|MH| Spicy Rice Cakes


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Spicy Rice Cakes (떡볶이)

April 28, 1998, Monday

There I was, Choi Hyungsoo, exhausted from a long day of Japanese language classes. I threw my bag on the couch and slopped my shoulders as I read this new book called “Forgotten Season.” Mr. Takeda told everyone to do a report on a fictional-historical book weeks ago and I didn’t really bother to do one. Now who’s into reading these days, anyway? Oh well, the report is due in about a week. I have no choice but to start on it. Ugh, I hate extra classes!

To be honest, the book didn’t bother me that much, I mean, I find the story really great. It’s not that I’m into tragedy-romance stories, it’s just that I feel I could kind of relate with the situations in the story. I mean “forgotten season” is enough of a description for the life my best-buddy Jinwon got into. I’m sure you get what that story might be about.

As I flipped through every page, my position on the couch would shift. Of course, until I noticed that my head already turned upside down, my face, turning red. The stuffy feeling made me sit upright again, but that’s not comfortable. So I stood up and leaned my body near the window. At least there I can read better with the sun shining through the dimmed room I was in. Sunlight is always a better lamp than room light.

Since the story I was reading was set in the Korean War, eventually topics of food that became popular at that time came up and my stomach started to grumble. I guess it’s that time again.

I marched to the kitchen and scanned the cabinets. Nothing. The fridge, even worse. It’s empty. Well… it’s not completely empty. It just didn’t have the exact dish my stomach was craving.

Getting hungry is like the end of the world. I have to survive by eating. I better get something to eat before it gets worse.

As I was about to enter a seven-eleven store, an ajjumma by the street got my attention. She was cooking up some food like a normal food-vendor would. She was cooking up ddeokbokki. Mmm… spicy rice cakes. Wow. I’ve never set sight at such a good looking ddeokbokki in a while… I knew in an instant, that ddeokbokki is going to be my snack this afternoon.

      “Thanks, Ajjumma!” I happily bowed my head as I received a toothpick and a cup full of those spicy rice cakes. I think my eyes comically widened as those heavenly beings were finally on my hands. This looks like good ddeokbokki alright.

I sat by a small bench just outside of my home and looked around. No one was watching and the street was silent. Well then, time to devour this thing. I know I should be reading, but who cares. I can do that later.

When I took one bite of that red-orange dish, I thought it was going to be the best ddeokbokki I’ve had in a while, but something tasted really off. It’s spicy… it’s chewy… what the hell is it missing? I chewed it as slow as possible but I still couldn’t find what was exactly wrong. It was bland… or maybe it wasn’t? Man, I really don’t get. Something was just off.

You may think this is my favorite kind of street food. Maybe it is. I don’t exactly know. I guess it’s just a really nice comfort food for me. Eating ddeokbokki brings me back to the good ol’ days… yeah… those days.

Year 1992

      12 year old Hyungsoo’s stomach started to grumble as he watched everyone in the canteen eat their lunches on their own. He forgot to bring his own lunch. He also forgot to bring pocket money for something to buy. This made him really hungry.

      He nudged 13 year old Jinwon, “Yah, can you give me a bite of your lunch?”

      “Give you a bite of what? I also forgot to bring my own lunch,” Jinwon pouted.

      “Aiigooo this is the worst day ever! I might just cry out of hunger! I can’t go on like this!”

      “As if you’ll die,” Jinwon scoffed. “Sheesh, you eat all the time. I don’t get why you’re still not fat.”

      “That’s because I have good genes,” Hyungsoo said. “Not like you who clearly look like you won’t get any taller.”

      “Hey, I’m still a kid,” Jinwon grumbled. “Of course I’ll grow taller SOMEday.”

      “Tch. Yeah right, shorty,” Hyungsoo scoffed.

      “Watch it. You’re my only band member. Don’t let me throw you out.”

      “Ha, band member of what? All it consists of is a singer and a drummer. Nothing else. I don’t even know why I agreed to your stupid dream.”

      “That’s because you think I’m cool,” Jinwon teased. “And besides, I told you, I’m learning guitar these days. Just wait. Our band will be great someday.”

      “Ugh, someday, someday, my butt. What I really want to know is when will the world have mercy on me? I’m sooo hungry.”

