Pause, Rewind.

Track 0: Prologue Single

Kyungsoo sees Jongin before he meets him.

It’s Friday, the last day of Kyungsoo’s hellish week when he first sees Jongin in a small cramped practice room in the SM building. Kyungsoo has skipped school (again) to escape a literature exam he didn’t study for. It’s okay, he thinks. He can always talk to his teacher and ask for special credits. Kyungsoo’s good with that, making other people play right into his palm without them knowing. It’s one of his many talents.

Another talent that Kyungsoo has, and one that he takes pride in, is blending in with the crowd. He’s pretty good with that too. It isn’t hard not to stand out. He wears simple clothes, none of the trendy high top sneakers and flashy fashion kids obsess over lately. He’s quiet and he stays out of other people’s way. It’s easy to stand in the back and have everyone ignore him. Kyungsoo likes it that way.

However, it’s easy for Kyungsoo to stand out too if he so chooses. He isn’t bad looking. Actually, he thinks he’s pretty good looking. He’s just short for his age, is all. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is charming. Very very charming, actually. Kyungsoo can charm anyone into doing what he wants. It works with his parents, works with his older brother, works with his friends and classmates and even with his teachers (maybe he can sing for his Literature teacher and get an A for that exam he missed, he’ll have to ask on Monday). So Kyungsoo can charm half the SM building if he so chooses, instead, he prefers to stay in the background, watch the other trainees and observe their actions, learning how to adapt so he can survive.

And that is how Kyungsoo sees him, Kim Jongin.

Kyungsoo has heard of Kim Jongin from the other trainees before. He is a dancer. Kyungsoo guesses that means he can’t sing and thus, will be forced to be a “rapper”. Despite this, the other boys talk about him with a mixture of admiration and jealousy. They describe him in superlatives, a little bitter at times but always ending in praises. They seem sure he will debut soon. Kyungsoo always thought they were exaggerating.

This Friday, Kyungsoo is seated at the back of the room, near the corner, the other trainee’s backpacks surrounding him. The dance room is small and cramped with kids trying to get in a few more minutes of practice before the weekend. There are a few trainees he hasn’t seen yet and a few faces he recognizes and nods at in acknowledgment. Kyungsoo likes the competitive atmosphere. It makes everyone less talkative. It makes conversations with everyone superficial too but Kyungsoo knows that’s to be expected.

The music playing is an English song Kyungsoo’s sure no one in the room understands. Yet, there are a couple of guys in front of the mirror dancing to it in mismatched choreography. Kyungsoo’s eyesight can barely make out their blurry shapes but he supposes it’s like all the other dance routines he has seen. Dancing is like that, in Kyungsoo’s opinion. Similar. Robotic. Dancing is memorizing moves, flailing your arms and kicking your feet in unison, practicing 12 123 123 12 in your head until you get it right. Kyungsoo can’t dance but he’s learned how to. It’s easy.

When the song ends, many of the dancers return to where Kyungsoo is sitting, rummaging around their backpacks for their bottles of water. Kyungsoo moves out of their way and scoots closer to the mirrors, situating himself against the wall, eyes squinting towards the few trainees left standing, waiting for the next track to play.

The new song that plays over the speakers isn’t a dance song. It’s a Korean ballad that Kyungsoo has sung in Baekshin High School’s Spring Festival before. Kyungsoo frowns. He has never seen trainees dance to ballads. Idols weren’t taught that, he knows. Kyungsoo realizes why as the first verse plays. Dancing to ballads is different. It’s hard. All the trainees are out of sync, their limbs flailing in 4 directions at once. Kyungsoo almost laughs but —

There is one figure, one at the very end of the little group, dancing almost separately. Kyungsoo squints harder at him, his eyes turning into slits. He’s the most out of sync, Kyungsoo thinks, almost like he’s dancing a different song.

Kyungsoo hates wearing his glasses. He looks like a little kid in them, but he finds himself reaching for his pair in his bag and putting it on.

Kyungsoo blinks a few times as the room comes into focus.

The figure at the end is a boy, maybe younger than him, Kyungsoo doesn’t know. He’s roughly the same height, slim and wearing loose clothes. He’s dressed simply, like Kyungsoo. None of the flashy trendy clothes the other kids like to wear. Kyungsoo scoots closer, back leaving the wall, eyes trained to the figure, curiosity piqued.

