8.5: Extra

Yooji: Love is War

               I grew up in a household wherein comparing one person to another was the norm. Where insults were viewed as some sort of a trigger to do better, and where small achievements were considered a disgrace.

               It wasn’t always like that.

              Our home used to be peaceful and free from any kind of negativity.

               It only changed drastically when I made the biggest decision in my life that would dictate what my future was going to be.

               As an only child, my parents had huge expectations of me. They expect me to excel in the field of architecture so I could inherit our company and continue our clan’s long-standing legacy.

               Unfortunately, I was born as someone who had no interest in what they wanted me to be nor do I thought I was even meant to be one.

               Even though I forced myself several times to listen attentively every time my parents would talk about their jobs, I would always find myself zoning out halfway and end up not having a single clue about what they had just said.

               So, I gave up.

               Instead of a t-square, my hand preferred holding a game controller, and be amazed at how it fits perfectly in my small hands. Instead of planning the construction of some buildings I would never step a foot on, my mind preferred to come up with a plan on how to defeat the final boss of a game effectively. Instead of designing buildings, I preferred designing my character to my own satisfaction.

               It was just a hobby and never a passion.

               Nevertheless, I enjoyed the times that I had spent in front of my PS3 playing video games more than the times I spent reading through the books about the art of Architecture.

               I may hadn’t figured out what exactly do I want to pursue as a career as of yet, but that was fine since I still had a lot of time to do that. I’m still a child, after all. What mattered to me was I was sure it wasn’t what my parents wanted.

               That’s why one evening, I decided to tell my parents about it. I was nervous because I knew they would be extremely disappointed, but it was better than prolonging their dream for me that would never be fulfilled.

              “Mom, Dad, I don’t think I want to be an architect like you two.”

               They were all wearing the same expression on their faces. The one that clearly said they weren’t taking me seriously. That it was only empty words that were uttered by an eight year old child.

               “Aeri, just eat your food,” my mom said, her attention obviously not on me while my dad was just silently consuming the food on his plate.

               “No!” I whined. “I’m serious! I don’t want to be an architect!”

               “You’re just confused, Aeri.” My dad gave me a stern look. “You are only a child. You can’t make decisions for yourself yet.”

               “I’m not confused!” I tried to argue. “I’m sure of it!”

               I was starting to feel hopeless as I wasn’t getting through them at all.

               Why weren’t they believing me?

               That was so unfair!

               “Aeri, stop it already and eat your food.”

               I could only bit my lip to try to stop myself from crying pathetically in front of them. They weren’t listening. They didn’t ask for my reason. They just went and shut me down without considering my feelings.

               I was so frustrated that I swatted away the food on the table and stormed off to my room to cry and cry until I fell asleep while hugging my bunny plush close in my chest.

               My parents and I weren’t particularly close, but ever since that night, they became completely toxic.

               “Why can’t you be more like your cousin?”

               Of course, I couldn’t.

               We were two different people.

               I couldn’t be like her as she couldn’t be like me.

               “Have you seen how many achievements has she piled up already while you’re here wasting your time playing those video games?”

              Hey, it only took me around four hours to beat Devil May Cry 4 and that was an achievement!

               “Your cousin and you are just the same age, but how are you two so different?”

               Our only difference was she was both beautiful and handsome while I was only beautiful. It wasn’t that serious. Could you guys chill?

               It was insults after insults that it replaced food as my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It somehow became a normal part of my life.

               Though, I really couldn’t be bothered.

               I had learned to be the kind of person who didn’t take into heart whatever degrading remarks my parents would say about me.

               It all just goes in one ear and out the other.

               Why would I pressure myself to be someone I clearly was not?

               That was just stupid.

               I’d rather be someone who would choose to live in the present, disregard the future, and enjoy my life doing what I enjoy the most more than anything.

               YOLO!

               That same year, I met someone who was the complete opposite of myself at a playground I frequent every time I would grow tired of my parent’s unending scolding.

               She was seated on one of the swings, head trained up above the night sky that was currently painted by millions of bright stars. She was wearing a sweater since the wind was a bit chilly tonight and her hands gripped tightly on the chains.

               Her expression looked somber.

               The curiosity in me lead my feet to walk up to her.

               “Hi.”

               I occupied the swing next to her without looking at her and gazed upon the stars instead like what she was doing. They seemed extra bright tonight for some reason and I could clearly see some familiar constellations which were odd because that was a rare occurrence especially in a city where light pollution was terrible.

               From my peripheral vision, I noticed how she briefly turned to me with a look of surprise on her face. She was obviously not expecting me to talk to her.

