“No speeches,” Dongho says.
“No speeches,” Daehwi promises.
Dongho grins like a little kid, and ruffles Daehwi’s bowl cut. “All right, drama queen. Let’s go.”
They’re just two guys riding bikes down the boardwalk. It’s spring in Valencia, California, which means it’s summer. Nu’est flew to Los Angeles to film a music video. Vogue Korea sent Daehwi to California on a photo shoot. It was a complete coincidence that he and Dongho ended up here at the same time. But since he met Dongho one cold winter, Daehwi has felt like his life has just been one coincidence after the other.
It’s a beautiful line—one coincidence after the other. He almost wants to tell Dongho. Hey, Dongho, Baekho, oh Mr. Kang—doesn’t that sound nice? Couldn’t it be the start to a song? But Daehwi made a promise. No speeches.
They rode their bicycles up and down the boardwalk. They stopped at a place that sold espressos that tasted like leaded gasoline. They quickly rode to an ice cream stand to rinse the taste down with too-sweet ice creams that melted in sticky rivulets down their fingers, asynchronous, decoupled affogatos. Dongho got two scoops of vanilla in a tiny waffle cone, and for the rest of the afternoon Daehwi’s mind is filled with the taste of sticky sweet vanilla on Dongho’s fingers made salty by the spray of the ocean.
The sun seems like it’ll never set so it’s at once beautiful and sad when it does. The next day Daehwi is flying to New York to give an interview and do another photo shoot with Nylon Magazine and Dongho is flying back to Seoul with the rest of the Nu’est hyungs to start promotions. He and Dongho walk down to the rocks to catch the last of the daylight with their shoes in hand and their toes digging into the stone as they walk as far as they can go out into the jetty.
The sun takes its time to tuck itself into the horizon, bathing them in a warm bath of orange and hazy pink light as it goes down. With one last indigo flashing off the chop of the waves, the sun morphs into a thin lava line at the end of the world, and then winks out.
Without thinking, Dongho asks how anyone could leave California after living here. Daehwi smiles right away because he catches Dongho’s attempt to backpedal, which instantly brings complicit smiles to both their faces, like two guilty individuals in the night who, after placing a long day between them like a vast desert so as to protect the other from his wantonness, had found themselves in a wet and passionate kiss as soon as the sky turned dark.
“I thought you said—,” Daehwi began.
“No speeches, I know.”
They returned to the hotel, leaving their bikes outside.
It was Dongho’s first time Stateside. That Daehwi could show him this slice of California and America made it even more special. This whole day he had felt like he was showing Dongho a secret haunt, the place where one came to be alone, to escape the world, to dream of others. The place where I dreamed of you before I knew you.