Chapter 13: Chapter 13.
“Did you see the workshop schedule for the first quarter?” Jihoon asked Woojin who just returned from a long conference call with the business department team. When Woojin sat down wearily, Jihoon patted his head.
Jihoon was smiling widely as if he had good news. One of the things Jihoon never forgot to do everyday was to visit the secretarial and HR teams and gossip with them. Jihoon was always the first one to find out the latest news and rumors in the office.
Woojin quietly pushed Jihoon’s hand away and shook his head. It was one of Jihoon’s habits Woojin hated: touching Woojin without warning.
Jihoon grinned and asked, “Are you going to skip work again soon? Like the last time?”
“… It’s none of your business.”
Woojin always gave him the same answer to any personal questions he asked, but Jihoon seemed unfazed. Persistence had to be his middle name.
Jihoon smiled at Woojin like he found him cute, and pulled the chair closer to Woojin.
Woojin wished he was alone right now, but Jihoon was right there staring at him. It seemed that Jihoon had been behaving more familiarly now to him than before.
When Jihoon continued to look at him curiously, Woojin finally had to ask, “What do you want?”
His grin getting wider, Jihoon answered with another question, “Is it really true you ate lunch with Shin Kim today?”
“Apparently the entire marketing team went into a shock after you dropped by before lunch time to see Shin Kim. I heard Chief Seulgi Kim is very upset about the whole thing. I think it’s for a good reason.”
“So what made you do such a thing? I thought you never made friends at work.”
Woojin wondered if Shin Kim and himself were friends. Were they?
There were many times when a relationship couldn’t be easily defined by one word, but the society always wanted a name for all relationships. Family, friend, co-worker, colleague, boyfriend, girlfriend, or lover.
Slowly, Woojin replied, “… he isn’t my friend.”
“Then what is he to you? You always eat alone and stay alone. Wasn’t today the first time you voluntarily had lunch with someone at work? And it was a person from another department too! So crazy!”
When Jihoon looked at him suspiciously, Woojin looked down and wondered again.
Were they friends?
Woojin had lived his 30 years of life a little differently than everyone else. Things that most people experienced were still unfamiliar to him.
A hug from a mother, a praise from a father, having a close friend, and… having a lover.
Even when he was only a little boy, his mother and father found it difficult and awkward to be his parents. Woojin’s father often reprimanded him for little things. He told Woojin to always be quiet. He even told Woojin to breathe quietly. Woojin’s father was unhappy that Woojin didn’t resemble him one bit.
Jihoon asked when Woojin remained quiet, “What are you thinking about?”
“… Just go back to work, Jihoon.”
Jihoon looked at Woojin with an unreadable expression before grinning naughtily. He mussed Woojin’s hair, and Woojin looked away. Somehow, Jihoon had a knowing expression on his face and Woojin couldn’t face him. He felt awkward.
Friend… a friend…
Was Shin Kim his friend?
Woojin moved around a lot as a child. His family was fairly well off, but they moved to different provinces many times until Woojin reached junior high school. His father lived abroad at least 6 months every year. He hated being photographed, and Woojin learned to feel the same about it. Woojin never attended his own graduations, and in the yearbooks, only his name was present and not his photos.
It was as if he led a life of a ghost.
Shin asked quietly, “What would you like to eat?” His voice was low and strong. Woojin looked up at him in surprise. No one ever asked Woojin what he wanted. To be fair, however, Woojin never really spent time with many people before.
Suddenly, Woojin realized that he thought Shin Kim was pretty. He never used the word “pretty” before, but now, the term seemed to fit Shin perfectly. Shin had such an expressive face. He shined like the sun. He had a face Woojin wanted to touch.
Woojin vaguely remembered telling Shin that he wanted to eat Korean for lunch. Woojin initially thought it wouldn’t have made much difference what they ate, but he was wrong.
Whenever Woojin ate with Shin Kim, he always felt hungry. While they ate, Shin separated the fishbones from the fish meat. He placed a meaty piece on Woojin’s plate. Shin also pushed the best dishes, mostly meat, towards Woojin.
Shin also looked up at Woojin often, as if to make sure Woojin was eating well. Woojin felt hot again, so he kept his face down. In the end, Woojin was again able to finish his meal.
He emptied his plates.
Ever since Woojin met Shin Kim, he began to have slightly different dreams. In his recent dreams, Shin appeared as an adult. He would grab Woojin and breathe into him. Wanting it to last as long as possible, Woojin held onto Shin’s neck and did not let go.
In his dreams, Shin called him by his first name in a familiar manner. And whenever he did, Woojin would wake up.
Woojin knew the truth.
They could never be friends.
He was certain of it because what he felt was lust for the first time in his life.