It was happening again.
Minhyun tossed on his bed and faced the wall with a grim expression, an unsatisfied breath leaving his lips. It has been at least forty minutes since he switched off his lamp and tried to go to sleep, and knowing that he’s in the middle of his REM cycle now, he’d probably feel lethargic in the morning if he falls asleep now.
Well, that is if he could sleep.
See, Minhyun considers himself a rather reasonable person. He tolerates more than he should with certain people while still having his guard up so he wouldn’t be taken advantage of, but more than often he’s always ready to forgive any small wrongdoings. Once, Jaehwan had nearly hit his car and that definitely isn’t a small mistake, but Minhyun is nice. That’s what everyone says. Hwang Gallyang, his friends would coo. My religion is Hwang Minhyun!, the devil Jaehwan would bring up every time Minhyun saved him from trouble.
So, Minhyun is nice. With a loving family and strong moral values, he had to be. Everyone sings praises about him everywhere he goes, it’s almost like it is attributed to him.
That’s why he can’t help but to feel a little bit guilty for cursing his roommate when the noise becomes significantly louder that Minhyun had to reach to his bedside drawer to grab his sleeping earbuds.
Ong Seongwu is a pretty nice guy. He’s polite, occasionally cracks jokes that would make Minhyun’s face break into a grin and most importantly, he’s clean. God knows the amount of messy roommates Minhyun had to go through before Seongwu got assigned to his dorm two months ago. They aren’t particularly close friends, per se, but Seongwu is nice and Minhyun knows when someone harbours an interest in him. It’s not hard to tell from the way Seongwu’s eyes light up every time Minhyun returns to their dorm or when he tries to hide his blush whenever Minhyun scoots closer to him on the study table. The final confirmation was when Jaehwan, being in the same music composition lecture as Seongwu, spilled the beans about Seongwu harbouring a small crush on Minhyun. Small, because Seongwu is a shy person himself contrary to his confident exterior and he’s never made any big advances. Minhyun finds it cute, he couldn’t deny it himself that he finds the other man attractive, and often purses his lips in a knowing smile.
They say their hi’s when they cross paths on campus and sometimes walk to their shared class together and make small talks on the dining table but never anything more than that. The most intense conversation they had was probably when Seongwu broke the shower head midst bathing and he had to call Minhyun in because he had no idea how to fix it. Minhyun did, of course, without hesitation. With a reddened face. Seongwu laughed.
Minhyun had almost listed Seongwu as the best roommate he ever had until the other boy started making sounds. Or noises. Or whatever, that keeps Minhyun lying awake at night. And it has been weeks.
The first night it happened, Minhyun thought he had been dreaming. The noise sounded like papers rustling and Minhyun knows Seongwu doesn’t have a habit of studying at midnight so it couldn’t have been from books. He brushed the thought away, thinking the noise was coming from outside the window.
A couple of nights later when Minhyun forgot to wear his sleeping earbuds, there was another noise and it woke him up, startled. It was a little creepy because it sounded like two palms rubbing against each other and Minhyun did not like the sound of it. He thought Seongwu must have been cold, but if that’s the case, he was rubbing his hands a bit too loud, isn’t he? When it continued on for a few more minutes and Minhyun realized he couldn’t fall back to sleep, he made it a point to tell Seongwu the next morning to increase the air conditioner temperature. He huffed in silence when he heard Seongwu rubbing his palms faster.
It goes on for nearly a month. Every night brings a different type of noise that Minhyun begins to guess warily what he would hear the next night. It’s annoying and if it isn’t for Minhyun’s mother (bless her soul) who advised him to be nice to the people he’s living with in university, he wouldn’t hesitate to give a good scolding to Seongwu, maybe even throw in a cuss. Sometimes he actually wonders what Seongwu is making those repetitive noises for, but it’s not like he could see the other boy. To do that he would need to peek behind the partition wall that sets both their rooms apart which would be sort of weird to do so (The university be damned for having such a dorm structure). Though, without the wall the noise would probably be louder and it would give Minhyun more reason to kick Seongwu in the shin. Watch your manners, Minhyun could hear his mom nagging at his intentions.
