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FICTION

[Excerpt] Last Love

  • onMarch 16, 2020
  • Vol.47 Spring 2020
  • byJo Woori
Last Love
Tr. Victoria Caudle
2019

 

Can’t Decide on the End

 

Not long after Zero Carat’s first stand-alone concert was announced, a post was uploaded to their online fan forum. Last Love will be their last concert. It got no replies. The moderator quickly took the post down. Its hit count had quickly reached over four digits before it was deleted, but the fans visiting the forum uploaded posts saying how excited they were for the concert as if they hadn’t seen it. The concert title is perfect! ‘Last Love’ is a really meaningful song, you know. Since it’s the song they debuted with, I bet it’ll be the opener or the closer! It’s been so long since they’ve performed it, I’m shaking with anticipation. I’m gonna start memorizing all their lyrics today! Each member will get a solo stage, right? Do you think we’ll get to see the special summer remix they did last year? Zero Carat are the ones who’ll have to be on stage, so why am I nervous! You too? I feel the same!

A few days later another post went up. Last Love will be Zero Carat’s last show. Their very last. It’ll be the end, you won’t see them anymore. It was deleted. Once again, the post had no replies. The fans all knew. They knew a fan was writing the posts. Posts written out of worry. Post just begging for replies like: What is this bullshit? Are you a fan of another group? and Shut the fuck up! As the day of the concert drew nearer, similar posts kept popping up. Several posts went up and were taken down daily. This is the end of Zero Carat. Most of the deleted posts didn’t garner any response, but occasionally one would get a few replies. So what? What’cha gonna do?

To be an idol is to debut and then, at some point, to stop working. Either the members end up leaving and step down, or the group’s contract with the management company runs out, or maybe they end tragically without releasing any new songs. But the saddest case of all is to slowly be forgotten without even announcing the end. Pinecarat thought about all the forgotten idols. It was too cruel. Crushing and cruel. Cruel to those who were waiting and to those who could not return. And in the end, cruel to all of those forgotten and to those forgetting. Pinecarrot thought that if the end must come, the best, most efficient way was for the end to be publicly announced.

When two of the original members, Ji-yu and Jackie, left at the end of their contracts, Zero Carat’s fans fell into the habit of counting the days left in the remaining members’ contracts. One of the fans, someone they all suspect was really an employee of the management company, posted the remaining members’ contract signing dates. The post was soon deleted, but the numbers lined up next to the members’ names remained clear in the fans’ memories and were cautiously passed along like an important password.

Just like the fans of any other group, Zero Carat’s fans had particular anniversaries that they celebrated. Zero Carat’s debut day, the members’ birthdays, the day their first full album was released. On those special days, the forum was flooded with congratulatory messages titled with a cacophony of special characters and emoji. Congrats, Love you, Zero Carat. Together, Forever, Thanks. Their burning passion burst out in colorful expressions like firecrackers at a festival.

 

 

And whenever the members’ contract dates rolled by, the fan forum became more pious. Please let this day, and the day after, pass safely without a press conference called or anything announced. Please let there not be a press release. Please don't let their names show up in trending topics. Please let today pass by like any other day. With their hearts full of prayer, the fans kept an eye on the members’ social media accounts, and hit refresh on all the portal sites.

Is there any reason this should be the last concert they have as Zero Carat? It might just be the last one with this line-up. They shouldn’t disband the group. Can’t they just keep Marin and replace the others? Marin has a lot of time left on her contract. This was posted the morning of the concert. The original poster’s screen name was OnlyMarin. A fan focused zealously on Marin alone with no interest in any of the other members.

The fans had mixed feelings when it was announced that Zero Carat’s first stand-alone concert, scheduled five years to the day of their debut, would only have one concert date. Their hearts filled with both joy and fear. Every single fan felt something was up. No other idols ever planned their concerts like this. Other idols held their concerts over two to four days, even as long as a week. They would then take the same performance and staging on tour around Korea, and some idols even toured their concerts abroad. A lot of time and manpower are required to put a concert together and that means it costs a lot of money. The money brought in by ticket sales supports the preparation of the concert. The more tickets sold, the more profits increase. But to say there would only be one show! No extra dates! The fans’ suspicions quickly turned to resignation. This must be the end. This is the signal. This is how they’re telling us to take a hint and prepare ourselves.

Should we be grateful? Should we, unable to change what has been decided, just accept the situation and spend our remaining time together enjoying ourselves to the fullest? Pinecarat’s feelings on the subject grew more complicated the closer she got to the concert venue. Would she be smiling when the concert started? Would she be crying when it ended? How should she spend her days starting tomorrow? How would she remember today? It seemed as if she’d never know. Ever.

What’s Marin ever done to deserve this? The members whose contracts have ended need to leave and new ones can fill their spots. At their last fansign event Marin was sitting apart from the others anyways. It all must have been settled by then. I even asked Marin, Aren’t the other members just dragging you down? Wouldn’t it be better without them? Wouldn’t just Marin by herself be enough for Zero Carat? That’s the truth, and you know it. This must be so hard for her! What with all the fans that treat the ex-members as if they’re still part of the group and mark the passing of the contract signing days like ancestral rites. And with the other members outright ignoring Marin. Their image is already tarnished. Why are you all waiting around as if they’ve got something more to show?! The only thing they’ve got is Marin.

