Most people hate and even shudder at the thought of having to take public transportation.
Buses, metro, you name it. The crowds, the tight space, the tiniest amount of air to breather. Let’s not forget the accidental groping (although sometimes it isn’t accidental).
But Jeongin loves it. It is the one time that he seems to be able to turn off his brain and relax his mind. He doesn’t have to stress about all the things he has to do or when and how he is going to get them done.
He just gets to enjoy his music. He gets to enjoy that new playlist he made, maybe read a couple of chapters of the book he just picked up on the library, or make a new playlist. He makes some playlists for his friends too, but he isn’t really sure if they listen to them.
Lovefool by No Vacation starts playing and he slouches back into his seat. He got the good seat today due to the bus seemingly being empty. Turning his head towards the window, he focuses on the bright the sky is today.
Maybe he was a little too in his own head because he managed to miss the intense gaze a cute boy was giving him.
The red creeping up onto his cheeks, Jeongin sheepishly smiles in order to avoid continuing the awkward interaction. Yet embarrassment manages to find him as he slightly trips getting off the bus. Cute boy stifles a little laugh. He smiles at Jeongin who doesn’t feel too happy that he laughed, disappointing brewing on his face. Cute boy’s smile goes away.
The next time they interact, is when the cute boy sits down next to him.
“Hi. My name is Hyunjin.”
Jeongin, not necessarily knowing what to say, keeps his head towards the window. Little did he know but would he being seeing more of Hyunjin.
Every Wednesday like clockwork, it became a routine. Hyunjin would get on STOP#3 but Jeongin had no idea where he was going due to Jeongin getting off before him. Eye contact was always made but there would never be any actual contact. They sat across from each other and for the 20 minutes that Jeongin the rode the bus all he could focus on was Hyunjin. Jeongin is intrigued.
Where is he going? What kind of music does he like? Why did he sit down next to him that next time? Does he like sunsets? Does he like sunrises? What makes him happy? What makes him sad? Does he like to read? Does he sleep well? Does he like sushi? Does he like me? Does he wake to sunsets?
There are so many questions that circle in his head and he wants to ask, to know what is going on in that head in the other boy’s head. There is something about him. Jeongin doesn’t know what exactly it is but he thinks there is a chance, that he might be able to get some answers to the questions.
Maybe one day.
And that one day came.
Seeming like any other ordinary Wednesday, Jeongin got on the bus expecting the routine to occur. Him and Hyunjin would sit across from each other and spend the 20 minutes that Jeongin spent on the bus darting their eyes back and forth at each other, sheepishly smiling if their eyes would meet.
It was supposed to be a usual day, with the same usual routine. That is until Hyunjin got onto the bus on all puffy-eyed, runny nose and all the signs he had been crying.
Jeongin does not necessarily know how to respond, has various thoughts are running through his mind:
Do I go and comfort him? Is it my place? Is it my right? What if he doesn’t want to be comforted…ahh SCREW IT. NO MORE TIME TO OVERTHINK. Wait. Wait. A song. A song will help it always does. What song? WHAT SONG JEONGIN? Coldplay…Coldplay is the best when you are feeling down.
Jeongin turns to his “songs to cry to” playlist, deciding on Warning Sign.
When the bus comes to a stop, Jeongin realizes that he does not have much time.
It is now or never.
Shakingly getting up from his own seat, he shifts over to where Hyunjin is sitting. Of course, he doesn’t say a word as Hyunjin looks up to see him as Jeongin just hands him the left-eared headphone. Hyunjin eyes widen but nonetheless he takes the headphone. The song begins to play, and he slouches back into his chair, eyes closed.
Jeongin looks forward while Hyunjin looks out the window. Jeongin hopes the song says more than he can . And he thinks it does.
Just as he is about to get off, Hyunjin holds his hand, with a look of pleading that is just begging Jeongin to stay. So he does. He stays till the end of the stops, where Hyunjin apparently gets off at.
As Hyunjin gets off, he turns to Jeongin, softly mumbling, “Thanks.”
Speechless and confused, Jeongin watches Hyunjin get off the bus, headed towards the national park and the river.
Welp, that went well.
Despite the awkwardness, Jeongin felt good. Hopeful. Hopeful that he might get to know the boy that hasn’t escaped his mind since the first time he encountered him.
Jeongin prepared this time, had a playlist ready so when Wednesday came around, it would go a lot more smoother than him panicking about approaching a cute boy. He got so excited for Wednesday because he had the confidence and Hyunjin was not that scary. He is just a person. A human being.
But those thoughts he had before rolled in:
What if Hyunjin was not interested in getting to know meand did not appreciate my gesture last time? What if I messes up? What if Hyunjin was simply being polite by saying thanks?
These thoughts kept rolling around in his mind but the playlist is ready. And maybe so is Jeongin.
Getting on the bus, he heads over to where Hyunjin usually sits, because this time there is no time for subtly.
Hyunjin eventually gets on and it is difficult to read his expression.
Jeongin a little confused yet remaining with confidence hands him a headphone, and Hyunjin takes it.
hey both sit there for a little while, and Jeongin think he is going to get off and STOP#3 but along with the change of plan within the bus ride, comes along with a plan of change for his night.
‘”Uh uh not just yet”, Hyunjin says, pulling Jeongin back into his seat.
His face as red as a tomato, sat back down and turned his playlist back on.
“You Were Right About Love” by Bye Bye Man begins to play as Jeongin wonders what will happen. A smile creeps onto Hyunjin's face, a sign that maybe he likes the song.
