[Transcript of Choi Sooyoung’s audio diary]
[July 16, 2014; 8:50 pm]
Time, eight fifty in the evening.
Hello, hello. There… um… hi, I’m at the beach right now. Do you hear the waves? Whoooo… the waves are so big in this part of the country. I want to go and take a jump but it’s dark and I’m not a good swimmer. Yuri and Seohyu–
Yah! Syoong… the caretaker is asking if we’re going to take a tent or not!
We’ll take one, silly. Why do you think we’re calling this a camping if not? Psh. Anyway, Yuri and Seohyun planned this beach vacation. Haha. Funny because it’s only for two days but they call it a vaca–
Hey what are you doing? Is that your audio dia—
Go away now, Min!
Yah! Yah! Hey lemme talk to thaa---asfnafkjanfadsgg
As I was saying. This is a two-day camping trip by the beach and–askfjsakfalklkfa ugh CHANGMIN! GEROFF!
Yuri’s calling you. Go away!
Help us with the bags!
I will dumbo! Ugh. GO AWAY!
Okay… as I was saying once again, I’m here with Yuri, Seohyun, and Changmin. That boy’s really annoying. Sometimes I wonder why he became my frien---
SOOYOUUUUNG! GET YOUR BAGS HERE!
---ugh, YES, YURI! Okay they’re calling me. Bye.
[Transcript of Choi Sooyoung’s audio diary]
[July 16, 2014; 9:24 pm]
Hello, hello. It’s nine twenty-four in the evening and Shim Changmin is drunk as hell. Hahahahaha! YAH, CHANGMIN DON’T STEP ON MY SLIPPERS! HAHAHA I am also a bit tipsy but, hic, not as worse as the scumbag. Hahaha
Yah, Choi Sooyoung! Put that thing away and take this shot.
Yuri-unnie, I think Sooyoung-unnie had enough.
Ssh, nonsense Seo Joohyun. Be happy I’m not giving this to you. Go finish your pineapple juice quietly.
Yuri, you’re not drinking you ass-hat.
SOOYOUUUUUNG! COME HERE AND PLAY WITH ME!
SHUT UP SHIM AND DON’T YOU DARE STEP YOUR SAND-COVERED FEET INSIDE OUR TENT! To the douchebag’s downfall! Weeeeeeeeeee!
The calendar on the tabletop says it’s the fifth of July, year 2049. Choi Sooyoung’s eyes land on the floor-length mirror on the opposite side of the room. She takes note of the white-haired figure staring back at her. The woman in the mirror sits in front of a medium-sized cardboard box, on her hand an obsolete-looking recorder.
It is summer. The cherry blossoms her husband has planted on their yard has shed the last of its petals. The once white carpeted pavement of velveteen flowers is back to its grey form. A bird perched on the window chirps a merry day ahead and Sooyoung’s thought go back to the words he tells her that morning. “I miss the beach. When was the last time we went on one? It was ages ago, wasn’t it? It’s summer and our age should not stop us from enjoying it, neh, jagiyah?” He smiles that precious smile of his that she had always loved. He said that he had booked them tickets to Sokcho. The thought of waves lapping towards the shore envelopes her and not soon after, she finds herself slumped on their bedroom floor, looking at a browned chest of locked memories set free at the mention of being at the sea again.
Sooyoung pressed down the button and the recorder spun again.
[Transcript of Choi Sooyoung’s audio diary]
[July 17, 2014; 5:10 am]
Time, five ten in the morning.
Last night, at eleven fifteen in the evening, Shim fucking Changmin puked over my sandals. The stupid douchebag is still sleeping right now. Should I strangle him with a pillow or not? They said we should watch the morning sun rise from the sea but they are still sleeping.
Why am I stuck with this stupid kids? Ugh.
Sooyoung felt the warmth of the morning sun’s rays touch her skin through the half-opened door flap of the tent. She shifted her attention to the sleeping boy beside her.
“Oi, Changmin! Didn’t you say you want to see the sunrise?”