               “H-Hello.”

               She looked really shy.

               She was probably not used to interacting with people.

               I guess, it was on me now to make her comfortable around me.

               “What’cha doing here?”

               “Um, I want to take a breath of fresh air.”

               Oh!

               So, she was here for the same reason.

               “Hm? Does that mean it is suffocating in your home too? Because same. In my house, my parents are being a total pain in the .”

               “Not exactly.” She shook her head. “My parents are barely home. It’s not suffocating but rather, it is making me feel lonely.”

               I see!

               So, that was the reason behind her somber expression. Hm, I could do something about her loneliness. I hope she’d accept my humble offer.

              “Hey, hey, what’s your name?” I reached to poke her arm. “I’m Aeri. Aeri Uchinaga.”

               She looked hesitant at first, but when she realized I wasn’t backing down until I heard her name, she finally sighed in defeat and gave me a timid smile.

              “Jimin Yoo.”

               I beamed at her.

               “Okay, Yooji! We are best friends from now on!”







               We became an inseparable duo after that night.

               I would always come over to her house to accompany her when she was alone. I had a lot of pending video games to complete but I preferred to watch her reading a book instead as if that was the most interesting thing in the world.

               Yooji looked so calm in her own element and it somehow made me calm too like some kind of a chain reaction. She was like the rainbow after the storm of negativities in my own household.

               Initially, she was really closed off and would not share anything about her. I was persistent though as I would keep on proving to her that she didn’t need to be wary of me because my intentions were genuine.

               I wanted to be her friend.

               As more days continued to pass by, she began to warm up to me and would now share things about her. She would now laugh loudly without feeling embarrassed. In other words, we became closer than ever.

               Yooji was so confident of herself.

               She was always at the top of her class.

               Has won every piano competition she joined in.

               She remained humble despite her countless achievements and never boasted about them.

               She was the kindest soul I had known.

               In my eyes, she was the perfect child every Asian parent would want to have including mine.

               It was unfortunate that her parents wouldn’t give her even an ounce of attention.

               It and the only thing I could do for her was to stay by her side and assure her in every way I could.

               That was the least I could do for her.

               To let her know that she had me and I was always proud of her.

               Everything took a turn for the worse though, when she came to know my cousin.

               My cousin who went beyond the word perfection.

               Minjeong Kim.

               Ever since she appeared in her life, being the second-best was forced on to her and her young mind had an extremely difficult time accepting that sudden change in her life.

               That was when she began pushing herself past her limits. It became so unhealthy that rather than improving, she was destroying herself more.

               She drown herself in studying even when she was supposed to be resting her mind and body.   

               “Yooji, it’s already past your bedtime. Why are you still studying?”

               “It’s fine. I need to memorize this tonight.”

               She had forgotten that she should eat at least three times a day. Her body was no longer getting the nutrients it needed.

               “Yooji, you have lost a lot of weight. Are you still eating properly?”

               “I’m eating crackers every five hours. That’s already enough.”

               She never goes outside of her room anymore since she made herself believe that she would just be wasting her time if she was not in front of her books.

               “Hey, Yooji. There is a newly opened carnival nearby. Wanna go and check it out with me?”

               “You go, Ri. I need to study.”

               It even came to a point where she would no longer sleep because she was so focused on finishing whatever she was doing.

               “I heard from one of your maids that you didn’t get even a wink of sleep yesterday. What are you doing to yourself, Yooji?”

               “It is merely a sacrifice that I must do in order to be better.”

               As her best friend, it was painful to see her neglect herself in desperation to surpass my cousin. She became so obsessed with her goal that everything else basically became unimportant to her.

               It was unhealthy.

               I was afraid that if I continue to let her have her way and break herself even further, I would regret it forever. That was why I did everything in my power to help her be the Yooji that I knew again.

               I would drag her out of her room to go somewhere that I knew would keep her distracted even if that meant, I would have to bathe and dress her myself.

               “We are going out.”

               “But I’m studying.”

               “I don’t care, Yooji. We are going out whether you like it or not.”

               “But—”

               “Or do you want me to bathe and dress you myself?”

               “...fine.”

               I would sleep over at her house to make sure she wouldn’t skip her meals and get enough sleep. My parents would often stop me, but I was smart enough to sneak out of the house without getting caught.

               “What are you doing here, Ri?”

               “I’m sleeping over tonight.”

               “Again?”

               “Yes. I prepared a meal for you.”

               “I’m not hungry.”

               “Shush. Eat this or I will throw this out of your window.”

               “You can’t do that!”

