Ketika sunyi waktu berhenti
In some ways, we want to be stirred. to get knocked out of our body, to be reminded that whatever it takes to get to us is a risk worth taking.
Except Byulyi never thought of it any second.
Her half-tied hair swished to the side when she swirled her chair to her behind. Her arm reaches instinctively to another stack of papers waiting to be scrutinized, or whatever she wants to call it. It's reaching midnight and her train of thought isn't that clear to put a name on what she's doing right now. That's right. Finishing the assignment of their superiors' who happened to be on a paid holiday at Malibu.
"The Excel's ing jammed."
One of her brows shot up at the profanity, and the man made a clicked sound, realizing his slip of tongue. "I mean, he's the boss, but all of this is far from half-done! Can we even make it tomorrow, even when we work our off…"
"There's still time." Byulyi fixes her rounded glasses, watching the window of their superiors' office with a mood. "The interns can at least handle some copying, leaving the editing to upper seniors." She sent him off to his cubicle and started unraveling the work that is not supposed to be her part the whole night.
Moon Byulyi considers herself to be just an office woman of some sort of level. Her ID card prove it to be so: a menial position that leaves one asking on whether it's one of the new professions emerging with the surging trend of A.I, and after that is a simple laugh on how Byulyi must be in such a comfortable place and getting all the stability she needs.
She considers them to be quite correct. By society standards, she is in quite a safe place; one that anyone can be envied for unless one is asking for too much.
And there's no catch.
Finally arriving in her apartment, she took off her Casio watch and put it in a crystal glass (remaining of what once was an aromatic candle) and put her ear cuff in as well. The light , her eyes were met with minimalist furniture, a slick kitchen island that is quite hygienic by her standard, devoid of any trinkets. There's a reason why it was called 'minimalistic'.
She swiped open the phone but soon put it on the table, instead marching into the bathroom. Grimes and sweat pull on her already, the excess of doing everyone else's job and popping tasks out of nowhere under the guise of 'capable'. A disclaimer: she doesn't mind it. Being useful should make one happy.
Halfway through ripping the ramen into pieces, she's deciding that dinner can wait another day. Pulling the towel hanging around her neck and dumping it on the sofa, her hair feels damp against the skin of her neck as she steps into the room, pulling the door knob with premeditated force.
Her bare feet stepped onto the linoleum floor, in an empty room with gray patterns on the wall. She took a seat on the only chair in the middle of the vacant space after making sure the door was locked and latching the keys away.
It's a particular room that has been soundproofed meticulously to make sure that no sound can escape in or out, and by the time she closed her eyes, she was met with a deafening silence.
It's a state that she loves the most. By all means, her childhood was spent fooling around with friends and making sure no one gets abandoned in the circle. She's everyone's safe haven, the place where you can confide your worries to, the best secret keeper. A social butterfly, if you may.
She doesn't remember when it started.
The bigger the circle, the more friends that she got. It pleased her, but as time goes by the noise starts to become a rapture. It thrums in her ear at every given chance, the source of a continuous headache that can last for a week when she was in highschool.
No one knew this, obviously. It is of no importance that they should know, anyway.
When the noise sets in, there is no way for time to stop; it escapes her from every nook and cranny, crawling into places that are difficult to reach into. A journey to unfathomable space.
It took a while to realize that silence can stop time.
"Moonstar, isn't it?"
The mention of her 'other' name makes her lift a head, peeling her back off the statue that she has been waiting under. "Yes. You may click the 'confirm' button in the app before we begin. I guess I have to introduce you to the rules of the game."
"Moonstar", the persona she assumed for her part time job every weekend. Within a handsome amount of city dwellers slithering all over the place, she provides a service (not an ) of doing 'nothing'. Client can decide what kind of activity she wants to do that day, and there's no brainer that no will ever be concluded.
As for the rest of the rule that can be arranged along the way so let's just put it as 'et cetera'. She's only a freelancer anyway. There's a wide variety of 'escorts' that they can choose from, and Byulyi is sure from the advertisement that they will do a good job, even better than her by a long mile.
She follows the client wherever she goes, strolling and getting in and out of retro boutiques and resting their feet at a Cafe nearby.
"I heard that you're the only freelancer who provides absolutely 'nothing'. That's why I asked for your service."
She shrugged because, what kind of comment can she make on that? A pair of movie tickets waved to her nose, and the woman (most of the clients refused to give out even a fake name either, so she preferred to address her mentally as 'woman' or 'client'). "My boyfriend didn't want to watch this movie, and my friends are too busy. Have you watched this one before?"
She studies the ticket in her palm, taking a quick look at the monster bursting flames with a cartoon-is backdrop.
She sent a single shake of the head.
"Thank you, Moonstar-shi. I had quite an enjoyable day today."