“Ugh, suit yourself!” She tried standing but Changmin was blocking the tent door. “Could you just move so I can wake those two other dumbos from the other tent?”
“Just… lay here beside me.”
Sooyoung stared dumbly at the sleeping boy, wondering if he was really asleep or just faking it. She crept closer and pressed her ear on top of his chest.
His breathing was normal.
Just as she was about to sit up again, she felt his huge hand on top of her head.
“What are you sniffing me for? Stop perving over me.” She raised her head to see Shim Changmin looking at her with that stupid smirk over his stupid face.
“I AM NOT! MOVE ASIDE I’M GOING TO SEE THE SUN!”
“ARRRRGH MY ARM! GET BACK HERE, CHOI!”
His scream woke up the inhabitants of the tent next to them and (the five more next to it) but he cared less as he chased the girl out of the tent and into the place where the tranquil sea trysts with the sand warmed by the morning sun as it kissed the fading purple blanket of dawn away.
“Is this the rest of your belongings, honey?”
Sooyoung wakes up from her reverie upon hearing his voice. She looks up at her husband, one hand carrying a big blue bag and the other holding a very familiar duffel bag.
He follows her line of sight and shrugs his shoulders. “I thought it would be fun if we try camping again.” He grins. “I know our joints may disagree with us but ta-tan!” He puts down the blue bag and pulls out a plastic bottle out of it. “I brought ointments.”
His eyes crinkles as she smiles and Sooyoung could not help but giggle at his silliness.
“I thought Minyoung already threw this away.” She reaches for the duffel bag and places it carefully at the backseat of their car.
“Well, I actually want to throw it away but dad won’t let me.” The beautiful young woman sitting on the driver’s seat quips. “This old man is too sentimental.”
The old man in question slips into the car with relative difficulty and shuts the door beside him. “What have I told you before? If something is still of worth–“
“It should not be thrown away. Yeah, yeah.” Minyoung then grins toothily at her father who was looking at her intently from the rearview mirror.
“Ah, Sooyoungie. This daughter of yours has taken after you too much.”
“Which is why she has you wrapped around her finger.” The elderly lady answers.
Minyoung chuckles in her seat as she revs up the tiny vehicle and drives their way out of the quaint neighborhood into the city’s main highway.
“Are you sure that’s the proper way of grilling fish?”
“Shut up, Shim. You know nothing about cooking.” Sooyoung reached for the onions she has brought from the village store and started chopping them haphazardly.
“I know nothing about cooking but I am an expert eater.” Changmin poked the slab of tuna on top of the grill and wrinkled his nose at the blazing fire beneath it. “So I know if something will end up palatable or not.” He then took out a barbecue stick from the pile Sooyoung gathered and used it to scatter the coals.
“What are you doing?”
“Making sure I’ll be tasting delicious fish and not disgusting carcinogens later.” He murmured as he tried to push a huge piece of coal away. “This stupid coal won’t mov–OWWW!”
“WHAT HAPPENED?” Sooyoung dropped the knife carelessly, the sharp edge barely missing her fingers, and ran over where Changmin stood.
“Ah!” The boy let out a groan as Sooyoung grabbed his hand and looked at the huge burnt gash on his knuckles. He grinned guiltily when she glared at him.
“Look what your nosiness brought you, smart ass. It’s a good thing I brought a first aid kit.”
Later that noon, Seohyun, Yuri, Sooyoung, and Changmin dined on the sole canned corned beef they were able to find in the only store in the village. The slab of half-burnt, half-uncooked tuna lay untouched in front of them.
“I told her that’s not the proper way of grilling the fish.” Changmin mouthed silently in answer to Seohyun’s questioning look. Yuri said nothing and simply chewed on her lunch.
“I’m sorry, guys, I burnt the fish.” Sooyoung said after a long, awkward silence. She looked at their supposed lunch only to see the plate empty.
“It’s not that bad, Sooyoungie.” Changmin gave him a sweet smile, his cheeks half-full from the food he was munching on. He tried to give her a peace sign but his bandaged hand made it difficult for him to bend the rest of his fingers. He swallowed and went on, “your amazing marinade saved it.”