      Hyungsoo spotted a kid who sat by the bushes, who seemed to be enjoy his lunch alone. Hyungsoo stood up and walked toward him. Jinwon just watched and didn’t want to bother.

      “Hey, what’s that you got there?” Hyungsoo said with his arms crossed as he looked down on him.

      “U-uh? Ddeokbokki…” he shyly said before focusing his attention back to the spicy rice cakes.

      “Can I have some, kid?” Hyungsoo arrogantly said.

      “S-sure,” the boy slowly handed the cup to him and Hyungsoo harshly snatched it away. He took a bite and nodded in satisfaction.

      “Thanks for this, kid. I’ll repay you back someday,” he said and walked back to Jinwon without giving back the boy’s food.

      “W-what? Wait, that’s my lunch,” the boy wobbled as he nervously got up.

      “Hyungsoo, what the hell?” Jinwon shook his head in disapproval as the ddeokbokki’s juices brim Hyungsoo’s mouth.

      “What? I said I was going to repay him,” he shrugged.

      “Are you?” Jinwon crossed his arms to his chest, raising an eyebrow. This annoyed Hyungsoo.

      “Don’t give me that look, shorty!”

      Jinwon grumbled and glared at him. He then welcomed the approaching nervous kid warmly. “Sorry ‘bout that guy. He’s a bit hard-headed when it comes to food,” he said scratching his head.

      “It’s okay… but can you please help me get it back? Ddeokbokki is really all I can afford these days.”

      “Sure,” Jinwon nodded with a smile and turned his head back to Hyungsoo. “Yah, Hyungsoo! Just give the ddeokbokki back and I’ll buy you something to eat later.”

      “No way! Thish ish the besht tcheokbokki I’ve had in ‘while!” he said, his mouth clearly filled with ddeokbokki.

      Jinwon stepped closer to Hyungsoo and thumped his head. “Obey your hyung.”

      “’Hyung’ my butt! My name has ‘Hyung’ in it, not you,” Hyungsoo snarled. “And besides, we’re in the same class!”

      “It doesn’t matter because I’m still older than you. I don’t even get why I’m allowing you to speak informally.”

      “Eish…” Hyungsoo gave in and handed the cup of ddeokbokki. Good thing he didn’t finish it all. If he had nothing left in that cup, he would be in serious trouble with Jinwon.

      “Here you go, um…”

      “Kwon Yo-Han,” the boy brightly lit up. “Thank you very much! Thank you!” he bowed 90 degrees three times.

      “Oh it’s nothing,” Jinwon chuckled.

      “If you’re hungry I could share some more with you,” Yohan said.

      “AH! Really!?? YO-HAN! THANKS! HAHAHA!”

      “I’m not talking to you!” Yohan said, distancing Hyungsoo from his ddeokbokki.

      “Gee, thanks Yohan,” Jinwon said, patting Yohan’s back. “I’ll buy you a great lunch tomorrow. I promise that.”

      “Yah! How about me? You said you’re going to buy me lunch!” Hyungsoo grumbled as he wiped ddeokbokki juices from his mouth.

      “Here’s one last for you,” Jinwon bitterly offered one dripping ddeokbokki in front of Hyungsoo and his eyes lit up.

      “Man, Jin-goo, you’re such a great friend,” Hyungsoo heavily patted Jinwon in the back, outbalancing Jinwon, and devoured that one ddeokbokki.

      Yohan disgustingly looked at Hyungsoo and whispered to Jinwon, “I don’t like him. Why does he hang out with you?”

      “Yah, I can hear you, you know,” Hyungsoo growled.

      “Don’t worry about him. He just has no choice but to tag along with me,” Jinwon laughed and Hyungsoo shot him a displeased look.

   

I remember that time real clear. The last piece of ddeokbokki that was fed to me tasted the greatest. Maybe it was because I knew it was my last ddeokbokki for the day that I cherished it too much as I chewed the soft spicy rice cakes. Yep. That last piece tasted the best…

After that day, the three of us would eat at Jinwon’s table and Yohan and I would glare at each other. Yohan feared me and despised me while I hated him back. I didn’t want Yohan to be my friend and neither did he want me, but Jinwon was our only friend so we were forced to hang out together whether we liked each other or not.

Usually I’d bully Yohan and we’d fight a lot but Jinwon never does a thing to stop us. He just laughs at us like we’re his children.