               “Then eat.”

               It took almost three months before I slowly began to see the fruit of my hard work. It was just small changes, but at the very least, she was changing and it made me feel like a proud parent seeing their child walk on their two feet for the first time.

               She’d now accompany me to someplace even without my insistence. Sometimes, she would go out by herself. It would shock me for a while and eventually would smile in pure glee.

               “Where are you going?”

               “There is a new movie in theaters that caught my interest.”

               “So, you’re gonna go and watch?”

               “Yes.”

               “Do you want me to come with you?”

               “It’s fine, Ri. I can manage.”

               She had started to buy novels again to keep herself from reading her academic books, something she came up with as a solution on her own.

               “I’ve been wanting to read the Millennium series. Do you think our local bookstore has them?”

               “Why don’t we see for ourselves?”

               “I guess that’s a good idea.”

               “If they do not have them, then we can just go around Seoul until we find what you want to buy”

               “Sounds like a plan.”

               She also asked her older sister to hire a great cook so she would find it a shame to miss her meals. A really ridiculous idea, but surprisingly, it worked really well. She would now eat four times a day.

               “I didn’t know your family has a cook.”

               “Oh, they’re new.”

               “Really?”

               “Uh-huh. I asked Jisoo to hire a great one.”

               “Good for you, Yooji.”

               She was slowly accepting the fact that she would never be able to beat my cousin no matter what she does. That it would be better to just direct her energy into something else that she was also good at rather than being fixated on one person.

               In exchange, she made herself hate her to the core.

               “She does not even study.”

               “How could she ace everything?”

               “She’s an anomaly.”

               “She must be cheating her way or something.”

               It was like her mind had come up with a way to justify her inability to win against my cousin and somehow fabricated the reality to her favor.

               I knew Mj was famous for having both good and bad reputations.

               Cunning, deceitful, and every unpleasant adjective a person could think of, she ‘embodied’ them.

               However, she was not the type to do something as dumb as cheating. She doesn’t even care about studies or anything for that matter. She’d rather play video games with me than bury her nose in a book.

               She was just born different from us.

               That’s why she would never taste defeat in her lifetime.

               Yooji doesn’t know that, that’s why she resorted to hating her.

               I was not sure if that was a good thing.

               Because you see, my cousin was in love with her.

               I knew about it even before Yooji told me about the deal, but I pretended not to know because it was not my story to tell.

               Yooji doesn’t seem to believe her though and that wasn’t really surprising since Mj had no idea how to express her feelings properly.

               Instead of wooing my best friend, she would annoy her every time their paths would cross and since Yooji would give her attention, albeit in a way the latter would throw her profanities and nasty glares, she figured she was doing a good job.

               I already told her thousands of times to not be an around my best friend and treat her like how a normal person would, but it became some sort of a hobby now to piss her off.

               “Mj, that’s not how you make a girl like you.”

               “This is the only way I can get her to look my way.”

               “But you are just adding fuel to her hatred for you.”

               “It is better than being ignored.”

               She was a lost cause I tell you.

               One thing I’m sure of though was her feelings were genuine and realer than real. That it wasn’t just some kind of infatuation she developed because she thought Yooji was different as she wasn’t the same as the majority of the people who would always treat her with adoration and respect.

               I knew it was more than that.

               I knew she really was in love with Yooji.

               That was why I talked to her that one time on the rooftop.

               “Uchinaga?” she said, clearly surprised at my unexpected appearance. “I didn’t know you’d come.”

               “I won’t take long,” I said. “I just need to talk to you about something.”

               I took her hand and pulled her far away enough for Yooji to not hear what we were going to talk about. I knew it concerned her but she didn’t need to hear about this.

               “It’s already been a week. Is there any progress between you two?”

               “I don’t know.” She chuckled. “It seems to me like she really hates me. That she’s really just doing this because she really wants to date my sister.”

               Well, Yooji was stubborn like that.

               Once she’d set her eyes on something, everything else would fade into the background.

               If she thought that it was Ryujin she liked, then she would hold on to that until somebody knocks some senses into her.

               “But you already know that right?”

               “Yeah.”

               “So, what are you going to do?”

               She adorned a confident grin.

               “Make her fall in love with me so hard she’d forget my sister’s existence.”

               This girl.

               She was thinking of doing the impossible!

               “Do you think she will?”

               “I will make sure she will.”

Like this story? Give it an Upvote!
Thank you!
taglamig
Won't be able to update for a while. PH election is draining tf out of me. Not really in the right state of mind to write anything. Thank you :)
No comments yet