The therapist says that she won't interrupt as the kids introduce themselves. Mark looks at the yellow walls, they probably are here just to brighten the mood but honestly it just looks like someone smoked inside way too much. It's kind of ugly.
Someone starts by telling their name and disorder, the reason why they all are here in the first place. Group therapy. It's so idyllic. The girl's name is Sunyoung, she is sixteen and she has an ADD.
"My name is Mark, I'm seventeen years old and I have an MDD". Major depressive disorder. It sounds fancy like that, not as basic and blunt as hi, hello, I'm Mark and I'm depressed like the half of this generation! It's not good. But no one cares how fancy it is or if it isn't because everyone just nods or shrugs. They don't care, Mark knows this.
There's another girl, a depressed one. She smiles at Mark shyly, Mark nods. He guesses that maybe she thinks that they connect in some way but he doubts it. And another girl again, OCD.
"Uh, I'm Jeno, I'm sixteen and I don't know what I'm doing here: I have a body dysmorphic disorder. It doesn't really fit with all of your... issues," a boy with black hair says, looking down and fiddling with his sleeve. The sweater is way too big for this Jeno boy but Mark doesn't wonder why.
"What's that?" a girl (OCD) asks curiously, looking at Jeno with round eyes but the boy doesn't look up.
"I'm... obsessed with the way I look. Flaws. Like how ugly I am," his voice sounds dry and distant, and Mark feels a little bit bad for him. He must get misunderstood a lot, that it's just low self esteem. Mark gets it. The girl nods, like she understands but she doesn't. It's impossible. They can fake it that they do but they will never understand, Mark is certain.
The last one to introduce himself is a boy with messy brown hair and tanned skin. He sits with his legs spread and leaning back in his chair. Uninterested.
"I'm Haechan, and I shouldn't really be here. I mean, I'm not depressed or obsessive or something shit like you all". Ouch. His voice is smooth but words like venom. Interesting but he is an asshole, clearly. Mark notices the therapist looking at this Haechan disapprovingly but the boy just shrugs.
"Well, you can tell us in the next meeting if you aren't ready yet," the therapist says with a somewhat kind voice but it sounds forced. Of course it is. Haechan just rolls his eyes, mocking her. Mark shivers but he isn't cold.
When the meeting ends they are supposed to socialize with each other. It's so basic, boring and plain. Mark didn't first think it would be like this but it is; it's not a wonder that kids like him have given up their chances of getting better. Mark is hopeful but things are how they are. Stuck.
He looks around and spots the enigma, Haechan, by the table where's free juice and cookies. He is stuffing his pockets with the cookies, right.
"Are you a kleptomaniac?" Mark asks him bluntly when he gets to him but the boy doesn't even look at him. He shakes his head: "I just really like cookies".
"You're Haechan, right?" Mark asks even when he is quite sure that yeah, that's his name. But for some reason he is drawn to him in some way.
"Nope", the boy who apparently isn't Haechan turns to Mark. His eyes shine in the most absurd way, somehow it's pretty, somehow it's intimidating.
"Are you a compulsive liar then?" Mark asks, it's a joke, kind of. But he has always been told that he isn't very funny so it's a surprise when the other boy snorts.
"Nah, but I could be. You can be whatever you want. Anyway, I'm Donghyuck. And you-", he says, then pokes Mark's chest with his finger, "-are going to be my friend".
There's a couple of things to know about Donghyuck. He is loud, annoying and mean. He was also put in the program by his own therapist and that he won't be getting out until he gets a friend. And apparently Mark is a solid target.
He doesn't have many friends. Mark moved to Jeju a couple months ago, his parents and therapist at that time claiming that Seoul was too busy, too hectic and the air didn't help his well being. But Jeju is filled with tourists so it's not that different. It was hard to adapt first; the dialect is messy and even basic Korean is difficult for Mark as itself. But he makes it work. And he doesn't.
