“I like you.”
The scenario was perfect: empty classroom with just the two of them, the sun about the set, painting the skies an orange hue, and chocolates held in his hand, a token of love. However, despite the supposed perfection, this isn’t how Eunsang imagined he’d feel. He expected to feel giddy and excited when the day comes that his crush likes him back, expected to feel butterflies in his stomach and his heart fluttering.
Instead, he feels his stomach turned upside down, sick to its core and his heart feeling heavy with extreme palpitations.
“Uh . . . “ Walking backwards and accidentally stumbling on the desk behind him, Eunsang felt more nervous. Stuttering, he tried to continue, but was evidently unable to speak clearly,
Thanks . . uh . . . Thank you, Minhee.”
Hurriedly turning his back, he ran (sprinted) away from the room.
“Dongpyo, don’t be so loud. You know my mom hates loud noises coming from my room.”
“But Junho, your friend here acted so stupidly! Who would literally run away after hearing his crush’s confession?”
“I hate saying things like this, but I think Dongpyo has a point. Why did you run away anyway?”
“Of course, how can I not run away? I might have said ‘I like you too’ if I hadn’t!”
“You should have said that, you doofus!”
“Dongpyo, your voice please. And Eunsang, your brain.”
“You don’t understand! My mom said no girlfriends until college.”
“But Minhee is a prospective boyfriend.”
“I hate this, but I agree with Dongpyo. Again.”
“Neither of you are helping, you know.”
“Well it’s not like you’re any help to yourself either!!!” The two boys screamed in unison, just before Junho’s mom busted open the door, asking (reprimanding) them to just shut the hell up.
One day after the confession, Eunsang found himself lying in bed, even long after his alarm rang. He was distracted out of his reverie when a loud thud came from the door, followed by subsequent and continuous loud knocks.
“Eunsang-ah! You’ll be late for school!”
With a heavy sigh, he lazily stood up, lazily walked toward his bedroom door, lazily opened it for his sister, and lazily (and, he later thought, very randomly) asked, “What do you do when the classmate you like confessed admiration to you?”
Slightly backing away and unable to hide her disgust, his sister covered her nose, “Ew, your morning breath smells terrible. Did you even brush your teeth last night?”
Eunsang shook his head no, remembering how tired he was the previous night, with the memory of him running away repeatedly plaguing his mind, alongside his friends’ jeers: “Eunsang, you doofus. Eunsang, you stupid. Eunsang, you shouldn’t have ran. Eunsang, you shouldn’t have.”
He remembered how tired he was that he didn’t even wash after going home, couldn’t even have the strength to brush his teeth, and how he just tore off his uniform and wore whatever clothes he could find for sleeping.
“Bro, you also smell. You smell like charred smoke? Like samgyupsal?”
Ah, right. Last night was a semi-good night, Eunsang thought. He cheated on his diet and ate the samgyupsal served to them at Junho’s place, and he remembered how shamelessly he took such big portions. In a nutshell, he had some stress-eating last night.
Sighing yet again, Eunsang answered, “Noona, sorry I smell. But please answer my question: What do you do when the classmate you like likes you back?” He pleaded as cutely as he could, desperately hoping that his puppy eyes could mask the smell emanating from his mouth and body.
Still covering her nose, his sister laughed, “Well, it’s not really a problem? Just accept her confession! Bro, just ignore mom’s instruction of ‘no girlfriend until college.’ With your looks and smarts, it’ll be impossible for no one to like you. Anyway, just go take a shower and go to school, okay?” she instructed, walking away with a smile on her face at her brother’s first love. While walking though, she suddenly halted, as if remembering something.
“Wait, don’t you study at an all-boys’ school?” she asked, her steps put on hold.
With bated breath, Eunsang answered, “Yes.”
“Oh, that’s good then! At least you can try being a smartass if mom ever gets angry!” walking back towards Eunsang, she lowered her voice and (unsuccessfully) tried to imitate a man’s voice, “Mom, I followed your advice. I don’t have a girlfriend.”
