Book Reader (Part 4)

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” Mm….. ”

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Sunggyu had a slightly discomforting face. The song that he wanted to hear was not coming out on the radio. Him spending the time with the radio was still the same when Woohyun wasn’t here. But the time spent listening to the radio had definitely shortened– because although they saw each other once every few days before, they spent almost every day together now.

So that’s why Sunggyu had moved away from the radio that he almost forgot about it. But feeling a little free today he had turned it on. He wanted to hear the song that Woohyun always hummed to but it didn’t come on.

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Is it an old song? Sunggyu’s head was full of things related to Woohyun every single day. Even if he was laying down, Woohyunnie, even if he listened to the radio, Woohyunnie, Woohyunnie, Woohyunnie, Nam Woohyun.

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I felt silly and surprised seeing this side of myself. Sometimes I wondered if I’m even allowed to be like this. Wording it a bit degradingly, our relationship is that of a disabled person receiving help from a kind volunteer, but me asking for his heart and pouring out my own heart still felt a little awkward.

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But Woohyun had reached out a hand first, as if he was trying to fully understand Sunggyu’s mind. Maybe our telepathy worked. So unconsciously– not aware of himself doing this– Sunggyu was slowly learning how to express his emotions.

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The day I poured out my tears, Woohyun said this as he held me gently: We’re the same-same now, okay? No going back and making fun of it.

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His arms that held me like it was nothing as I cried, his hands that patted me down, made me choke up even more so I sobbed on top of my lungs for a very long time. It was an embarrassing memory thinking back to it now, but it was a memory I could never forget.

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There were times where I cried when my dad hit me, or cried of happiness on the day my sister saved me, but it was the first memory of crying in front of someone not blood-related– someone who was a complete stranger to me.

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Birds began chirping outside the window. Sunggyu slowly felt around his way to stand up, then opened the window.

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I wonder what color the sky is. I wonder what shape the clouds are. Sunggyu’s mind that was full of loneliness just merely months ago, was almost unrecognizable with it being full bright light now.

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A bird flying away with flapping wings was heard. Feeling good at that sound, Sunggyu peeked his head out the window and remained smiling for a long time. The sunlight seems very warm.

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The bird that flew from Sunggyu’s window cut across the sky and dropped one of its feathers while flying. That feather rode with the wind and gently dropped in front of Woohyun’s feet. Woohyun’s feet which were heading to Sunggyu’s house came to a stop.

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Woohyun stared at the clothes laid out in the display window. Staring at these clothes, Sunggyu’s pale neck comes into mind. Season is slowly changing into summer clothes. Sunggyu didn’t really pay particular attention to what he wore. You could say that since he couldn’t see, he really couldn’t pay attention to them. He sometimes wore clothes that were way out of style with the collar all stretched out, and it couldn’t bother me more.

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Woohyun unhesitatingly went into the store. And he bought a few clothes that would suit Sunggyu. Woohyun was a person that felt shopping was such an hassle, but looking at the clothes while thinking about Sunggyu made it all enjoyable. Soon, Woohyun– with shopping bags in both hands coming out of the store– looked very uplifted.

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He arrived at the house while whistling along, which he rarely ever did. Hearing the whistling coming from the alley, Sunggyu who was already out with the door opened could be seen. From below the narrow and small stairs to the alley, Woohyun showed a bright smile and shouted while waving his hand that Sunggyu wouldn’t be able to see. Sunggyu’s hand that was opening the door suddenly paused. And he showed the same smile that Woohyun had.

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” Hyung, how did you know I was coming? ”

” I heard whistling. ”

” You can tell that it’s me just by my whistles? ”

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Eung. Watching Sunggyu shyly nod his head, it was so lovely that Woohyun was about to go crazy. The fact that he knew me by my quiet whistle outside the door. That truth made Woohyun smile. That also served as a little hint that he waited for me, enough to listen in on every little sound like that. Woohyun spoke as he slightly pushed Sunggyu’s shoulders. Ehem, let’s go in. Do you know what I brought today?

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” Why did you bring anything. You can just come as you are. ”

” You always do things for me. This is little compared to that. Don’t be so overwhelmed. ”

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Woohyun’s eyes moved down to Sunggyu’s neck. A slightly stretched-out collar of the T-shirt. Woohyun unconsciously gulped. The stretched out collar was one thing but because of the real hidden reason behind buying these clothes made Woohyun think of bad thoughts.