Yeah, we were really childish back then, I admit. Jinwon was childish too because he often oiled fire to our rivalry… like that one time when we secretly tried to make him choose between us and he secretly chose both our sides…

Yohan and I never did get along well in the start. Even just having a fair share of how many pieces we’d get to eat of ddeokbokki was not an easy dispute to settle.

Our rivalry to be Jinwon’s best friend didn’t cease easily. We were “friends,” but often curse behind each other’s back. Yohan and I were more frenemies than anything but I know there was a point in our life when our childish feuds with each other stopped. It took the arrival of the two American girls just to help us get along.

JULY 11, 1996, Thursday

(Song: Talk to Me – Tiffany & Jessica)

“How would you like a cup of coffee? What would you like to say? That sunset that is resting in his eyes. It’s making me nervous,” Stephanie sang.

      There 16-17 year old Hyungsoo and Yohan sat silently watching the new American girls singing in their very studio. They still could not believe that JooHyun, their 15 year old piano playing member, brought the prettiest girls around. Hyungsoo and Yohan very much wanted to get to know them, especially the blonde girl who both took their breath away at first sight.

“What kind of coffee do you like? I want to know you better. That person in my heart… is like sweet caramel,” Jessica sang.

      “I like espresso, Jessica… to espresso my feelings for you!” Hyungsoo smirked by himself.

     “Wah, that was beautiful,” Jinwon clapped his hands, applauding the two girls’ short performance. “You both are really great! Wow, Jessica, I didn’t know you were this good.”

      “Well, I tried,” Jessica shrugged and smiled directly at Jinwon and they both stared at each other for a few seconds like they forgot there were other people in the room. Hyungsoo and Yohan both frowned as they noticed this. Just when they both had silly dreams of becoming her boyfriend, Jessica was already looking at Jinwon as if he’s her boyfriend.

Earlier in the day, Jinwon and Jessica did mention that they knew each other, but only as friends—not lovers. Hyungsoo wanted to believe this so he could have a chance with her, but it seemed the look on their eyes said something different. He became a bit jealous.

      “Anyway, guys,” Jinwon suddenly stood up. “Our band practice is finished. Let’s clean up.”

      And so they started cleaning up. When they were almost finished packing the chord sheets and the instruments, Hyungsoo and Yohan approached Jessica shyly to ask her to hang out with them after. Since Hyungsoo had more confidence, Yohan let him go ask first. However, when he got to her, he was too late.

      “Hey, Jin-goo, let’s hang out some time,” Jessica said. Hyungsoo felt like turning to stone and growled silently.

      “Sure, we could all hang out after this,” Jinwon replied. “We all have free time anyway so we could go grab something in the streets.”

      “Oh thank you, Jinwon!” Hyungsoo sighed in relief. Looks like they could hang out with her after all.

      “No, I meant only you and me,” Jessica said, her eyes naturally showing a slight hint of aegyo for Jinwon. “I haven’t seen you in a long time. I want to catch up with you.”

      Yohan’s shoulders slouched and Hyungsoo turned away, frustrated. Of course Jessica would want to hang out with Jinwon only and not with nobodies like them.

      “Seriously, you guys sound like you had some history,” Stephanie snickered at the back. “You sure you both weren’t in a relationship?”

      “R-relationship? Tch, there’s no such thing!” Jessica softly slapped Stephanie’s arm. “We were just close friends.”

      “Ugh, I hope,” Hyungsoo rolled his eyes.

      “Sure, Jessica, I’ll tour you around town if you haven’t been already,” Jinwon said, chuckling. “I still have time.”

      And so, Jinwon took Jessica out and JooHyun went along with wherever Stephanie wanted to go. All that was left in the studio wandering what to do next was Hyungsoo and Yohan. After a few minutes of silence, Yohan said,

      “Want to grab a cup of ddeokbokki?”

      “Sure.”

      They went out the streets and bought one cup of ddeokbokki to eat. They sat under the outdoor tents and started devouring the spicy rice cakes quietly. Only their slurps and chews were heard as they ate in silence. It was the first time they haven’t argued over how much they were going to eat. They just ate, giving each other fair chances to get their piece.

      “So…” Hyungsoo spoke, breaking the silence, “What’d you think about the new band mates?”

