Chapter 195: Chapter 195
Whether I got disconcerted or not, Jooin, who glanced at my face, continued his word with a swiveling smile.
“You know, mama, that I’m not a person who believes something like ghosts. Although I trust that you’ve been to a different universe before, as I get to fall into this bizarre situation, I was panic-stricken from not considering the possibility of myself having the same experience as you. That was why some random words just escaped through my mouth. I should’ve stopped at some point, but I failed to do so. Just forget about it.”
“Uh, I’m so scared! What if another freaking creature comes in here? We should go back ASAP, right mama?”
Jooin then stood up and looked at me. When our eyes met, he put a bright grin without any stain of shade on his face. His smile was so flawless that I doubted as if he was faking it to me. It resembled the fragrant and breezy smile Yi Ruda had at me in the café before.
I stared down at the hand he held out to me. Normally, I would’ve responded to his grin with a smile too; however, I couldn’t do that at all.
My face would’ve been too messy. As Jooin caught a glimpse at me, his face turned a little stiff. After quite a while, he, at last, pouted his lips to fling a question.
“Mama, what’s wrong?”
I shook my head in the air quietly. Jooin always smiled like that when we were all together. Thus, was it all his calculated, intentional grin as to avoid other’s malice and suspicion? Rambling those thoughts in mind, I shook my head again. No, it wouldn’t be like that…
As to talk about the feeling of confusion right now, I was also the same as Jooin, although it wouldn’t be as much as his situation. Under the numbed sense of reality caused by the continuously occurring surreal events, my way of thinking slowed down silently like a snail or a huge cogwheel.
I could barely open my mouth after quite a time. My eyes were on Jooin.
Dropping his name out of my mouth, I felt a little perplexed as my voice sounded like I was fighting back my tears. As if he also perceived that as sensitively as I did, Jooin, who had his gaze at me, stiffened his eyes.
“I didn’t ask you to ignore them and move on from the reason that you were probably thinking.”
Jooin’s eyes displayed a sign of wonder. I stretched out my hand to grab his hand tightly in silence. Without that action, I couldn’t calm myself down. What was he thinking? Jooin grasped my hand more firmly than I.
I lifted my head to continue.
“That means I’m not as retardedly nice as you think. I just didn’t want to waste my time for an act of revenge. While going through the happening, I realized how many good people were around me including you and how blessed I was for that; therefore, I didn’t want to care about it anymore.”
“This isn’t being nice. Let’s say there’s someone who neglects garbage in the street to avoid his or her clean hand getting messy. Do you explain that person nice? No, we don’t, do we?”
Jooin, who had his mouth shut for the whole time, detached his lips at last. I raised my eyes to look at him.
The space wasn’t as bright as when the fluorescent light was opened, so I couldn’t read his face. The subdued look on his eyes, however, penetrated the darkness and reached me clearly as well as his calm and heavy voice.
“You didn’t even think about revenging them. I… I wasn’t though…”
He diverted his eyes back onto me. I took a pause in between my words then kept on talking.
“Jooin, the reason why you said that you’re scared of me was that you thought you weren’t good enough for others including me to understand you–.”
“… Not just a thought. It’s true.”
This time, it was my turn to have my mouth shut. He perked the corners of his lips upwards slightly to hint a twisted smile. I never saw him putting such a deep sneer. He wasn’t directing his crooked smile on me. It was rather to himself.
His palm moved to place it on the desk. His voice got faster.
“You heard from Eun Jiho about what I had been hearing from the woman who knew me since I was young. Back then, I wasn’t as same as now because I didn’t know how to pretend or camouflage my thoughts and looks. Except for Eun Jiho and my dad, she’s the only person who knows that thing.”
Ignoring my call, he went on with a cold smile.
“Whenever I talked, she never said anything at all, but just quietly listened and smiled. At that time, I thought she was aware of what I was talking about or, at least, not regarding me as a weirdo. That was what I thought about her back then; however, do you know what she said to me at the end?”
“She had never seen anyone as creepy as I was. That was what she said to me. She also told me that I was fundamentally different from others; I was the only person with a big hole in my heart. Do you know what’s funny? I already knew about it… the so-called conscience… something like that.”
I couldn’t say a word to respond. Stretching his hand to place it on the desk beside me, Jooin drew in his breath and fetched it out. His dry voice lingered around my ears.
“Mama, do you remember? When I sometimes got out of touch and hid somewhere for a few days.”
That happened a few times. For several days, Jooin sometimes erased himself and dropped off the grid; however, Eun Jiho and Yoo Chun Young also went abroad sometimes too. In this regard, I considered what Jooin did as an extension of what other boys also did.
Jooin giggled at my reply. His continued remark then made my eyes open wide.
“It was due to feeling guilty.”
“Nope, it wasn’t a guilty conscience either. I was just scared of myself hiding my true color to you and others. It scared the hell out of me that everyone has known me as a good boy. How long will it last…? That kind of question came across when I was with others and it distressed me so much. What’s even worse is that sometimes my acting turns out to be insecure. When that happens, I’m afraid if someone may notice immediately how strange I am… and that’s why…”
“I’ve had my own time to check myself.”
With that said, Jooin sunk his head on his chest. The sweat running down his neck shined pale under the moonlight. Then I saw his white hand sweeping his brown hair back. It was quite a self-mocking gesture.
What he just said made sense too. After a few days of his absence, Jooin always appeared out of the blue. He then acted more lighthearted and cheerful than usual. His unique character dazzled than ever that the class seemed to turn up with Jooin as the center. Everyone couldn’t help themselves but feel excited to be around him.
My brows then suddenly furrowed at him. ‘No,’ I murmured to myself. Jooin always gave pleasure to others. He wasn’t a person to confess his fear here while sweeping his hair back shabbily. Jooin never did anything wrong or committed a sin like that.
I stretched out my hand and grabbed his hand abruptly. It was such an impulsive reaction. Jooin, at the same time, raised his head quickly and directed his eyes on me. I bit my lips tightly then opened them up.
“Jooin, Eun Jiho said to me something like this.”
His reply rang around me faintly.
“You have layers of something like an answering machine around you.”
“Ha… haha. Eun Jiho is a smart ass. How can he come up with such a great metaphor?”
“And that’s why he doesn’t get to know you sometimes. He told me something like that.”
Jooin’s laughter then paused. It was, however, a short moment like a flash. When I looked at him again, he was staring at me with his usual, bright smile.