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” I brought a couple of outfits. ”

” Ah, why’d you do that. Really. I told you you don’t have to do this. ”

” No, I brought some clothes that I don’t wear at home so don’t pay much attention to it. ”

” ……. ”

” Anyway, hyung I’m hungry. Try these on to see if they fit, then give me food. ”

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Woohyun’s shameless words made Sunggyu smile helplessly. Woohyun slowly pulled out the shirts from the shopping bags. It was a yellow T-shirt that goes well with him. He secretly ripped off the tag and gave it to Sunggyu, then Sunggyu received the T-shirt with a very suspicious face. Isn’t this new? Woohyun spoke with his signature good tone. Never. I just brought one I had at home. I usually don’t wear new clothes for that long. I’m quite a fashionista you see.

At the words full of jokes, Sunggyu put on a helpless face again. And he grabbed the end of his own shirt to pull it off, but then froze his body. Woohyun said with a worrisome voice, What’s wrong?

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Sunggyu just stood there looking hesitant for a while, then his face reddened. Woohyun looked at Sunggyu with a confused face. Is something wrong? Even Sunggyu’s neck was red as he slightly stuttered saying this:

” Can’t you turn around when I’m changing my clothes? ”

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……..!

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At those words, Woohyun’s face burned red too and he said, Uh, uh?, and turned around. I feel like my heart’s about to explode. Woohyun grasped his own heart as he spoke with the same trembling voice as Sunggyu’s.   I… I turned around.   Then, crinkling sounds of shirts were heard behind Woohyun’s back. Thump thump. My heart was about to come up from my throat. It feels like sneaking a peek into the girls’ bathroom should I say?

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Woohyun gulped at his dry throat and his heart spazzed. He even had a naughty thought of maybe turning around. But he clenched his eyes shut and sung the National Anthem in his mind to hold it in. When he was done with the beginning of the first verse, Sunggyu said, I’m done. Woohyun let out a long sigh and turned around to see Sunggyu.

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” It’s pretty. It fits you. ”

” Why do you say ‘pretty’ to a guy. ”

” Ah……. ”

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But you’re really too pretty. Woohyun showed an endless smile. And when Sunggyu slowly felt his way around with his hands to sit beside Woohyun, Woohyun put his own head down on Sunggyu’s lap as he spoke– with a kiddish tone.

” Hyung-ah, give me food. ”

” If you lay down like this how am I supposed to give it. ”

” Then stay like this for 10 minutes and then give me food. ”

” Huh, you’re not even a kid. ”

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Woohyun rubbed his own cheeks a couple of times on Sunggyu’s lap, then closed his eyes. This was a shabby, crowded, small compartment room but the moment I rested on top of his lap, this place became a heaven. I got saved out of a swamp that I may have never been able to get myself out of, and I was able to enjoy a peaceful time like this thanks to him. If this place isn’t heaven, then I don’t know what is. Even if heaven actually exists, I don’t think it would able to surpass the amount of happiness I have right now.

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Sunggyu fidgeted and hesitated a few seconds before softly brushing back Woohyun’s hair with his fingers. The only things that were allowing Sunggyu to see, were these two hands. Touching with the ends of his fingertips and visualizing it in the darkness in front of his eyes were the only things Sunggyu was seeing.

I developed a greed of wanting to see his face. The fingers that were brushing back the hair carefully moved down to Woohyun’s forehead. At this ticklish feeling, Woohyun half-opened his eyes and looked up at Sunggyu. His quite serious face made Woohyun laugh. Sunggyu’s patting hands started to tickle Woohyun’s nose bridge. Sunggyu could’ve put a bit more strength into his hands but as if he were touching a sand castle, he carefully and ticklishly felt around Woohyun’s face.

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” How’s my face? ”

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With Woohyun speaking with a confident tone, Sunggyu answered, Your nose is pretty. Woohyun replied back seeming unsatisfied. Ehh, only my nose? Only my nose is pretty? I guess you don’t know how han– Woohyun’s words paused.

His heart suddenly dropped down and his eyes opened roundly. Sunggyu’s pale fingers were starting to touch Woohyun’s lips.

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” Your lips are……. ”

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Sunggyu tickled Woohyun’s thick bottom lip with his index finger, then slightly pressed on it.

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” Your lips are…… ”

” ………. ”

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A silence flowed through the room. A strange atmosphere. Woohyun being like this was somewhat cute, so Sunggyu pressed the bottom lip a couple of times then dropped Woohyun’s head on the floor with a ‘bump‘ and said let’s eat and headed to the kitchen.