Schlick, schlick, schlick. Minhyun could hear the sounds despite jamming in his earbuds and putting a pillow on his head. He sighs against the sheet. He clicks open his phone and sees that he has roughly another half an hour before his new REM cycle starts, so he kicks his blanket off, figuring that he might as well play a game of guessing the sound while he waits. He hangs his legs on the edge of the bed, swinging them a bit harshly and tapping one foot on the ground, hoping that Seongwu would hear the shake but then he contorts his face into a grimace when he realizes how dumb it is.
Schlick, schlick. Today’s noise sounds moist, like sticking your hand in mud. He notes that at least it doesn’t sound as bad as the wood chopping noises from several nights ago. That gave Minhyun a terrible headache in the morning and he had to stop himself from sending death glares to Seongwu, who only responded with a cheerful smile.
What is this sound? Minhyun tries to concentrate and visualise it. He hates that Seongwu is giving him another problem to solve, as if Minhyun isn’t already running on minimum hours of sleep. The human auditory system does seem amusing when he couldn’t picture anything just by hearing the smooth, slick sound. The frequency is getting faster. It sounds like scooping cheesy macaroni now and Minhyun almost bursts out laughing when he remembers the tweet comparing pasta to jerking off.
Minhyun chokes on his own spit before he knows it. He beat his chest several times and swallowed his coughs, before Seongwu could hear him.
He wasn’t— he wasn’t listening to any of that, was he?
Schlick, schlick. The noise responds to his inner question. Minhyun curses again and bites down on his tongue. At first, Minhyun feels a pool of guilt crawling in the pit of his stomach. This isn’t being invasive, is it? Technically, they are sharing a room and Minhyun should have done whatever it takes to respect Seongwu’s privacy. The useless partition wall should be cursed for being too thin to block out noise. Then on second thought, he remembers that they are sharing a room and how much does Minhyun know about Seongwu anyway? Suddenly, stories of weird roommates he hears around campus flood through his mind and he gets very anxious. Nervously biting his fingernails, he sneaks a glance at the end of the partition wall, where it meets an empty space just before their dining table; somehow paranoid that Seongwu is looking over at him. He wished he had Minki back as his roommate. The boy may be loud and cranky but at least he had no weird habits.
Stop making baseless judgements on people, Minhyun’s mom would nag. Minhyun breathes out a sigh of relief when the sounds fade out. He perks his ears when he hears rustling of sheets and a static silence that follows.
He covers himself back underneath his duvet. Even though he is not sure of Seongwu’s intentions, he feels creeped out to say the least. He should have noticed the first time it happened, or the sexual puns Seongwu makes that probably has a hidden agenda.
He couldn’t sleep the entire night. His REM cycle be damned.
When Minhyun sends in a request for a room switch to the department the next day, he feels a little apologetic. There are many times past midnight where he would disturb my sleep, Minhyun had justified in the paper. It is starting to affect my rest and health.
It feels unfair for Seongwu. Minhyun knows he should have talked to him first before making any huge decisions but it is too awkward to bring it up since they aren’t very close with each other. Minhyun brushes the feeling aside, reassuring himself that it was probably for the best.
It remained the same for the next several days. The same noise lasted more nights than usual and Minhyun had to sleep over at Jaehwan’s dorm; embarrassed and terrified at the same time. Minhyun is pretty sure that if his roommate isn’t weird, he must at least be an exhibitionist and Minhyun refuses to tolerate a second longer with that.
