D Minus Chapter 11

Author: nicotine

After the day they sat on the sad beach and were nose dipping in the cool wind, the two became close rapidly. Maybe Hajin was looking for someone to lean on. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have expressed all of his hidden feelings to him.

“You’re very unique, too.”

“Why?”

“Just because.”

Jonghwa with a frowning face, sat on the table and read a fairytale book stressing each letter. The day before, the two went to a bookstore and unexpectedly bought the book, “Little Mermaid.” Hajin who was sitting opposite of him, twirled a pen in between his fingers and broke into a smile. Regardless, Jonghwa buckled his neck forward and concentrated on the book.

“It’s so fucking hard to read.”

“You learned it all. You can read it.”

“I should at least know what it’s about.”

“If you read it, you eventually see how fun it is.”

“Fuck…”

Hajin thought he would have given up reading the book immediately; however, surprisingly, he patiently read through the pages. He was not stupid enough that he would not be able to learn at all, but was quick to grasp what he learned pretty quickly. Hajin once again realized how being a teacher was his passion while teaching him and smiled bitterly.

“You don’t get the names wrong anymore.”

“Of course.”

Hajin liked his name written crookedly on the back of the fairy tale book. Hajin rested his chin on the back of his hand and watched Jonghwa’s morphed face.

“If you can finish reading it, I’ll buy you tteokbokki.”

“What the hell, I’m not a kid.”

“If you don’t like it, then say you don’t.”

“I didn’t say no.”

Jonghwa was very simple. He liked when Hajin cooked delicious food and his cheeks turned red when he complimented him. Sometimes Jonghwa seemed more naive than the student he taught previously. Hajin laughed and looked at the rice cakes that were soaked in advance. Jonghwa, who was reading through the book at maximum speed as he glanced behind him as if he was hungry, scrunched his nose as he stopped at the last line.

“Hey, I have never seen this word before.”

“What is it?”

“How can I read this?”

“Spell it one by one. Starting with the consonants.”

“You–ng–wo–man.”

The word was “Young” which was difficult for Jonghwa. The voice that was filled with agony, broke into laughter because he couldn’t hold it in and didn’t want to hurt his pride. But still, he opened the lid of his pen and circled the letters.

“Young.”

“Yong?”

“It’s young like a young woman.”

“Ah.”

“You get it now?”

“Youn—ng”

“Yeah. You did well.”

When Jonghwa got over the part where he stopped, one page quickly passed. Having read the last letter, he closed the fairy tale with a relieved face and Hajin wrinkled his nose as if he was praising him. It was time to make tteokbokki and have it.

“Wash your hands and then eat.”

“I washed it.”

“Wash with soap.”

“Ugh…”

Jonghwa was reaching out for the rice cake in the water, headed to the bathroom, grumbling at Hajin’s stern voice. But he became somewhat used to his simple ignorant behavior. Hajin took out a big frying pan and started cooking. With a cacophony, Jonghwa was soon behind him. Of course, Hajin didn’t let him touch the food.

“Look at this.”

“What are you doing? You’re not a kid.”

“It’s fun.”

Jonghwa, who had finished two bowls of tteokbokki by himself, sprawled out in the living room and lifted his tip. The abdomen, which was full of scars, was still sturdy but when he exhaled hard, his belly popped out, bloated. Hajin sat on the sofa and turned on the TV, before nagging him and was about to hit Jonghwa in the stomach when Jonghwa rolled over to avoid him and laughed mischievously. He continued inflating and flattening his stomach.

“Do you know that actor?”

“Nope.”

“He is really handsome.”

Hajin was switching channels and found a movie that had just begun in one of them. It was a movie that came out in the early 2000s and he was fascinated by the actor’s face until the end. Jonghwa did something else, by tapping on his own belly as if he was not interested while Hajin often talked to him, as he focused on the movie with his arms on his knees. Before Hajin knew it, he became quite used to them staying together.

“Ah…”

It was time for the credit to roll on the black screen. Hajin, who was resting against the sofa, leaned forward and he felt his stomach fold. Jonghwa, whom Hajin thought was sleeping, sensed something and sprung up.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh…”

It felt like dozens of fish were jumping on the boat. Jonghwa stood up on the floor in a hurry as Hajin stumbled and fell. As soon as that happened, Jonghwa widened his eyes in surprise grabbed his arms, and raised them. Hajin covered his mouth with his palm and ran to the bathroom.

“Uwakkk….”

Everything he ate poured out as soon as he opened the toilet cover. He shouldn’t have had the spicy tteokbokki as his throat burned. The whole body trembled as if a loudspeaker had entered his body. Jonghwa who followed him, tapped Hajin’s back, as the latter continued nauseating and held the toilet with his trembling hands.

“Are you okay? Does it hurt?”

“Urgh…”

Even though he poured out everything he ate, he still kept hurling. The long corner of his eyes was brimmed with tears. Hajin couldn’t raise his head as he threw up nonstop. The pain he felt for the first time naturally strengthened his hand that was grabbing onto the toilet. His head was spinning as he was drunk.

“Let’s go to the hospital.”

