This is based on my recent trip to Hong Kong. Merry Christmas, everyone! :)
Sometimes for the right time to come around, all you have to do is wait.
Through timeless words, and priceless pictures
We'll fly like birds not of this earth.
Jason Mraz; A Beautiful Mess
She is crazy about that new band RouteZero, and writes her first fanfiction about them on a rainy evening in August. Their new single has been released and she is excited about it, keeping her giggling secret even from her closest friends as she tears down the freezing district in Mongkok until she reaches a street of old, peeling shophouses. She makes her way up a winding staircase along a mama shop that sells coconut sweets, and there on the third floor is the shiny glass door without a title.
Everyone she knows who loves Korean music comes here some time, where it is a haven of the popular groups RouteZero, Supernova and Dallas Twin. It also stocks the indie groups such as Arabic Cosmo Carpets and the famous pop music sensations like JEkka, as well as the acts from the past that her mother adores, such as BoA and Big Bang and Dong Bang Shin Ki. She doesn’t listen to those, though, finding more interest in the artistes of her generation. She steps across the racks of music and magazines, both industry and fan-made, and her heart stops when she sees the new magazine release of her favourite couple from RouteZero – Ki Hye and Ahndi. She takes up the magazine from its rack, almost reverently, her breath caught in her throat as she sees the front cover of them hugging after a concert. The headline screams “MADE FOR EACH OTHER!” and she can’t help but agree.
“They’re really popular these days, aren’t they?”
She half-gasps and turns, blinking as she meets the eyes of the shop owner. For a moment she almost forgets the magazine she is holding, instead awed by the lovely features of the man who stands before her with a lilting smile. Jae, she remembers now – the man who owns this little haven of Korean music for as long as she can remember. She smiles at him, almost embarrassed, and he chuckles in response.
“Ah, don’t ask me how I know these things,” he says with a shy laugh. “I hear a lot from the fans who come in. Their new single just arrived this morning, would you like a listen?”
The sounds of RouteZero’s new track blasts across the small space, and she is immediately enraptured. Jae watches her with laughing eyes and gestures to the magazine. “I’ll give you a discount,” he says, “just for being such a dedicated fan.”
She leaves the shop with the new single and the amazing fan-made magazine, along with a bright grin on her lips. She glances back through the glass of the shop and notices that Jae now has his headphones on, eyes closed with a smile across his pretty face.
Her mother is a huge fan of Xiah Junsu, the classy ballad singer who has a voice of an angel and a smile to move even the hardest hearts. She listens to him sometimes as she does the laundry, after she has exhausted her RouteZero and JEkka CDs. Her mother twirls around the house to the sound of Xiah’s voice, looking almost like a girl of nineteen with a first crush. “He always makes me so happy,” she sighs. “Isn’t he wonderful?”
She watches her mother’s dreaming eyes and finds it hard to disagree. Junsu’s voice fills the living room, soft and heartfelt, and she thinks he is wonderful, too.
“There are more people who love Korean music than you think,” Jae tells her, eyes crinkly as he leans over the cashier counter to watch her browse through the stacks of CDs in the rock/pop section. “I bring in the fanservice magazines, too, since the girls seem to like it so much.”
She tells him about the pairing of Ki Hye and Ahndi in RouteZero, and why she thinks they’re the real deal. Jae observes the photographs with her, his smile amused but his eyes keen and studious behind his black-rimmed glasses. “They do look very loving, don’t they,” he says, and his words warm her heart because he seems to mean it. Jae lifts his gaze and he tweaks her nose lightly. “You’re so sweet for supporting them.”
She finds herself staying longer and longer in the shop to talk to Jae, and finds that he is truly interested in not only the music but its fans. Jae treats his customers with the care of someone who seems to understand the delicateness of their quiet squeals and racing hearts. She wonders if Jae himself is a fan of anyone.
“Xiah Junsu,” Jae says, when she voices the question. “I love his voice. I knew he would become a great solo artist.”
She tells him her mother loves him, and Jae laughs, genuinely tickled. “Junsu would be happy to hear that.”
Mongkok is a maze of neon signs and bright lights, so much so that even the night time resembles the day. Cars swerve around pedestrians without honking, and the people are beautifully dressed as they tote Gucci bags and Louis Vuitton scarves. They are in the midst of winter as Christmas creeps in, bringing to life the already busy streets along the pavements in the heart of Hong Kong.
JEkka’s Christmas CD is released that week, and she hurries down the boulevard filled with people in coats and boots to reach the familiar stretch of shophouses. Along the way she bumps into a man with a map, looking somewhat lost in between the throng of people. She hears him murmur to himself in Korean and her ears perk up. She looks at him quickly, noting at once how tall he is. He is handsome for his age, hair a soft brown as his oriental eyes scan the map once more. She hesitates before asking if he is lost.