The bus comes to a stop. The last stop. This is the park. The park that Hyunjin usually gets off at.
“Come on, let’s go!”, Hyunjin screams as he grabs Jeongin arm and they run off the bus. They keep running and running until they reach the grass beside a lake, near the trail that is wrapped around the lake.
Barely catching his breath, Hyunjin gets out, “Welcome to my corner of the world”.
“So this is where you go every Wednesday night huh?”
“You noticed that I only come here Wednesday nights?”
“Yeah…it is just that there are the same people that always take the bus and I noticed that you are the only new person that rides the bus on Wednesday. You kind of stick out. Not in a bad way though! It is just that you caught my eye…feel free to tell me to shut up.”
“Nah, it’s okay I think it is cute that you ramble.”
“just when I am around new people! Otherwise I usually am not!”, Jeongin stammers out.
They begin to walk around the trail as the sunset begins to set. It is a little awkward because at the end of the day they are strangers but that is also what made the situation so exciting? The aspect of them being strangers brought the excitement of getting to know someone. Someone who doesn’t know your past, your pain, or doesn’t have any prejudice against you necessarily. But that is also what is really scary about getting to know someone. The idea of being vulnerable and opening up to someone made Jeongin’s stomach turn.
“So! Since we don’t really know each other why don’t we play 20 questions?”
“Mhmm it’s a when you just ask other people basic yet interesting questions and they gotta answer about themselves. I’ll go first. If you had an intro song what would it be and why?”
“I listen to a shit ton of music but maybe Breathe Deeper by Tame Impala because Kevin Parker is the only man whoever deserves rights. My turn. UHhh…who in your life in brings you the most joy in your life?”
“My best friend, Changbin, because he makes me feel loved.”
The boys go back and forth for a while. The inquiries about each other getting stranger,the answers getting funnier, the laughter getting louder.
As it gets dark and Jeongin finally feel like he can breathe again after continuously laughing straight for the last half hour asks:
“Okay last question, why do you come here on Wednesdays at night?”
Kicking at the rocks next to his feet, Hyunjin replies, “This place is kind of like an escape. I feel alive when I come to watch the sunsets and it helps me to sleep at night. I guess it brings me a lot of peace. I can breathe here.”
Hyunjin has his eyes closed after answering the question allowing Jeongin to stare and get a better look at Hyunjin. To really see who he is on the outside as he already got to know a lot about who is he is on the inside.
So, Jeongin stares. For quite some time, in fact so long he doesn’t realize that Hyunjin opened his eyes and is staring right back at him. What he does notice are the extremely light freckles that are splattered all over his face. The slight shimmer in his eyes. The thickness of his soft,pink lips. The smoothness of his skin.
“You have pretty eyes.”, Hyunjin spoke up, leading Jeongin to snap out of the trance he was in.
As they reach the beginning of the trail, Hyunjin screams all of a sudden “Race you back to the bus stop! HAHAHAHAH.”
Jeongin could not stop thinking about Hyunjin and the next time that they would hang out. Which turned out to be closer than he had anticipated. He didnt expect Hyunjin to be on the bus waiting for him. He decided to blow off the library again for Hyunjin.
They did the same thing they did the last time. The lake, 20 questions, the getting to know each other, and the stomach pain inducing laughter. They do this for a couple of weeks, because it feels good, different. It feels good to have someone new to talk to about the good, the bad and the strange. To get to know someone.
But just as bad things never last, good things never do either.
Jeongin would have never expected for things to end so soon. He never expected Hyunjin to stop riding the bus. The talks, the laughter, the smiles and the excitement to come to such an abrupt end. Everyday he looks forward to seeing Hyunjin again. But does he? No, and that brings a whole sort of pain he never thought he would have to experience. Was it heartbreak? Yeah but not the romantic kind. The kind that you knew would come eventually and when it does it takes over. The type of pain that swallows you whole, drowning you until you slowly float to the surface, gasping for air.
Just like that, Hyunjin is gone. From the bus, from the park and from Jeongin's life. Jeongin wishes he didnt, but sometimes he goes to the park on Wednesday, thinking that Hyunjin might just show up, but he never does.
Days, weeks, months go by and nothing but thinking of Hyunjin. He was just one of those people that felt like one in a million, someone to hold onto for dear life because they were worth investing time and energy in them. The kind of person that gives you butterflies in your stomach, that makes you smile, that you cant believe is real.
However, life must go on. Hyunjin was once there and now he isn’t. Jeongin does everything he can to forget about him. Throws himself into work. Makes lots and lots of playlists.
Move on. People always leave. Just add him to the list of those who came and left.
He didn’t mean to seem so resentful in angry. He understands. He understands that Hyunjin needed space and time. That Hyunjin had other priorities and life situations to worry about. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
How can I be angry at Hyunjin for prioritizing himself?
The only way that Jeongin can cope with this pain, the aching emotional pain, is through playlists.
This one is for Hyunjin, for the boy that wakes to sunsets.
He had made a many playlists for Hyunjin, found music that the boy might like but this playlist reminds him nothing but of pain he is experiencing of losing someone he wish he hadn't.
do you still wake to sunsets? eat home alone? sleeping alright? who loves you now? Who wipes your problems?
Jeongin does eventually begin to forget about Hyunjin with time. Or he likes to tell himself that. Once in a while he wonders how Hyunjin is.
Why does it still hurt? I think it always will.
As Jeongin gets on the bus, Make Me Your Queen begins to play.
As Declan McKenna begins to drown out his sorrows, he feels a soft tap on his shoulder.
It is the last person he expected to see again.
“Is this seat taken?”