Title: Back To What I Was
Author: Desultory Speech
Genre: Horror, thriller, psychological, angst
Rating: Teen - 14A. Some parts (later chapters) may be rated for swearing, violence, gore, general uncomfortable subjects.
Synopsis: Recovering from a traumatic event, JaeJoong is forced to struggle to maintain who he is and used to be, all the while being re-instituted into public school. The struggles of adolescence, the woes of being socially awkward; JaeJoong fights them all whilst rediscovering his passion for art and expression.
Perhaps in the wrong ways.
Comments: I am in no way affiliated with DBSK, Super Junior or SM Entertainment, nor do I know or associate with any of the people in question. I'm not even Korean. This is a work of pure fiction; any similarities drawn between people, places and events are purely by coincidence. This is not meant to offend. The views and opinions in this story are not necessarily the views and opinions of the author. Directed at a mature youth audience. I apologize for grammar errors and spelling mistakes.
Poster credits go to bucket_of_tsuki, for being such a dear and putting up with me. ^^' Thank you, Jake-chan~
October 12th was the day. She’d marked it in her calendar and prepared for it and wrung her hands in anticipation; lost sleep over it, slept well because of it. Sixteen times she told him – he counted – that she would cross it off if he were to do his work. Some work, any work; just get something done. Finish a class, a chapter, a worksheet – anything. If he made any form of progress, she promised him she’d let him stay home.
One would think that would be enough to motive him. Enough to get him to buckle down and finish an entire semester course in three days. It wasn’t. No matter how much he wanted it, he couldn’t. JaeJoong sat for hours at his desk, read until his eyes were pink and sore, stayed up seventy-six hours on end with no sleep or food. He tried harder that he’d ever tried to do anything, but at the end of the week, he still had a blank workbook; a fresh canvas. Pencil’s full of led and pens filled to the brim with ink – untouched worksheets and crisp, pure white erasers.
Information written in his text books were all blurry to his eyes – he’d held the books out and close to himself and placed them across the room, drawn his close so close to the pages that all he could see was white, but he got nothing out of the material. It might as well have been Greek.
“I bought you clothes,” she told him. He was on the couch, TV on a function that fed him nothing but fuzz and white noise. He could see words in the screen; in the black and white. He was trying to make them out, hoping that maybe that was what he was looking for. Maybe there was a message in the static that he needed to know, that’d tell him what to do. God, he was so lost, looking for solace in the distortion of a man-made machine.
“Why don’t you try them on?”
He lifted his head and stare in her direction – not at her. No. He couldn’t look her in the eye, in the face; God, he was so confused.
“This shirt first – it’s my favourite! Oh, and these jeans are just so cute, I thought they’d look great on you. I got you some sweaters too… you like red, right? These ones are red and black.”
Blood and asphalt.
“I like red,” he forced out, taking the bundle of fabric from her. She smiled at him and patted his shoulder, nudging him in the direction of his bedroom. She was excited for him to change – so excited to see him in something other than black pyjama pants and oversized navy tees. His legs were numb, carrying him off in the direction of his room.
He hated red.
The clothes spilled onto the floor as soon as the door closed behind him. He fell to his knees and absentmindedly sifted through them, looking for something, trying to remember what to do with them. A sweater… he could hardly remember what a sweater was.
How do you put socks on? What’s this silver thing on the pants? A zipper? What’s a zipper? Why are there so many pockets? Why is the vest red? Why is the fabric so coarse? Why can’t I wear what I’m wearing now? Why are these shirts so bright? Why are the sleeves so long? Long-sleeved shirts? What’s a cardigan? Why is the waist on the pants so big? Can he even fit a size five? What is ‘fit’?
His mind sloshed with words he forgot he knew as he tore of his top. He reached for a black shirt first, grimacing at the roughness of the fabric. There was writing on the shirt, designs, lots of silver and grey and blue in sporadic patches all over the front. JaeJoong slid his arms in first – a brilliant white contrasting starkly with the deep black – and pulled it over his head and shoulders. It was tight, suffocating; he felt like he couldn’t breath, there was something hugging his collarbone and he felt like he was being strangled.
Looking down at his chest, he frowned. What did it say? What are the pictures of? What has he missed out on?
He didn’t know what to do with himself when he looked at the pants and sweaters and the packs of socks and boxers. Knocking on the door – “JaeJoong? You done yet? I want to see.” – and he frowns. Done? What is ‘done’? He has a shirt on; does that count?
He was almost convinced the manufacturer of these jeans was Satan himself; they made a maze of the front and he couldn’t figure out how he undid them. He fiddled with the buttons, pulled on the zippers – what the hell? – and grunted when they didn’t open. He wanted to toss them across the room in frustration; instead he tugged off the cotton bottoms he was wearing and attempted to slide into the jeans. He forgot to stand, laying on his back to get them on. But they were too big for him, slid on easily. He had tiny hips.
Did he rip them? There are holes in his knees. He looks around for something he could have snagged them on, pats the backs of his legs in hopes that he didn’t tear them anymore than the front.
But the tears didn’t look too bad.
No big conundrums yet.
She knocked again; she sounds concerned this time.
“Are you having trouble?”
“I want to see, JaeJoong.”