He looks immensely relieved that she speaks Korean, and she can’t help but smile back. He is quite gorgeous, now that she sees him properly. “Kamsahamnidha,” he says breathlessly, “I’m looking for this place, if you know where it is -”
It is the CD store she is heading to. Her face lights up, and so does his. She leads him down a block, passing the mama shop and up the flight of stairs, and she moves to enter before she sees the expression in his eyes. She asks if he is okay.
“Ah,” he blurts out, “maybe it isn’t a good idea – “
The door opens then, and a few girls troop out with their purchases. Jae looks up, headphones still on as he spots them, and she sees the colour drain from his cheeks as the glass door presses close.
“Jaejoong,” she hears the man behind her say softly.
She stands stock still as the man steps through the door now, as if his earlier hesitation was never there in the first place, then the door swings back shut. She presses her fingers against the glass, watching him envelope Jae in his arms like he never wants to let go, fingers curling possessively into the woven fabric of Jae’s sweater as he holds on tight.
She doesn’t ask Jae about this until a week later, when she returns for her weekly fix of RouteZero magazines. He is exiting the stock room with his arms laden with a box of CDs. She catches a glimpse of Dallas Twin’s hit album and wonders briefly if she should get it. Then Jae smiles at her. “Hey there.”
So her question comes out in starts, first about who he is and why he is here and perhaps he’s a friend? Jae taps his chin with a pen and gives her a half-amused expression that makes her aware, yet again, of how pretty he is, even if he claims to be old. That is untrue, she thinks to herself as she watches him now. Jae’s features are graceful and delicate, and she almost can’t imagine how lovely he must have been when he was her age. This understanding makes her envious.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Jae is saying, patting the top of her head. “Yunho-ah tells me you helped him find this place. Thank you.”
She pouts and presses on, asks about the handsome Yunho and if he’s ever coming back. Jae kind of smiles and tilts his head. “Yunho told me once, many years ago, that he’ll look for me when he’s ready,” he says lightly, but she can see from the softness in his eyes that he is anything but joking.
Ready for what? The questions are spilling forth now. She knows she is being nosy, but she is captured by curiosity now, because as much as they have talked Jae has never opened up about his life. Jae hums under his breath and says something about falling in love with Hong Kong, with its busy street culture and neon lights. “And sometimes,” he says, not meeting her eyes, “it’s the right person but the wrong time. It’s too painful to be standing in between and just waiting.” He grins. “And I’m doing pretty well now, aren’t I.”
Is it the right time now, then? She questions. There is a silence as Jae looks at her, and he ducks his head with a smile that is almost shy as he pulls out the latest Ki Hye and Ahndi fan magazine. “Here,” he says, changing the subject, “I saved this for you.”
She squeals and half-forgets what they were talking about. As he rings up her purchase, he leans in and whispers, “I think they’re dating secretly, too.”
She passes by the area on Christmas Eve. The winds are coming on colder than the previous weeks, and she pulls her coat closer to her as she trudges past shophouses with her bags of food for the dinner later. She notices Jae step down the familiar flight of stairs, face half-hidden in a woolen scarf. She wants to call out and shout her hello, but then she notices the other figure behind Jae who pulls him into a close hug as they stumble out of the shophouse, half-laughing and gasping into the winter chill. “Yunho-ah – “ but Jae’s face is in Yunho’s shoulder now as the taller man presses a kiss into the other’s neck, the scarf hiding the affectionate gesture. Jae’s fingers ghost over Yunho’s cheeks as they smile at each other, and she watches them disappear into the bustling crowd. She wants to stop smiling like an idiot, but finds that it is an impossible task.
Her mother is pulling out a box of old books and CDs as she enters with the bags of food, and she laughs as her mother acts like a teenager all over again over the music groups of the past. “Look at Sungmin,” she marvels. “He was just adorable!”
She can’t help but join in when her mother starts railing about SHINee and Dong Bang Shin Ki, and then she feels her breath trap in her throat as she finds a magazine at the bottom of the pile with two familiar faces on the cover. Mother, she manages to say, what is –
“YunJae,” her mother gasps, grabbing the magazine. “Ah, they were such a popular couple in my time.” She places the magazine lovingly against her chest, sighing happily. “Dong Bang Shin Ki was my first love.”
Popular couple? Dong Bang Shin Ki? She sits there, kind of stunned, before realizing that the stacks before her are filled with the faces of the two men she had just seen holding each other in Mongkok. She swallows, hands trembling slightly as she flips through the pages of Kim Jaejoong and Jung Yunho –
“One only wonders if they’re together now,” her mother says wistfully, pulling out more Dong Bang Shin Ki CDs and dusting them fondly. “They were made for each other.”
And they still are, she wants to shout, and the immense happiness she feels in her chest makes her almost want to cry. Yunho told me once, many years ago, that he’ll look for me when he’s ready. She barely stifles a joyful laugh.
He’s ready, Jaejoong-ah. And so are you.