“Good morning”, Seongwu chirps when they meet at the door where the shoe rack is. Minhyun went back to his own dorm last night, after doing some late night studying in the library. The thought of Seongwu didn’t even cross his mind because he was so tired. Minhyun goes blank for a while since he fell asleep for a good four hours which is not a smart idea at all because now his body refuses to wake up, before turning completely red as a tomato when he sees Seongwu’s face and suddenly everything comes flooding back. “Uh”, he stammers, looking at Seongwu who is happily tying his shoelaces. “Good morning.”
“We have a class together today, don’t we? Let’s just walk there together then.” Seongwu continues, moving on to his right foot.
“We do?” Minhyun squeeks. He clears his throat when Seongwu sends him a puzzled look. “I mean, yeah, of course. I forgot the schedule reshuffled again.” He bends down, deciding that it’s time to behave less of a fool and begin wearing his shoes.
“I heard Miss Hyowon is a bit of a bitch”, Seongwu says. He patiently waits for Minhyun to nitpick at his laces, tying them again when he’s not satisfied with the length. “Sungwoon hyung took her composition class last year and only half of them barely passed.”
“Oh?” Minhyun gives a clever answer.
Seongwu’s eyebrows are drawn together in concern, “Have you not been sleeping well lately?”
Minhyun runs his tongue across his teeth and tries not to turn red. “It’s….. fine.” He stands up after brushing his pants, impatiently walking away from his roommate.
“You remind me of our pandas”, Jaehwan tells Minhyun when the trio meets for breakfast before their class. Jaehwan looks expectant for Minhyun’s response and because Minhyun loves his friends, he gives in.
“Do enlighten me”, Minhyun replies flatly.
“They’re almost extinct, like nice men like you, and have dark circles around their eyes.”
Minhyun snickers the same time Daniel laughs like it’s the best joke he’s ever heard. Jaehwan looks like he earned a hundred brownie points. “Seriously hyung, are you going for a goth look or what? You look like Wednesday Addams.”
Minhyun groans and buries his head in his arms on the table. “Try getting twenty minutes of sleep for the last 36 hours.”
“Are you serious?” Daniel widens his eyes behind his cheeseburger. “You’re going to pass out at this rate.”
“I hate my roommate.” Minhyun says, which just comes out sounding like a muffled grumble.
Daniel whistles, “It’s gotta be serious, coming from you. What happened?”
Minhyun turns his head and makes sure the coast is clear before lowering his voice, “I think he’s a pervert.”
The disclosure made his friends go wide-eyed. Jaehwan leans closer, “Shit, for real? Did he try something on you?”
Minhyun scratches the back of his neck. “Well, no.” He says. “He just keeps making these noises at night.”
“Dude, have you heard Daniel? He snores like a dying whale every night.”
“Hey”, the accused boy pouts in dejection.
Minhyun still isn’t convinced. “They’re weird and loud though, almost like….” He reddens. “Something you shouldn’t do when your roommate is around.”
Daniel shudders with his nose scrunched, “Alright, that’s enough information for me. Report him to the help desk.”
“I already did a few days ago. It’s probably in the process.” Minhyun still feels guilty and considered taking back his request multiple times,
“He doesn’t look like that kind, honestly”, Jaehwan tells a barely convinced Minhyun. “But you should definitely opt for a room change if something is really weird. Even if they’re absolutely gorgeous boys, oh my god, they’re the most sus. Gotta be careful on who you trust these days.”
Minhyun comes back to find Seongwu sitting on his swivel chair. He has his back facing Minhyun while he stares mindlessly out of the window. If Minhyun hadn’t coughed out a greeting, he probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Seongwu would usually greet Minhyun with an eye smile whenever they stumble onto each other at the front door or when they’re heading out at the same time. His canine tooth will show and Minhyun would be lying if he says he doesn’t find the man’s constellation moles (Those are galaxy birthmarks, as Jaehwan would once wax poems about them) pretty; they are etched just nicely on his left cheekbone, greeting him happily every time Seongwu smiles at him.
Now, Seongwu just turns around and parts his lips in surprise. Minhyun swears he sees a frown tugging on the corners of his mouth. It doesn’t suit him.
