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i'm on the highway to hell

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On a surface level, Jaewon’s no different now than he was a long time ago. The same scandals, and the same flippant attitude, as always. Any Mayniac could tell you that absolutely nothing had changed over time.


And they’d be right. Jaewon’s always been good at mimicking behaviors he was supposed to. Nobody would notice any changes, if there were any at all. Nobody except the people that truly knew him.


The rest of MAYHEM somehow fell under this category. There was a gradual transformation, from the Jaewon they were used to, to the Jaewon that somehow always went undetected, unseen.


Once, he had been a shier sort of person, blushing at the mention of anything explicit, or as Daehyun enjoyed calling it, “spicy”. It came as a shock to them, seeing this guy that was supposed to be a playboy with no regard for anything other than his own pleasure, never seem interested in stirring up the headlines or even hanging out with people he could potentially consider “friends with benefits”. 


It had been that way for a long time, ever since their debut. They’d compare the two perceptions of the same man, going cross eyed with trying to figure out which one was really him. Only later on did they realize their mistake of thinking it was either one, rather than a mix of both. 


That easily-flustered person they knew Jaewon to be disappeared one day, so gradually slipping away that they never noticed it until it was all gone. In his place was something—somebody else. He began going out at night, twice or thrice a week, to who knows where. He developed a proclivity for this sort of lifestyle under bright lights, for whatever it was that left him with low-lidded eyes and smeared red lipstick—that was definitely not his—painting his cheek. 


It would actually be a lie, to say they didn’t notice it happening, actually. They did. 


Back in the beginning, Jaewon had suddenly started regularly arriving home late. He’d come back in the wee hours of the morning, and wouldn’t even apologize. He’d silently nod in Minsoo or Dae’s general direction, and shuffle past them to bed.


This, of course, wasn’t enough to convict him of any wrongdoing. Coming home late and sleepy isn’t a crime now, is it? It wasn’t until the photos came out, the scandals, that they were able to say anything.


Photos of him, pressed up against various people of all sorts—the same he never seemed to notice—with a glass or bottle of some kind of liquid, the kind he never used to drink.


Minsoo, being the sort of person he is, did his best talk to him. Of course, “talking” meant screaming at him through the door, every time he’d shut himself in and just wouldn’t open up to tell them what the hell his problem was. 


On a surface level, nothing had changed, but they knew. Jaewon never used to be like this, he was always so thoughtful and empathetic, always trying his best and following the rules. That’s not to say he wasn’t still trying his best, of course, he was still working just as hard as ever, but…


Jaewon doesn’t seem to care about MAYHEM anymore. At least, not about maintaining  a relationship with them. He does his part in the group, yet he never spends time with them. Somehow, his old enthusiastic “I’ll try to come!” had become a curt “Nah, thanks.” every time they offered. 


Minsoo learned to see the man as an enemy, at this point. To him, Wyld was a leech, using his fame as a free ticket to picking up girls and guys every other night and getting discounts on his drinks.


They were bound to have enough of this play at some point. Dongho was the first to confront him (perhaps because he still had friendly interactions with the man, unlike Minsoo, and because Daehyun simply never had the bravery to approach people with criticizing intent.)


“Jaewon,” He had walked up to him, leaning on the couch as he watched the other man reach for the television remote, “I can’t stay quiet about this. Minsoo, Daehyun and I want to know what’s up with you. Why are you so different now? I know you were never like this before, fucking around with girls and alchohol like you do. What the hell happened?”


“Different? I’m really not that different.”


“Don’t try to bullshit me,” He growls, “I know you’ve changed. How could we not notice you becoming a complete asshole out of nowhere?”


Jaewon turns to him, no surprise evident in his eye, “An asshole? I’m no asshole. You’re just not used to me being myself.”


“Yourself? Jaewon, you’re not like this.”


“And how the hell would you know?” The man stands up, glaring at Dongho, “I act different than I used to, but I haven’t really changed. I’ve always had this in me, I just never used to think about it. But with all this shit about Wyld and his playboy reputation, well, I figured I might as well give in. It’s almost impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be, don’t you think? Nothing really changed. People still see me as the same old Wyld that’s always been this way. I’ve just developed an actual taste for this kind of life.”


It was true, despite the disbelief Dongho felt walking away from the scene. Jaewon was the happiest now than he had ever been before. No more clearly fake smiles, no more nights hearing the man sob to himself in the bathroom when he thought no one was listening. He should feel happy for him, now that he’s finally somewhat at peace.


Jaewon would agree with him. It was only a few months ago when a single wrong glance precipitated his growth from a shy man that didn’t know himself, to becoming a balanced person, equally as thoughtful as he is selfish. He can still remember the day it started, when the choreographer scolded him for looking the wrong way during the filming of their new music. It was such a small disobedience, a minute mistake that could pass off as nothing, forgotten in the stirring of the scene.


But God he loved it. He loved the rush of making those decisions to do things against the authority’s wishes. The fact that it was small and unimportant was why it made him so happy. It had no real weight, but it was a rebellion all the same, something that made him feel like a teenager again. Or at least, the kind he never was when he was younger. He loved his mom too much to misbehave as a kid.


It had just started as simple, pointless things. Eating someone else’s leftovers, talking back to the choreographer, all sorts of petty offenses. It was a refreshing change to be able to do what he wanted and still have the same old reputation. After all, once you’ve hit rock bottom the only way left to go is up. 


He started to truly get into the “Wyld” spirit. Drinking, an activity that had once driven him away before, is now something he happily partakes in. He learned to enjoy it, not because of the burn in the back of his throat or the soupy swirling inside him when he’s had a tad too much, but because it makes him feel free, that he’s doing something he’s choosing to do, and despite how much everyone hates him for it, it’s helping MAYHEM, and it's helping himself. 


From there, he began to acquire a taste for late night company. You can only get so lonely before you break, after all. In true Wyld fashion, Jaewon’s had all sorts of “fun nights'' with pretty much everyone he’s made acquaintances with, save for his coworkers and practically his only true friend that he wished to keep as a friend, Jun.


Finally, he’s fully taken the persona into his stride. Isn’t it easier just to be one person, instead of having two images of exaggerated aspects of your personality, as if you were split in two? Why not merge them? As much as he used to want to tell himself that Jaewon was his true self and “Wyld” was someone else, he couldn’t help realize it wasn’t as clear cut as he hoped.


And God, he knew how much it disappointed MAYHEM. It didn’t hurt any less than it used to, hearing Minsoo’s shouts from beyond the bedroom door, seeing Dongho’s disdainful glances in his direction, and feeling Daehyun’s anxiety thick in the air any time they were alone together.


“At the very least,” He had tried to console himself, “They have a reason for it now.”


It’s better this way. He’s found happiness, at the cost of nothing but the person he used to be.