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23 July 2010 @ 04:45 am
Edward Hopper Is Running Late [Yi Jung]  
Title: Edward Hopper is Running Late
Pairing: Yi Jung-centric, Yi Jung x Ga Eul
Fandom: Hana Yori Dango (Boys Before Flowers), KOREAN version
Genre: Angst, Introspective, Spiritual
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2,116

A/N: To hopefully clarify, Guan-eum is the Korean name for Guan Yin (female form of Avalokitesvara), the goddess or Bodhisattva of mercy.

 

Edward Hopper Is Running Late


edward hopper is running late
it’s harsh, his fate
lonely in woe
got no place to go
he’s desperate in waiting
but nothing’s changing

 

Edward Hopper is running late. Life’s almost over, and he still hasn’t begun. Fear becomes isolation becomes self-hate. Edward Hopper drove himself undone.


Ga Eul would never understand. He just wasn’t the type. It’s in his nature, like his father and grandfather (damn his brother, got the lucky genes and skipped out the bad).

 

He didn’t purposely do these things, hurting others—the girls—it just came naturally to him. He didn’t even have to think. It was easy this way, less sore and raw for him (shit, he was a thick-bellied, thin-skinned coward). Yi Jung didn’t like pain. It’s forever been his weak spot, the solitary, uncannily, potentially unreal sensation that always set him off.

 

But Ga Eul didn’t understand. He’d been lost for so long, and the road back was too scary to take. He’d been running on nothing as of late, and the sickness was catching up fast.

 

. . .

 

At the intersection between kiln and fire, Yi Jung sat down for a long, wholesome rest. He leaned back, felt the wooden shrapnel of poor people benches digging into his spine. He counted the winces repressed each time. Yi Jung didn’t deal well with pain.

 

His father was a degenerate, a wastrel, a wasted piece of worthless, abysmal shit. And his brother was no better. Abandoned them (him), ran off (free), and didn’t even glance back. His brother didn’t have to take control, feel the shivering, tumbling threats of responsibility, of upholding an illustrious, legendary family name.

 

“We’re a selfish, dastardly, narcissistic bunch,” his father once said (the single piece of wisdom ever passed down), “We’re bastards through and through.”

 

He shook his head to clear the mess. Ugly thoughts always came back to haunt at the most unexpected moments.

 

“You’re gonna explode, you know. Just let it out, kid.”

 

Yi Jung lifted his head to see which witch had the gall to disturb him and saw the most beautiful woman in the world. She was flawless even with that feather fine scar running down her left cheek. Like a newly discovered ancient táo from Yangtze, she was a temptation marred perfectly.

 

Instantly, his charm returned and he was all smiles again. “I’m So Yi Jung. What’s your name, beautiful?”

 

She smirked and eyed him sharply. “You’re sad, so you should cry. Besides, I can see past every one of your defences. They’re mechanical, automatic. Your charisma, turn it off and I’ll give you something nice.”

 

The bus pulled up, and she rose to leave. Gave one last wave and didn’t say goodbye. Yi Jung wondered if it was a dream.

 

. . .

 

“He’s been like this for days.” Woo Bin flourished a hand in front of Yi Jung’s face. No response. “She must be something for him to be moping around.”

 

“Yi Jung met a girl?”

 

“Of course. I bet she’s got a fantastic rack, long, flowing hair, and incredible curves.”

 

“She’s flat, skinny, and has hair almost as short as mine,” Yi Jung answered for himself, tired of the suppositions and accusations.

 

“You like her, Yi Jung? You know, a lot? She must be hot.”

 

“I don’t, she’s not, I mean...”

 

She’s everything and then some. He wondered what her name was.

 

. . .

 

Soon, he made a habit of strolling along that street a quarter past five in the afternoon, hoping he’ll run into her. Serendipitous, auspicious, by some maddening quirk of fate, they were meant to meet—God, he was pathetic.

 

It’s been two weeks now, walking around like a zombie ran out of blood and brains, and still, she hasn’t resurfaced. He should’ve anticipated that this would happen. Good things never endured past the initial point for him. Bitter and hollow, he should be used to this.