      “They’re pretty…” Yohan shrugged.

      “What’d you think about Jessica?” Hyungsoo asked, not leaving his eyes on Yohan as he ate ddeokbokki while it dripped on the table.

      “She’s pretty. A cold one too, but I kinda like her,” Yohan smiled.

      “Yeah… me too,” Hyungsoo nodded. “I like her, too.”

    
Since Jinwon left us that day and stole the girl who we wanted to meet (or date), we had no choice but to hang out with ourselves. We’ve never done that. That was the first time. We just ate without really arguing who’s going to pay for it or who gets more pieces.

By the time that Jinwon started getting occupied with his girls, Yohan and I were left to hang out by ourselves and there were no more reasons to fight. I even noticed that there was a silent agreement on everything we did after that day. Whatever he thought was good, I thought was good, and whatever he thought was bad, I thought was bad. We became like brothers who just instantly clicked after one family vacation.

During those times, I remember ddeokbokki being the best street food around—like all of a sudden it just became sweeter, spicier, and chewier. Of course, when it came to the Americans (mainly just Tiffany), ddeokbokki wasn’t the best thing around.

July 25, 1996

      “Before we start our practice, we have to find some new songs,” Yohan said.

      “And some snacks,” Hyungsoo added.

      Since it’s been at least three meetings after the Americans arrived, it was still a bit awkward for Hyungsoo and Yohan. This forced Jinwon to make a plan for everyone to get to know each other. Since Jinwon already knew who Jessica was, he gave her to the hands of the two boys for now. While she’s occupied with them, he will occupy himself with the new girl, Stephanie.

      “Okay, you guys and Jessica go on food patrol,” Jinwon said, his voice naturally flowing out like a leader. “JooHyun, Stephanie, and I will check the songs out.”

      “’kay, sounds good,” Jessica nodded.

      The six separated as soon as they went out the studio. Hyungsoo, Yohan, and Jessica headed for the convenient store. Hyungsoo, trying to be the smooth, relaxed guy, stretched his hand and dropped his arms round Jessica. As if friendly, he pulled Jessica closer to him and said, “So, Jessica. How long have you been here in Korea?” Hyungsoo glanced back and found Yohan pouting. It was obvious to see that he was jealous of their sudden skinship. Oh well, his loss. Hyungsoo gets the new, blonde, cute, girl today.

      “I’ve been here for about a year-and-a-half now.” Jessica replied smoothly and smiled.

      “Oh, really? How is it for you here?”

      “It’s the same as I remember back a few years ago. It still has ups and downs–like literally. Korea’s roads are really hard to walk on. It’s like hiking every day.”

      “Man, tell me about it!” Hyungsoo laughed. “It’s really tiring to walk these streets. You’ll need strong legs. That’s why exercising is great! I run the block every morning to keep myself fit.”

      “Tch, you don’t even exercise…” Yohan mumbled at the back, earning a giggle from Jessica. Hyungsoo couldn’t help but send him a death glare.

      “Anyway, what are we buying today?” Jessica said, escaping from Hyungsoo’s arms. It was obvious to her that these boys were fighting secretly to get her attention like two 4-year-old children.

      “Oh? Look! Ddeokbokki! How about we buy that?” Hyungsoo said with his mouth already watering as the scent of spicy rice cakes tickled his nose.

      “Oh no, I’m not a big fan,” Jessica shook her head.

      “I wasn’t either when I was a kid,” Hyungsoo added. “But it gets better when you eat more!”

      “You sure?” Jessica said.

      “If you don’t want it, we could buy something else,” Yohan shrugged as he kept his hands in his pockets.

      “Well, I guess I could try ddeokbokki out again,” Jessica said. “It’s been a while since I last ate these.”

      So they bought two cups of ddeokbokki and some kimbap that was being sold beside the vendor. Jessica kept smirking on the way back to the studio while Hyungsoo and Yohan just watched her strangely. When the group arrived back, JooHyun, Stephanie, and Jinwon were already there discussing some music options on which to jam to.

      “What did you guys buy?” Jinwon asked.

      “We bought these delicious ddeokbokki,” Jessica said, taking out the two cups. “I know Stephanie hasn’t tried these before.”

      “Why only two cups?” Stephanie asked. “Shouldn’t we all have a cup each?”