“You’re switching rooms?” Seongwu hazarded; no signs of guilt written on his face when Minhyun frowned at the interruption. An awkward tension rises in the room. Seongwu is staring wide-eyed just barely a feet away, and Minhyun tries to look away, to look anywhere from the boy’s eyes that seem to droop with many questions. It was a mistake to focus on his chest because Seongwu had chosen today to wear a thin white shirt, where the fabric pulls together nicely on his toned stomach that is very much visible. Minhyun can feel his ears turning hot.
He quickly gazes down to Seongwu’s hands where his fingers meet a familiar white piece of paper. Ah.
“Um”, Minhyun hesitates. Seongwu is still looking at him expectantly, round eyes focusing on his face. “Yeah, I did.”
“But, why?” There’s a lilt to his voice, pitched slightly higher that sounded like a whine. It nearly catches Minhyun off guard. “I thought you liked me as a roommate”, he ends with a smaller voice.
Minhyun feels exasperated. He’s not used to confronting people, especially not to Seongwu who has been nothing but nice the entire time, and now he feels stuck in the situation. “Don’t take it personally”, he tries weakly.
“You literally said I was jeopardizing your health! What the hell does that even mean?”
“Sleep”, Minhyun murmurs underneath his breath.
“I said you jeopardized my sleep”, Minhyun said, shooting a glare at the other, simultaneously holding himself back from sputtering further nonsense and trying not to look at Seongwu directly in the eyes. He wasn’t angry and he doubts Seongwu is too; his nostrils aren’t flared and he isn’t screaming.
When Seongwu only responds with a confused look, Minhyun sighs, running his fingers through his bangs. “Listen Seongwu”, he starts, “you’re a good roommate.”
“This feels like a break up”, Seongwu says aloud out of panic.
“I like you?” Minhyun tries again, and then turns beet red when he sees Seongwu widening his eyes. He waves his hands frantically, “No, I don’t mean it like that! I mean — yes there’s a possibility but — no, stop, don’t look at me like that — that’s not the important thing right now.” He breathes out, “I do like you, but you’re really making me get no sleep at all. And that’s not good.” He shakes his head in final confirmation. “Yeah, it’s not good at all. In fact, my friends have been calling me a panda.”
The crease comes back between Seongwu’s eyebrows that are drawn together in concern, “Is it because of the noise?”
“The fuck?” Minhyun retaliates. That’s another twenty cents in the swear jar, he can hear his mom say. He scratches irritably at the back of his neck, “You knew it the whole time?”
Seongwu blinks. “Know what?”
“That you’re jerking off really loudly!” Minhyun accuses. When he finally hears himself, he shuts his mouth and turns bright red.
The next few seconds were impeccably slow. Seongwu stared blankly for a second before his face broke into a grin and a string of laughter poured out from his mouth, and soon he was hysterically laughing, almost crouching down to the floor. “Oh my god”, he wheezes, holding one hand on his stomach, while Minhyun is standing stagnant, confused.
“What? What is it?” Minhyun mutters.
“You thought I was jerking off”, Seongwu is still laughing with an amused look on his face. “No. No. Do you even know how thick the wall is?”
“I’m aware”, Minhyun protests. “But it went on for days!”
Seongwu glances at the dumbfounded look on Minhyun’s face. He chuckles. “Minhyun. Minhyun, oh my god. I was making ASMR.”
Jaehwan exchanges a dangerous glance with Daniel. Say something to him, he tries wiggling his eyebrows, hoping that Daniel will understand the message. Daniel shakes his head, No, you go first! He attempts to convince Jaehwan by pouting his lower lip which looks absolutely ridiculous. You’re not helpful, Jaehwan rolls his eyes. He sighs.
“So you….” Jaehwan starts it off.
Well. That wasn’t too hard.
