Just because my eyes don't tear, doesn't mean my heart doesn't cry.
Just because I come off strong, doesn't mean there's nothing wrong.
Being brokenhearted is like having broken ribs.
On the outside, it looks like nothing's wrong, but inside every breath hurts.
The same person who smiles and talks non-stop…
Might be the same person who cries when they're all alone.
They joke and tease.
They smile and wave.
They laugh and cheer.
Everything seems normal on the stages and shows – they smile and laugh along with the others, they talk loudly and tease their brothers constantly…
But when the cameras aren't rolling and the stage lights aren't shining…
The smiles come off and the laughter fade away…
Only to be replaced with weary expressions and resigned sighs…
Even teary eyes and quiet sobs.
They knew it wasn't going to be easy…
They just didn't expect it to never stop.
Well, maybe that wasn't entirely true. Over the years, their situation had improved. And if their bright eyes and wide smiles were of any indication, they were happy beyond words that there were some fans that still supported them, or better yet, who saw them as a part of that family.
But even though they were content with the attention they did receive, a small (and somewhat selfish) part of them wished that they could have more.
Because they deserved it, didn't they? They've worked just as hard as every one else, if not harder—singing until their voices are hoarse (or for one of them, until his voice is completely gone), dancing until their muscles are sore, learning until their heads are filled with so much information that sometimes, they start to forget which language they're supposed to speak in (which is especially true for the younger one).
It's tiring. They sometimes wonder whether or not everyone else (their brothers, the rest of the "family," and even the fans) know just how much they're suffering. Probably not, since they've learned to hide it so well. They may smile and laugh on the outside, but sometimes on the inside, they want to just scream and cry.
"Time heals all wounds" is what the saying goes…but unfortunately, the popular expression doesn't tell you just how much time it will take until all the wounds are healed.
As far as two young men are concerned, time has done absolutely nothing to help heal their wounds.
Because if time was really on their side, then they wouldn't be forced to fake their smiles at almost every concert. They wouldn't be downright scared to perform in some places, and they wouldn't be so wary when speaking in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fans.
Nowadays, it's only the occassional comment on a YouTube video or a comment on a Weibo post…but it still hurts when they see it.
And yes, contrary to popular belief, the younger one does check his personal accounts on YouTube, Twitter, and now Weibo. The older one doesn't have an "Internet presence," so the other takes it upon himself to keep up with what's going on with their fanbases and within the ELF fandom in general. He's pleased to see that most of it is good – their performances at music festivals, their antics on a variety show, or even their interactions with the other members. It makes them both smile to see all the praises and encouraging comments and they promise themselves that they will continue to work hard to please their fans.
But then there are the other comments, which, recently, have been directed more towards the older one.
"Stop worrying," he tells the younger artist. "It's not like they can really do anything about it. I'm already doing my best, and it's not my choice to do some of the things I have to do. They'll cool down after a while." He smiles that bright-as-sunshine smile of his and nods toward the younger one, who can only nod silently in return.
But when the young violinist hears sniffling on any night, he tastefully pretends not to notice at first. No, he's not ignoring the other man. There's a mutual understanding between them – only if the tears continue for more than fifteen minutes is one allowed to go and comfort the other.
(Go ahead and laugh. Neither of them cares because it's getting too damn tiring to keep up the "Everything-is-fine-so-I'm-always-happy" attitude).
The maknae knows that the reason for about half of the criticism their friend faces is because of a certain someone…a certain female in their company, to be exact.
Yes, he knows. And even though he can be loudmouth sometimes, he's promised to keep this secret for his friend…and not just because said friend has promised to keep his secret.
They've both often wondered what grave mistake they committed to deserve being stuck in this situation. And by "situation," they mean harboring not-so-small crushes on two of the most popular female artists in their company.
That in itself spells "trouble"with a capital "T" because first, they're already close friends with said females. Second, their company absolutely forbids romantic relationships between artists (and trainees), so anything more than friendship is definitely an absolute "no"…although they're pretty sure that some of their own brothers are about to break that rule. And third, they don't stand a chance. Well, that's what they keep telling themselves, anyway.
"I think you have a shot though," the older one insists. They're in an old practice room, one that's not used by any of the current artists in the company, so it makes for a good getaway spot when there's too much going on and they need to stop and take a break…or when one of them is about to snap from all the pressure.
The other one shrugs as he adjusts some sheet music on the stand in front of him. "Maybe. But I don't think so. She even said herself that she thinks of me as an older brother so…I'm not about to ruin that. Besides," he mumurs, playing a few keys on the piano at which he's seated, "there's Jiaheng and Jifan, and not to mention Donghai-ge and Zhongxuan are extremely overprotective. There's no way I'd be able to be more than a best friend or gege." He tries to keep the bitterness out of his voice, but he knows he failed when he sees the other shake his head.
"You probably won't believe me when I say this, but I doubt that. You've been close friends with her for a long time now, so you still have a chance; especially since you were one of her first friends she made here. Besides…at least she's not 'married.'" This last word is said in as flat of a tone as possible, but the younger picks up on the tinge of bitterness in the other's voice.
He shoots the other a sympathetic gaze, sighing softly as he does so. The taller male's eyes are focused on a magazine, but the other can tell that his mind is elsewhere. He turns back to the piano and plays the beginning of a song, concentrating on the notes, and very soon, he finds himself singing the words:
"Ti amo" " Te quiero"
(I) want to be in love you every day.
Thinking of you even as I enter a deep dream.
As soon as I open my eyes and awaken, the first thing I think of is you.
Their voices blend in a unique harmony as the second verse comes in, and once again, they wonder, Why them?
"Saranghae" and "I love you"
I want to be in love with you every day.
One less day would be a regret.
Spending time with you
Like this is not a waste
But with more important matters to take care of, love is the furthest thing on their minds. It's a good thing their company works them so hard…otherwise they don't know what they would do with their wandering thoughts.
Each day, they work tirelessly to improve themselves. They constantly remind themselves that it's not only because they need to improve…it's because they want to improve, if only for their fans. They wake up each day and each put on a smile – a habit now so ingrained in their minds that sometimes, even they don't know whether the smiles are genuine or not.
(But no one else suspects anything, so they can only applaud themselves for having been able to keep it up for so long).
But there are times when those smiles are genuine. And it's during those times that they feel as if they truly belong with this new family.
Yes, it's been a hard journey. For four years and counting, they've worked tirelessly to get to where they are today.
Yes, they've made mistakes, but who doesn't? After all, they're humans too. As the older one of the two once said, "I'm a performing artist, not a saint."
No, they don't regret their decision to become idols. If they could go back in time, they'd each make the same decisions that lead them to fame. They couldn't imagine doing anything else.
No, they're not going to give up. They've sacrificed too much to just throw it all away. Besides, they're not about to give their antis the satisfaction of seeing them crumble. They're stronger than that.
And if you ask that question to thirteen other boys, every single one of them (even the ones who don't know the two very well), will say…
They are a part of Super Junior.