On December 25th, 2011, Mingyu moved from his noisy hometown of Gyeonggi, away from the bustle of the city, to the quaint sea port, Gyeongsangnam.
Gyeongsangnam seemed like the complete opposite of Gyeonggi, and having thoroughly enjoyed his stay of 15 years in the latter, Mingyu had developed a bored and angry set of feelings that he permanently carried around with him. It did not help that he had moved into a somewhat remote and quiet area. No cool arcading zones- just a small, dirty building, perennially occupied by young delinquents who reeked of alcohol, that took him 20 minutes to walk to. No fun malls that Mingyu could loiter about in- only 2, tiny shopping complexes that called themselves ‘malls’, the only attractions being a small theatre and a few seafood restaurants. The only fun these people seemed to have was going fishing, and catching chickens, and picking barley in their stupid farms. Everyone he talked to always went on and on about how cool Gyeongsangnam would be- apparently, their idea of fun was spending hours staring at a huge statue of Buddha, and walking around harbours, staring at seagulls pooping into the water.
Moreover, he had moved exactly during the holidays, which meant that he had no school to go to, and therefore, no new friends to make for a few weeks- unusually, Gyeongsangnam’s winter holidays went up until January 10th. He was fairly social, and although he had never moved before, he was confident that making new friends would be no problem. But the rest of the district’s boring inhabitants liked to stay cooped up in their small, whitewashed houses, only stepping out to hang their ugly pajama pants outside to dry (in all seriousness, Mingyu noticed that any clothes that were dried outside were pajama pants, clearly worn out beyond age, adorned with boring blue stripes or yellow dots. Nothing else.). No one came out to play, and the youngsters that did stayed together in groups, playing around with rocks, and “acting gay” by the beach, or playing CD-ROM games at the ‘arcade’. As much as he wanted friends, Mingyu was quite content with being by himself, as opposed to fraternizing with them.
He missed his old friends sorely. According to them, they missed him just as much, but from their one skype call and subsequent absence of communication, Mingyu began to doubt that. Their social media were rampant with the luxuries of Gyeonggi that Mingyu missed, their favourite hang outs, and their special friendship routines. However, they did not feature anything about him at all- his friends were clearly content without him, still basking in his hometown’s extravagance, and that annoyed Mingyu greatly. That he was forced to leave everything and become an utter loner.
Perhaps it was a new experience and would do him good to learn from it. But Mingyu despised each waking second he spent in Gyeongsangnam- at least, he tried to, but his heart never allowed him to get too angry. Nevertheless, he did not like Gyeongsangnam.
No, Mingyu did not like Gyeongsangnam at all, and dreamt of the day someone would save him from the monotonous hell he was stuck in.
On January 1st, 2012, Mingyu heralded in the New Year by resolving to bring in a few changes in his life. He would stop eating too much fast food- that included the love of his life, cheeseburgers (although it wasn’t that hard- he couldn’t find even a single fast food restaurant in the 18th century village he lived in), and that he would start composing his own music.
He begged his parents to buy him a small keyboard, to which they finally gave in, and rented a microphone and audio interface with his allowance. Mingyu particularly enjoyed R&B, and was hooked onto the idea of composing music ever since his mother gave him a few of her old cassettes. Therefore, he connected all his equipment, cleared his desk away, and took out a brand new notebook, setting it on the table. Rubbing his hands together, he pulled out his brand new pink gel pen and spent a few minutes drawing his name onto the front.
And then another few minutes writing ‘Music Book’ in pretty, cursive letters, making sure that it was centred perfectly.
And yet another few minutes turning the page, setting the tip of the pen to the paper, ready to write, and then staring, quite blankly, at the white space before him.
Every time he drew a breath in, he lunged forward to begin writing, only to pull away and rummage through his empty head again for ideas.
Unfortunately, it seemed he had no ideas. His mind was completely blank.
Frustrated, he let out a deep groan, slamming his head on to the table. He did not have any clue on how to start composing music- how was he supposed to just, get ideas out of the blue?
‘But every other musician probably does,’ he murmured to himself, ‘It’s official- I’ve become as unimaginative as this stupid place.’
He continued this process of setting his equipment up and opening his book, only to slam it closed and whine about how he had no ideas, for a few days.
Aside from the initial two resolutions, Mingyu had also decided to visit the library at least once a month- a plan forced onto him by his parents, who demanded he started reading and ‘do away with that digital nonsense’, in turn for his keyboard. Being in the second capital of South Korea, a tech-giant, meant that Mingyu was quite distant from books in general. He had no idea what a library even looked like- even his school books were uploaded on his tablet, and none of his friends enjoyed reading books either; in fact, they looked down upon the modicum that did, which drove Mingyu even further away from books.
But now, with this resolution sitting on his shoulders, he had to go to the library. And with no idea on how to tackle his desire to make his own music, he felt that the qualities most often associated with the library- a sense of peace and calm, sudden self-discovery, equipped with the wisdom of a thousand worlds- would help him significantly in his music-mission.
On January 5th, 2012, Mingyu met Jeon Wonwoo.
Mingyu pulled a grey hoodie over his already messy hair, and headed out to the Municipal Library, about 10 minutes from his house.
The sky was overcast, almost resembling his hoodie. The wind blew like small whispers, running through his hair softly every few seconds. It looked so dull, and depressing… Mingyu, for one, enjoyed the presence of the sun and liked bright weather much more than what Gyeongsangnam experienced for most of the year.
Shaking his head in contempt, he skipped up the stairs and into yet another small, white building, ‘MUNICIPAL LIBRARY’ painted onto the front in large, black letters.