Turning her back from Eunsang, she happily skipped away out of the hallway, out of the house and feeling excited at how her brother’s first love will turn out to be, “They grow up so fast,” she thought melodramatically, and exaggeratedly imagined how Eunsang might lose time for their sister-brother bonding moments, how Eunsang might no longer walk her home from the library, how perhaps, despite the close proximity of their schools they’d soon be unable to walk to their schools together. And with these thoughts in mind, she started wiping her metaphorical tears.
Eunsang however, was left in his room, still remembering yesterday, thinking, “Should I go to school today?”
An hour later, Eunsang did go to school. And he has his sister to blame. He wanted to skip school, but his sister gave him an earful of reprimands and nagging through the phone, repeatedly telling him not to be such a coward. “Bro! Eunsang! I can help you! Do you know how many boys I dated in high school?”
“Duh. I dated a lot! I just hid them well from mom.”
“Wait, are you proud of this?”
“Yeah. Wait, don’t you dare use that reprimanding and guilt-inducing tone of yours, Eunsang! This isn’t about me. This is about you and your first love. I can help you hide your relationship. Ooh, you can be Romeo and Juliet! Wait, Romeo and Romeo?”
“Uh… I don’t think that’s a good analogy, considering that our families, his and mine, aren’t even fighting? And that Romeo and Juliet died?”
“Fair enough. Anyway, just go date him! I’ll take care of the rest. And go to school. I’m serious: you need to maintain your good rankings even before and during dating the boy you like, or else mom might get real mad.”
And so, he went to school.
One whole hour late.
He tried to enter the classroom as surreptitiously and quietly as he could, but the classroom door creaked loudly, garnering the attention of the entire class. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him. Including, of course, Minhee’s.
Annoyed, he thought, “Lee Eunsang, you’re late and your homeroom teacher is probably angry as hell right now, but Minhee’s the only one your attention is on.”
“Lee Eunsang-gun,” their homeroom teacher said sternly, standing in front and holding a book in his hands, his eyes lowered as he stared at him, “You have cleaning duties.”
Eunsang inwardly groaned: their school gives detentions through giving cleaning duties. The thought of having to clean bathrooms is enough to make him shudder.
He was about to answer, to say anything in response to that, but he saw a certain someone raise his hand.
“Yes, Kang Minhee-gun?”
Minhee stood up and said, his tone as respectful as possible but with a tinge of uncertainty, “Mr. Park, I’ll be late tomorrow.”
Eunsang is merely on the sidelines, watching the scene unfold, his brows furrowed and his eyes curious at what exactly it was that Minhee wanted.
“Okay?” Mr. Park prompted him to continue, his tone confused and dubious “and?”
“Will it be alright if I do my cleaning duties in advance? Alongside Eunsang?”
If it weren’t totally embarrassing, Eunsang would have squealed right there and then, and jumped in excitement. And anxiety. And surprise. But mostly anxiety. And confusion. A lot of confusion.
He was further confused when Mr. Park merely sighed and nodded yes, as if just resigned to all the randomness Minhee shows and says.
What in the world just happened?
Most of the day passed by, and Eunsang tried hard to focus, but he just couldn’t. His attention should be on the teachers, on his school works, but no. All his attention this day, he restlessly gives to Minhee.
Minhee is an enigma, he concluded. (He has also been reading a lot of badly-written fanfiction that randomly and awkwardly use deep words, he later realized, with the way he has thought of the word enigma to describe Minhee. “Eunsang, you’re quite a cringe!” he thought. But really, Minhee is quite an enigma, he defended himself.. against himself).
Minhee is intelligent, and effortlessly so. He goes to school and sleeps in class most of the time, but is able to get away with it without much repercussions due to his innate ability to: (1) get high scores in quizzes all the time, and (2) to answer whatever questions their teachers have during discussions, despite being asleep for most of it.
Minhee is funny, and unexpectedly so. He seems to be cold on the outside, but in reality, he makes the funniest of face expressions inadvertently, and cracks jokes every now and then.
Minhee is such an enigmatic person, Eunsang thinks despite being repulsed at his own continuous usage of the word. But when he witnessed their last teacher for the day, Ms. Lee, reprimand Minhee for knitting during class hours, he accepted the fact that the boy he liked was not enigmatic.
Minhee was just… weird.
And Eunsang liked him exactly as he was.