It's the end of the day, and they say goodbye without her taking off the hat nor the mask. There's no need for pleasantries for a repeat customer. After paying respect to the client's father's grave, they took a short walk near the Han river, with Byulyi listening to the woman's story of her love life and overbearing soon-to-be mother-in-law. Sometimes it doesn't matter what she thinks when she just want someone to listen, just like any other who paid for this service: one of her past customers told her that she's different from other freelancers, in a sense that she never provide much in the conversation or the course of the trip, instead leaving it to them to fill up the space, making it a day that's supposed to focused on them. Hence the rave reviews. Byulyi sincerely thinks it's a bunch of bollocks.
How does 'rave reviews' weigh in the line of job more vague than her day job?
Another message popping up. Her face blared the light from the screen, staying stoic upon the sentence written, if not a little tired.
1 message received
Boss decided to treat us to Supreme sukiyaki, the highest grade one can think of. Monday after 5! You have to come, Byulyi-sshi!
Her expression remains unchanged at the energetic nature of the message, fingers already set on the most generic reply one can think of.
It is too selfish to assume that everything she did has to speak to her in some sort of way. When her mother said that she's not too special so she has to work extra hard for a better grade, when her father said that she has to make sure that she acts accordingly and not hurting anyone's feelings, but sometimes she can act selfish as long as no one sees her.
You can be nice without making it some sort of a facade, you know.
In the middle of swaying coworkers with their mics in hand, singing songs (they said it was a trend) and belting higher notes at every second in an attempt to show their prowess in front of the superior who just treated them to the best sukiyaki they have ever tasted, Byulyi puts some notes or just gaping and closing in a way similar to someone singing.
Another belt that came out hoarse and Byulyi feels like retreating to her soundproofed cave. But this is Friday, she has no excuse to just call it a day. Apparently their boss thinks that Monday is not enough, and an encore is needed.
Byulyi stands up and takes a seat at the corner of the karaoke room, ice cubes floating and bumping into each other in her saturated ice tea.
Let's just go home, go to the silence that she always needs to go to.
Can she be the silence instead?
Moon Byulyi stares at her client from a distance, the one that stands under the statue.
It's a woman with jet-black, flowing hair swished to the side. The white sweater is a nice touch against the white statue she's standing under, and Byulyi cannot get a good look of her face at this distance, more so when she's ducking down, eyes fixated on her phone.
The woman being out of the usual types that asked for her service is not the only point, but also the hanging dark cloud above her, and as much as it metaphorically silly-sounded it was, Byulyi rubbed her eyes several times only to find out that the cloud was still there.
Talk about being delirious. Maybe she's just blowing things out of proportion. She did not sleep well for the past week, anyway. Too many tasks waiting to be done.
After making sure she's fully sheathed in snapback and a mask, she steps forward and comes closer. "Good afternoon." She started with the default conversation starter. "I am Moonstar from 6equence, and you're the one who asked for the service--"
The crisp quality stunned her for a good minute. The woman lifted her head and put her phone aside. "Let's cut to the chase." She said, a little cold. "You can start by standing beside me."
And that's what exactly they did, standing. Byulyi once thought that this must be the client making fun of her, only that the woman stays beside her and the silence stretches as vast to the other side of the continent.
So there’s nothing she can do but stealing glances to the side, noticing the small details of a mole at her nostrils, the line of sweat starts to dripping into— Byulyi look away in a sudden move that caused a whiplash, resuming her stance of standing next to each other, watching the passersby into their own matters, walking here and there.
She does like silence, but it can be a difficult feat to achieve when faced with uncomfortable situations. Can they at least do the same thing under the tree instead? The silence has descended into awkwardness, or at least that’s what Byulyi feels.
“Can we move somewhere?” The woman turned to Byulyi and she flustered for unexplainable reasons. “A public park, perhaps. I see that you’re starting to sweat.”
After another silence, the woman did a prompt nod and tugged the hem of Byulyi’s coat, and she blinked.
“Thank you for coming!"
Getting out of the convenience store, Byulyi makes sure for the client to wait nearby while she prepares everything under the tree, in the most vacant space she can find. Three minutes, two, one, and she’s done. Upon a call, Byulyi wondered what kind of reaction she would make when seeing the picnic mat and various assortments of food spread all over. Byulyi is already seated, pouring a glass of ice honey lemon and handing it to the client who’s about to take her seat.
“How is it?”
For someone who’s supposed to do ‘nothing’, it’s a little ironic of her to talk a lot and act like a ‘beacon’ of conversation starters.
The woman picked one kimbap with her chopsticks and munching. Sensing that the woman will not speak any further, Byulyi imitated the same movement and they start digging into food that afternoon.
Byulyi starts putting the plastic containers in one place and ties it up to be trashed later, while the client stares ahead , watching the children running about with mothers chatting at the side, drowned in their topics of the day.
It is rare for Byulyi to think of what to do next. Usually the client decides it for her. People taking her services are often about doing things and confiding about stuff that they cannot spit out in front of their friends and families; an outlet from daily life.
She's so used to the other party filling the space in between, it's taking a while to get used to this situation.
"What is your dream?"
The client's attention is already set on her before she realizes it.