“Bye, mom. Bye, dad. I’ll see you on Thursday.” Minyoung stands outside the window of her parents’ train compartment, one hand on her pocket and the other on her phone.
Sooyoung sticks her head outside the train window and looks at her grown up daughter.
“Put your phone in your pocket. Don’t forget to drink your vitamins and give us a call when you get to your apartment.”
“Be careful when you drive. Don’t talk to strangers and always say your prayers at night.”
“Mom, I’m twenty-seven years old. I know what I should do, okay?”
“Jagiyah, let Minyoung be. She’s old enough.”
Sooyoung’s head snaps toward the direction of her husband. The latter gives her a knowing look along with that gentle smile of his. “Let her be.” He says softly.
Just then, the train gives out a loud hoot, signaling the start of its journey. Sooyoung looks out the window again. “Call us! Take care!”
Minyoung waves her hand and starts walking backwards to the platform.
“I will. Love you mom, dad!”
The train starts to gain speed. Sooyoung still has her head out the window looking at her daughter’s figure going smaller and smaller by the second.
“Love you.” She murmurs softly as the train turns around a bend.
“Sooyoung, you’ve drank enough.” Changmin’s voice reached out to her in the dark. She looked around her but the world kept spinning and everything was a blur. It was only when she felt his warm hands holding her shoulders that she remembered where she was. “Yuri, if you can excuse us. I think Sooyoung’s had enough.”
“Go away, Changmin. I didn’t stop you when you chugged down, hic, that bottle of gin last night.” Sooyoung extended a shaking hand towards Yuri and pointed towards the bottle of rhum on the older girl’s feet. “Pour me more rhum, Yuri.”
Four of them were sitting around a small bonfire. Seohyun, who looked just as anxious as Changmin, sat closely beside Yuri. She was eyeing the older girl attentively. Changmin understood the younger one’s reaction, his hands absentmindedly touching the part of his side Yuri kicked when he swooped her away from the beach.
“I still want to swim.” Yuri pouted as she poured rhum carelessly into Sooyoung’s glass.
“Unnie, you cannot swim! It’s dark and dangerous!” an exasperated Seohyun snapped. “And I doubt Changmin-oppa would save you when you’re drowning seeing that you almost kicked him to death earlier.”
Changmin let out a smirk and then shifted his attention once again to the long-legged girl sitting beside him.
“Sooyoung, stop it.” He took away the glass she was holding and held her steady when she tilted dangerously towards the fire.
“Changmin, you killjoy. Yuri and I have lots of things to talk about. Go away.”
“You can talk about that with me.”
“Noooo, I don’t want to talk with you. Besides, why are you not drinking?”
She turned to look at him, eyes hazy from lack of somberness.
“Trust me, Syoong, you don’t need me drunk tonight.”
The train chugs on through South Korea's countryside. Sooyoung remembers that the last time she went to Sokcho, she and the rest of her friends has to take the grueling journey by bus.
She feels grateful to have the railway connecting Sokcho to Seoul finished during her lifetime. And along with it, the opportunity to visit the place again with the person she treasures. Her gaze falls on her sleeping husband and a smile graces her lips. The years have aged him but he still looks no less handsome than the first day she realized she was in love with him. She moves his head and lets him sleep against her shoulders.
From outside, the afternoon sun slips into a mass of gray clouds. Not soon after, the glass window turns bleary from the foggy air.
“Why are we going inside the tent now?” Sooyoung pouted as Changmin unzips the tent flap open.
“We are going inside the tent,” he inhaled sharply as he guided the girl inside, “because Yuri wants to go to sleep.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
She shivered at the coldness seeping between her toes when Changmin washed the sand off her feet.
“It means you will be sitting alone on the fire, bored and friendless. Do you want to stay there alone?”
“Good. Now, be a nice girl and go to sleep.”
“B-but I still want to talk!”
Changmin heaved out a sigh. He washed his own feet before crawling into their shared tent.
