There was nothing more strange, than the day he came.
The boy with coral-orange hair and small fingers.
No one knew why he came. He could barely speak English, or at least, that’s what it seemed like. He barely talked to anyone, except her. He didn’t even participate in class activities and none of the teachers seemed irritated by it.
I remember the day he came well, it was a cold day, spring was right around the corner and he wore a plain white shirt with overalls. Large black wireless headphones on his head and bright yellow sneakers on his feet.
No one came up to or conversed with the boy, it wasn’t that he looked intimidating, god no, he looked like the kindest boy to have ever lived. It was that no one knew why he was there, or if anyone was his friend. Though by the time he had walked past onlookers, to the locker the school provided him, it was evident that he was a registered student, but without friends.
Everyone just stared. He seemed to have a sort of aura around him, so of course, approaching him to get to my own locker, was a bit of a challenge. All eyes diverted to me as I got to my locker and started to put my bag away. I looked over at him from the corner of my eye, and we made eye contact.
He got a bit nervous, and I noticed him getting out his phone to turn up his music. I had gone back to my locker, grabbing my science book and locking my locker back up. I had to get away from the stares.
According to the people in his homeroom class, he was in year 9. His name was Jimin Park, and that’s all they knew. He had kept his headphones on his head, even when the teacher was talking. When people tried talking to him, he muttered something incoherent, and went back to his text book.
But then in his math class, he sat by himself in a corner, and a girl walked up to him. She wore a white shirt with red sleeves, and black high waisted shorts. She had gained his attention, though when he looked at her he looked quite shy. All eyes in the room watched as he took his headphones off his head, looked up at the standing girl shyly and was greeted;
“Annyeonghaseyo!” She bowed at him.
And his smile, it had been described in so many ways; some girl said his eyes had turned into squints, and made him look squishable. Another said he looked angelic. One guy said it was ugly, which, funny enough, earned a lot of deadly glares from the girls surrounding.
No one was quite sure what happened next, said it was as if someone had put the world in fast motion for a few seconds as he suddenly had his arms around her, his eyes turning glossy; ready for tears to spill.
Apparently she had said something in Korean, making him laugh and let go, turning to his work book.
The girl was Evelyn Walter.
She wasn’t necessarily popular, though well known in the sense that she self-taught herself fluent Korean and developed a habit of sometimes mumbling lyrics under her breath when concentrating.
As they’d work, they talked animatedly in the Asian language, a few people noted how at ease they seemed together, as if they’d known each other their whole lives. The way she ruffled his hair when he said something seemingly funny sure suggested so.
These statements were proven correct at lunch, where they were seen walking together, both carrying black boxes, laughing. No one followed them, they went back to their mediocre lives as soon as they thought that Jimin wasn’t special or extraordinary.
Boy, they were wrong.
One time, Evelyn grabbed her speaker and connected her phone to it, during lunch. Jimin was standing, waiting, and as soon as the music started playing, he started dancing. I remember the scene so vividly. He was wearing a long sleeve black shirt, an elbow-length sleeved oversized grey hoodie on top, black, ripped skinny jeans that emphasized his muscular thighs and dark coloured shoes.
His dancing hadn’t been that exciting, a few people watched, but as the chorus began, that’s when a crowd formed, that’s when Evelyn started to tear up, no one saw the proud tears streaming down her face, no one saw the small smile that formed on her lips when there was a music break and everyone started clapping to the beat. When it ended, some people praised him, cheered even. But he took no notice. He grabbed the speaker and ran over to Evelyn, laughing, wiping her tears as she tried to speak in Korean to him, hiccups interrupting her speech.
If high school was a movie, they were the main characters.
Then one day, he wasn’t at school. No one noticed. No one said anything. Evelyn looked like a wreck though; messy hair, deep bags under her eyes, a large sweater and oversized tracksuit pants. During art, I heard her phone go off. I turned to her, and her eyes turned slightly glossy as she read who called her. I saw the way she slowly looked up at our teacher, Mrs. Zinka, who nodded and watched as Evelyn left the classroom. We tried to concentrate, but no one knew what was going on and it got worse when we started to hear her shouting in Korean between sobs. I watched out the door window as she hung up and slowly sat on the floor, her whole body shaking.
She came back into the classroom and sat down at my table. Looking at me with raw, red eyes.
“We fought, Heidi. Me and Jimin. I don’t even know why. But I don’t think I’ll see him again… he said a few cryptic messages but I don’t quite understand.” She whispered
I nodded, I had never been close with Evelyn, but seeing her so miserable made me decide to sit with her. I was shocked enough to hear she knew my name.
Over the next few days Evelyn still looked like a mess. She had headphones all the time, and anyone near her noticed it was music in English, which hadn’t happened since a few months before Jimin’s arrival. She wasn’t even eating the same food they would eat together. She was doing well in class apparently, but she still looked miserable. And no one knew why.
We were in art again. She was working on a blurry watercolour painting. I couldn’t tell what she was making currently, but I could tell from the shade of orange that it had something to do with Jimin. Everyone was doing their work; no one was really noticing Evelyn’s miserable attitude anymore.
Then the door slammed open, and we all looked up to see a familiar Asian boy, his coral orange hair was faded, his skin was looking a sickly pale, deep eye bags and everything he wore was black. He scanned the room for Evelyn, who had stood up from her chair and stared at him, shocked.
He laughed and hugged her, salty tears streaming down each of their faces. The teacher coughed, and pointed out the door, signalling for them to continue outside. Once they did so, everyone turned back to their work. But not me. I watched, I watched as Jimin wiped her tears, I watched the way she looked up at him, I watched the way he leaned forwards and kissed her. I saw the way he cupped her face and the way she ran her fingers in his hair.
I never saw him again. He left school, moved back to Korea – That’s what Evelyn said. And it was when he left that we noticed the difference in school. At first no one really thought any different – thought it’d be like before he left, but it wasn’t. Some K-Pop song became popular on the radio, and whenever we heard the Korean lyrics, a smiling boy with stubby fingers and a talent for dancing. Whenever someone talked about dying their hair, the coral orange Jimin had that everyone liked was never mentioned, and some days’ people would stick colour palettes on Evelyn’s locker door in that coral orange.
There were no more random dances that he would perform. His laughter would no longer echo throughout a classroom.
On the last day of year twelve, an unspoken agreement was held for everyone to use hair spray that was a coral orange. The younger levels had absolutely no idea why, and no one would answer their questions. Then, once the final bell rang, a cheer of orange hair, in the midst of it, one pastel pink. Everyone was confused, and looked at the boy with pastel pink hair.
And he just smiled that smile we all knew, the one where his eyes turned into moon crescents and his contagious grin.]