Daniel continues, “And he…”
Minhyun heaves a sigh before lifting his head up from his crossed arms and sees his friends exchanging another look. Jaehwan is turning blue trying to hold in a giggle. “What did he say?”
“Nothing”, Mihyun exclaims exasperatedly. “He just laughed, and kept on laughing for an entire hour. When I texted you guys, he was on the floor laughing. I left the room and he was still laughing.”
Daniel finally gives in and throws his head back in a loud laugh. “Jesus, hyung. I don’t know which one of you is the bigger virgin here.”
“Stop”, Minhyun groans. Burying his face in his hands, he mumbles, “God, this is so embarrassing. Should I switch schools? Better yet, should I move to a different country? Change my name to fucking Miguel or something.”
“It’s not that bad”, Jaehwan tries to reason with him.
“Jaehwan, he was making an innocent ASMR. I accused him of exhibitionism and complained about him to the department.”
“Yeah you’re right, Miguel doesn’t sound too horrible now.”
Minhyun groans and questions God about what he has done wrong in his life to be humiliated like this. His phone dings with a new notification and he groans louder upon seeing the message.
“Seongwu is hailing me back home”, Minhyun whines. “I can’t face him again!”
Daniel happily slurps on his iced tea, “Aw, home. Just saying, the both of you would make a cute couple.”
“A chaotic one”, Jaehwan adds gleefully.
“Oh, that’s a given.”
“So you’re not mad?”
Seongwu could only sigh and shake his head for the tenth time, but happily indulged in Minhyun’s need for validation, “No. Of course not. It’s just a small misunderstanding.”
“A rather huge one if you ask me”, Minhyun mutters under his breath.
It took Seongwu another ten minutes to control his laughter when Minhyun returned before they had the Big Talk. It might have been funny, but the department took it quite seriously and had asked to meet Seongwu to clarify. Minhyun had to explain to them patiently on the phone, apologizing profusely for the misunderstanding and impulsive decision.
“Minhyun, it’s chill”, Seongwu reassures him again. He chuckles, “At least something funny happened in this awful, tasteless year.”
Minhyun hesitates. “Why ASMR though?”
Seongwu smiles. “I have insomnia”, he explains. “Ten to one in the morning is the most difficult time for me to fall asleep in, so I usually do a livestream.”
“I’m really sorry though, I didn’t know you were awake this whole time”, Seongwu continues.
Minhyun shakes his head. How could Seongwu be apologetic when it was clearly Minhyun’s fault? He will never be able to live this embarrassment down.
“You’re funny as hell, Minhyun”, Seongwu chuckles again, leaning back comfortably on the wall of his bed. “You have this put-together image and people worship you on your feet not knowing you’re chaotic like everyone else.”
Minhyun pouts, recalling an Internet meme he saw a few times, “Minhyun goes brr.”
Seongwu gapes at him. “You —”
“No, what the hell?” Seongwu looks starstrucked. “Can I take you out sometime?”
“Duh”, Seongwu exaggerates with a giggle. “I’ve always thought you’re cute, obviously, but I had a hard time cracking my head to say something intellectual ‘cause I thought you were alllllll the way up there, philosophical and all and I can never really mix well with posh kids but looks like we have similar, shitty humor.”
“You’re awful”, Minhyun chews on his lips. “I have a request before that."
“Let me see how you do your ASMR live stream tonight.”
Seongwu leans in closer and Minhyun’s ears immediately feel hot. Seongwu is definitely prettier up close. Seongwu scans his face before he grins, “You still think I’m jerking off, don’t you?”
“N— No! No, stop laughing!”
They are on a double date, or more like Jaehwan and Daniel insisted on third-wheeling because they are absolutely shameless when it comes to their best friend. It took them less than an hour to decide that Seongwu is a good match for their Minhyun. Only Seongwu is able to put up with Minhyun’s questionable antics.
Jaehwan slurps on his orange juice loudly, “If they’re both stupid, call me shipping cupid.”