After all classes were done, the
enigmatic weird boy approached him. Eunsang noticed Minhee’s cheeks, tinged with flush of red, evidently blushing. Eunsang felt excited at the realization that maybe, just maybe, Minhee does feel excited too whenever they interact. It would have been so romantic if it weren’t for the fact that this weird boy, his (??) boy was holding a pail of water in one hand, and a pail filled with cleaning materials on the other one.
Minhee cleared his throat. “So . . .” he gulped, as if hesitant and afraid to continue due to nervousness, “Uh… hmm..”
“Uh, Minhee?” Eunsang prompted.
Shyly looking at him, “Please don’t run away today? I just… I wanted to talk to you, and I didn’t know how to, so I did this…” holding the pails in his both hands and showing them to Eunsang, “..thing. I didn’t know, but it seemed like uh.. it seemed like a good idea earlier, to clean with you.”
It was then Eunsang’s turn to blush. In the midst of feeling giddy and excited though, Eunsang grew confused, “Wait, I mean… you could have just talked to me during lunch break? Why go through the hassle of cleaning bathrooms?”
Minhee’s voice suddenly turned small as he said without pause and with much nervousness, “maybe I just didn’t want you to be alone in cleaning.”
Eunsang didn’t know it was possible, but he and Minhee blushed a deeper shade of red, and he could feel his heart beating faster and faster and… and it would have been such a romantic moment. If it weren’t for the fact that they were literally standing outside the men’s bathroom area, their surroundings reeking of the smell of pee.
They had two bathrooms to clean: the first one was on the left wing of the building, and the second one, on the right wing. Cleaning the first bathroom went as uneventfully as it possibly could, with neither of them able to say anything, merely stealing glances at each other. For a boy who claims to have done cleaning duties so they could talk, Minhee was being awfully quiet.
On the second bathroom, Minhee finally did speak in the middle of cleaning, “May I ask why you ran away?”
“Oh,” Eunsang blinked, “I… I don’t know?”
“You don’t know?” Minhee asked softly, confusion evident in his eyes as he walked toward Eunsang, rubber plunger still in hand.
Despite the completely unromantic surroundings and scenario, Eunsang weirdly found his heart beating fast, pulsating against his chest. Again. Minhee is a weird boy who looks cute when he’s confused, Eunsang thought. The sight of Minhee walking nearer toward him though was enough to make him almost squeal.
Soon, they were face to face and in awfully close proximity with each other, and Eunsang could swear he hears the other boy’s heartbeat.
Oh my god, Eunsang thought, will we have our first kiss now? But… I haven’t even confessed that I like him back! What if he thinks I’m easy? And I don’t want to have our first kiss right now! He’s holding a rubber plunger, while I’m holding a bathroom brush! It’s quite weird! But a kiss is a kiss, and maybe it’ll be fine wherever or whenever it happens. Should I pout now? Close my eyes? Wait, what am I supposed to do? WAIT, DID I BRUSH MY TEETH? And—
The monologue inside his head was momentarily put to a halt when his knees physically grew weak at his imagination, feeling like jelly. And he found himself literally falling to the floor…
Until Minhee caught him and held him; Minhee’s hand, the one not holding the rubber plunger, on his waist.
Panicking and almost breathless, Eunsang stared at Minhee’s eyes and promptly pulled away from the latter’s grasp. Nervously chuckling and scratching his nape, Eunsang stuttered, “Uh…” cue awkward laughter, “Ha.. ha… ha..” taking one step back, and another, “Uh… bye, Minhee!” he said, turning his back on the other boy, running as fast as he could outside the door and into the hallway, the bathroom brush still on his hand.
(In the evening, during a group video chat with his friends)
Dongpyo: What in the world, Eunsang?! Junho! Can you believe Eunsang?
Junho: I don’t know. All I know is, if this Minhee guy still likes him after all the things he has done in the span of two days, then he really likes this idiot.
Dongpyo: Well, I’m not sure if Minhee will be idiotic enough to like an idiot like Eunsang?
Eunsang: Guys, stop. I’m having a hard time and I’m beating myself over this—
Dongpyo: As you should! You should regret your life decisions right now, Lee Eunsang!
Junho: Uh, Dongpyo, let the dude finish speaking.
