D Minus Chapter 9

Author: nicotine

Hajin started to walk again. Long shadows followed him at regular intervals. He wasn’t in pain anywhere. Not at all, however, he did feel dizzy and nauseous sometimes. He was a little surprised because it was the first time he felt like that so he just had to be careful in the future. The pain was very weak for a person who only had a few months to live.

Yet, strangely his feet felt heavy. It was so heavy with every step he took, that it made his body droop. The vision which only had become clear, became murky again. Tears that did not come even when he was given a time limit began to gather in front of his eyes.

“So Kim Mansoon meant kimbap, mandu and sundae. Fuck, I didn’t even know that. I was supposed to read from top to bottom but I read it sideways.”

“…”

“Now wonder there were two rice bowls at the bottom. I thought they were going to cook for me.  I would have been embarrassed if I didn’t ask.”

“…”

“Fuck…Damn…”

Jonghwa continued muttering nonsense that Hajin couldn’t understand before he halted and pulled on my hair. Regardless, Hajin couldn’ stop the increasing amount of tears that fell and covered his mouth with the back of his hand. He didn’t want Joghwa to hear the sob leaking through the gap of his fingers.

“Hey, I don’t know how to comfort you.”

“…Ah.”

“Teach me. What can I do to make you feel okay?”

There was no way he could feel okay. There was no way that a person who was given a time limit and had 140 days to live would feel okay. The reason why he couldn’t answer back was because the man who bowed his upper body and showed Hajin his face, his eyes were light and pure. That was why.

It was D-135 and Hajin, who had no reason to live, was afraid of dying.

“Don’t look at me with those eyes. I am okay.”

“No matter how much I think about it, it’s kind of weird for a cancer patient to drink.”

“I am going to die either way. It’s nothing new.”

Hajin lifted the soju up and down and turned it around once, as he looked happily at the whirlwind inside. Jonghwa was chewing the side dish that he bought, as he breathed as he worried about whether it was okay like that again and again.

“Soju or Beer?”

“Soju.”

“Then I’ll have Soju too.”

At the same time, he didn’t try too hard or interfere. They weren’t in that kind of relationship in the first place. Hajin took out two glasses from the cupboard and filled it with alcohol before holding one out to Jonghwa. As he kept the squid on hold, he immediately took one swig of the glass.

“We should drink together.”

It was meant to be a toast but that sentiment didn’t seem to reach him. When Hajin scrunched his nose, the latter only filled his glass again without much consideration.

“You can drink it again.”

“Right…”

That time, the glass hit the air. Jonghwa emptied the glass one more time and Hajin also stuck out his tongue and sipped his own glass, before pushing it down his throat. It had been a while since he had soju but the bitter taste at the end was not his taste. Jonghwa opened his mouth and laughed before he hurriedly pushed a square cut watermelon in his mouth.

“You are not even a kid.”

“Didn’t you say you don’t like drinking?”

“Yeah. But it’s that I can’t handle drinks well, but I do drink when I have the chance to.”

Hajin drank everything Jonghwa poured for him. The sudden drinking buddy wasn’t that bad either. Hajin, who can’t drink that well, drank one glass while Jonghwa drank two, and that way they continued the drinking party until dawn.

“What are you if you’re not a drinking buddy?”

“Well…why are you curious about that?”

“Just because. We’ve lived together for over a month now but I don’t know what kind of work you do.”

Hajin persistently inquired about Jinghwa’s job. It was always like that, but he was more curious because that was how he got from drinking too much. Jonghwa took the bottle from Hajin, filled his own glass but remained silent. It seemed that Hajin was right that he was a thug. Otherwise, it couldn’t be explained how he refused to visit the hospital on the day he was stabbed or how he would die if he was caught.

Hajin rested his chin on the back of his hand and pushed the container of watermelon towards Jonghwa. His gaze lowered on it soon.

“Have some watermelon. It’s great.”

Jonghwa didn’t touch the side dishes other than the squid. The square cut watermelon was bought at the mart a few days ago, and it was quite delicious perhaps because it was the end of the summer. Even though Hajin had a hard time picking out the seeds, since Jonghwa didn’t touch them, he didn’t have the reason to continue doing so. Jonghwa pushed the watermelon container back to Hajin.

“Have some more.”

“I’ve eaten a lot.”

“I’m fine.”

“I told you to have some more…”

Watermelon wasn’t a big deal. It was none of his business whether he ate watermelons or not. Cutting the watermelon wasn’t such a struggle and removing the seed wasn’t something to brag about. But strangely, Hajin started crying again. It seemed like he had to have an excuse for crying every time.

Hajin sobbed while poking the watermelon with his fork. Without even thinking of lowering his head, he opened his mouth and cried sadly while showing his face to Jonghwa. When his tears burst, the drunkenness that hovered on his toes soared to his head.

“No, why are you crying?”