“Remind me again why I bought this small-ass tent.”
“Heehee, it’s because you’re stupid. It’s okay, Changminnie. We still fit here anyway.”
She rolled on her back and spread her limbs over the small space.
“Talk to me, Min, okay?”
“What are we going to talk about?”
“Space? What about space?”
“Oh, jagi, I slept soundly didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did.” Sooyoung fixes his rumpled shirt. She then combs her fingers through his hair until the result satisfied her. “There, you look handsome again.”
“I am always handsome.” Comes the haughty reply.
She giggles at his retort. Truly, the years did nothing to change him.
“It’s going to rain.”
“Rainy afternoons are perfect for hot chocolate and cookies.” He stands up and walks to the compartment door. “I heard their coffee bar serves one of the best tasting cookies in this side of South Korea. It would be a waste of best tasting cookies if they cannot be eaten by my lovely wife. Say, I’ll go get you one dozen.” He winks at her mischievously, earning a laugh from the elderly lady, before trotting towards the aisle.
“What’s that triangle thing over there?”
They were lying on their backs, upturned faces toward the clear, evening sky. Sooyoung insisted sleeping with their head on the direction of the tent door. To which, Changmin left the door flap unzipped so as not to block their view of the stars.
“Aries… look, there’s Orion. Hey… why is Orion and onion pronounced differently when they only have one letter that is different. Shouldn’t it be “onayon” or “oreeyon”?”
“Hehehe. That’s a valid point.”
The rain pattered softly at first, colliding with the glass window with melodious taps.
Sooyoung feels the obsolete recorder on the pocket of her dress, her fingers absentmindedly tracing its faded buttons as memories start pouring in.
The memories are hazy, like looking through mist-covered glass, but they keep on coming. One by one, like scattered raindrops over a heat-battered field.
“I want to go to the sea.”
“I want to take a bath.”
“No. Just stay here. Stay here and tell me stories.”
And Sooyoung did. She told Changmin a lot of stories. There are stories about trees, there are stories about stars, and there are stories about him.
“Kyu!” She rolled on her back and faced him. Her hands made its way to his shirt’s collar. She gripped the poor thing tightly and continued on with her litany. “You’re an asshole, you know that?”
Changmin stared at the drunk girl curled up beside him. Her eyes were closed. He suddenly felt a strong desire to touch her face. The girl rambled on.
“Kyu… why? I don’t understand.”
“Changmin.” He corrected.
“You’re not Kyu?”
Like rain seeping through the cracks on the pavement, dripping unto the wet earth underneath, long-forgotten conversations bloom back to life.
“Why do you sound the same? Well, not the same same but you talk alike.”
Changmin let out a sigh.
“Sooyoung… go to sleep.”
“Why do you sound the same, huh? Is it because you’re born on the same year?”
“Kyu… so that’s his name.”
“Uh-huh. Kyu. Cho-Kyu-Hyun.” Her arms were now around his waist. “Why do you sound the same?”
“Changmin.” He repeated.
“Kyuhyun. You know, I fell in love with him… but he’s an asshole.” Sooyoung’s head lolled towards the crook of his neck. “He broke my heart.”
The ceiling lamp sways gently as the train turns on another bend. Somewhere outside the compartment, a young man walks by muttering about long queues on the coffee bar.
“Have you ever felt that way?”
“When you broke up with your girlfriend?”
“What’s her name again?”
“Did you cry?”
“Do you want to get back together?”
“Because it’s over.”
Changmin thought she has fallen asleep. It wasn’t when he felt the wetness seep into his shirt that he realized she was crying. He wrapped his arm around her tighter; one hand patting her arm she’d wrapped around his waist.
“Syoo… don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying.”
“Yes, you are. Don’t.” He took a sharp intake of breath. “Kyu or whoever the fuck he is… he’s not worth it.”
“So stop crying!” He snapped but felt apologetic soon afterwards. “Shhh, he’s not worth your tears.”
“I’m not crying. I’m just faking it.”
He sighed what might have been his nth sigh that evening.