It looked just like he had envisioned- a bunch of rickety desks and plastic chairs set against large, worn out book shelves, full of dusty old books. A few students sat at the tables, either diligently studying or wasting time on their laptops, while some people waited in line to check out their story books with the librarian, who looked just as stereotypical as everything else- lean, hooked nose, old glasses and a permanent look of disgust plastered across her face.
Running his hand through his hair, Mingyu gingerly walked in, trying his best to avoid the librarian, in case she found him aimlessly looking around. He had no idea on how to start looking for books, let alone how check them out, or read them at a table… he was so paranoid about having not gone to a library that everything he had to do seemed like a huge, daunting task.
“Great. Once again, you know nothing,” he said to himself, as he passed by a tall boy seated in a blue chair, poring over a small paper- back book.
Mingyu quickly became quite bored of walking in between numerous bookshelves, trying to pull out an interesting book. None of them seemed to interest him; he tried looking at books on music, as that was what had brought him to the library in the first place, but they were all far too long, old, and complex for him to enjoy. The Fiction section was crowded by a group of 13- year olds, and Mingyu had no intentions of either reading books that 13-year olds enjoyed, or making his way through ten impulsive, and uninhibited children.
Giving up on searching for books, Mingyu slouched to the back of the library, now on the look- out for anything interesting- a secret room perhaps? Or a large, iron door that led to a flight of old, rickety stairs?
Mingyu found exactly that, hidden away in the back of the building. He pulled the door’s handle down with all his might and opened it to face a small room, with old, dusty stairs winding upwards. Checking to see that no one was watching him, he slowly tip toed into the room and quietly climbed up the stairs, his heart racing. What did the stairs lead to?
‘Maybe a secret lab… where they brainwash kids into reading Government propaganda! Or a slaughterhouse… or an illegal meth lab,’ Mingyu thought to himself, a maniacal smile spread wide across his face. He did not read books at all, but was a huge movie buff, and his obsession was clearly instrumental in many of his thoughts.
An excited Mingyu was let down as he pushed open a small wooden door at the end of the stairs to face an open terrace, just as white and dreary as the rest of the building.
The interesting thing, however, was that he could hear the faint sound of someone talking- very rapidly, strong, and aggressive- which immediately stopped once Mingyu let out a bored, “Seriously?”
Stopping in his tracks, Mingyu let out a feeble, “Oh,” before asking if anyone was there. After tip toeing around, he found the same boy he had seen below, leaning onto a pillar, a number of books scattered about next to him.
“Well, this is embarrassing,” the boy said, grimacing slightly. He ran his hands through his brown hair as the wind blew, before pulling his sweater sleeves over his hands.
Mingyu laughed before saying, “I saw you downstairs…”
“Yeah, I usually sit downstairs for some time until I’m sure no one can see me, and then I come up here. I’ve never seen you up here, though,” he replied before scooting over and asking him to sit down.
Mingyu told the boy about his disastrous move to Gyeongsangnam, his troubles with music, and about how he had never gone to a library before. He gradually relaxed against the pillar, slowly finding comfort in talking with the boy. It helped that he seemed very interested in what Mingyu was narrating, and, albeit without knowing, encouraged Mingyu to confide in him as time passed- something that the latter badly needed.
Immediately after he was finished, Mingyu realized he had talked too much to someone he had just found on the top of a library, and mentally slapped himself multiple times, before saying, “Sorry... I just like talking a lot. And I haven’t had anyone to talk to in a long time.”
He laughed, his dark eyes reducing to small crescents, and his nose scrunching up at the bridge.
“That’s alright. I like listening to people talk.”
Somehow, every time the boy spoke, Mingyu felt at home even more than before.
“Oh, by the way,” Mingyu started, looking around, “who were you talking with before?”
The boy ran his hands through his hair once again, a light blush colouring his pale cheeks.
“No one, really. I- I was rapping. I like writing lyrics, and I come up here a lot and rap them out.”
Embarrassed, the boy reproachfully looked at Mingyu from the corner of his eye, only to see the latter smiling widely in surprise. Relieved, he pulled out a small notebook from under the mess of books he had created, and showed it to Mingyu.
“These are your lyrics? Dude, that’s so cool!” Mingyu exclaimed, quite awe-inspired and a little jealous of the boy’s musical prowess. He excitedly flipped through the pages, catching glimpses of the boy’s messy handwriting. “I wish I could write like this!”
The boy lightly chuckled, saying, “It’s nothing… I’ve got a lot to learn,” brushing it off nonchalantly and masking the euphoria he was feeling inside. A random person had just appreciated his music- that was enough to keep him happy for the next week.
“What’s your name again?”
“Wonwoo. Jeon Wonwoo.”
“I’m Bond. James Bond.”
Mingyu laughed quite heartily at his own joke, something Wonwoo found very funny in itself.
“Just kidding. I’m Kim Mingyu.”
Wonwoo stood up, extending his hand out for Mingyu. The sun was hiding behind a thick layer of sullen clouds, but somehow, its light fell precisely on him- dazzling, white light.
“Let’s see. You’ve been to the library as of now, you still hate Gyeongsangnam, and I’m assuming you still need help with your music.”
Mingyu stood up with a slight groan and nodded.
Wonwoo bowed down, his pale palms softly resting on his stomach.
“Jeon Wonwoo, your new friend, at your service.”
His new friend. Mingyu liked the sound of that.
And when Wonwoo smiled at him, taking Mingyu’s hands in his and leading him downstairs, he knew that his stay in Gyeongsangnam was going to turn for the better.