of the problem. We though that by separating you two it would be easier to help you both. We were able to mitigate Jimin’s suffering, but I’m sorry that we didn’t try harder to help you.” Namjoon is crying but his voice is steady. “I hope you can forgive us for our selfishness.”
Jungkook couldn’t believe he ears. He was the selfish one. “You don’t have to apologize, this is all my fault.”
Namjoon seemed saddened by Jungkook’s words. “I’m sorry for failing you, Jungkook.”
Jungkook had gained less than a kilogram, but body dysmorphia hit him like an eight-wheeler.
Logically, he knew that he was still deathly underweight, that his legs were like those of a baby deer, that seeing all of his bones definitely wasn’t healthy, and that he shouldn’t enjoy the feeling of gnawing hunger pains. He was much too close to death than a man in his twenties should be.
But since control had been torn from his hands, he suddenly felt enormous. It made him want to bleed, to tear open every puffy, healing cut on his body.
He was trying. It wasn’t enough.
It was not the first time that Jungkook had fainted, but it was the first time that he genuinely believed that he was going to die.
Only in the face of death did Jungkook realize that he didn’t want to go. He was terrified.
He awoke in a hospital bed surrounded by beeping machines and was infinitely grateful.
This was a second chance.
His fate was in his own hands, and he would be damned if he didn’t control it.
Jungkook agreed to be treated for his ‘issue’. Most of the treatment he received was not specifically geared towards eating disorders, because he lived in Korea, where eating disorders were diets .
Hoseok told him that BigHit was blaming his sudden, unexplained absence on a back injury, but there would be no hiding that the next time he appeared on stage he would be at least twenty kilograms fatter. ( Stronger, Hoseok corrected him.)
Jungkook—in a way—was glad that the truth would be so obvious. He wanted it to be. To show what he could not say, and what Jimin would not say.
Though he was still breathing, he felt like a martyr.
When Jungkook was discharged from the hospital, he was lost. Without having the control of numbers, he felt empty, as if a piece of him was missing. Even the sharpied-out nutrition labels in their dorm’s kitchen made him quake.
It was uncharted territory for those around him, too.
His bandmates knew how to help Jimin. Warm hugs, compliments, praise. While Jungkook certainly appreciated those things, they weren’t what he needed.
Jimin had a problem, Jungkook had an addiction .
There was hope for Jimin, but for Jungkook, there was none. He would never stop missing his numbers, he would never stop missing the feeling of sinking metal into his skin. He would always want to be perfect.
Inpatient care was not enough, outpatient care was not enough, the support of his loved ones was not enough.
Even in his recovery, he remained grossly selfish. Nothing would ever be enough for someone so greedy, yet undeserving.
Jungkook wanted to give up.
But he didn’t, because that wasn’t in his nature, because he wasn’t a failure, or perhaps it was his perfectionist nature biting him in the ass.
Something undeniably was pushing him forward, so why should he fight it? (He was secretly grateful, because he didn’t want to die.)
He was sick of being tormented by himself, a slave held captive by his mind. He needed to escape.
Refeeding was not easy, or fun, or anything besides sweaty and nauseating. A terrible, but undoubtedly necessary experience. While he wasn’t fully weight restored, he was getting there. At least his butt wasn’t so boney anymore.
Jungkook tried to concentrate on what he had and being satisfied with that, rather than focusing on what he wanted, or thought he wanted . At first, the concept of not needing to be particularly outstanding was foreign to him, but quickly it became second nature. It was refreshing to have the luxury of not needing to try so hard, to simply be average .
Jungkook looked at his reflection in his bedroom mirror.
He was no longer the slimmest, the strongest, the heaviest, or—in any way—the best. And he didn’t like what he saw, even in the slightest. But that was okay.
He was enough.