“Do you think I should talk to Kyu again?”
“Whyyyyy? Don’t you trust me?”
“It’s him I don’t trust.”
“Next station, Inje station. Passengers alighting in this station are advised to prepare their baggage. Next station, Inje station.”
The young man who walked by a few minutes ago is seen pulling a huge stroller along the aisle. Behind him walks a young lady with a huge backpack on.
“Sungjae, I told you not to use a stroller but you won’t listen. That’s what you get for not listening to me.”
“But, Sooyoung, where else would I put my stuff then?”
“I told you that you don’t have to bring lots of stuff! We’re only staying for two days. Not a lifetime!”
“Changmin? Heehee. You know I have a friend named Changmin. He only washes his hair twice every week. Heehee.”
“Changmin… Changmiiiin. Are you sleepy?”
“Then why are you still awake?”
“To take care of you.”
The light from the tent next to theirs flickered off. Changmin shifted on his side just as Sooyoung rested her leg on top of his.
“Changmin, I love you.”
It was so sudden… so out of the blue. The words jolted him and he worried next that the loud beating of his heart would wake her to sobriety.
“Don’t you love me?”
“I’m not a liar.”
“Then why did it take you long enough to answer?”
“Are you not used to people telling you they love you?”
“Be used to it then.”
She wrapped her arm tighter around his body.
“I always tell my friends I love them. I love you. I love Yuri; I love Seohyun; I love Yunho.”
“Jagi, I’m sorry the line is quite long. But here, I brought you cookies and hot chocolate.” Sooyoung gazes pensively as her husband places the tray he was holding on his side of the seat and proceeds to close the door.
“You need to drink your medicine after this, okay?”
“You seem distant today. Is anything the matter?”
“Huh? N-not really.” She looks at those brown eyes that were too familiar. Eyes that she felt can read her thoughts no matter how hard she tries to hide them.
She lets out a sigh.
“I was just thinking about the last time I went to Sokcho.”
“Thanks for loving me then, Syoong.”
Her words sounded more and more slurred as she slowly slipped into the world of dreams.
“Do you think someone will still love me?”
“O-of course. Why would we think the opposite?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because I’m difficult.”
“No. You’re not difficult.”
He hugged her back when he felt her arms tighten around his waist once more.
“You think so?”
“Yes. You’re a very special girl.”
“I think you’re okay.”
“I think you’re okay, too.”
Changmin rested his cheek against the crown of her head. A gentle smile on his face as her words replayed inside his head.
“Min, if ever I’m going to get married, I want to get married to someone like you. Someone who understands me and accepts me no matter what.”
“The last time you went to Sokcho?”
“Was that after we first broke up?”
Sooyoung could feel the air thicken at his question. She raises her head when she felt her husband sit beside her. He takes her hand and places the mug of hot chocolate between them.
“I am sorry. I was such a jerk back then.” His lips form into a sad smile as if in memory of a painful past. “But you know how much I regret hurting you. I hated myself so much for making you cry.”
His hands that are wrapped around hers fall to his lap.
“God, I was such a jerk. But I came out of my senses, alright. And your friend Changmin made a good job making sure I don't go back into being an asshole when he showed up on my door and punched me into oblivion.” He smiles at the thought. “I don’t even know who he was so you could imagine my shock when he just started hitting me right on my front door.”
“He always does stupid things.”
“Well, it’s good that he does them because his stupid deed negated my stupid decision of letting you go the first time.”
Sooyoung takes a sip of the hot chocolate before speaking.
“I thought he hates you. He said I should not talk to you again.”
Kyuhyun lets out a small laugh. “Well, he actually did tell me to get lost and not see you again.” He takes out a cookie from the tray and observes it for a while. “Said he’ll break my skull for good if you cry because of me again.”
Sooyoung puts down her hot chocolate and smiles at her husband. “But being the stubborn jerk that you are, you did the opposite.”
“That’s right. Stubborn jerk through and through.”
Their small giggles turn into laughter, bouncing off the glass windows of the train compartment.
