Is it possible to fall in love with someone you’ve never spoken to?
Yunho sucks in, satisfied. He can blow four rings with his cigar today, yesterday he only made it to three.
“Spare some change,” he yawns to the pedestrians at the bus stop. It’s becoming a sacred chant. “Spare some change, anyone?”
Most people shoot him a look and steer themselves as far away as possible. Yunho sniffs. It’s not his fault he doesn’t have time to buy a razor to shave, or have a place to shower, or have the money to get a haircut.
His violin sits lonely and cold by his side. She—he thinks it’s a she—is probably unhappy. Her polish is wearing off, and her strings are out of tune. He should get up and play to make enough for dinner, but blowing rings with his cigar seems more enticing at the moment. He hasn’t played for two days. What’s the point? The people didn’t even appreciate his music. He’s tired of playing for this deaf, pathetic crowd. The saddest thing is that they all have ears, but they still can’t hear.
He stares at his money pouch, at the few pitiful little coins huddled together in the middle. They’re probably cold too. They want to be spent and find shelter in perhaps a nice bakery, or even a fast-food restaurant.
But no chance, looks like he’s not getting dinner tonight, the coins are going to have to stay for another day.
The neat pile Yunho has stacked the coins into fell apart. He looks up, irritated.
It’s a stranger with dark hair tucked into a red tuque. He’s wrapped up in a long, black coat, chin burrowed into a white scarf. There’s a silver ring on his hand, the one he extended to toss a coin in.
And gosh, he is breathtaking.
And he’s staring at Yunho, waiting for something.
Yunho realizes he wants music. So, with almost robotic movements, he heaves himself up and starts plucking at his strings to tune them.
The stranger is still staring at him, his dark eyes focused. He is patient, he’s watching him tune.
He’s watching him tune.
He’s watching him.
Yunho raises the violin to his shoulder. She seems to sigh in contentment as he slides the bow against her icy body. He closes his eyes and plays Beethoven.
When he looks at the stranger, he can see those dark eyes crinkling around the corners.
The bow soars across the strings of his violin. She is singing in delight.
The next day, Yunho sees the stranger again. The man tosses a few coins in, and goes to stand by the bus stop a few feet away.
Yunho plays Bach. The stranger has his back to him, but he is swaying on his feet. Yunho sways too. He plays until the stranger boards the bus, then stops and watches it depart.
The day after, the stranger meets someone at the bus stop. It’s another man. Taller and has a bigger build. They are soon chatting like old friends.
“Kim Jaejoong,” he hears the stranger say.
Yunho wraps his tongue around that name over and over and over again, until it’s embedded into his skin, his flesh; him.
“Wait,” he hears Kim Jaejoong say. He stares as the man approaches, and throws some coins into Yunho’s money pouch. Then Kim Jaejoong smiles.
Yunho plays as if it’s not the middle of the dead winter, as if it is the spring and there is life.
Kim Jaejoong doesn’t show up to the bus stop for three days. Yunho’s strings become frosty with the cold.
The next time Jaejoong shows up, the man he’d met last time at the bus stop is with him. Yunho sits there, watches as they embrace. The taller man wraps his arms around all of Jaejoong’s beauty, as if Jaejoong belongs there as long as time runs. Which is forever. Yunho watches as they kiss. He stares and looks for tiny gaps between their mouths, hoping to find one, even just a tiny space, any sort of distance. He finds none.
Jaejoong breaks away first, grinning like Christmas Day. He walks like he’s drifting, his footsteps light, towards Yunho. Yunho inspects Jaejoong’s shiny black boots. Cling! Goes the coins in his money pouch.
Yunho plays like he’s at war, wild and savage. The air has teeth. It’s biting into his skin. Leaving tiny little bloodied scars that can’t be seen, but he can feel every single one of them.
The bus arrives, Yunho looks away as it parts.
A week later, Jaejoong shows up alone. He’s happy and smiling and joyful. Yunho wants to cut his finger on his strings. Maybe that will draw some attention, the red stain of his blood against the white snow. Maybe that way, he’ll stop blending into the background so well.
Jaejoong tosses in coins. Yunho plays his heart under his bow. Jaejoong turns away and taps his boots against the snow. Yunho wishes somehow, to leave a trace of himself in the pockets of Jaejoong’s long black coat.
It goes on, the coin toss, the performance. The weather gets dead cold. Yunho finds the old jackets people have tossed out to keep warm. The bus stop becomes desolated, but he still has an audience. Jaejoong is loyal. Yunho wants to give him entertainment, to make his wait everyday less dull. He wants to give him music, the notes and melodies. He wants to give him the world. But that’s not part of Yunho’s job description.
Then one day, Jaejoong shows up with a split lip and bruised cheeks. He throws the coins at Yunho, one hit him on the shoulder.
Yunho gets angry, but he doesn’t say a word. Instead, he grabs his violin by the neck and wields his bow with violence. She howls unhappily because of his abuse.
Jaejoong gets on the bus and sits by the window. Yunho dares himself to look up, and their eyes meet for the first time.
One of his strings snaps and breaks.
It’s getting worse. Jaejoong shows up less often. Every time he does, there are new scars on his face. He seems to be losing weight, that healthy shine of his face giving way to sullen cheekbones. He tosses coins in absentmindedly, as if he’s a shadow.
Yunho hears him pick up the phone.
“That bastard,” he hears Jaejoong croak.
Yunho plays a soft melody, letting it replace the fingertips he wishes to linger upon Jaejoong’s shoulders. He lets it replace his touch, and caresses it across Jaejoong’s features.
Yunho looks up. Jaejoong looks dead. His eyes are soulless, there are bruises covering his nape, his lips are swollen. He looks spoiled, ruined.
Jaejoong turns and walks to the bus stop. Yunho picks up his violin. He plays and she weeps. Soft gasps and silent words waiting to come out but can’t. Jaejoong’s shoulders tremble up and down, they fall and rise like uneven hills distorted and spread over the horizon.
His violin is wailing now, her mournful cries traveling far into the cold. Jaejoong’s back looks withered. Yunho’s vision blur and something hot and bitter pours out of his eyes. It dribbles past his cheeks and down a path on his throat. He doesn’t wipe it, he’s too busy playing.
On the last day of winter, Jaejoong shows up with a suitcase.
He walks up to Yunho, and stands there. There are no coins, Yunho doesn’t move.
He stares at the ground instead, at Jaejoong’s footwear. What nice boots he has. Though they are sort of battered by the season, Yunho tries to memorize the patterns of the chipped polish. It’s perhaps the last time he’ll ever see of them.
Above him, Jaejoong lets out a sigh, then the boots are gone. Wait! Yunho wants to say. I haven’t even examined the scraped edges! Haven’t seen how the laces had become worn!
But he keeps his head down and watches them go, wheels following in pursuit. He hears the sound of the bus arriving, and closes his eyes.
“All passengers aboard,” he hears the driver all out.
He can go back to counting his smoke rings.
He can keep on playing music for deaf people.
Yunho opens his eyes. There’s Kim Jaejoong, a little broken, a little shattered, and incomplete. He’s what’s left from two months ago.
“I don’t want to stay in this town anymore,” Kim Jaejoong says. “I want to leave.”
Yunho doesn’t say anything. Jaejoong sighs, and takes a step forward. He extends a hand—one that has a silver ring on it, all sparkling and bright in the winter sun.
“Want to come with me?”
There’s a tiny money pouch sitting alone in the middle of the snow by the bus stop. It’s completely empty.