At least it's beautiful. The green grass and the blue sky is more calming than the endless concrete jungle of Seoul. The smell of sea salt is better than stuffy air and smoke. Everything is alright.
Except when it isn't. But that's something Mark doesn't like to think about.
Depression is a tricky thing. It is there even when it isn't. For some it's probably crying all the time and being sad over little things but Mark isn't quite like that. For him it's forgetting to eat and when he remembers to eat, he does it too much. For him it's either not sleeping at all or sleeping for 14 hours. For him it's harming himself or fixing others. Mark is black and white, not gray. He is too close or too distant, not quite knowing where he should stand or where he is standing. It's wishing for rain during a summer day and locking himself in his bathroom just to lay on the floor and stare at the sealing, wondering why and when did things go this way.
Mark is laid back and Donghyuck, oh boy, he isn't. The next time Mark sees him is in the second meeting. He is wearing a bright orange shirt and black jeans, and it's annoying how good he looks even like that. It's not a crush. And even if it were it's most likely Donghyuck is straight because Jeju is a relatively small place and his luck just isn't that great. But it's not a crush. Mark just appreciates cute boys, that's all. Jeno is cute too, hiding behind his dark hair and hating himself. But he is cute.
"I'm still Haechan and I'm here because I have an ADHD," Donghyuck tells this time. Mark isn't surprised but something is screaming that it's not all. Again, the therapist looks disapproving but accepts it by nodding. Mark wants to know, wants to unravel whatever Donghyuck holds inside. He is indeed an enigma. Mark hasn't been this interested in anything for a while so maybe the other boy is good for him. The meeting passes by like that, someone cries, someone shakes. Nothing new or shocking.
"I won't call you hyung," Donghyuck informs Mark. They are standing by the juice and cookies table, the younger boy putting the cookies again in his pockets. He just nods - Mark doesn't care that much about honorifics so it's fine. Everything is fine.
"What is up with you? Like for real," Mark asks then. He leans a little bit closer, allowing himself to be blunt. Sometimes he has to be straightforward. It's okay, it's okay, it's okay
"Hang out with me so I'll show you," Donghyuck replies with a small smirk. Mark's stomach does some kind of a flip.
"Okay," because Mark doesn't know how to say no, "when?"
"This night, meet me in front of this place at 10pm," there's a tone in Donghyuck voice Mark doesn't really get but again he finds himself nodding. He knows his family won't approve him being outside that late but he will make it work. Somehow.
It's a little chilly outside. Mark shivers in his hoodie, the slight breeze of wind messing his dark hair. He has been waiting there just for about five minutes and he still has to wait for other five but he is restless, nervous and kind of scared. He doesn't really know Donghyuck and this could end up horribly wrong but then there's this big part of him telling himself that it doesn't even matter.
Donghyuck is jogging towards him, waving. He is still in the same orange T shirt and jeans and isn't he cold? Mark is the one who should be used to cold because of all the years he lived in Canada but again, Donghyuck is a some kind of a mystery. He is carrying a backpack with him.
"Did you wait very long? Oh wait, don't answer, you did!" Donghyuck greets him with those words and Mark lets out a laugh. It's awkward, kind of forced but the younger boy is a little bit overwhelming.
Mark is surprisingly comfortable around Donghyuck. Yeah, he is still a little bit ruthless, mean and annoying but somehow it's comforting. And it's also weird how the other one just knows that Mark is a depressed shit but still doesn't let it affect their conversation or how he is acting around him. Or at least that's what Mark thinks. He hopes he is right.
They end up to a beach surrounded by hills and green grass. Mark is as confused as before but he doesn't dare to question it. It's quiet, almost peaceful.
"Sit down," Donghyuck orders and Mark does what he says. The sand is dry under his palms when he rests his hands down on the ground. The sea looks dark and inviting in front of him, in front of them. Its waves splatter around calmly and it, somehow, feels like home.
He watches quietly as Donghyuck pulls things from his backpack. Newspaper, and Mark furrows his brows.