      “Tch. As if you can finish a cup,” Jessica laughed. “Anyway, boys will share and girls will share. Fair enough, right?”

      “Yeah, we always share just a cup of ddeokbokki anyway,” Hyungsoo said. “This is nothing new.” Before Hyungsoo got his toothpick ready, Jessica stopped him. She got one piece of ddeokbokki and held it up to Stephanie’s mouth.

      Jinwon, Hyungsoo, and Yohan’s mouth watered as they waited for Stephanie to eat first. The smell of those rice cakes always got to them. It was hard to resist.

      When Stephanie chewed the piece of ddeokbokki, she nodded, “Mm… it’s good.” However after a few seconds, she sat motionless, covering her mouth with her eyes turning red.

      “Oh my god…” Stephanie breathed in English and Jessica started laughing uncontrollably. The three boys and Junmi just awkwardly sat there, watching the American girls in confusion.

      “Oh my god!” Stephanie coughed and coughed as she slapped Jessica’s arms. “Oh my god, it’s so spicy. What the hell is this?”

      “It’s just ddeokbokki,” Hyungsoo casually said and took a piece and eating it like it was the least spicy thing in the world. “It’s not that spicy.”

      “Not that spicy?” Stephanie’s mouth dropped. “If that’s not spicy, then what is?” She continued coughing more and JooHyun offered her some water. Jessica still laughed on her own dying in the corner without a sound coming out from her mouth as if someone pressed the mute button on her.

      “It actually turns delicious once you’ve had a few more,” Jinwon said. “Here, have some more,” he said carefully holding a piece to Stephanie who’s clearly refusing to take another. However, Jinwon kept pushing so she had no choice. She tried to tolerate the new food, but afterwards, she still kept coughing and wiping tears that formed in her eyes caused by the strong flavor.

     

Hahaha, everything was all smiles back then.

On most occasions we’d laugh at Stephanie the most since she usually doesn’t know a lot of things.

Ah… Stephanie… She used to laugh a lot, smile a lot, and you know, bring happiness to every one of us even though she was having hard time. However these days, I barely see the glow in her anymore. Since Jinwon got into the accident, I’ve never seen her completely smile or laugh like the way she did before. It’s like her whole world turned upside down without Jinwon around.

Well… all of our lives kind of turned upside down when Jinwon left now that I think about it.

When the accident came, Yohan’s usual bubbly side faded and his expressions turned serious. He laughs every now and then but it’s always strained and stiff. I used to know whatever went in that head of his, but these days, I could barely get a hint. He’s become quieter and he’s been avoiding me like I was guilty. I know I’m not—I had nothing to do with the accident. Maybe it’s because he’s reminded of Jinwon whenever I’m around? Yeah… I guess I can’t get angry at him for avoiding me. I’m reminded of Jinwon too whenever he’s around anyway. I guess in Yohan’s situation, I would avoid myself too to keep myself from reminiscing. The happiness of the past can sometimes be so painful.

   

Life is sometimes like ddeokbokki, basically… In the start, it’s chewy, soft, and it’s sweet, but in the end, if you can’t take the spiciness, you’ll end up suffering because you wouldn’t expect the sudden burning flavor.

When life begins, it’s great, but there’s always a guaranteed hardship along the way.

I’m not actually the one who said that first… so, I quote Jinwon.

DECEMBER 12, 1997

      In the previous day, Stephanie revealed to Jinwon that she was pregnant. Today, they were declaring it those whom they loved even though they were scared to say the truth. They only told their parents and their closest friends in fear that the outside world would judge them heavily.

      By nighttime, Stephanie went home already, but Jinwon wanted to stay up a bit more to think about his life. He wanted to be alone to clear his mind, but Hyungsoo, JooHyun, and HaYeon met him by the streets and forced him to eat ddeokbokki with them. Since it was snowing, they sat on the tables sheltered by the open tents and enjoyed a cup of hot ddeokbokki.

      While on the small round table, Hyungsoo tried not to speak, and neither did HaYeon, but they couldn’t handle themselves. They wanted to tease Jinwon in hopes of cheering him up after the sudden news.

      “So, Jinwon, what are you going to name the baby?” Hyungsoo asked.

      “Huh? I don’t know…”

      “When I grow up, I want to have a lot of kids,” HaYeon said, raising her eyebrows up and down.

