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.
A chair was propped up against the entrance gate.
A petite elderly lady gently beckoned. She must be Kawa-san, the caretaker whom everyone dubbed the ‘Halmeoni’. A Korean immigrant herself, she adored her hometown lodgers and never failed to welcome them with open arms.
Max shuffled his weight from one feet to another, hesitant.
Kawa-san cupped her thin, callused palms lightly over Max’s, extending her warmth to the tips of his icy cold fingers.
“Please call me Halmeoni, like everyone else. It’s great to finally meet you, Max. Come over 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. Let’s get you comfortable. School begins tomorrow. A good night’s rest will do you some good.” Kawa-san then led the way to the co-ed dormitory that Max was to share with two other fellow students. Max was thankful that she comprehended how he did not wish to speak.
The room was dark. Closing the door behind him softly, Max approached the only empty bed by the window, which faced the dimly-lit streets. He could sense the gentle rise and fall of his room-mate’s chests as they slept on soundly, but quietly so he would not wake them, Max unzipped his jacket and draped it across neatly-folded sheets.
For a long while after, he was lost in thoughts as he stared out of the window. His mind had a life of its own, swirling with memories long buried and better off forgotten.
Here at last, Max was finally physically safe enough to revisit his past. Though blurred and fuzzy at the edges from prolonged suppression, 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! G’morning.”
A chirpy girl greeted Max with a wide smile.
Max didn’t mean to stare. She was dressed in a beach-ready bikini, and as she stood up, he was hit with the fact that his room-mate was drop-dead gorgeous. Max stopped himself from scanning her from top to toe, and focused on her mega-watt smile.
Noticing Max’s creeping blush, she let out a loud laugh.
“Hah! Forgot my manners. Forgive me. I’ve been here for 3 years and this is nothing new. You are Max right? Halmeoni told us you would be staying with us. I’m Sora. Kim Sora from Seoul, Korea, like you!”
She sure talks a lot. Max thought as he shifted his gaze onto the body on the adjacent bed.
“Oh that one is Thierry. He is so lazy even though we need to wake up at this time every morning, and now the time is….OH NO. OH MY GOODNESS. THIERRY! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”
Sora was born a multitasker. Max watched her tug the blankets off of Thierry, and slapped him in so many areas that could wake the dead, and all the while, managed to powder her nose and put on mascara. Her lungs were a separate entity – they screamed at a hundred decibels for Thierry to get the hell out of bed.
Thierry, however, was dead to the world.
Sora launched her last resort.
“Max. Give me a hand will ya? Press Thierry down.”
Curious, Max did as told.
Sora stood a few feet away, poised to charge at the bed. Max stood rooted as Sora flung her entire bodyweight, and more, at her sleeping victim.
“YARRGHHH!” Sora roared as she slammed onto Thierry. Her fingers latched onto him and began aggressive tickling.
“What in the WORLD!!” Thierry sprang up. He tried to lift his body but Max was holding on. Max was not just ordinarily strong – he was chocked full of biceps.
Thierry growled and howled like a tortured maniac. “SORA…STOP!”
“Get up lazy ass. Get dressed!”
Sora then grabbed Thierry by the cheeks, and kneaded his face like it was a lump of mould. Thierry’s cheeks – already scarlet from laughter and pain from Sora’s abuse – turned pinker.
“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, forming such a sweet picture of bliss.
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 leaves were snow flakes in the wind. The branches crackled when the winds struck.
Around Max, high schoolers moved in big crowds, lively with chatter and gossips. They must have been friends for a really long time as 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?”
“He looks hot.”
Max straightened his back and trudged on, his duffel slung high across his back. He was wary of this fresh environment although he was certain nobody knew, that he came from a place where his story was fodder for gossip, people were willing to pay to know his whereabouts.
He refused to slouch away or hide his lanky frame, which had become subject of all conversations. Max ran his fingers through his tousled dark brown hair and picked up his pace.
“Look! He is shy isn’t he?”
“He was flirting!”
“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.
Teeth grit, Max thought: You could do much worst in Korea, in that house. Accept this life. Japan is your safe haven now.
Friends were a luxury. Anybody could betray him. He had to stay low, and all these attention was not doing him any good.
He bowed his head as he crossed the gates into 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. Here it is, fresh again after some edits.
To be honest, the protagonist, Max was inspired by a favourite Korean boyband then.
Hence pardon the amateurity, immaturity and bouts of girlish-ness.
To be updated…