Chapter 2: END Of the day
Time flows right through people’s hands.
The time from the moment since parting with him ran by in a flash, but his final words still spun over her ears.
The man’s goodbye had been spat out without any grace.
Those were his words for their last moment together. That final farewell.
Endlessly romantic while still infinitely selfish.
After he left, the woman would often go back to the past, some days, some months, visiting the memories when the man and she were still together.
But in the present, it was sad, of course, and naturally she could not escape the restraint of boring daily life. Or rather, she was passing her days busier and busier. As if to punish herself for missing her ex-boyfriend even now. And since the break-up, the woman’s sleeping disorder had come back after five years to make her life increasingly more tormenting.
‘Crazy, I’m going crazy. I’m so late.’
The woman ran inside the building carrying a bag stuffed to the brim, anxiety looming over her back. When she entered the studio, the shooting was already in progress. The woman greeted the others naturally, hoping they would not notice her late arrival.
“Good morning everyone!”
“Yes, good morning.”
After shortly exchanging some excited greetings with the staff, she got herself a seat by the table in the back of the studio and drowned her nerves in a cup of coffee.
She worked as a reporter, and today she had an interview with a singer who was having a comeback.
‘The question sheet is here······ The recorder······ as well······ Nothing missing?’
The woman set up the table carefully for the interview. In this hectic manner, the day started well.
“You worked hard, everyone.”
The star of today’s interview had finished the shoot, greeting and shaking hands with the staff. Then her job was starting.
“Good morning. You looked good in the shooting. I’m sure you’ll do good in the interview as well.”
“Yes, I’ll do my best.”
He was smiling brightly.
“Then, shall we start now?”
She took her computer and recorder, and calmly begun the questionnaire.
The singer releasing his new album assumed a serious demeanor throughout the interview. The visible passion and dedication he showed for his self-composed piece seemed to remind her of someone else. After a good while conversing about the album, she shifted the subject to ask about his daily life.
“This might sound like an obvious question, but what do you usually do after finishing your schedule?”
“Let me see. Is it okay if it’s something boring?”
“Yes, anything is fine.”
“Hm······ First thing when I put in the lock-code and open the door, there is Roo wagging her tail like crazy at me.”
“Ah, she’s the dog. Of the family. A Dachshund. A very charming kid. Other than Roo, sometimes my sister or mom is awake too, but I finish the radio show and get home at around two and a half in the morning so usually everyone else is already asleep.”
He spoke with large hand gestures and many facial expressions as he recalled his end of day.
“Isn’t it a bit depressing, that there’s only the dog?”
She asked playfully as if to make the mood a bit lighter.
“Ha ha, maybe it is. But it’s alright. Cause there’s still other welcoming things.”
“What else then?”
“When I arrive at home, I’m bored and just lay in bed for a while. But Roo thinks that me lying there means I want to play, so she always jumps all over my back. She steps on my shoulders and back like a massage. You can’t buy a massage like that. Then I light up an aromatic candle and put my gramophone to warm up.”
Her typing sped up.
“Aromatic candles and a gramophone······. These are some sophisticated hobbies.”
“Is that so. I like the gloomy and warm atmosphere. To me, lighting up the candles and turning on the record player is a ritual that affirms ‘this day has ended as well’.’’
“Then when you listen to the music, your day is finished?”
“No. I still have to wash up. Firstly, I run the water in the tub. I like to take half-body baths. I purchased a lot of Dead Sea bath salts through the internet, but I think I was scammed. Anyway, turning on the gramophone and filling the bathtub is a moment when everything falls into place.”
The dog, the scented candles, the record player, and the half-body bathing. There was not a moment when she did not think how much of a romanticist he was. That someone came to mind once again, and she couldn’t speak for a moment.
“Scented candles, gramophone, Dead Sea salt bathing······. You wouldn’t happen to sprinkle roses in your bathtub as well, would you?”
She joked with an awkward chuckle.
“Ha ha, it’s weird to explain it step by step but this really is my daily routine. Let’s talk sophisticated, then? I enjoy old music from the time of the analog record player. Music for fancy people, like Julie London, James Brown, Donny Hathaway.”
The woman giggled one more time. She thought the man’s speech and expression were cute.
“What do you think about while taking your bath?”
