The night is long – shadows grow on my wall
I’m calling out but no one’s home;
Cause paranoia is the only friend I know
Street lamps dimmed promptly at midnight, signalling the witching hours. A rented motorbike cruised along the Kan-Etsu expressway at a speed enough to give the common man a heart attack. Constant roars of the engine were probably the only sounds in this prefecture of rampant crimes and felonies. The Harley-Davidson travelled another mile before skidding to a stop at the gates of a hostel. The rider swung a lean leg to hop out, ran a hand through his hair – damp from ravages of the evening wind.
With a loaded haversack slung across his back, he walked, fists clenched, towards a relatively modern-looking building situated at the far end of the parking lot. He approached the porch entrance. Kikokushijo Student Hostel – the sign formally printed in katakana. He was in the midst of brushing up on his Japanese, though admittedly he was a better composer when his works were Korean.
An empty chair was propped up against the entrance gate.
He found a petite elderly lady with a welcoming smile beckoning to him with a gentle wave of her hand. She must be Kawa-san, the caretaker whom everyone dubbed the ‘Halmeoni’. A Korean immigrant herself, she especially adored her hometown lodgers and never failed to welcome them personally with open arms.
Max shuffled towards her.
Kawa-san cupped her thin, callused palms lightly over Max’s, extending her warmth to the tips of his icy cold fingers.
“You can call me Halmeoni just like everyone else. It’s so great to meet you Max. Please come in where there’s light.”
Such benevolence in a smile could only beget genuine humanity. Max nodded and attempted a smile which didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Come,” she repeated, undeterred by his silence, “I’ll show you to your room and let’s get comfortable. Get a good night’s rest. School begins tomorrow.” With that, Kawa-san led the way to the co-ed dormitory that Max was to share with two other transfer students. He was thankful that she comprehended how he did not wish to speak at the moment.
The room was dark. Closing the door behind him softly, Max took the only empty bed by the window, facing the dimly-lit streets. He unzipped his jacket and draped it across the neatly-folded bedsheets. As he looked out the window, he appeared deep in thought as his mind drifted aimlessly back and forth memories long buried and better off forgotten.
Here, at last, Max was finally physically safe enough to revisit an agonizing past. Though blured and fuzzy at the edges from prolonged suppression, the recollections were raw all the same. He fingered the red star that hung from a thin silver chain, warm from the heat of his chest, as he was laid in bed thinking.
That night, Max was sleepless.
“Hey handsome! You sure wake up real early.”
A chirpy girl greeted Max with a wide smile.
Max stared. She was dressed in a beach-ready bikini And as she stood up…Max realised she was drop-dead gorgeous. Max glanced from top to toe then back at the mega-watt smile.
Upon realising that Max was staring, the room-mate let out a loud laugh.
“Oh! I forgot how shy new boys tend to be. Forgive me room-mate! I’ve been here for 3 years and am totally used to all this. You are Max right? Halmeoni told us you would be staying with us from now on. Oh! My name is Sora. Kim Sora from Seoul, Korea, just like you!”
She sure talks a lot. Max thought, but was now more at ease. His eyes shifted to the body on the other bed. Sora followed his gaze.
“Oh that body lying over there is Thierry. He is really lazy even though we need to wake up this time every morning so as not to be late and now the time is….OH NO OH MY GOODNESS. THIERRY! WAKE UP! WAKE UP THIERRY!!”
Max thought this entire scene was amusing. Sora must be a born-multitasker, as he watched her pull the blankets off Thierry, slapped Thierry’s thighs, and meanwhile was powdering her nose and applying mascara. All this while, Sora was also screaming at Thierry to get the hell out of bed.
Thierry, however, was still dead to the world.
Finally, Sora decided to use the final strategy.
“Max? Give me a hand here will ya? Grab Thierry’s hands and press him to bed.”
Curious, Max did as told.
Sora stood a few feet away, poised to charge at the bed. Max stood rooted to the ground as Sora flung herself at her sleeping victim.
“YARRGHHH!” Sora roared as she slammed onto Thierry, commenced continuous aggressive tickling.
“What in the WORLD!!” Thierry yelled, tried to push Sora away, but Max was still holding on to his limbs as Sora instructed. And Max was not just ordinarily strong. He was chocked full of biceps.
Thierry was now growling and laughing like a maniac. “…STOP!
“Get up lazy ass. I’m not stopping till you’re dressed.”
Max almost laughed when Sora grabbed Thierry’s cheeks and began to pinch and distort his face. By now, Thierry’s cheeks were really scarlet with laughter and amusement at Sora’s abuse.
“KIM SORA I’M GONNA GET YA FOR THIS!”
Easing his weight off Thierry, Max took a step back and watched as Thierry sprang up to a sitting position. Grabbing Sora’s waist, he flipped her over effortlessly. The two rolled off the bed onto the Gabbeh carpets, with Sora on top. Laughing, both pursued unrelentingly with their brutal tickle assaults. Both looked so engrossed in their own little world. They formed such a sweet picture that Max could not help his envy.
Not wanting to intrude further, Max turned away. Quietly, he picked up his duffel and closed the door to the dormitory behind him.
Kikokushijo Academy was almost a mile away from the student hostel. Seeing as it was early, Max arrived at school on foot, taking in the fabulous scenery surrounding the campus. Cherry blossoms lined both sides of the walkway, and pretty auburn-coloured leaves fell like snow flakes in the wind. In this time of autumn, the branches were a little dry, and they crackled a little when the winds struck.
Around him, high schoolers walked in big crowds, lively with chatting and gossiping. Max imagined that they must have been friends for a really long time since Kikokushijo was an affiliate of their namesake elementary and middle schools.
“Look. He is the new guy I overheard Sensei talking about!”
“I heard he is from Seoul! Lives in that Kikokushijo hostel.”
“Does he share a dorm with anybody? We have an empty bed in ours!”
“He is tall!”
“What’s his name?”
“Don’t you think he looks charming?”
Max straightened his back and trudged on, his duffel slung high across his back. Though he was used to people talking about him, he was wary of this fresh environment where thankfully nobody seemed to know his past. Unable to hide his self-consciousness, yet he refused to slouch away or hide his lanky frame, which instantly had become the subject of all conversations around him. Max ran his fingers through his tousled dark brown hair and picked up his pace.
“Look! He is shy isn’t he?”
“No can’t you see he was flirting? That awesome hair!”
“No look! He is blushing!”
“Are all Korean guys as hot?”
Girly chatters could be heard all over as they gushed. They were now discussing his muscular frame and that he must be a really good fighter.
Gritting his teeth, Max told himself: You could be much worst now if you had stayed in Korea, in that house. Your life has just begun, accept this. Japan is your safe haven now.
He knew that in order to survive, he could not get too close to anyone. Anybody could betray him if they knew. He had to stay low, and all these attention was not doing him any good.
He bowed his head down as he crossed the gates of Kikokushijo.
✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.
A/N: Reposting a novella written 6 years ago by the old me.
Did a bit of editing and here it is, fresh once again.
Frankly speaking, Max is inspired by my favourite Korean celebrity…SHIM CHANGMIN!
Thus, pardon the amateurity and bits of girlish-ness.
To be updated…