“Let me go.”

“You’ve to go to the hospital. You’ve to get treatment.”

Jonghwa was also surprised by his sudden symptoms. After struggling with the pain along with Jonghwa’s pats on Hajin’s back, Jonghwa raised Hajin.

“Let me go…”

The voice that was quiet for a while rang in the bathroom, but Jonghwa pretended not to hear it. Realizing that Jonghwa was trying to carry him on his back, Hajin pushed him away with his palm but Jonghwa’s large figure didn’t budge.

 

“Let me go…!”

“Let’s go to the hospital, I said.”

“First, let me go!”

“No, you’ve to go to the hospital right now.”

Jonghwa who was unusually obedient, was stubborn now. Despair reflected in Hajin’s eyes. At that movement, the gastric juice which he thought he had emptied, poured onto Jonghwa’s back. The latter felt the vomit, which was covered in hot liquid.

“That’s why I said to let me go…Uwaakk…”

That time, vomit spilled on the floor. It was a liquid mixed with greenish foam and it smelled so bad that Hajin’s head was spinning. Hajin collapsed on the floor, leaned his back against the toilet bowl, and stared blankly into the air. The hot liquid flowed down his exposed calf due to wearing shorts.

“Let’s wash up then.”

“…”

“Let’s wash up together.”

Urine seemed to have flowed unknowingly while the organs inside his body were trembling violently as he vomited. Hajin’s blue lips trembled. Even if he knew he didn’t have much time left, he misunderstood that he would leave gracefully and gently. Whatever it was, he never imagined that he would experience such a miserable situation so he had no energy to overcome the despair.

“If you’re tired, just sit down.”

Jonghwa took off his clothes. Soon naked, he took Hajin’s clothes as if nothing happened. Hajin lost all of his strength from his whole body and remained still until he was completely naked. He couldn’t even think of stopping him.

“It could be like this and that. Fuck, why is your expression like that?”

Warm water poured on his body. Jonghwa wiped Hajin’s body from place to place with a rough hand. Hajin didn’t feel anything as if he had become a piece of wood. Jonghwa was washing Hajin with a lot of body wash and inclined his chin upwards.

“Close your eyes. Wipe your face.”

“…”

“Quickly.”

Hajin, who couldn’t think anymore, closed his eyes as he was instructed. Jonghwa rubbed his face with body wash rather than the cleansing foam and poured water again. He also apologized when Hajin had difficulty breathing due to the water pouring on him without a break.

“I will also wash up in a jiffy so dry yourself with this.”

Jonghwa washed up Hajin and poured water on his body. He could see vomit pouring down his stiff body and sucked into the drain.

Hajin smiled and stared blankly at his naked body. No, he thought he was smiling but a tear slithered along his cheek. Hajin realized how arrogant he was in the past and said he wasn’t afraid of death. He thought he was going to die without any symptoms. But that pain was what he didn’t consider. Like a fool.

“Ah…”

Hajin leaned his back against the toilet and shed tears endlessly. His chin wrinkled and the nape of his neck felt hollow. Hajin was afraid. He was afraid that his heart would start beating like crazy. It was the first day he felt “real death” given how arrogant he was. While the sobs spread through the steam-filled room, Jonghwa quickly wiped his body.

“Does it still hurt?”

“….No.”

“You can get your treatment.”

“…”

“You still haven’t tried it, right? These days, the doctors are skilled.”

It seemed that only Jonghwa didn’t know that chemotherapy was useless for terminal cancer patients whose tumors spread however they wanted. The doctor also said he didn’t recommend it, but he replied he would receive it. It was a firm resolution that overshadowed his rejection so far. It might have been because he wanted to believe in it and be as naive as Jonghwa. It might be because he wanted to live. Maybe…

***

“Why isn’t jajjang in the mixed rice?”

“It usually isn’t included.”

“It is. Then what do you have the mixed rice with?”

“I never saw jajjng being included.”

They ordered two fried rice at a shabby Chinese restaurant and the two talked for a long time. The chef who seemed to have causally passed didn’t come to them saying it was self-service and they could pay on their own.

Hajin cleaned the table that was dirty with food remnants with the help of a wet wipe saying it was properly cleaned but he soon gave up and held the spoon tightly in his hand and started eating. Jonghwa scolded him saying, “Stop grumbling and eat your fried rice.” Despite the dirty hygiene of the restaurant, it tasted pretty good.

“Anyway, thank you for coming with me.”

“There was nothing else to do.”

Jonghwa would sometimes disappear without a word and not come home for a day but since last week, he had been stuck at home all the time. Hajin was going to ask him if he was not returning to his work but then he remembered the story of his eldest brother he heard a while ago.

“Let’s go.”

“…Hm.”

In fact, Hajin didn’t know whether the fried rice went through his nose or mouth. That was because the next destination was circling in his head. Jonghwa tried not to make it obvious but he couldn’t even move his fingers to lift his spoon. If they headed into the narrow alley beside the restaurant, there was a salon there. No, that was a barbershop. That was that day’s final destination.

“Who is going to get a haircut?”

“Me.”

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