Ah, with a small scream while rubbing his head, Woohyun looked at the back of Sunggyu resentfully. Sunggyu and Woohyun were thinking the same thing. There’s something deeper to us than just friendship.

That atmosphere just a second ago, that feeling they just felt a second ago, was not just a simple feeling between a hyung and dongsaeng. Suddenly, their minds became scrambled. Sunggyu making the rice, and Woohyun looking at him while laying in the room, did not say a single word. Even if they didn’t say anything, their feelings towards each other were delivered by the air.

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” Hyung. ”

” Eung? ”

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Woohyun had been determined to say something, but then dropped his head to the floor again with a lifeless expression.

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” …… Nothing. ”

” What the heck, so boring. ”

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The air inside the room quickly became awkward. For a while, the sound of Sunggyu making rice was the only thing that continued. From the clothes that Sunggyu wore as he made food, the scent of new clothes could be smelled.

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– Cassette? Are there people who listen to cassettes nowadays?

” Can’t you get it from somewhere? ”

– Look for those kind of antiques in the museum, man.

” Ah, this is kind of urgent. ”

– What are you doing nowadays that you’re so busy like this. And why are you looking for a cassette.

– I don’t know. If there aren’t any, then fine. ”

– Yah, Nam-goon!

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I hung up the phone. From the other line of the phone, I could visualize Dongwoo cursing at me. But I desperately needed a cassette right now. The words that Sunggyu said came to my head and I couldn’t take it anymore.

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– What was the song you were singing before?

– Song?

– The one you hummed along. I guess it’s not a recent song. It doesn’t come on the radio.

– Ah……….

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There was no way I could remember the song I had hummed along to unconsciously. When I remained not being able to answer, Sunggyu spoke like he was sorry. You don’t remember, right? Don’t worry about it.

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Sunggyu was wanting to know something related to Woohyun, and there was no way Woohyun could not worry about it.

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Woohyun completely bought all the song tapes that he himself liked. And also bought a blank tape. But the tape cassette that he’d thought would be at home was no where to be found, and it was killing him.

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There has to be the song that hyung was looking for in here. Woohyun looked at the blank tapes spread out on top of his bed and bit his lip.

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Cassette, cassette. As if something just popped into his head, Woohyun started digging through the storehouse in the utility room of his house. Then, he found an old paper box covered in dust.

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Woohyun blew out a breath– Hooo—. The dust came up like smoke and Woohyun sneezed as he frowned. Then he put it down on the ground and started looking through the box.

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He saw a worn-down cassette player he used to listen to when he was little, and he felt even more happiness having found it than when he was a little kid. With a Hiddink uppercut Woohyun celebrated, then ran to his room and inserted the blank tape while debating which one to record first.

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Woohyun’s focus was sharper than ever before. Let’s see, this tape is track 7. This one’s track 6. Pressing each one by hand, he repeated rewinding and fast forwarding the songs that he liked and remained hung on recording all day.

After taking care of five tapes like this, he collapsed onto his bed. Looking at the tapes stacked on his bed, he thought about Sunggyu’s happy face receiving these. The want of giving these quickly to Sunggyu began filling Woohyun’s mind. He gathered five tapes into his backpack and headed out of the house.

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Knock knock knock. A knocking sound was heard. There wasn’t anyone else than Woohyun who would visit his house, so Sunggyu opened the door widely without any suspicion. Woohyun, you came?

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” Excuse me, you are Sunggyu-sshi, right? ”

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The owner of unexpected voice was not Woohyun’s gentle voice, but that of Woohyun’s mother.

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” It’s just that, Woohyun changed a lot because of Sunggyu-sshi. ”

” Nae? ”

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When he opened his eyes surprisingly, Woohyun’s mom continued still in her calm voice.

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” My kid led a quite bumpy life… but after meeting Sunggyu-sshi, he became diligent and bright. ”

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Maybe it was because she was Woohyun’s mom, but her voice was calm and smooth like Woohyun’s. It was a voice that made me reassure she was a good person. Having grown beneath a mother like this, no wonder Woohyun’s so kind.

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” No. It’s not because of me that Woohyun’s like that, he was already– ”

” This is small, but please accept it. ”

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Cutting off Sunggyu’s words, a crinkling sound was heard as an envelope came into Sunggyu’s hands. Sunggyu spoke with a surprised tone. What is this?