 

And then, she emerged. From nowhere, soaked and plastered molecule to skin, she returned. Yi Jung blinked his eyes rapidly, fervently wishing this was no illusion, that for once, he’d gotten something right.

 

“So Yi Jung.”

 

It was her.

 

He smiled deliriously. His name had never sounded so sweet and beautiful before, didn’t even think it could be possible. “You remembered me.”

 

“I always remember the artistic types.”

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Gwan-eum.”

 

“No, I’m serious. What’s your name?” Tell me, please.

 

“Gwan-eum.”

 

Her face blurred in front of him (Yi Jung rubbed his eyes, wiping away the rain drops) and vanished into the traceless stream of बोधि. He saw Sanskrit arabesques entwined around the seven hideous heads of the Chinese Yan Lao Ye. If he reached just a millimetre further, gathered just an ounce more strength and (good) will, he could touch dukkha, nirvana, samsara and all.

 

With the ironic part being: he wasn’t even Buddhist.

 

. . .

 

At twenty-five, he was still chasing ghosts.

 

Old ghosts, young ghosts, hungry ghosts, and faceless ghosts. He knew and suffered them intimately in the privacy of an empty shell (tear). Eun Jae left him with a sisterly kiss, and Ga Eul diminished into unfinished letters, dated one month later, posted never.  

 

Sweden had been an illogical retreat, a hypnagogic reprieve. Behind the back alleys of Malmö and inside the crystallized palaces of Stockholm museums, he mastered his trade and trait.

 

He worked diligently day and night, regained the strength in his hands (blessed by the gods themselves), and produced tiny miracles from unmolded chamotte. Studied under masters and immortals, and eventually, the gift burned into him naturally. His fingers fidgeted ceaselessly at night, in his brooding subconscious and under the murky piers of Daliesque waters, entrenched in sleep.

 

Sometimes, when he was lucky, he would feel alive just for one fugacious flash. And then, smeared like mistletoe berries across black ice, he was wiped out again. The virus reappeared, wispy and consuming with its thousand-armed halo called mercy. It was failure in quintessence, fear personified, and he was—

 

fatalistically caught in the infinite circle.

 

The tightness encapsulated him (heart felt heavy and clotted) with no escape route. He took up women and alcohol, the old comforts, primordial truths, and it was all right for a while. The ache alleviated, and he could breathe. Little and by, he allowed things to depart. Until, this was as recently foremost, he barely thought of anything. The mind erased itself blank for security. 

 

He was fine. He didn’t care.

 

That’s a lie. And you know why.

 

. . .

 

It’s become an obsession for him, meeting her there every day. Occasionally she came, but mostly he would wander around alone for hours into the evening. Stupid, that’s what he was. Foolish, that he knew. Idealistic, how he prayed otherwise.

 

Woo Bin and the others chided him on his irrational behaviour, remonstrated him (funny, that was a first) on his blinded fidelity. Yi Jung didn’t listen to a word they said. He focused only on arriving at that bus stop promptly a quarter past five. Every day, day and day, day went by—he lost track.

 

He saw Ga Eul’s scrutinizing expression, the intricacies and complexities matted carefully on her smooth complexion. She wanted to ask but didn’t dare. He understood but didn’t say.

 

When he kissed her goodnight after a date (awful thing to do), her features transformed into some-other woman’s. He adjusted his eyes, trying to see her clearly, as Ga Eul and not the-other, but he just couldn’t.

 

“What’s her name?”

 

“What’s whose name?”

 

“I don’t mind, I don’t. I just want to know her name.”

 

“Nothing. There’s no one else.”

 

“Tell me the truth. What’s her name?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“You don’t know.”

 

“She said—

 

“Gwan-eum.” And that’s—

 

That’s not real, couldn’t be real. Where’s your godlike seduction and inalienable allure?

 

“It’s okay, sunbae. You don’t have to tell me.”

