Sun-hee: Are things getting better?
Jin-kyu : Yeah definitely.
Sun-hee : Bro...
Sun-hee : ...
Sun-hee : ?
Jin-kyu : Sorry. Went through a tunnel.
Sun-hee: You're on your laptop at home you little shit.
Jin-kyu : I don't know what to tell you Sun-hee.
Sun-hee : Are you taking the antidepressants at least?
Jin-kyu : Yup. Every time I take one the world turns into rainbows and pink unicorns, it's great.
Sun-hee : Who knew depression would make you finally find a sense of humour?
Jin-kyu : It's like that old dumb meme
Sun-hee : ...what?
Jin-kyu : You know, "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this." You embark on a journey of clinical depression and you get given 'sarcasm' as standard issue.
Sun-hee : You know, if it wasn't for the painfully slow typing I'm not sure I would believe this was you.
Jin-kyu : You're hilarious. Do you have depression too?
Sun-hee : I wish I could take it for you little brother. If I could...
Jin-kyu : I know.
Jin-kyu : Thanks.
Sun-hee : Are you eating?
Jin-kyu : Right this second?
Sun-hee : Jin-kyu...
Jin-kyu : Oh look - another tunnel.
-Jin-kyu Kim has signed out of Chat-
Jin-kyu sighed as he shut the lid of his laptop and stared out of the large window in his apartment. The evening sky was dark and the rain was pelting down in relentless sheets. The pathetic fallacy irked Jin-kyu enough to make him jump up to close the drapes, before he remembered that he didn't yet have any.
It was going to be a long night.
His phone buzzed mockingly behind him on the kitchen counter. Undoubtedly, a scolding text from Sun-hee. No one else texted him nowadays, unless it was his service provider keeping him informed of all their new offers - enabling him to call all the friends he didn't have for less per month.
Jin-kyu swore as he remembered the hot pocket he had left solidifying and congealing in the microwave. Thatwas before Sun-hee had called him and forced him to go talk to her online.
Jin-kyu swung open the door and was greeted by that steamy meat smell that worryingly always reminded him of his high school locker room.
His mind flashed to images of being on the ice rink, the familiar sound of his skates slicing across the polished surface as he prepared to shoot. The feel of the stick’s worn wood beneath his gloved fingers, the raucous cheers of the home crowd.
Jin-kyu's reflection smiled uncharacteristically back at him from the microwave door, jolting him into the present again with a mental thud.
His therapist had told Jin-kyu that he used his memories as a defence mechanism, resorting to living in them whenever the reality of the 'now' became too hostile to inhabit.
Sun-hee called it his 'Peter Pan' complex, the absolute refusal to grow up and recognize that he was now a twenty-seven year old adult with bills to pay. It perhaps didn't help his case that Jin-kyu was always tempted to stick his tongue out at her whenever she mentioned this.
It would be easy for Jin-kyu to tell people he had fallen into depression after his parents died, but the truth was, it happened years after that. High school was still full of hope, routine, purpose. When he still had all the potential in the world to make the memory of them proud.
Coppélia and Galatea, Jin-kyu's two tabby cats, were sat on the couch watching the television. The channel was set on some horrendous game show with a plethora enough of garish colours to make the artist in Jin-kyu gag.
He gave in and reached for his phone as it buzzed again, abandoning the long-cold hot pocket to its solitary fate.
Sun-hee : At least tell me you're working on some design sketches for your new pieces??? The gallery exhibition is in TWO months bro - this is a BIG deal - If Madeleine likes your stuff this could mean you potentially get a solo show.
Jin-kyu texted back the emoticon that he hoped would best placate an anxious older sister.
To be fair, Sun-hee had always been pretty good with him. Driving him to therapy appointments through New York's rush hour when he refused to take himself. Stocking his fridge with groceries that weren't single handedly fuelling the market for Monosodium Glutamate. She even left amusingly frog-shaped post-it notes around his apartment with hand-written inspirational quotes that she had Googled.
Sun-hee may not have understood why her brother was broken, but it didn't stop her trying to hold the pieces together with her fingertips. Jin-kyu appreciated the touch.
Without Sun-hee, Jin-kyu would have been lost a long time ago and he knew it all too well. It was with this potent brew of guilt chilling in his veins that he sat back down at the counter and reached for his sketchbook, flicking through the pages aimlessly.