Eunsang: Thanks Junho. Anyway, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I went home with a bathroom cleaning brush and with a shit ton of shame. *gasp* I left him alone cleaning the 2nd bathroom, and I didn’t even help him! Oh no!
Dongpyo: Really, Eunsang? That’s what you’re thinking of right now? Why don’t you think of the possibility that Minhee will forget about you and move on from you after all these?
Eunsang: Guys, what in the world should I do?!
Dongpyo and Junho: Just confess!!!
Junho: What makes you so afraid to confess in the first place?
Eunsang: Well… I don’t know. I’m afraid of what others might say if I date another boy… and I wonder what my parents might think…
Dongpyo: Well, don’t let those thoughts stop you from pursuing what makes you happy! You do you, Eunsang!
Junho: I can’t believe I’ve been agreeing consistently with Dongpyo for two days in a row now, but yeah. I agree. Again.
Dongpyo: I don’t know if this will make you feel better or not, but if things end up not working out between the two of you, please just know that Minhee is the type of person that sometimes go to your school without bathing. The longest he’s gone without bathing was around 5 days?
Junho: I don’t know what to do with this information. How did you even know this?!
Dongpyo: Well, I’m friends with Minhee’s best friend, Yunseong. And Yunseong once told me, while laughing loudly, about Minhee’s gross hygiene.
Junho: Ugh. Yuck. Wait, Eunsang, what are you doing?
Eunsang: *His hands covered his face, trying (and utterly failing) to suppress a giggle*
Junho: Are you… giggling right now? Uh, why?
Eunsang: *finally removing his hands from his face, and looking at the phone screen with a huge smile plastered on his face* I… He always smells so good. Like marshmallows. I just couldn’t help but feel giddy at the thought of how much more good smelling he’ll be if he has good hygiene?
Junho: He has it bad.
Dongpyo: Yeah. Well, good night Eunsang. Don’t you dare talk to us tomorrow, unless it’s to say you’ve finally accepted lover boy’s confession.
“I promise I won’t laugh.”
His sister promised this when she saw Eunsang glum and feeling blue while walking together to school. Immediately, she knew that it was about his first love.
A few seconds after making said promise though, she found herself breaking it, as she laughed uproariously at her brother’s latest misadventure. “You…” gasping for breath in between her laughs, she struggled to continue, “you…” some more laughter, louder and louder each time, making Eunsang blush in embarrassment.
“Hey, you promised you won’t laugh!”
“Sorry! I guess I lied?” she answered, still laughing. Once she managed to calm herself down though, she tried (and later ultimately failed) to speak seriously to Eunsang (though there was still a ghost of a grin in her face, unable to fully stop laughing or smiling.)
“So… are you sure he doesn’t think of you as a Cinderella yet? With the amount of times you’ve ran away, I would have thought of you as one.”
Literally facepalming, Eunsang realized that his sister would just make fun of him and wisely decided to just walk as quickly as he could, leaving his sister screaming and running after him, “Hey, Eunsang, sorry! Wait up! Hey!!!”
He went to school on time today. Unlike Minhee, who wasn’t at his designated seat yet. Once he has settled into his seat, his seatmate, Hyeongjun, spoke to him. Momentarily putting down the manhwa he was reading, he asked “Hey. What was with Minhee yesterday? Did he tell you why he’d be late today?”
“Uh, no. Why?”
Hyeongjun shrugged, “Nothing. I was just curious. Anyway, does he like you?”
Eunsang almost choked on his own saliva at the suddenness of the question, “What?”
Once again, Hyeongjun just shrugged, “Nothing. It’s just obvious. And oh, you like him too, right?”
“Wait, what?!” he exclaimed, attracting the attention of the others in the room, prompting him to apologize and speak in a softer tone, “I mean.. what? Is it obvious?”
“Yeah. I mean, during classes, you look at Minhee in the back row more than you look at the teacher.”
“How about him? How did you know he likes me?”
“Well, I mean… he looks more at you than he ever does at the teacher.”
“How about you? How in the world could you notice these things?”
“Well, I… I look more at the two of you than I ever did at the teacher. I mean, you guys are loads more interesting than any teacher. So, did you guys start dating yet?”
“You… you’re a weird guy, Hyeongjun.”