      “How many?” Jinwon snickered.

      “Abouch five atleasht,” she said with a mouthful of ddeokbokki. “And there hash to be chwinsh.”

      “You better start now then,” Hyungsoo teased.

      “That would be wrong,” JooHyun said naïve and virtuous girl that she was. “You should wait until you’re 30, HaYeon-Unnie. I mean how would you experience the life of a 20 year old if you’re caring for a child?”

      HaYeon and Hyungsoo sat silently as Jinwon’s expression turned sour. Hearing what JooHyun had to say definitely didn’t make him feel better.

      “Oh… Sorry Oppa,” JooHyun whimpered. “I’ll be careful about what I say next time.”

      “Anyway Jinwon, how was it with Fany last month?” Hyungsoo smirked. That only meant nothing but perverted contents.

      “How was what?” Jinwon’s eyebrows crumpled.

      “You know…” he said, raising his eyebrows up and down with a big crooked grin on his face.

      “…aahh,” HaYeon nodded, knowing what he meant by that. She started snickering and quietly ate ddeokbokki.

      “What?” JooHyun innocently wondered.

      “Why are you asking about that!?” Jinwon said as his eyes grew wide feeling his face turn red. He didn’t know if he was embarrassed or angry at Hyungsoo for bringing that up.

      “I’m just curious,” Hyungsoo laughed. “I want to know how it went. You’re the only one among us who knows how it feels.” JooHyun’s head tilted in confusion, totally not understanding what they were talking about. “You probably had a powerful fertile burst even the balloon couldn’t handle it.”

Related image https://i0.wp.com/24.media.tumblr.com/dd41d7f1ec862a90b988c04516edbdd0/tumblr_mf52asvr9n1r0vruco6_r1_250.gif Image result for jungkook gif 2015

       Jinwon’s jaw dropped hearing how inappropriate that was and scoffed. “I don’t get why I’m still friends with you.”

      “Ugh, I got shivers,” HaYeon said. “Stop before you paint the whole scene in my head.”

      “Fine. Moving on then…” Hyungsoo sighed. JooHyun wanted to know what they were talking about, but seeing as they didn’t want to press any further, she brushed the whole topic off.

      “You know, I jusht notished shomething,” Jinwon said with a mouthful. “DDeokbokki is like life,” he said, gulping it down.

      “Of course it is,” Hyungsoo laughed. “It gives you warmth in a winter like this.”

      “No, I’m not just talking about that,” Jinwon added. “I mean the whole concept of a ddeokbokki. It’s sweet and chewy at first, but when it gets to your throat, it just destroys you.” JooHyun nodded understanding what he meant, but Hyungsoo and HaYeon only looked at Jinwon strangely.

      “Just when you think life is really nice and perfect, there’s this one kick that just suddenly throws off guard and puts you in pain. It’s just like how ddeokbokki seems to taste fine at first, but suddenly it becomes spicy when you’ve swallowed the chewy rice cake up. Sometimes you expect it coming, but if it’s for the first time, you wouldn’t know what’ll hit you. You’ve digested the rice cake, but the strong spicy flavor gets stuck in your throat for a while.”

      Hyungsoo and HaYeon couldn’t say anything to make the situation lighter as they understood what he meant by that. They knew Jinwon was having a hard time after the sudden revelation of the coming child. Jinwon had a pretty normal life until he suddenly became stupid enough to do it with Stephanie. Now he’s in pain and he has to suffer the consequences of his actions.

      “But it will fade away,” Hyungsoo added, trying to say that Jinwon’s problems will die down someday. “The thing about ddeokbokki is that once the burning flavor leaves your mouth, you’ll still be satisfied that you ate it even after the pain that you went through eating it. You’ll be full and you’ll be proud once the cup is empty.”

      “It’s like…” Hyungsoo thought some more, “each person has a cup of ddeokbokki with a certain amount for the rest of their life. Some have many pieces of the rice cake and some have a few. Some have more of the red chili sauce while some have less. Some can eat it altogether while others need friends’ help finishing it with them. Something like that… you get it right?”

      Jinwon, HaYeon, and JooHyun stared at him for a second as if he sounded crazy, but the longer they thought about it, the more it made sense. To repeat what Hyungsoo said in a different way, each person has a cup of happiness and hardship with a certain amount for the rest of their life. Some have many pieces of the happiness and some have a few. Some have more of the hardships while some have less. Some can get through happiness and hardships altogether by themselves while some need friends’ company to give them happiness and bear the struggles with them in life.