Jonghwa, embarrassed by the sudden sobs, sprung up from his seat and was restless. That was completely different from the image he saw the first day. While he scratched his nape hard enough, he took away the fork held in Hajin’s hand.

“I’ll eat, okay? I’m eating, see.”

Jonghwa opened his mouth wide in front of Ha Jin’s eyes and put the watermelon in. Still, Hajin’s tears showed no signs of stopping.

Hajin wasn’t crying because he was sad. He didn’t know why he was crying. He just burst into tears whenever there was a chance to and it didn’t stop. Hajin cried out loud, struggling enough to gulp.

“No, because you didn’t teach me how to hold a fork.

“…”

“That’s why I am like this. You taught me how to use chopsticks but a fork is different.”

Jonghwa’s hand could only be seen in Hajin’s swollen eyes. Fork was buried in a big fist and Hajin couldn’t even see it. Hajin rubbed hsi warm eyes with his palm because it was itchy.

“I wanted to ask you about this later.”

“…”

“You said you’d teach me if I asked.”

Jonghwa’s earlobes were very red. Hajin, who was struggling with shortness of breath, looked at him blankly.

After confirming that the tears that were shedding like a waterfall had stopped, Jonghwa pulled out his chair again. Holding the fork with his fist, he grabbed a piece of watermelon and held it out to Hajin. Hajin didn’t mean to eat more watermelon but he accepted it because he thought he should.

“I sold gum when I was a kid.”

“…”

Perhaps, Jonghwa brought up the stories of his silent past as a means to console Hajin. Hajin wanted to tell him to stop but he didn’t want to say it if he didn’t want to, but he didn’t think of opening his tightly shut mouth. Jonghwa put up his elbows on the table and leaned his cheeks on his palm and continued with his unique and calm voice.

“If you walk around with a plank around your neck, some people will buy it. How much was it? 500 won or something? Anyway, they bought it even though it was more expensive than what was sold in a supermarket. I earned about 10,000 won a day. When I got off at the last stop, some of my hyungs used to come to pick me up.”

“…Hyungs?”

“Yeah. The guys who raised me.”

“…”

It seemed to be like an organization. Hajin poured soju into the glass without asking for more.

“But fuck, since i was getting older, the people at the subway didn’t buy any more. They weren’t like that when I was younger but since I got older, the police used to come and kick me out. Since I couldn’t sell anything, those people beat me up like a dog.”

“…Those hyungs?”

“Yea. Was it seven or eight people? There was a house where we lived together but on the day we couldn’t sell anything, they told us to sleep standing in front of the front door.”

“How do you sleep while standing up?”

“Of course, they meant for us not to sleep.”

“Ha…”

“At that time, my third brother told me that people would buy more from me if I looked pitiful. So one day, he slapped me across the cheek with his fist. My right eye was so swollen that I couldn’t even see well, but I made the most money that day.”

Jonghwa smiled brightly as if it was something pleasant. Hajin, who was stumped, opened his mouth without even thinking that he had to drink soju. Jonghwa handed over another piece of watermelon, as if it was okay. That moment, even though the way he held his fork was wrong, it was sad.

“You should have run away.”

“Run away? Why?”

“Wherever you went, it would be much better than living there.”

His voice grew louder with each word, as if he was agitated. Jonghwa widened his eyes but soo smiled.

“No, they were good people.”

“…Ha.”

“But the house was on fire someday. I heard that it became a house where no one lived. It was…what do you call it?”

“A deserted house?”

“Oh, right. That.”

Hajin heard that there were quite a few people who hid in redevelopment areas or abandoned houses. He had no idea what to say to Jonghwa, who considered those horrible people as ‘good people’ even to a person like Hajin, who he had no relationship with. Hajin moved his lips slightly and gave up eating the watermelon. It was pretty sweet before but now it was just bitter. Jonghwa filled his own glass and drank.

“They were all dead by then. My oldest brother and I lived together.”

“…”

“After that, I lived by following that brother of mine.”

“Was he a good person?”

“Yes, he gave me money and food.”

“…I’m not asking whether he gave you food or money.”

“Then?”

“Did he treat you well?”

“…I just told you he gave me food and money.”

The conversation barely continued. Hajin pressed his forehead with his hands and stared straight at Jonghwa. The burning intoxication disappeared away at once.

“Is someone a good person if they gave you money and food?”

“Then?”

“Ha…did he hit you?”

“That brother?Hm…”

At the question where the answer should come out immediately, but no, Jonghwa only rolled his eyes as if he was thinking. Hajin’s eyes twitched.

“Sometimes he hit me when I did something wrong.”

“What kind of wrong things?”

The voice that asked back was as stiff as ever. Jonghwa shrugged his shoulders as if he couldn’t understand.

“When I make mistakes at work,or whatever.”

“What work?”

“…Why are you suddenly speaking informally? You’re funny.”

“I asked what kind of work.”

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nicotine

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