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the philosophy of floating

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the sun hangs low in the sky.

taehyung feels the heat in his skin, melting all his insides like a microwave. the spring is more like summer. he can’t think straight. only far away sensations.

sit up. feet on the floor. remember how to walk. which door is the bathroom. too bright. mint in his mouth that won’t wash out with the tap water.

there’s the front door and then there’s the company building, dance studio boiling his brain. the space in between is blank.

someone in the mirror looks back at him but he can’t really see them. just features thrown arbitrarily together. brown hair. tan skin. not him. his insides are melting so it can’t be him.

six other bodies mill around the hot room. fear invades taehyung’s head. he knows who they are in theory but can’t quite remember properly. faces in a crowd. strangers you almost know passing you in the street. he looks at someone he knows to be jimin. he knows him distantly, facts coming to him in spurts like when you squeeze a capri-sun too hard.

park jimin. born in ‘95. likes dancing. from busan.
taehyung holds these facts tightly in his hands because he knows jimin. of course he does. but when he looks at the person he knows to be jimin the recognition doesn’t come. he's floating.

practice. yes, the dancing. feet arms legs torso all get tangled together in his head but he can feel himself doing the right moves. like reading from an instruction manual, his brain provides his limbs with the right direction.

the person he knows to be hoseok hangs an arm over his shoulder.

“you want some water?” it’s like eavesdropping from underwater, trying to understand the words. taehyung knocks the bottle out of the way and moves to start the dance over but ends up on his hands and knees. he can’t really feel his ankles. his insides are melting.

“tae?! what -”

“oh my god,”

footsteps. twelve feet. rubber sneakers squeaking over hardwood flooring.

“what happened?”

“he’s been kind of off all day, do you think -”

“tae, what’s wrong? are you gonna be sick?”

sick? is he sick? what kind of illness makes your insides melt?

“he’s breathing really hard.”

“w-we have to go to the hospital, we have to go right n-now,”

“we’re not going to the fucking hospital, go get one of the vocal instructors.”

a moment of dead air. the faux grain of the hardwood stares back at taehyung.

“fine then i’ll go. just call 119 if you have to.”

“no wait - hyung,”

more footsteps.

hands on his face, hands under his arms, hands on the ankles he forgot about. he’s upright and it’s too bright. maybe he is sick. maybe he’s dying. maybe the fluorescent bulbs will simply cook his brain into mush and he’ll drop dead right there.
it’s so hot.

“h-he’s not feverish but maybe it’s dehydration because that can happen like this you know -”

taehyung’s legs are dead weight on his hips.

“fuck,” yoongi hisses as he supports his whole weight.

“oh my god.”

“why isn’t he talking? why won’t he tell us what’s wrong?”

“just take his legs and help me set him down.”

“we’re not putting him on the floor hyung -”

“well there’s no fucking furniture in here so what do you want me to do jimin?”

“i don’t know hyung just hold him! tae, p-please just try, just tell me what’s wrong, huh? does it hurt?”

other voices continue saying words but now there’s jimin’s face and everything feels a little closer. not so impossibly far. a tug from the ground. jimin's pulling on taehyung's tether.

taehyung feels himself blink. feels wetness in his lashes.

“ok just SHUT UP!” jimin never yells at them.

deadair deadair deadair

the hands under his arms tighten their grip.

“give him room. someone get some fucking water.”

jimin turns back to him and his eyes are wide, calculating calculating calculating.

taehyung feels his heartbeat like the bass at a concert. is anyone breathing? he lets his eyes fall closed and tries to find his ankles again. hips, thighs, knees, calves, and there they are. his toes tingle.

eyelids heavy but there jimin is, not a person he knows to be jimin but jimin. jimin who shares a room with him and knows him better than most people. jimin who stays up late and eats ice cream with him even during winter. jimin who's pulling him back down to earth.

taehyung licks his lips. they’re chapped, stiff and cracking. “ok,” he says. he can’t remember the last time he talked. he slowly, gingerly, worriedly sets his feet on the ground.

yoongi breathes in behind him like he’s about to say something. taehyung puts the rest of his weight on his legs and yoongi’s words never come. the hands under his arms stay where they are.