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It’s my expression of thanks. Woohyun’s mom’s voice still had a calm tone, but somewhat of a sadness rubbed off of it. Sunggyu couldn’t possibly accept this money envelope and put it down on the floor. And he calmly spoke what was in his mind. Woohyun is my lifesaver. I’m the one who’s thankful.

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Sunggyu’s answer made a heavy silence press down on their shoulders. A conversation with a stranger made Sunggyu troublesome. That stranger was Woohyun’s mom, and if the conversation was about these kinds of things, it made Sunggyu harder to hold it back.

Woohyun’s mom looked around the one-room compartment. A worn-down shabby room. And the guy sitting inside it with a seemingly kind heart and blind. She pitied Sunggyu but not being able to give up the curiosity of Woohyun always heading to Sunggyu’s house, she was barely able to bring these words out.

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” Our Woohyunnie and Sunggyu-sshi…. you guys aren’t….. ”

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Being afraid of what kind of answer might come out of Sunggyu’s mouth, she couldn’t end her words. It was summer, but the air inside the room was possibly the loneliest kind of all.

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” like that….. right? ”

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…….. Like that.

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Those words were heard too sadly to Sunggyu. ‘Like that’. The time spent making me realize how to express my emotions and making me forget about loneliness.. the time spent with him, the memories created with him, the too many memories with him….. and the desperate and hopeful feeling that becomes deeper day by day… just to be summed up by saying ‘Like that’…

It made Sunggyu’s mind too much upset. There was nothing related to Woohyun that could possibly be ‘Like that’. Sunggyu swallowed with his dry throat and opened his heavy mouth.

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” It’s okay. You have nothing to be worried about. ”

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I wanted to pour it out. Like I had done to Woohyun. Like how I learned from Woohyun, I wanted to pour this sadness out. But the fact that the person in front of him right now was the mother of the one he loved, it made Sunggyu show a fake smile.

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” Woohyun is a good dongsaeng to me. ”

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Woohyun’s mom sigh of relief came into Sunggyu’s ears. To her it was a sigh of relief, to Sunggyu it was a despairing memory.

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” I’ll leave the money here. I hope you please…… ”

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Feeling like she had become the bad person, Woohyun’s mom couldn’t speak well. But Sunggyu’s pitifulness aside, she felt like she had to protect the one she loved.

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” ……. take care of him well. ”

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At those last words, it felt like Sunggyu and Woohyun’s relationship went back to being just a disabled person and a volunteer. Sunggu knew for the first time today of how it feels when they say the sky is falling down and the ground is rising up.

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This money can’t take care of it all for me.

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The lights above his head began flickering today and screaming. Woohyun’s mom looked up at the ceiling. But as she looked back and forth from the light to Sunggyu not noticing one bit, she was able to realize again that, Ah, this person cannot see.

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And all the while, the light still yelled out a despairing scream. Blink blink.

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Woohyun’s mom thought she couldn’t stay here longer. Even if she stayed she knew that only each other were going to hurt more, so she stood up from her spot. Then I’ll be going now. Woohyun’s mom stood up and Sunggyu moved his heavy feet and went out to the front with her.

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Woohyun has a family that cares for him, and a reality where he can have a dream. But all I have is a disability with a difficult life where I live day by day– nothing else. Hearing the footsteps of Woohyun’s mom as she went down the stairs, Sunggyu just stood there blankly. And to the furthering footsteps, he screamed in his mind.

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There is nothing ‘Like that’ between him and I. There is nothing like that. Sunggyu grasped his heart.

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And to the side of the alley in front of Sunggyu’s house, a shadow that was crouched and breathing unsteadily, collapsed down on the ground. The owner of that shadow was Woohyun. When he arrived near the house to deliver the tapes, he had heard his own mother’s voice and unconsciously hid his body, then eavesdropped on the conversation. Woohyun couldn’t possibly believe what he had just heard and caved in his body even more.

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After Woohyun’s mom went back home, Woohyun appeared a few minutes later. Sunggyu greeted him like usual, but Woohyun seemed to be a little different today. Like a robber that knows of his own crime, Sunggyu’s heart dropped down.

Woohyun tried his best to act like normal, but that wasn’t that easy. I wanted to die. I wanted to go back to the time when I didn’t know how Sunggyu felt. If he was being nice to me just because I was generous, just because I was a community service volunteer, then I feel like there’s a hole to my heart. Woohyun pressed that feeling down and put the tapes into Sunggyu’s hands.

