“One of the Socrates’ most famous statements: “the unexamined life is not worth living”
Jaime takes the note diligently, as he should.
He takes the front seat so he can hear the lecture clearly even if no one sits beside him as they all avoid the front seat like a plague. Well, Jaime doesn’t care, he doesn’t need a friend, just a good grade to maintain his scholarship.
Philosophy was actually not his first choice, at least after his parents said dance or music major, only for the dreamer. People need to be realistic to survive. After hearing that for years, he had no choice but to believe it. It’s not like he hates the philosophy itself, it’s quite interesting. He even learned and read some philosophical books even before enrolling for uni. He loves how there are always logical explanations for everything and he has to admit Plato’s and Socrates’s wise words help him a lot to find his own path.
“Examining one’s self is the most important task one can undertake, for it alone will give us the knowledge necessary to answer the question ‘how should I live my life. As Socrates explained: “…once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves, but otherwise, we never shall.”
Jaime doesn’t expect his first day would be smooth, the first day is always nerve-wracking as he feels everyone’s gaze is on him. Well, perhaps that's only his anxiety but being the only one who sits alone in the front.
He wonders what people would think about him, nerd? book-worm? teacher’s pet?. Even Jaime himself isn’t sure what label he prefers.
“Hey” an unfamiliar voice snaps him back, surprised by a guy who suddenly sits beside him “never see anyone sitting on the front except me, I assume you’re new?” he chuckles and Jaime can’t stop staring at his deep dimples. He is still surprised since he’s sure no one sits beside him before. “sorry I’m rambling, the professor gives a paired task. You’re not listening, don’t you?”
“Oh was he? Right, sorry” Jaime grimaces, ashamed.
“No problem, you want to become my partner?” he asks. His voice is gentle and his thick but thin-framed elegant glasses make him look smart.
“For this task I mean,” he laughs lightly.
'Of course for the task you dumbass' Jaime curses himself inwardly.
“yeah sure, of course”
“I’m Adam by the way” the guy introduces himself as he smiles sweetly
“I’m Jaime, ”
“Nice to meet you, Jaime, you want to save my number, perhaps? So you can inform me when and where we should do the task? I’ll match my schedule with yours”
Jaime can’t believe there’s still someone who voluntarily approaches him first, even willing to match the schedule with him for doing their task. He even barely knows him. Such a rare guy. Nice, but rare.
“yeah sure, if that’s okay with you” Jaime gives his phone so the older can type his number there
“oh, you like Coldplay?” Adam yelps after seeing Jaime’s wallpaper, one of Coldplay’s concerts he attended, the most memorable one.
Jaime rubs his neck shyly “well, yeah kind of”
“oh perhaps do you like singing?” Adam asks seems genuinely curious while typing his number
No one asks that to Jaime casually for – god knows how many years. There’s giddiness that makes his heart warm. Someone asks for something he likes and he can’t wait to explain it for hours. But it’s been a long time, and Jaime isn’t as confident as he used to be.
“if you mean in the bathroom, yes I do like singing”
Adam smiles endearingly, he fishes in his pocket and pulls out a paper "Maybe you are interested”
Jaime stares at the paper on the table, it’s an audition for a university band member. He suddenly remembers Mikey’s explanation at the party, right Adam as the manager of the Band-aid band. But it’s saying they need a vocalist didn’t they already have one?
“Yeah we need a vocalist, maybe you can try if you have time. Don’t worry, it’s open for everyone including the bathroom singer” Adam gives him a quick wink. Before Jaime can say anything, Adam has already left the class.
Jaime how could you leave home just like that???
You even didn’t tell us you enrolled on university?
Jaime, home now!!! We’ve been assigned to an excellent boarding school! Don’t make your parents shame!!
Jaime tell me where you are, we gonna get you home!!!
Alright, let's see if you can stay alive without money from us!!
Jaime takes a sharp deep breath. He knows he shouldn’t read any message from his parent or else he’ll keep thinking about that. But he also doesn’t have the heart to block their number, they are still his parents after all. Jaime just can’t stand anymore to live with them after all he had been through in high school. He always got panicked attack every time his father got furious if he didn’t get a perfect score, they even barely talked except about school grades. His father would blame anything as caused by his decreasing grade. His hobby, his club, his friends, even his mother. Until his mother didn’t defend him anymore. Jaime decided to leave home.
Jaime stands behind the cashier counter. This is still an early month everyone just receives their paycheck, the store cramps, and Jaime even barely has time to rest since everyone keeps coming to the counter to pay. At this moment he even can’t remember how long he stands up until he can feel a tingling sensation on his feet.
Part-time at retail stores is actually not the best decision. The job itself indeed draining, organising, putting the price label, checking the stock, cleaning, not to mention the rude customers who tested his patience. But he needs the money to pay the bill, especially his dorm rent. Thank god he can split with Mikey. His full scholarship helps him a lot to reduce the expanse, but balancing between good grades and a job is not that easy. He has to sacrifice a lot of things, his sleep time, he barely has time to socialise with people and befriend people, even there’s no time for his hobby. But he knows that’s worth it.