It’s when the chorus hits that Kyungsoo realizes. The boy isn’t dancing out of sync. His limbs move like liquid, fluid as they arch and bend in time to the beat. 12 12 12 123. Kyungsoo knows this song and he watches, traces with his eyes as the boy dances with his whole body, the tips of his toes pointing at the end of every line, his neck bending as he turns. The boy is dancing to the song, it’s everyone else who are out of sync.

“Jongin is really something.”

Kyungsoo turns his head to look. Two of the older trainees are looking at the figure at the other end too.

“Yeah, why do you think I sat this song out? I don’t want to look like an idiot dancing to a ballad next to him.”

Kyungsoo smiles, looking back at the boy- no, looking at Jongin.

So this is Kim Jongin, the infamous trainee that everyone talks about. Kyungsoo watches as the bridge comes in. Jongin spins in place, back bending. Kyungsoo can’t look away. Jongin dances with something different, Kyungsoo realizes. Jongin dances with something more than passion. Kyungsoo dances with determination, because he has to. He needs to. But Jongin dances with —

— heart.

Kim Jongin dances with heart.

All that Kyungsoo has heard about Kim Jongin, Kyungsoo decides, are not an exaggeration.

There is a story in each step Jongin takes, etched in the faces he makes. When his hand reaches out, twisting in ways Kyungsoo can never, there is emotion he’s trying to convey. Kyungsoo feels it. Jongin dances with his whole body, narrates the song’s sadness and longing through limbs and quick turns. It’s beautiful, Kyungsoo thinks, his heart beating fast in his chest, like he’s dancing too, like he’s up there, with Jongin, dancing and feeling and twisting and turning. Kyungsoo never knew dance can make one feel so… full — emotions threatening to burst out of his chest. It’s so very new.

Breathe, Kyungsoo, breathe.

When the song ends, the boys return to their bags at the back of the room, passing Kyungsoo sitting quietly by the wall, catching his breath with them.

Kyungsoo takes his glasses off then, but his eyes still follow Jongin. Jongin moves with cat-like grace as he crosses the room in long strides, sweat clinging to the back of his shirt, his face exhausted but a happy smile on his face.

Kyungsoo can’t take his eyes away.


Pause, Play.

track 10: Beautiful

It’s the first time that they let Kyungsoo guest on a radio show on his own. It’s not because they don’t think he’s interesting enough, because he is. He can charm anyone within the first minute you meet him but the truth of the matter is that he isn’t talkative enough. Yes, there’s a certain charm to his quiet personality but a radio show is a radio show and words are all there is to captivate the audience.

Kyungsoo isn’t much of a talker but here he is, in the booth with the DJ, as the lone guest for the night. He’s nervous, to say the least.

The show is going smoothly. Kyungsoo talks and answers questions as best he can, with the most enthusiasm he can muster. They mostly talk about his work as a young actor, the movies he’s done, the dramas he’s been in, the co-actors, the fame. He gets a little shy at times, proud at others, but he makes sure to always answer and talk with honesty and sincerity. Kyungsoo never believed in lipservice. Nor does he fanserivce.

Kyungsoo thinks the night will end pretty well. Radio shows aren’t so bad, he reckons. Definitely easier without a gang of rowdy boys in the booth with him. But Kyungsoo thinks it also has something to do with the conversation, how each topic discussed isn’t confined in “ideal types” and “if your member was a girl”. It’s easier, talking without feeling like he needs to recite the company manual. Maybe, he can come back and guest again in the future.

“You started as an idol, singing and dancing on stage, to an actor who plays characters on screen. Do you have any interest in pursuing other fields? Maybe discover if you have talent in other areas as well?”

“I have, actually. Acting was a surprise to me because I didn’t think I would be good at it. Though movies has always interested me. I’m an avid movie goer ever since I was young so I think the penchant for acting has always been there, just not realized. So I do wonder if I’m good at other things, if there’s a hidden me I haven’t discovered yet because I never had the chance to explore it. I grew up singing because it’s a passion of mine, and discovering acting when I became older was a blessing I never thought possible.”

“Acting is a different form of performance from singing, isn’t it? I often wonder how it must be for those who transition between the two.”