      “I never would’ve thought ddeokbokki would go that deep,” HaYeon wondered.

      “What can I say? There are life lessons everywhere,” Hyungsoo smiled.

      “That’s really amazing, Oppa,” JooHyun clapped with her eyes sparkling in amazement. “I’ll never forget this.”

      “And Jinwon-ah,” Hyungsoo pierced his toothpick on HaYeon and Jinwon’s ddeokbokki.

      “Yah! What are you doing? You have your own cup with JooHyun!” HaYeon growled. Hyungsoo twirled the ddeokbokki on the tip of his fingers and ate it. Then he said,

      “Let’s always share ddeokbokki. And what I mean is: your problems are my problems, Jinwon. We’re all here for you.”

    

See how that turned out.

I couldn’t bear the pain Jinwon must’ve felt when he woke up from his coma because he never allowed me to share his ddeokbokki—I mean pain. He grew cold towards me when he woke up and it was like I barely knew him. I couldn’t do anything to help him

So I tried bearing everyone else’s pain, but before I did that, JooHyun already avoided all of us, Yohan avoided me, Jessica became a parent to Stephanie, and Stephanie became depressed. I couldn’t do anything to help them but hope and pray they’ll all be fine… and that I’ll be fine, too.

     

Anyway, I’ve cried lots of times thinking about Jinwon, too. As a guy, that’s a bit embarrassing to admit. What can I do, though? I’ve spent most of my teenage years with Jinwon. Losing him in a day cuts me to the core. I’m really an emotional person. I am just good at hiding it.

And then there’s Jessica. Since I had a slight crush on her back then, I know how she acts and how she deals with things. She’s a mysterious one but not that hard to figure out. When she found out that Jinwon had forgotten everything back in the hospital, I knew she was about to cry because Jinwon meant a lot to her, but she didn’t. Instead, something activated in her–like a maternal instinct–to keep steady and strong. Not once have I ever seen her cry ever since Jinwon’s accident. I mean I’ve seen Yohan and Stephanie cry a lot, but her, never. I can see it in her eyes that she was grieving, though. Jessica is a strong one. She had to be for Stephanie’s sake, or so that’s what she said to me.

She became too immersed in trying to protect Stephanie that she’s starting to forget Yohan, and me, and JooHyun (or at least, I assume she does). It was as if she didn’t care about any of us but Stephanie. I can’t blame her though… they’ve been friends since junior high like I was with Jinwon. Of course she’d care about her more than us.

Sometimes I just want to go back and laugh like the good old days. Growing up sucks, and tragedies suck. I miss everyone. I feel lonely.

….

Maybe that’s why the ddeokbokki I’ve been eating tastes bland. I have no one to share it with and I’m eating a whole cup all by myself. I guess I could call Yohan and Jessica… maybe they’ll spare some time for me. I went home and dialed their home numbers.

    

…Yohan’s not picking up. Man, he’s really avoiding me, isn’t he?

    

…Jessica’s not picking it up either.

    

Now what?


STORY 5 | Sunshine – CHAPTER 1


Chapter Theme Song:
친구 (Friend) – Lee Seunggi (이승기)

In a crowd of people, we’re looking at each other
We drew the same place by connecting the line of memories
Even in the quickly changing scene
You were a resting place
When I look back, why did I only receive from you?
I will take my heart out for a moment
Although this may sound awkward

Instead of your tears
I’ll comfort your small sighs that you quietly and secretly let out
You always held it in as if it was natural
I hope you’ll share your hardships with me
I’ll be listening
I’ll be listening

Like looking at old photos
You put on a bright smile and said you’re okay
But in your eyes that passed by
There are wordless stories
Asking me to tune my heart and ears for a moment
It spreads with the sunset

Instead of your tears
I’ll comfort your small sighs that you quietly and secretly let out
You always held it in as if it was natural
I hope you’ll share your hardships with me
I’ll be listening

(Instead of your tears
I’ll comfort your small sighs that you quietly and secretly let out)
I’ll always cheer for you, more than anyone else in the world
I’ll always be near by
I’ll be right here

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