Hyeongjun just shrugged yet again as he went back to reading his manhwa.
The homeroom teacher arrived, and still, no Minhee. Said boy only arrived around thirty minutes later, giving a respectful bow to Mr. Park.
The day passed by, with Eunsang and Minhee stealing glances at each other, and more than once or twice accidentally meeting each other’s gazes.
During their English class in the afternoon though, Hyeongjun decided that he’s had enough.
Their English teacher, Mr. Cho Seungyoun, was a free-spirited, fun-loving teacher who was more of a hyung than a teacher. And as such, he was quite flexible with the activities and instructions he gives the students.
For the energizer of the lesson for that day, he wanted the students to pair up and do some crossword puzzles together. “You can just pair up with your seatmate, or you can tell me if you want to be paired with someone else.” The entire class just agreed with being paired up with their seatmates, saying that it’ll be less work that way.
During the whole time Mr. Cho was speaking, Hyeongjun kept on looking at Eunsang, who was only looking blankly at Mr. Cho. Then he occasionally turned to the back to look at Minhee, whose gaze was always just directed downwards.
Huffing at the two potential lovebirds’ inability to do one simple thing for each other, he raised his hand up high.
“Uh, yes, Hyeongjun-gun?”
“Can I please be paired up with Minkyu instead? Eunsang is an indecisive prick who probably won’t be able to answer the crossword puzzle because of his indecisiveness.”
Eunsang looked at Mr. Cho, who was sporting the same look of confusion that he has, “Okay?” Mr. Cho said, “You may pair up with Minkyu instead, if Eunsang will be fine by it.”
“Yeah..” Eunsang said, still confused at Hyeongjun’s sudden slander against him, “Yeah, it’s fine, I guess.”
And it was a decision Eunsang promptly regretted when the realization dawned on him: Minkyu was Minhee’s seatmate. Bewildered, he looked at Hyeongjun, who merely winked at him.
It was weird, Eunsang thought: It is a well-known fact that Minhee is smart. He is the top 3 in class, and that was despite all the times he slept in class instead of actually studying. It is also a well-known fact that Eunsang is smart. He is the top 1 in class. When his diligence and innate intelligence was combined, it made for one hell of a good student.
So how come they got such a low score at the crossword puzzles? Two top students who were quite competent in English got such a low score.
Maybe it was because he was distracted with how the strands of Minhee’s hair fall, framing his face. Or maybe it was because Minhee’s voice just sounds so darn beautiful, and that was why he couldn’t focus whenever Minhee asks something. Or maybe…
Maybe he is just bothered about the two times he ran away when he shouldn’t have, and thoughts of the past two days are still plaguing him.
When classes ended for the day, Minhee approached him again. “Hey Eunsang, can we talk? On the rooftop?”
“Yeah.. I figured if we talk at a high place it’ll be hard for you to run.”
Embarrassed, Eunsang directed his gaze downwards, towards the floor. “Sorry, really. I’m sorry for running. And oh, don’t worry, we can talk here. I promise I won’t run, no matter what happens.”
They were in the school’s reading area, where chairs and tables were placed for whoever wants to loiter around while waiting for classes and other stuff like that. Mostly it has become a place to chat with peers.
Sitting across Eunsang, with a table between the two of them, Minhee smiled shyly, “Sorry if I’ve been.. making you anxious. Is that the right term?”
“I.. I frankly don’t know, Minhee.”
“Well, whatever it is, I’m sorry. I guess I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable.”
“Can you please tell me why, first?”
Minhee blinked, “What? What do you mean?”
Fidgeting with his fingers, with his hands sat on the table, Eunsang found himself unable to meet Minhee’s gaze, “I mean.. can you tell me why you like me?”
“Will this lessen your.. discomfort?”
“I think it’ll help me cope with my fear.”
Minhee’s eyes widened in surprise, “Oh.. fear.”