"What are you doing?" he asks. It won't hurt him it won't.
"Patience is the key, baby," the boy mutters and keeps piling the papers. Mark almost blushes from the nickname but he knows that the other is just the type to call everyone like that. He is the boy who quotes old movies, This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks, with accented English. A boy who plays Prince too loudly in his room and pisses off his neighbors.
It happens quickly.
Donghyuck takes something from his pocket and then the pile of newspaper is on fire. Just like that, orange and yellow flames, eating the paper. It's somehow way too dramatic how Donghyuck turns to him with his hands behind his back, smiling. There's something so fucked up about the way how the scent of smoke sticks to their skin, how Donghyuck offers his hand and pulls Mark from the ground. It's like a campfire except it's not made in the sake of warmth and comfort.
"So a pyromaniac?" Mark asks. His throat is dry, heart beating in his ears. Donghyuck hasn't let go of his hand, he can feel his heartbeat in his hold.
"Yup," Donghyuck replies, breathless. He must be high on adrenaline when he grabs Mark by his shoulders and kisses him. Impulses and spontaneous acts, Mark feels like he is suffocating. Donghyuck's lips are warm, tongue wet and everything is so fucking wrong. But it's beautiful and Mark is weak.
Donghyuck is indeed a pyromaniac, and Mark doesn't know what to think about it. He knows the facts; there's a difference between a pyromaniac and an arsonist.
"You know, I've got an reputation. A couple years ago I set a house on fire and I would be in prison if they wouldn't have found something wrong-," Donghyuck says and taps his temple, "-here".
To be honest, Mark doesn't know why he stuck around. It's the fourth time they are hanging out, he is sitting on the floor of Donghyuck's room. There's a Prince poster on his wall. Donghyuck probably doesn't even care about him and is friends with him just because he has to, just because he can get out of the group therapy system like that. Somehow he can't find himself caring. Maybe it's because Donghyuck is beautiful, because he is dangerous. Because it's addicting, because if Donghyuck hurts him he doesn't have to do it.
"Why did you kiss me on the beach that time?" Mark blurts out even though it's out of the blue. He can't stop thinking about it, how his lips felt against his. How sweet and tragically horrifying it was. Do you care about me, he wants to ask. But Mark doesn't want to hear a no.
"You like me, right?" Donghyuck replies with a question that manages to confuse Mark even further. He is scared. Maybe this shouldn't happen.
"I don't like anything," he answers instead.
"Yeah, right, your depression"
They are beating around the bush. Is it a game? Maybe. But maybe they could work, Donghyuck gets impulses telling him to set things on fire and Mark feels like he is on fire all the time.
The therapy is, simply put, kind of useless.
Mark isn't happy. That's a stated fact. He isn't sadder than before but there isn't any progress either. There's only one good thing he has gotten from therapy and that's Donghyuck. But with Donghyuck, there's a lot of problems more.
His parents don't approve it. Don't hang around that boy, he is bad for you. That's why Donghyuck had introduced himself as Haechan, so people wouldn't instantly judge him. But Mark also knows that he doesn't care what others think of him, but he knows that the boy is horribly lonely. Aren't they all?
Donghyuck keeps stealing the cookies. Nothing has really changed, always the same.
"Hi, I'm Mark and I'm depressed," same words, same tone, "I once tried to kill myself". Everyone is quiet. Something is heavy on his shoulders. "With pills. That's it. I didn't succeed, as you all see," he isn't looking at anyone but he can feel Donghyuck staring at him with his dark eyes.
"It's really brave of you to share that, Mark," the therapist says. Mark is grateful she uses his American name rather than Minhyung even though he knows that she knows it. There's only bad memories to that name.
Donghyuck kisses him again after the meeting.
It happens outside of the building, Donghyuck pressing him against the white wall. He tastes like those chocolate chip cookies and something else he doesn't recognize. Is it pity?