Forcing himself up, JaeJoong weakly pulls the door opened. He’s sure he looks horrible – his pants are too loose and pooling around his feet, his shirt far too tight, barefoot, arms cold, hair a mess.
But she smiles at him and claps her hands together. She says his jeans are distressed – Oh, the holes are supposed to be there? – and points out the very light ‘rub patterns’ against the deep navy hue. He didn’t notice; he didn’t care.
“Put on a sweater! I bought it all in the same size so it should all fit fine.”
His mind was hazy – he turned and scanned the ground for this ‘sweater’, reaching for a plain black one, of which the fabric looked the same as the t-shirts he usually wore. It was softer than the others – he fumbled with the zipper, sighing in irritation.
Damned zippers. Who invented the zipper? Elias Howe? Whitcomb L. Judson? It was open to dispute. Japan makes most of the international supply. That must be the solution; blow up Japan.
HeeGo laughed and unzipped it for him; he slid it over his shoulders and scowled. Heavy fabric. He hated it already.
“It looks so good!”
“Yeah, I like it already.”
It’s the 8th. JaeJoong stares at the calendar on his desk with hateful eyes. He hates time and connection; wishes there were no hours or minutes or second, or milliseconds or weeks. He wishes he could just drift through life, never having to worry about how long it’s been since he’s done this, or been there.
If JaeJoong ruled the world, it was fundamental units like time that he would do without. Who needs to know how old they are? How far away they are from the ones they love? How many pounds over the average weight they are? Some physics doubt the mere existence of incompatible fundamental units; he wishes they’d debate the existence of compatible ones.
He gives it one last look before flipping it over.
Five days isn’t enough.
Five days is too much.
120 hours; 7 200 minutes; 430 000 seconds; 25 920 000 milliseconds.
Not enough; too much – it depends entirely on which unit he used. It doesn’t amount to enough, not for him. To others, maybe, but to him it wasn’t even a blip in time.
He forced himself to pick up a Science textbook, tried deciphering the numbers and code in it; got no where. He was starting to wonder if he’d forgotten how to read. Can one forget how to read? He bet he could.
Can one forget how to understand basic logic?
If he could forget details such as scientific notation and humor, then he could forget other learned skills and behaviourisms too, right? Like sarcasm and humanity.
If anyone could do it, he could.
On the ninth, JaeJoong is begging the God he doesn’t believe in that he’ll be able to read and understand the crappy science-fiction novel the District of Education made mandatory for all grade ten English students to read. Something about robots and aliens; God, let him answer one question before tomorrow on the puzzled booklet. If not God, then Allah or Buddha or Mohammed or Jesus or Satan or Zeus or Vishnu or Shiva or Gurus or Priests or someone. He was willing to follow the divine direction of anyone at this point.
On the tenth, he’s full of apprehension and is sitting in the corner of his closet, door locked closed from the outside because he doesn’t trust himself, chanting a mantra. He hoped it’d help build himself up, that he’d be confident and ready for the day come Monday. He contemplated asking his mom to let him stay until the twentieth, was trying to come up with some convincing bullshit to get her to believe that he’d finally do some work, but he drew an absolute blank. He found some stale chocolate under a stack of his sisters old smutty romance novels, munched on that while he read about Maria DeRazzi and her sexual adventures with some guy known as ‘Lovely Laviro’. He let himself become entangled with the plot – or lack thereof – and digested every cheesy line and far-fetched comment or scenario. He liked Donna, the spunky maid, and her quirky personality. Imagined her in his mind, all smiles and warm company. Anything to distract his throbbing head.
By the night of the eleventh he’d given up on fighting it and had accepted his fate – the slow death that he’d set himself up for. He was hiding under his bed regardless, buried under several blankets, surrounded with potent, sex-filled books. He was going to read until he couldn’t think; he was going to find out what his sisters liked so much about romance; he was going to pretend he was in the arms of a loving woman, perfect her; he was going to do a lot of things.
But he fell asleep and ended up drooling all over chapter four.
Awakening at quarter passed five, he turned onto his back and analysed the frame of his wooden box-bed. JaeJoong hoped it’d be better than he imagined it; he hoped it wouldn’t be like it was before. He didn’t want the yelling, the kicks to the gut. He couldn’t stomach another cheap shot, another lunch eaten alone. Garbage cans weren’t comfortable – he was sure lockers wouldn’t be either.
He made a mission statement in his mind, was going to write it down but it slipped his mind when his mother knocked softly at the door. In it was a simple direction for his high school life – he’d completely missed junior high, so he wouldn’t know anyone. He wasn’t going to know anyone. He was going to be small and quiet, and refuse any association with anyone. He’d get through it on his own; the less people who knew him or about him would be the better.
Thinking of school, JaeJoong couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to his old friends. He used to be decently popular, had a lot of them. He remembered sleepovers with them, swearing they’d always be friends and all that sissy stuff they pretended they didn’t do. Now, he could hardly remember the name of his closest friend. What was his name? He was attractive, nice; a loyal person, kind and warm. He always split his lunch with him, always invited him over to his house. JaeJoong spent most of his childhood with him. What was his name? It started with a ‘y’, he knew that. Yoo… Yu… ‘You’ something.
‘You’ something, indeed.
He couldn’t help but hope he’d meet him again.
Hope it’d be better.
Please, be better.