Each sheet was littered with abstract scrawls, none of which could possibly approximate an idea for a new piece. They were all rough markings, attempting to bring a form together, a face that he could see when he closed his eyes but just couldn't seem to capture on the page.
Galatea meowed violently from across the room, Jin-kyu took this to mean that a channel change was necessary. Even his cats were too discerning to watch a 'money shower' in which the contestants were coated in honey and ran around trying to get dollar bills to stick to them.
Jin-kyu shook his head as a portly man nose-dived across the stage onscreen, like some kind of money-mad humpback whale. Jin-kyu may have had depression but he hadn't sunk quite that low. Yet.
Although he realised he might have to consider such alternate sources of revenue when the rent was due the following month.
"Coming girl," he murmured, closing the sketchpad with a sigh and wandering across to the couch. Jin-Kyu arched an eyebrow at the two tabbies who were fully stretched out across the entire thing.
"You got enough space there?" he asked with a low chuckle, before unceremoniously scooping Coppélia up and depositing her back in his lap. Thankfully, she didn't seem too fazed by the change in cat-napping position.
Jin-kyu fell asleep whilst half listening to a nature documentary on the intelligence of dolphins, his hand gently stroking through fur that vibrated intermittently with appreciative purrs.
"Hello?" Jin-kyu answered his phone groggily, reaching up to rub the sleep from his eyes and finding that his hand was covered in cat fur.
"Jin-kyu? It's Camille, god you sound awful."
"I slept on the couch last night."
"You realise you're single right?"
"Camille," Jin-kyu growled warningly.
"Okay, okay - just trying to figure out how you managed to get stuck with all the disadvantages of coupledom and still not have a sex life."
"Right, anyway I'm calling about the upcoming exhibition."
"Of course you are," Jin-kyu sighed, swinging open the fridge door and reaching for the milk.
Camille Brodeur was Jin-kyu's agent. She had gotten him his first show fresh out of art school and in the years since then had been a constant, yet well-meaning, pain in his ass.
"Well, I'm not gonna sugar coat it Jin-kyu."
"Do you ever?" Jin-kyu groaned, reaching for the blister packet of blue pills and swallowing two down with a big gulp of milk before remembering that he was only supposed to take one.
Oh well, guess I'll be extra 'happy' today
"Oh honey..." Camille's voice softened, "are you bad right now?"
Oh hell no. Evil!Camille was a million times easier to deal with than Pity!Camille
"I'm fine!" Jin-kyu replied, doing his best to sound 'peppy' and instead choking on his milk and frothing at the mouth like some kind of rabid dog.
"Ya sure big guy? Cause you kinda sound like you're dying right now."
"Nope!" Jin-kyu coughed and spluttered, "totally fine."
Camille sighed quietly but Jin-kyu still caught it over the phone. "It's just, I really need to see something new from you Jin-kyu - I need some pieces that are truly gonna grab people, make 'em wanna know who this new and exciting artist is!"
"I'm not exactly new Camille. I've been doing this for six years."
"Yeah but you're still obscure, we can totally pass you off as 'new'. Fresh back from Europe or something. Start working on your accent please. I recommend Swedish or Danish because then at least all those depressing Scandinavian murder dramas you watch will come in handy."
Jin-kyu groaned as he rested his forehead against the fridge and ended up jabbing himself in the eye with a bear magnet Sun-hee had brought him back from Alaska.
"I need your work to come from your heart Jin-kyu. I need...I need to really feel something when I look at it okay? Everyone's going on about 'emotive' works at the moment. I know for sure that's what Madeleine's looking for in a potential solo exhibition booking. And if you actually want to sell some pieces..."
"Sure," Jin-kyu swallowed hard. He had devoted so much of his time to hiding his feelings away, repeating the phrase 'I'm fine' like a religious mantra, that Camille asking him to suddenly spill it all out into his work to be gawped at by strangers? It was nothing short of terrifying.
Jin-kyu was really starting to reconsider his choice of profession. He should have just done sports science like his coach had suggested.
"Why don't you take a day off today, okay Jin-kyu? Go out with friends - get some coffee, clear your head?"
"Sure," Jin-kyu repeated lamely, nodding at Galatea and Coppélia and wondering if they counted as 'friends'.
He hung up on Camille a couple of minutes later, read the two concerned text messages he had received from Sun-hee earlier that morning and went to take a long shower. Hopefully by the time he was done, it would be time to go to bed again.