“Yes, fear. It’s the only reason why I always ran away from you. Even before your confession, I have been feeling this. Fear. I’m afraid of my attraction toward you”
Finally gazing toward Minhee but still not quite meeting his eyes, “Why not? What’s not to fear?” sighing deeply, “I like you. I never said it before, but I think you know. I like you so much. But what if… what if we end up hurting each other? I would rather we have fond memories of each other, than sad memories should we end up causing each other pain.” Fidgeting with his hands, he once again stared blankly, his eyes directed on the table. “My parents don’t know I like boys. My sister does, and she’s accepting of it. She accepts everything about me. But my parents…” gathering his courage, he stared at Minhee in the eye, and saw an unreadable expression in his eyes that one might think of as sadness.
“Minhee, what if I accept your confession, and end up leaving you just so I could please my parents?”
Smiling sadly, Minhee just shrugged, “So what?”
“I don’t see any problem. The only problem I see is that you’re too busy thinking about the future, that you’ve forgotten to live in the now.” With more confidence and optimism in his eyes, Minhee dared to hold Eunsang’s hands on the table, clasping his fingers against Eunsang’s. “If you like me too, can’t you please give me a chance? Give us a chance? Please… just please give it a try first. Try dating me, try being with me, and let’s see if we’ll be good for each other or not.”
Feeling emotional, Eunsang’s voice cracked, a lump in his throat very evident, “Why are you trying so hard for me?”
“Because you’re worth it.”
“Yes. I had a crush on you the very first day I laid my eyes on you, during the first day of high school. I ignored it, ignored my feelings because of the same reason you ran away from me.” A deep sigh, “I also felt afraid, Eunsang. But you… you made it harder and harder for me to be affected by my fear.
“Your kindness makes you more beautiful and handsome than you already are, Eunsang. Whenever Hyeongjun cries, you listen so well and so patiently. Whenever some of our classmates struggle with the lessons, you patiently teach them despite their difficulties learning. And oh, do you remember that one time you paid for an elderly man’s groceries when he realized he didn’t have enough money? That one was something I could never forget. You’re so patient and so kind and I…
Smiling bashfully, “I guess you inspired me to be the best version of myself. I have a bit of a mean streak. And also a “perpetually indifferent to other people streak”. But the more I see you be kind, the more I fall for you. And the more I fall for you, the more I gain strength to say my feelings to you.” Scratching his own head and hanging his head in embarrassment, “I quite hate myself though, for taking almost two years to come to terms with how I feel.” Holding Eunsang’s hands even tighter and looking at him even more intensely, “You… Eunsang, I.. I hope you know that I can wait, no matter how long it takes for you to come to terms with your feelings.”
Overwhelmed with emotions, Eunsang struggled to stop his tears from falling, “Thank you, Minhee. And I… I think..” smiling contently, “I think we should give this a try.”
Minhee grinned from ear to ear, and held Eunsang’s hand close to him, placing a kiss on it.
“I can’t promise anything though, Minhee,” Eunsang said reluctantly, ”I can’t promise that I can fight for us, should that day come. I can’t promise I’ll be strong enough, I can’t—”
Minhee stood up and went to Eunsang, pulling the other boy in a hug, effectively silencing his concerns. “It’s going to be fine. Everything will be fine.”
“And if things go awry?”
“Then at least we know we gave it a try, right?”
Eunsang didn’t know whether other people saw them, and surprisingly, he found himself not caring. All he knows right now is that he’s in Minhee’s arms, and no matter what happens in the future, he gave them a chance.
(In the evening, during another group video chat)
Dongpyo: Why are you in this video chat? We told you not to talk to us unless you accept lover boy’s confession!
Eunsang: And I have!
Dongpyo and Junho, in unison: REALLY?!
Eunsang: YES! I’m so excited and giddy and just so in love. Hey, don’t you think I’m moving too fast?
Dongpyo and Junho: NO!
Junho: Dude, you’ve been pining over the guy for two years now.
Dongpyo: If anything, you were moving too slow.
Junho: Seeing Eunsang all happy and excited makes me wanna fall in love, too!
Dongpyo: Unfortunately, you like neither boys nor girls. Do you even feel attraction to anyone?
Junho: Shut up you midget!
Dongpyo: Shut up, you goblin!
Eunsang: Wait, you guys, Minhee is giving me a call. I’ll go answer this, talk to you later!
Eunsang: *leaves the video chat*
Dongpyo: Oh my god, it’s happening.
Junho: ,,,, why is everyone like this when they date?