“Hm······ I think about loneliness. It’s a little past two and a half in the morning, then it’s too late to start a conversation with anyone, so I lament that.”
The woman pitied him a little for that.
“Is this what superstar sadness is like?”
“Ha ha, this question is wrong in two points. I am not a superstar and loneliness is not a sorrow for me. Rather, I would say I enjoy loneliness.”
“You enjoy loneliness?”
She kept her eyes fixed on the monitor as she continued to type, and the man’s eyes were also turned away.
“Being alone, I don’t see it as something that simply disappears once you take care of it. It’s just like a shadow that follows you through life, see. Still, some days I feel the need of a pat on the shoulder, and since the things I told you before comfort me greatly, I am going through a healthy loneliness.”
At this clear answer the woman stopped typing and stared at him, their gazes crossing.
Eyes of unwavering conviction.
For a moment, his face seemed to overlap with that of someone.
So, was that it? She wanted to know more of what loneliness was for them.
“A healthy loneliness, you say. It sure is an interesting way to put it.”
“You think so? I think this type of thing is necessary. A way of consoling yourself that only you know. On some days you feel lonely, on some days you’re exhausted, and in others you feel stupid, pathetic even. Of course, there are many happy days too. The important thing is, while the remaining days of our lives seem to stretch out to no end, you need something that can always soothe your emotions. Whether my days are happy or sad, I don’t single them out. As my mixed-up emotions slowly settle down, it’s like the overall image of my feelings that day even out. I might enjoy these dramatic things, but I’d prefer if the beginning and the ending are balanced, you know. Anything could work for you too, journalist-nim. It does not have to be as complicated as me. In whatever way, if you arrange to end your every day similarly, it will ease your mind.”
She had to stop to think for a moment.
Because he answered that question so sincerely that she wanted to give back a question in proper weight. At this point, she had long realized they could speak honestly with no reservations. Therefore, she decided to talk about herself.
“I sympathize with what you said about having something to balance your emotions. Could you please recommend one of your songs for people like me? On a day when we feel lonely and tired, or a day we feel stupid and pathetic, a song that is good to listen to in this kind of day.”
“If you’re lonely and exhausted and having a hard day······. There is a tune you’d like in this situation. It’s also related to our conversation. Among my songs there is ‘End of a Day’, please consider listening to it. It would be a great honor to me if someone listened to this song while finishing their day.”
At last, the man brought the interview to an end with his recommended song, but she was only more curious. As a journalist, she had met hundreds of people before, but no interview had ever picked her personal curiosity like this. The more the man talked, the more he showed what a surprising person he was, one she wanted to know more of.
The woman came back home after finishing organizing the interview manuscript, past midnight in a café near the shooting set. Entirely afflicted by the sleep disorder in the aftermath of the break-up, she only wanted to collapse. Her tired body spread out on the bed, staring mindlessly at the ceiling, she suddenly remembered the man’s words.
‘On some days you feel lonely, on some days you’re exhausted, and in others you feel stupid, pathetic even.’
Just like her story.
Be it while eating or taking a walk, the woman felt truly lonely when the person who would laugh at funny stories or be angry at injustice with her was not by her side. Sometimes she could not even pretend to hold it together and felt like a fool for letting her loved one go. The woman had also been feeling tired several times during the day.
‘You need something that can always soothe your emotions. In whatever way, if you arrange to end your every day similarly, it will ease your mind.’
Just like the man said, she was in need of something to neutralize her complexly tangled emotions.
The woman got her tired body up on her feet to pull out from the corner of the dresser some aromatic candles she had once received as a gift and ran the water on the bathtub she usually did not care for. While the water poured she perched herself on the edge of the tub and, having no person or dog who could do massages, giggled while massaging her own calf.
‘I don’t have a gramophone though.’
Thinking for only a moment on whether this would be too much, she searched for a song on her cellphone.
‘End of a Day······ Got it.’
She hit play on the song the man suggested today, and the sound of his voice and piano resonated in the bathroom. Somehow, she had the feeling she was not alone anymore. She undressed of her robe in relaxed movements and checked the water temperature.
Lukewarm, but a little on the hotter side.
She hesitated for a brief moment and slowly, from her toes, dipped into the bathtub.
You are my pride
FOR ALWAYS JONGHYUN
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