“i’m gonna lie down for a second.” god, his throat hurts. maybe he really is dehydrated. his insides are solid again, though, so that’s something.

jimin glances nervously behind him at hoseok, who is holding two different water bottles with panic straining his face, and seokjin who looks less distressed, but only slightly so.

jimin looks again at taehyung. “like… on the floor?”

taehyung shrugs out of yoongi’s hold and lowers himself to the cool hardwood. it’s not as hot anymore.

he can’t see so much as feel the silent conversation happening between all of them, argument zipping between the atoms in the air.

taehyung stands after a solid minute of making sure all his muscles still work. hoseok is on him in a second, shoving a bottle into his hands and checking checking checking. fingers on his joints, examining. hoseok’s always worried about the joints.

“what happened?” a very flustered vocal instructor makes his way over to taehyung; jungkook and namjoon in tow.

“o-oh, yeah i’m feeling much better now, sorry you had to come all the way down here, hyungnim.” taehyung swallows the dryness in his mouth, trying out a convincing smile.

jimin rolls his eyes in taehyung’s peripheral, easily stepping in front of him.

“hyungnim taehyung’s clearly sick so i’m gonna take him back to the dorm, is that ok?”

-

jimin blinks at him, patient and warm.

“i guess you wouldn’t believe me if i said i was just dehydrated?”

jimin shakes his head, hair shifting against the pillow. taehyung sighs, closing his eyes and thinking back to this morning. the feeling of losing the familiarity of your own self.

“do you ever feel like,” taehyung starts. jimin’s hand pauses on his shoulder.

“do you ever feel like we don’t live here?”

he can feel jimin thinking, brain whirring and whirring behind his eyes.

“what do you mean?”

“like… like you don’t live here and you don’t know me? but you do, but you just can’t quite remember? like it’s just out of reach? and then you’re watching yourself from afar like, like this weird robot thing living your life for you and you’re like ‘hey wait that’s my life’ but you’re not even really sure if it is?”

whirring behind jimin’s eyes. he steals his hand back from taehyung. it’s colder without it.

“no, i don’t think so.” his voice is so fake calm that taehyung just wants to die. jimin is freaking out because whatever taehyung just said probably sounded really bad and they’re gonna commit him and then he’ll have to eat jello and oatmeal for six months. bad.

-

whispers in the dorm. taehyung can feel them in the plaster of the walls, the hinges on the doors. secrets aren’t good for the structure of the building.

“...really tired.” unmistakably jimin’s voice, high and strained and barely working through the air in his mouth.

“jimin we’re all tired,” probably namjoon. taehyung can’t hear him as well through the door.

“no, i know, but hyung,” hesitation. taehyung can perfectly picture the expression on jimin’s face, lips pressed together and eyes darting around the room. a deep breath.

“tae told me he’s having… trouble.” and oh taehyung feels sick. he’s transported to his eight year old self, the memory of listening in on his mother and father arguing about what to do with him.

“what kind of trouble?” namjoon sounds nervous now, already trying to come up with solutions to an unknown problem.

“he says that sometimes he can’t remember who we are.” it comes out all in a rush, words sticking together on jimin’s tongue.

silence.

namjoon starts to say something but taehyung’s stomach lurches and he’s running running running to the kitchen, choking up a goopy mess of water and saltines into the sink.

he hears doors open, whispers in the hinges.

“tae?! are you ok?” namjoon’s words coming from the hallway.

“what happened?” jimin’s voice right next to him.
taehyung dry heaves. seokjin’s hand on his back.
taehyung shrugs it off and jimin’s eyes track the movement.

“i puked. sorry. i’m gonna lie down in the room.” he catches hoseok’s eye across the room, a silent request to leave him alone.

they do just that, all footsteps quiet and unobtrusive as they pass taehyung’s door.

he listens to the whispers in the walls while he falls asleep.

he says that sometimes he can’t remember who we are.