“Anyway, what happened to you and him?”
“What do you mean?"
"You were friends. Close friends, as what Yuri said. I was actually expecting that you'll introduce me to him... Properly, that is. But you never did."
"We drifted apart."
Kyuhyun says nothing.
"He went away.”
“I know he went to America but what happened after that? Were you not able to communicate with him again?”
Sooyoung takes a sip of the hot chocolate once more.
“I guess that’s a good thing, noh? Or else I will be at some cemetery with my skull crushed instead of sitting here talking to my beautiful wife.” Kyuhyun sniggers at his own joke.
Sooyoung answers him with a smile.
A fortnight has passed since their Sokcho holiday and it has been that long since he saw Changmin again.
“Changmin!” She was wearing a light blue sundress and her newly-bought white shoes. He, on the other hand, was dressed in his usual jeans and shirt attire.
“You look like you’re going to Church.”
“My mom bought this for me yesterday and I liked it so I wore it today.”
“So, where are we going?”
“You told me you’re going to tell me something.”
“What is it?” She looked at him with twinkling eyes.
Something happened during their last night at the beach. Something between drunk exchanges and her sharing of her first heartbreak changed the way she looked at Changmin. He was no longer the annoying male friend she was most comfortable with. Somehow, butterflies would run around crazily in her stomach whenever she would think of him.
She thought of the phone calls and messages from him she left unanswered simply because she has no idea what to say. It took her two weeks to gather her courage and see him just like how they would always do before Sokcho happened.
“What is it?” she repeated again.
“Well, you see…” He looked at his feet and took a deep breath before continuing. “You were not answering my calls.”
“Ah, yes. I’ve been rather busy. I’m sorry about that, Min.” She felt stupid and had the strong urge of hitting herself on the head when he went on.
“Actually, I’m calling to tell you that…” he looked directly at her eyes, “Victoria and I are together now.”
“B-but I thought you’re…”
She couldn’t continue. The words got stuck inside her throat. She looked down at her light blue sundress and the white shoes she’s wearing. Her tears clouded her vision and she felt as if the world would give away beneath her feet.
What was she thinking? Of course, she wasn’t really expecting anything else to happen. She’d long known not to have expectations because, chances are, it wouldn’t happen anyway.
She forced the words out. “I thought you’re still not over Jessica. And, and didn’t you say you like someone else?”
She had been staring at her feet too long but Changmin was not doing anything to make her look at him. That was when she knew that nothing will happen. She turned her back on him and walked quickly back at their house.
He called her twice or thrice, she could not remember anymore, but he didn’t run after her.
“How were the cookies, jagi?”
“Delicious. They were not lying when they said that these are the best tasting cookies in this side of South Korea.”
“Uh-huh,” Kyuhyun nonchalantly slings his arm around his wife’s shoulders, “this side of South Korea. Because they haven’t tasted the best cookies in all of South Korea. The one my wife bakes for me every weekend.” He smiles that smile of his that Sooyoung had always loved.
“Next station, Sokcho station. Passengers alighting in this station are advised to prepare their baggage. Next station, Sokcho station.”
“Quite fast, huh?”
“How long did it take you the last time you went here?”
“Wow, it’s a good thing things have changed.”
Cho Kyuhyun stands up and gathers their belongings before stepping out of their compartment. Sooyoung follows his lead quietly. Kyuhyun animatedly talks about his plans for their vacation. He does not hear the soft clunk of plastic falling into a heap of other thrown rubbish as Sooyoung casually drops a certain tape, reel plucked out and cut, into a trash bin on their way out of the station.
"Yeah, things have changed."
[Transcript of Choi Sooyoung’s audio diary]
[July 18, 2014; 2:43 am]
Sooyoung. Are you asleep?
I’m recording our promise. Say what you had just said.
That you’re going to get married to me.
Don’t sleep now.
I love you, Choi Sooyoung.
A little bit more than I am supposed to.
And it hurts so much.
A/N: HELL YEAH, I'M BACK! (Or I hope I am haha)