Mark is over at Donghyuck's again. They are sitting in his kitchen, Donghyuck playing his guitar. The morning sun shines through the cracks of the blinds, the light landing on the younger boy's cheeks so prettily. Donghyuck has his laptop in front of him, playing chords and singing, voice cracking at some points. Mark sings along, quietly, knowing the lyrics without even seeing them and he could remember all the times he spent listening to the song. Creep by Radiohead, what a cliche.
And for a second Mark is sure that they are a different story; a normal couple, someone else, normal life and basic mornings. Love in the air. But Mark knows that they are extraordinary, something so much more complicated. They aren't in love, not a love story, just two broken boys passing time.
But for a while Mark wants to believe so. That they are in love and happy.
"I really like you..." Mark mumbles, staring at the other boy when he finishes with the song. He looks so much younger like that, the sun illuminating on his tanned skin, glowing on his cheeks.
"I know," he laughs but it sounds off. Mark doesn't know what it is. Donghyuck, still, after all of those weeks is an enigma, a mystery. It's still as scary.
"Do you like me?" It's a dangerous question. It's either that yes, I do, or that no, let's end this. Black or white. Mark folds his hands in his lap so they don't shake as much.
"Are you an idiot? Of course. I don't kiss people I don't like," Donghyuck says like it's obvious but it's not. Mark smiles nevertheless.
"Hyuckie, how are you doing?"
"I'm okay. You?"
It's amazing how they both know they are lying and yet they let it slide.
The problem of being black or white is that when he gets angry, he really gets angry. It's a small matter but it ends up with Mark yelling with tears in his eyes, locking himself in the bathroom and kicking the wall. It's not even his house and oh god, he has messed up.
"Mark! Let me in!" Donghyuck sounds frustrated but worried. Mark stares at his own reflection from the mirror, blurred and shaky. Wet, hot tears running down his cheeks. A mess. How could Donghyuck love him like that? He can't and he won't.
"Please!" it's the first time Mark has heard Donghyuck beg. He takes deep, shaky breaths and wipes his cheeks with his palms. He has to do it, he has to do it. Mark kicks the wall again, cursing.
He lets Donghyuck to the bathroom. He doesn't dare to look at him and flinches away when he tries to touch him. The other shouldn't have to deal with this. There's apologies in Mark's lips.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he blabbers with an unsure voice. Donghyuck hugs him and rubs his back while Mark cries to his shoulder.
And boy, does he hate himself for it.
Mark quits the group therapy.
It's an endless circle. The antidepressants only bring headaches, meditation anxious thoughts, therapy is just a waste of time. But he is only 17 years old and he isn't a lost case, Mark knows the facts, no one is. If he believed in God he would pray for it, that he would get better.
Some days are harder than others.
Today is one of them, Mark thinks as he opens his eyes. It's the first thought in the morning, how he didn't want to wake up, oh no, not today. He is laying on his side, staring at the white wall with tired eyes. Probably three hours of sleep but Mark knows he won't fall asleep now.
He closes his eyes because he doesn't want tears running down his cheeks. They still wet his lashes though. How could someone like Donghyuck ever love him if he saw him like that? So weak, laying in his bed crying just from the thought of getting up. No one, no one will ever love him. Mark knows the facts. But then he remembers; the younger boy has hold him through his irrational being before too. Will it be okay? Probably not but it's something.
He hugs his pillow and buries his face in the mattress until his shoulders stop shaking. It shouldn't be like this. He shouldn't be like this.
But even hard days are only days after all. And when a day ends, a new one starts.
They fall into routine. They are dating as far as Mark considers, or that's what he wants to believe at least. Donghyuck still burns papers and books on the beach, Mark still wishes to drown sometimes. They take baths together and giggle when Mark almost falls over. They are normal, they are ordinary. And it's alright.
Mark also discovers that he really, really loves mysteries. And the smell of smoke. Everything is temporary, Mark knows, but for this one time he lets himself hope that this would last.