“good evening, is that all?” Jaime greets politely, the man in front of him only doesn’t answer, not even glancing at him. Not surprising. It’s not the first time actually this is how customers he usually dealt with in his night shift, sensitive and tired people who just back from their work.
“Marlboro black one please” the man slurs and Jaime notices the alcohol scent on his breath. Great, drunk customer is the worst. Jaime takes a quick glance, and he’s sure he looks like a middle-aged man so he doesn’t ask for his ID card.
“it would be 10.000 won, sir, cash or card?”
“card, you can charge me double if you give me your number sweetheart”
Jaime’s heart almost stops at that moment. Since he works here two weeks ago, there’s no one worse than snapping at him or saying something rude because he messed with the change. But this is different, a drunk man flirts with him at 11 a.m. he looks around unwittingly, some people are waiting in the line behind the man, and there’s also his co-worker who works at the other counter.
“N-no need, sir” Jaime murmurs, trying to send an uncomfortable gaze to every eye he meets. But everyone just looks at him unamused.
“oh cmon, don’t pretend you don’t need the money, where else you can get 10.000 won just for the number” well, he’s right, he has to admit that easy money. He can buy meat and make a barbeque at his dorm with that. But that’s not Jaime’s aim when came from Busan to Seoul alone. He wanted to live independently, but not in this way. He came only with his pride, and he will always live with that.
“I will keep charging you based on what you buy” Jaime insists ready to process the card. After the transaction success, suddenly the man grabs his grocery and is ready to go, leaving his card in Jaime’s hand. Jaime is confused and startled, he hurries to catch up with the man. “sir your card”
“I’ll take it tomorrow, just keep it for me” The man keeps walking on his wobbly legs. Such a cheap trick, but Jaime has no intention to meet this man again tomorrow.
“Sir please” Jaime tries to reach the man’s shoulder, and grabs him, but the man looks annoyed and pulls Jaime’s wrist trying to hug him forcefully. Jaime resists trying to pull away. He’s so shocked he almost freezes at the place, but he can’t he needs to let go first.
“help” Jaime yelps weakly as barely a voice comes from his throat. He squirms under the man's disgusting touch, looking at the people around him desperately. Begging for help by his gaze. But they just stand there. All of them, the lady with her baby stroller, the guy on his counter, and his co-worker, just stare. There’s a conflicted feeling implied in their eyes but none of them makes a move, Jaime just needs someone stands for him, is he not worthy to be helped?
Someone yanks him from the man’s grasp roughly, Jaime almost thought his shoulder gonna be dislocated. Before he can understand what the hell is happening, the middle-aged man is already sprawling on the floor with his groceries thrown off everywhere. There’s blood coming from the man’s nose, he groans painfully.
“he said he doesn’t want you, pervert asshole!” a rasping voice snaps Jaime. He turns his face frantically. A familiar face that Jaime even can’t imagine seeing at this place, at this moment. Jaime doesn’t have time to process everything since the boy is ready to throw another punch at the drunk man.
“Skylar stop!” Jaime intercepted in panic, he spread his arms in front of him to block him
“Listen to me, whore! You and your gangster friend will pay for this!” The man provokes makes Skylar growl angrily, trying to escape from Jaime’s block. Before everything worse happened, Jaime grabs Skylar’s wrist and drags him outside the stores.
“WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” Jaime yells the chilly breeze hits him and makes him realise his face is damped from tears. He shivers when he remembers what just happens, he never talks back to the customer heck-even punch him. Skylar looks at him with wide eyes as he is confused with the reaction.
“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I JUST SAVING YOUR ASS!” he yells back, Jaime isn’t sure why they shout to each other where they’re standing face to face, maybe trying to beat the loud voice of car honks from the street or trying to express their frustration, maybe both.
“I can lose my Job, Skylar! Or worse, he can report me to the police!” Why do you only think about yourself??” Jaime hisses like a wounded hyena and glares at him with his glassy eyes. He really needs this job, he’s eating and living from this money after all.
The man in question chuckles dryly as pokes his inner cheek with his tongue, and runs his hand to his mint hair. Right, Jaime just notices it was blond before. And oh, his knuckle is swollen from the punch. Suddenly floods of guilt wash over him “think about myself you said? If I just think about myself, I’ll pretend I didn’t recognise you like everyone else. That’s not my business after all”
He’s right, he’s goddamn right. He even doesn’t know his name. They only met once in an unpleasant moment. So why? Why did he help him? “why you even helped me?”
Skylar scoffs, “I thought I saw you at my performance at the party. I guessed I need to help one of my audience. You supported me by watching my performance and I helped you to pay back. I don’t know you’re such an ass. You know what? A simple thank you is more than enough.” Skylar walks passing him and leaves him behind. Jaime loses his word, uncomfortable guilt swirls on his pit like a whirlpool. He may be outrageous by punching the man, but he helps him, he helps him when no one else does. Jaime, sure he’s already lost his job hopefully, the police aren’t involved and now he owes Skylar an apology. Jaime can’t help but sob on the side of the street in the middle of winter. This is too much for him to handle.