-

“tae?” namjoon’s got his leader voice on. taehyung feels sick.

“jimin told me how you’ve been feeling. what you said to him.”

at least namjoon doesn’t beat around the bush when it counts.

“it was stupid. i wasn’t thinking right. i’m just sick, hyung.”

namjoon sighs.

“you know we would usually let you figure it out for yourself. you know that, right?”

taehyung can feel the angry tears behind his eyes pushing forward.

“but-”

“but that’s what you did with jungkook and he ended up in the hospital being force-fed oatmeal by a doctor. right?”

namjoon studies him. blinks rapidly and looks away.

“yeah. so if this is… if this is serious. if this is more than just being sick. you have to tell us. i don’t even care if it’s me. it could be a couple words to yoongi or a long talk with seokjin. any of us. just don’t let yourself face something alone when you have us.”

namjoon scurries off to his room, demeanor fallen and feet quick.

taehyung doesn’t know what to think.

-

taehyung used to loathe sleep. sleep only provided blurry half-fantasies that he couldn't remember in the morning. being awake is where the fun was.

these days taehyung and sleep are having a sort of affair. (don’t tell wakefulness but taehyung thinks he’s in love.)

jimin tells him that he sleeps with his eyes open sometimes. taehyung wishes that it would happen right now, that he could fall asleep just staring at the ceiling. still being able to drown out his brain with a visual.

if this is serious. you have to tell us.

is it serious? in all honesty, this isn’t something that taehyung would put on his very short list of things that are serious.

the thing is, jimin didn’t even explain it right.

he says that sometimes he can’t remember who we are.

totally inaccurate. taehyung remembers who they are. of course he does. this is not the story where he has anterograde amnesia and forgets them every day.

it’s more like… the taehyung that remembers them is just out of reach. and all he has are a few scraps of paper with facts on them. if he can’t remember anyone it would be himself.

-

“hey, hyung.”

jungkook slips through the doorway like silk, padding quietly into the room. god he still looks so skinny. taehyung tries to remember if he saw jungkook eat today.

“how are you feeling?”

yes, there was the cantaloupe this morning with milk and vitamins, and then the bagel and salad sometime in the hazy afternoon.

“still nauseous? do you need medicine or anything?”

“no kookie i’m fine,” taehyung wonders if this is how jungkook felt when they all found out. all out of sorts. privacy invaded.

jungkook sits down, pulling the mattress into a dip. he looks like he wants to say something, but taehyung can’t guess what. you never really know with jungkook. it’s usually fun but now it’s simply frustrating. to not have even the slightest clue as to how jungkook’s brain works.

“sometimes i don’t feel like we live here either,” it comes out all in one breath, whistling past his teeth. ah, the original eavesdropper; taehyung should’ve known.

“sometimes… everything seems so far away. like i’m watching a movie. a really weird movie.”

taehyung studies jungkook. perhaps he does know how his brain works. he sighs.

“you don’t have to do that.”

“do what, hyung?”

that. try to apply everyone’s feelings to yourself. it’s gonna wear you out.”

“oh.”

jungkook leaves. taehyung is alone.

-

it’s yoongi in the end. taehyung dwells and yoongi dwells and only dwellers know how to stop dwelling.

“it’s like a disconnect, right?”

taehyung stops picking at the orange peel in front of him. thinks about it. “yeah, i guess.”

“like you’re floating and someone’s about to cut your tether, and it’s scarier than anything?”

“yeah. it only happens sometimes, though.”

yoongi catches taehyung’s eye, stares down the dwelling in there.

“the next time it does, talk to me if you want. or at least know that it’ll go away. no one’s gonna cut your tether. you’ll make it back down.”

for whatever reason, taehyung believes him. maybe because yoongi and taehyung have both gotten stuck up in space at one time or another. maybe because the loneliness of floating can only be known by those who float.