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” I made this with all the songs that I like. ”

” ………. ”

” There’s probably the song you were looking for yesterday in…. ”

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Woohyun was holding his tears in and couldn’t finish his sentence. Sunggyu reached out patting the floor and looked for Woohyun’s hand. Seeing that, Woohyun’s mind became clustered.

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If we’re only just a hyung and dongsaeng, then don’t be so nice to me like this. I’m going to misunderstand. As Woohyun couldn’t make himself hold Sunggyu’s hand but just watch, his heart… piece by piece…. He wanted to hold those hands but he had no idea what he should do.

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” Don’t cry. ”

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Not being able to find Woohyun’s hand, Sunggyu comforted him with words. Sunggyu sensed that something had happened to Woohyun too.

Where would our arrow point to now. The souls that were once happy that they’d found a sanctuary, was now getting lost. And that loss of direction immediately swept through this house.

We were happy just until yesterday. How long……. How good would it be to just go back to the day that I first met you. And if that can’t happen, then what if I was the one giving assistance to Woohyun instead of him. Then I would’ve given him everything despite any kind of obstacle. Sunggyu’s heart was burning down too, with not knowing how Woohyun was feeling right now.

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” It’s late so I should go. ”

” Uh? Eung. ”

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Woohyun raised his heavy body and started to head out the room with his body turned. Sunggyu felt that Woohyun’s friendly eyes were not looking to his direction today. Every single nerve on Sunggyu’s body were focused on Woohyun, but Sunggyu had no idea what he himself should do.

Woohyun was heading out the door, when Woohyun grabbed the doorknob and turned back to Sunggyu as if he’d just thought of something.

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” Hyung. ”

” Eung? ”

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With surprised eyes, Sunggyu chased Woohyun’s voice and moved his eyes. Woohyun clenched his teeth and barely held in his cries as he threw this question out:

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” What are you going to do if I die today? ”

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Those were the sounds of Sunggyu’s world breaking down. A person’s body warmth was that of a fixed temperature, but the body warmth that I have right now was different than usual. My body and mind coldly froze over. A temperature that was loneliest and coldest than any other in this world. The emotions as I stood here today to answer that question were too hot than anything in this world that my cold tongue couldn’t take it and it melted down.

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Woohyun stared for a long time at Sunggyu who couldn’t answer, then went out of the house without a word. Boom, together with the sound of the door, the loneliness that Sunggyu had forgotten about by being together with Woohyun suddenly came flooding in.

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Sunggyu looked to the direction of the door that sounded and silently let a tear flow down his cheeks. And the words that no one could hear silently hid its existence:

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” Then…… I’ll die tomorrow….. ”

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After that day, Sunggyu couldn’t see Woohyun anymore. His heart hurt this much and he felt as if the world was breaking apart, but time passed by Sunggyu like the wind. The sole fact that time was passing by was meaningless to Sunggyu. It would’ve been better if there were some work Sunggyu could do, but because of the loneliness of being alone, Sunggyu just continuously listened to the tapes that Woohyun had given him.

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But the longer he listened to those tapes, the deeper Woohyun’s emptiness felt. Sunggyu developed a habit of opening the door and looking around whenever he heard the slightest noise. He hated himself for focusing his hearing whenever he heard sounds of footsteps or talking near the alleyway.

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One day, two days, and a month had passed. After a few days, the day that Sunggyu could finally go back to work was approaching. I wonder if I can forget about him if I start working and meeting new people. Sunggyu grasped his heart.

The fact that he would never be able to forget about him was known better by his heart than his head.

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I wish the meaningless time that passed by was peaceful for him. I felt that I had done wrong by having the greed of wanting to get closer to him from the start.

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It felt like there was a big stone on top of Sunggyu’s body. Pretty soon, night approached. Like he had always done, Sunggyu opened the door and looked around. There was no way that anyone would be out here. Every time he did this, he felt stupid of himself.

The fact that I was waiting for him in the hopes of maybe seeing him– someone that could’ve already forgotten about me– was a very sad thing. This endless waiting was slowly making Sunggyu tired. Sunggyu’s face lit by the streetlights above looked hurt. The head that looked around as if to find someone, soon dropped to the ground as the door closed shut with a creak.

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And from below the streetlight that had lit Sunggyu’s face, a dark silhouette stood there looking at the closed door for a very long time.

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