 

Ga Eul stepped out of the car and into the quiet, blurry street. Zooming cars, veering bikes, the outside world was an eclectic conglomeration of all his phobias. He commanded himself to follow her, make certain she got home okay, apologize for being an incorrigible ass (for a near missing cheat), except he couldn’t do any of that.

 

Because, sweetheart, you’ve got it wrong. And he was messed up in the soul.   

 

. . .

 

He was in love, and he knew it too. There was no other term or word or encompassing epiphany to describe it. It was love in looming gloom. He’d spoken to her for a grand total of six times, a few sentences each summed up about right.

 

She spoke even less back, preferred to stare into space, listening and nodding when precision called. She listened to his trials and tribulations, his clichés and adages, and never judged.

 

(It’s a trance, just a faze, hypnotized, vertical straight. Need to wait, take a hit, it’ll pass, it’s a-maze.)

 

“I’m horrible, contemptible. Sometimes, I don’t even think I’m human anymore. I feel nothing. I could die and not even feel it.”

 

She merely sighed. “So Yi Jung, do you believe in fate?”

 

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

 

“Please answer me. Do you believe in fate?”

 

“Yes, I think. Maybe, no, I don’t know.”

 

“It’s okay. Let me tell you a little secret. There’s no such thing as predetermined fate.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“Because I’m god.”

 

. . .

 

He finally summoned the courage to ask her out. Seemingly from nowhere, the words blurted and grew of their own volition. By the time he regained his senses, it was too late, and besides, she already said yes. And he was dancing on high.

 

He took her to a posh cafe—named, apropos, Phillies (deserted save for them)—and employed every one of his devilish, debonair airs. She looked amused but didn’t react. He tried for a different tactic instead, which failed as well. He was up to his neck in panic, and still, she played cool and coy.

 

“So Yi Jung,” she said suddenly, “I will see you one more time tomorrow, and then, I will disappear. I want you to think carefully about what I am saying. It’s okay to fear, but it’s not okay to live in fear.”

 

“Wine or champagne?”

 

“So Yi Jung, I want you to live happily, free from fear and your prior negativities.”

 

“Lobster or crab?”

 

“So Yi Jung, I want you to open your eyes to what is, is. I want you to stand upright.”

 

“Anything you want, I’ll give you.”

 

“So Yi Jung, I want you to live for yourself.”

 

She took his hand and dragged him to his feet. He held on close for the ride. She grew and grew to impossible heights, spiralled him along with her through the roof and into the sky, up above the stratosphere, past heaven and cosmos.

 

He saw stars being realigned and polar shifts in planetary motion, heard the angels sing, tasted the fruit of life, and inhaled the breath of Buddha, Alla, and Yahweh. 

 

Then, she smiled and released his hand. He jolted awake.

 

. . .

 

True to her prophesy, she was waiting for him the next day.

 

He didn’t know whether to be relieved or anxious. There were bizarre, pale patches all over her arms, shoulders, and neck, and even one on her cheek (where the faint, subtle scar once was).

 

“I didn’t think you’d come.”

 

She shook her head and gave him a willow sprig and an eight-folded card. “A promise is to be kept. This is the last time we will meet, So Yi Jung.”

 

“Will I see you again?”

 

“Not in person. But if you ever need me, I will know.”

 

“Why are you going? Why are you leaving me like this?”

 

The bus swerved to a stop. He was out of time.

 

“I’m not leaving you. I will be there if you need me again, but you won’t. I know it.”

 

“How? Tell me how?”

 

“Because,” she paused and grinned, “I am god.”

 

. . .

 

He was dead for three consecutive days, refused to eat and sat around wallowing in misery. Religiously, he watered the willow and reread her card, hoping it’ll convey some hidden clue or meaning. It read:

 

Nothing at all.

 

He didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. She got him in the end.

 

After the eighth time perusing it (make no mistakes, it’s the way), he refolded it up (eight times exact) and stashed it away to be remembered and kept. She really was gone. And it was time to move on because, simple, she told him that.

 

He dialled Ga Eul’s number and hastily thought of a well-worded, sophisticated apology.