“They are, they’re different. Singing in front of an audience live, you feed off the fans’ energy. You express feelings through the song but acting is different. There’s a delay of relaying emotions from the script to the audience and the actors don’t see the effect in real time. It’s so different and yet, at the same time, so similar.”

“Similar? How do you say so?”

“It’s a different kind of performance but the method and end result are the same. It’s simply the road that is different.”

“That’s a really interesting thought.”

Kyungsoo hesitates.

“It’s… kinda like this. Like… dancing. You know?” Kyungsoo looks at the DJ who’s looking at him expectantly. Kyungsoo is nervous all of a sudden. “When I was young, I always thought dancing was just that, dancing. You know, moving to the beat of the music. Rehearsed. Robotic. Exhausting. There was even a time of stupidity in middle school, when I thought idols were only called “dancers” because they couldn’t sing. Because I thought anyone can dance if they practice hard enough, if they blend in with everyone else, they can dance. If they wave their arms in unison, no one’s gonna know you suck. Not like singing where it’s easy to pinpoint who can sing and who can’t. Not like acting, where you can tell those who can act to those who are awkward. I guess you can say I was young and prejudiced.”

The DJ laughs and Kyungsoo laughs with him. It’s the first time Kyungsoo opened a conversation on his own. The DJ looks at him with an encouraging smile, urging him to continue.

“When I got into SM, the prejudice was still there. I couldn’t dance, but by practicing hard, I could follow through the motions. When we monitor ourselves, you can’ tell I have two left feet. But then…”

Kyungsoo breathes.

“…I saw a trainee during practice one time. He was dancing, not to hip hop, not to a dance track. He was dancing to a ballad. And it was… it was beautiful. The way he moved, how his whole body dances, not just his arm and feet. How he moves from the tip of his toes to the expression on his face. I’ve seen a lot of people dance but never like that. It was the first time I ever felt — emotions. Emotions while watching someone dance.”

The DJ smiles, corners of his mouth going up a little. Kyungsoo’s eyes are bright. Words spilling from his mouth like he can’t stop them.

“It was the first time I ever saw Kai dance.”

“Oh, the trainee was Kai? EXO’s Kai? I’ve seen him dance and yes, he is really good.”

“Isn’t he? He really is. There’s just something different. Something that I’ve never seen before. When he dances, you feel things. Emotions. Emotions, you know? The same kind you feel when you hear a beautiful song, or watch a touching movie. Emotions. Not by voice, or words. He never speaks. He just moves. And he makes you feel.

“Needless to say, after that, I changed my opinion on dancing. I was a changed man,” a little laughter, eyes full of mirth. “So I think, I think acting and singing are like that, you know? The road is different, but the end is the same. It’s all art. But it all ends in emotions.”

The DJ opens his mouth but Kyungsoo speaks again, breathless, as if he can’t help but say this bit, as if he won’t have a chance to say it again if he doesn’t now.

“Actually, whenever I’m tired, whenever I feel like giving up, whenever I ask myself why I’m still here, I just remember that time.”

“That time?”

“Yeah, that first moment I saw Kai dance. And I remember why. I remember why I’m here. I make myself remember what I felt then, emotions from watching art in motion. And that’s why. I want to make others feel that too. Share my singing, my acting — the way Kai has inspired me through the years with his dancing.”

There’s a small pause, where Kyungsoo’s eyes are twinkling in earnest while the DJ can say nothing but, “Wow, I’m impressed. I never thought Kyungsoo had such deep thoughts about dancing and art like that.”

“Really?” another laugh. “I don’t seem like the type, do I?”

The DJ looks at the monitor then and clicks a message sent in by a listener.

“We have a message here from #6789000 zkdltn-nim says, “Wow I’ve been a noona EXO-L since debut and in my 4 years of being D.O’s fan, this is the most I’ve heard him talk. Please always be this enthusiastic and happy, Kyungsoo. Fighting!”

Click.

Kyungsoo smiles some more, still not down from his high. “Thank you for supporting me, noona. I’ll be sure to repay your support with hardwork.”

The DJ smiles at him across the booth. Kyungsoo smiles back brightly.

-

The radio show wrapped up nicely. The DJ invited him to visit again when he has time and he agrees. Maybe when his next movie goes to the screens.

Kyungsoo opens his phone on the van ride home.

“You’re beautiful too, hyung. Everything about you.”

Kyungsoo has a big smile on his face all the way back to the dorm.

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