soO raised his face to the winter sky as he stepped into the night. Robbed of stars by the lights of Seoul, it was edged a rich blue. The vapor trails of a jet appeared from beyond the skyline. He followed it through the sky, remembering how mournful he’d once found its journey. No that was another night, another him. Could things have possibly changed that much? After a short while he shook his head and exhaled, returning to the demanding immediacy of Seoul. The sidewalk was deserted, the auditorium having emptied some time ago. His friends had waited while he gathered his belongings, but he urged them to go ahead. He wasn’t sad, he reassured them, and yes, he’d meet them at the bar in a little bit.
soO zipped up his jacket and began to walk. It was deathly cold outside compared to the packed venue, but he found the temperature enlivening. Even the stinging wind didn’t dampen his newfound enthusiasm. He reveled in the tingling sensation of his fingers as they slowly went numb from exposure. A smile formed as the sounds of traffic grew louder. As the scathing cold reminded every bit of his essence that he was in fact alive.
He’d done more than just survive.
Of course he had lost, but there was no lingering sense of self-loathing. It had always been hell to stand on the stage while the one who bested him lifted the trophy. It was an inferno of anger, disappointment and disgust. It had always been his fault. There was always something he could have done better. This time there had been none of that. He’d fought his hardest. There just wasn’t anything else to do.
He’d done more than just survive.
The winter air was crisper now than when he left to do battle.
soO rounded the corner onto a busier street. Pedestrians skated by like phantoms. The rumbling of engines and clatter of footsteps hung heavy in the air. Droning streetlights cast hazy shadows that dipped and dove as traffic whined by. He strode past restaurants, basking in the merry expressions of those inside. They were just doing all they could to enjoy life. For the first time in memory he felt like he was doing the same.
“Ummm, excuse me,” a voice poked from the darkness behind him. Although the sound was the slightest bit familiar, he couldn’t quite place it. He whipped round to find a girl, shorter than him and slender, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt that obscured her eyes. Dark hair poked out, covering the logo printed across her chest
“Do I know you?” soO inquired politely.
“No,” the girl replied hesitantly. “I...I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I think you played really well.” She smiled softly and timidly approached him. As she tilted her neck upwards, the glare of the street lamp caressed her face and illuminated her hair. He realized he was wrong. Her hair was violet.
“Thanks,” he said cautiously. “Were you there or something?”
“In the back. My ride was late so I didn’t show up in time to get a seat.”
“And they didn’t pick you up either?”
“I guess not.” She blushed as she replied. “I was just hoping you could have won.”
“It’s not so bad,” he assured her.
“There are worse things than being second best.”
Her expression brightened.
“I suppose there are.”
soO suppressed a chuckle as they stood opposite each other in silence. Somehow he'd just noticed that she was biting her lip and kneading her hands together. The glossy pink lipstick shone florescent against skin fresh snow. There were so many thing he hadn't noticed about her. Like how the flowery pattern on her nails shimmered like frost. He felt he felt like he should but couldn't.
“So,” he paused, remembering they had only just met. “Do you think you could tell me your name?” He asked finally.
She giggled coyly and glanced towards the ground.
“I’ve been watching your games for a long time,” she said, her voice now lilting and silken. “Ever since I came to Korea I’ve been interested in games. There’s just something about the way you play that’s so amazing.” soO watched in fascination as she dug into her pocket.
“I watched your stream too. It was really nice to finally see things from your perspective,” she explained as she pulled a piece of paper from her pocket.
“Thanks,” soO said with pleasant surprise.
“I liked the name of that one account of yours.”
soO titled his head quizzically as a laugh escaped her lips.
“Narukoanjou?” She shook her head. “Blackjeff?” He continued, genuinely befuddled.
“The other one,” she teased as her giggling erupted into full blown laughter. She hid her mouth with her hand, a failed attempt to disguise her jubilant grin.
“Sana,” he mused as something tugged at the back of his mind. “Yeah, that one is a little embarrassing.”
She took a moment to compose herself before looking his way. “There’s nothing wrong with being a fan. I think all of us hope we get to meet our favorites, even once.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right.”
“Yeah,” she echoed hopefully.
He let her comment linger, expecting her to say more.
soO’s thoughts turned to his friends. He had promised to let them buy him a drink; they had to be getting impatient by now. For a brief moment he considered asking for her name again. No...it wasn’t the right time. Maybe it was another future that wasn’t meant to be. The slightest fidget of her fingers drew him back. Even bashfulness couldn’t conceal her natural verve, and soO found himself gazing at her dotingly.
“Uhhh, I have,” he began sheepishly.
“To go?” she interrupted. “I do too. It’s getting late,” her voice trailing off in regret.
He noticed how she kept fiddling with the card.
“I’m glad you’re not sad,” she added. “I was hoping to congratulate you tonight, but that didn’t work out.”
It would have been nice to win.” He paused, gazing at the sidewalk for a moment. "Once I thought I wanted it more than anything." He looked up and was met by her smile. "Winning isn't everything, though.”
“Well, I have to go,” she declared suddenly. She turned the paper over one more time before thrusting it towards him. “I wanted you to have this, though.”
He studied her for a moment before taking it. The instant their exchange was completed she hurried towards a waiting car that had suddenly appeared.
“You never told me your name,” he called as she pulled the door open.
She shrugged, once more smiling.
“It’s good you're happy. Someone as special as you should never be sad.”
As he struggled to find the right response, she shut the door behind her. The car engine rumbled to life. He watched forlornly as the vehicle pulled away, its tinted windows scattering the street lights into fragmented shapes. He imagined she was watching back. He watched it round the corner and vanish into the night's haze.
soO slowly raised the piece of paper she’d handed him into the light. It was nothing more than a blank business card. He glanced askew in the direction the car had disappeared before flipping it over.
His legs felt as if a sinkhole had opened beneath him as he read the type on the other side. A logo that said JYP Entertainment, a kakao talk ID and beneath it a name in hangul - Sana. A peal of laughter threatened to erupt from his mouth, but at the last second he forced it down. All he did was shake his head and chuckle in astonishment. He shut his eyes and ran his hands over his face. He felt the warmth in them, warmth that cascaded all through his body. Looking back towards the sky, he tucked the card into his pocket. As the last evidence of the plane melted into the night he started towards the bar.
Writer: Mizenhauer twitter.com/Mizenhauer