OnlyMarin’s post was uploaded with a photograph of the members taken at Incheon International Airport as they left for an end-of-the-year concert abroad. It was a photo well known amongst the fans. Da-in and Rubina were side-by-side pulling the matching yet different colored suitcases they’d owned since their debut, and Jun matched their gait and walked between them, drinking from a tumbler. The tumbler was one of a set of five given as a birthday present to ex-member Ji-yu by a fan for the original lineup of Zero Carat to share. The three girls were walking several paces ahead of Marin and their manager. The photo was shot by a reporter from an online newspaper. The caption read: 4 Members of Zero Carat. New member Marin still not fitting in. Are the bullying rumors true? Upon their return a few days later, all four members of Zero Carat were wearing the exact same shoes. They uploaded a group photo and a long message on their website. It contained day-to-day news to share with the fans, but reading between the lines, its true purpose was clear. The fans caught on immediately. Posts were made on the forum saying things like: All four members are great, They each have their own special charm, and Zero Carat’s the best!

Any other day, OnlyMarin’s post would have been ignored, but not long after it went up, it had over three hundred replies. It made its way to the front page of the fan forum with a blinking icon tagging it as a “Hot Post.” All because it was the day of the concert. The concert was slated to begin at 7 p.m., but the fans started gathering around the concert venue before the sun had even risen. Restless hearts paced the streets, then gathered to OnlyMarin’s post.

Standing at the bus stop in front of the venue, Pinecarat saw OnlyMarin’s post. She had gone onto the forum to make a post about sharing her hand-made photo cards when she saw OnlyMarin’s post flashing. It had been eight hours since it went up, and it already had over one thousand replies. And the number kept increasing. Ugh, not this jerk again. It would be better for Marin if she didn’t have any fans like you. I don’t care about Marin either way, but whenever this happens, I start to hate her. You’re turning fans into haters! Is it true that even though it’s been ages since Marin joined the group, she still gets the dance moves wrong? Screw your head on straight and realize Marin is a freeloader in Zero Carat. I completely understand Jun. After Ji-yu and Jackie left she had to deal with Marin coming in. If I were Jun, it’d make no sense to me, truly.

OnlyMarin had not reacted to any of the complaints, curses or harassment, but as soon as Jun’s name came up they replied.

I’m going to kill Song Junhee.

Pinecarat had unconsciously read the post aloud and felt her whole body break out in goosebumps.

Pinecarat had seen OnlyMarin once. It was at the first fansign event Zero Carat held after Marin joined. The event took place in a small theater in Daehak-ro. A group of one hundred fans who had bought their new album and been selected through a lottery were allowed to take part. They sat in numerical order and waited for a member of the event staff to call out their number so that they could climb onto the stage and get autographs from the four members sitting on the other side of a table. OnlyMarin had the number before Pinecarat’s. When Pinecarat was getting Da-in’s autograph, OnlyMarin was getting Marin’s. “Pinecarat, thank you as always.” She was thankful to Da-in for remembering her. She bowed, and when she moved over one spot to get Rubina’s autograph, she heard Marin whisper to their manager standing in the back. “That person just grabbed my ankle. They put their hand under the table.” OnlyMarin had refused Jun’s autograph and was leaving the stage.

After collecting all of the members’ autographs and taking her assigned seat to watch a performance of Zero Carat’s new single, Pinecarat took a peek at OnlyMarin’s face. OnlyMarin was taking a picture of Marin’s autograph with their phone camera and uploading it to the forum. Pinecarat saw the phone screen out of the corner of her eye. I’ve got to remember that screen name, she thought.

Pinecarat saw OnlyMarin a few more times after that. When she was waiting in line outside a broadcasting company’s building in order to get inside for the recording of a music program, Zero Carat’s manager pulled OnlyMarin out of the line. Fans who didn’t know what was up whispered amongst themselves. This was repeated once at a university festival in Gangwon Province, and once at a concert for the opening of a children’s swimming pool at Han River Park, and once more at a product launching event for the makeup brand that Marin modeled for. OnlyMarin could never get close to any stage that Marin was on. And every time this happened, they uploaded a post professing their undying love for Marin to see.

OnlyMarin’s professions of love were always accompanied by complaints about and curses about the other members. This is Marin’s part, so why’s the camera on Da-in? I wish she’d have fallen right over. When they’re coming off the stage, why does Rubina offer water to everyone except Marin? Pisses me off. How much longer is Jun going to ignore Marin? It’d be great if she died. Out of all the other members, they were particularly aggressive toward Jun.

“Song Junhee, I’m gonna kill you.”

Pinecarat saw OnlyMarin muttering that. Da-in, Rubina, Marin, Jun. In front of an enormous banner with all four members’ smiling faces, in the place where countless fans had gathered together with hearts overflowing with expectation, OnlyMarin whispered those words over and over.

Author's Profile

Jo Woori kicked off her literary career in 2011 when she won the Daesan Literary Award for College Students. Last Love (2019) is her debut novel. She is also active as a movie marketer. 
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