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Tuesdays with Zhangjing

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            Weekdays, for Yanjun, are usually busy and hectic. They were days were work controls his life and takes most of his time. Sometimes he wishes he was back in college, where life, although hard, were full of happy days, laughs, and sharing kisses with that special someone on top of the pile of homework he was supposed to do. But Yanjun knew reminiscing now would do him no better. It was easier to be too busy to remember, than too empty to forget.

 

            There are some days in Yanjun’s current life where getting up is a difficult task and going on with his day is an impossible thing. It was hard, especially when an onslaught of memories he didn’t know if he wants to forget or not comes crashing down on him the moment he opens his eyes.

 

            With the line of work he is doing, rest is a luxury. Working hard is the only way to survive and slacking off would be the end of everything. It gets miserable and too much to take sometimes, if not a little depressing, but Yanjun knew he had to do it.

           

            After all, he held that promise dear to his heart.

 


 

 

            College was the time where Yanjun had the best time of his life. The taste of reality left a bittersweet feeling on his tongue but he savored it nonetheless. High school was fun too, where they said was supposed to be the starting point of life. Yanjun begs to disagree, because college was just where everything was neither a little too sweet nor a little too bad for him to take. Everything was balanced and Yanjun liked that a lot.

 

            College was also the time where he vividly remembers meeting a person who later would change his life forever. He was his senior, a little too short for his age, and was a person who knew how to have fun but was very mature when he needed to be. His name was Zhangjing.

 

            You Zhangjing, the Malaysian boy whose eyes sparkled brighter than the night stars, played a huge role in Yanjun’s life. He was like a happy pill that is vital to Yanjun’s life. Sometimes, he even forgets that the latter was older than him. It always seemed to be the other way around, but Yanjun doesn’t really mind.

 

            Meeting him would have been impossible had he not forgotten the university map back at the dormitories. He had gotten himself lost at the first day of lectures and the university was just too big for him to even have the time to look into every building to find his class. He was running out of time, in a few minutes he would be officially late. He was sure that would be a good impression for the first day of classes.

 

            Luckily though, he bumped into another student as he turned around the corner of the building he’s currently at. His things had scattered all over the floor and Yanjun had scrambled to help him pick them all up.

 

            “I’m sorry,” he apologized, feeling bad for causing such a ruckus at the start of college. He was a little disappointed with his self, to be honest, because he already felt like he couldn’t do anything right.

 

            “It’s fine, don’t worry,” the unknown student smiles at him. “Freshman?” Yanjun nods. “Are you lost?”

 

            “Well, yes,” he hesitantly answered. “Can you tell me where this class is? I’m about to be late. I’m really sorry,” he tried to apologize again, but the other just brushed it off.

 

            The unknown student sends him to his class, telling him that he also got lost during his first day just a year before, and Yanjun couldn’t possibly thank him enough. He was worried at first that the other student might be late on his own lecture, but the other assured him that his classes won’t start until an hour later. A “thank you” apparently is not enough in Lin Yanjun;s dictionary, so he asks for the other’s name and number to treat him during the weekends.

 

            Knowing him helped Yanjun adjust to college life. Zhangjing’s presence, in simpler terms, was the missing ingredient to make Yanjun’s life colorful. In such a little time, the boy with bright eyes and a mesmerizing smile had inched himself close to Yanjun’s heart, thus making him an essential part of his life.

 

            It was no surprise when a year later, he asks Zhangjing to date him. Realization of his feelings dawned on him one day when he was eating with him at the university’s cafeteria. The older laughed at a joke he told, which was rare because his jokes were to “dad-like” to even be funny, and the light in his eyes sparked something inside Yanjun’s heart. It was the feeling of burning, in a good way, and it felt as if butterflies were dancing on his stomach.

 

            It took him half a year before he mustered the courage to ask Zhangjing out. He spent his time pondering, wondering, how he had not known before. He should have at least gotten a hint, or a warning, because he always knew there was already something when he started thinking about Zhangjing every moment he can. The way his eyes crinkles when he smiles, or the way his lips curves when he suppresses a laugh all fascinated him. He was beautiful.

 

            What surprised Yanjun though, was not how the others had reacted to him confessing and asking Zhangjing out. Every single person in their circle of friends was not surprised, even telling them that they actually had a bet before on who would explode first. It was what Zhangjing told him after he did so made him speechless, dumbfounded even.

 

            “Took you long enough.” A small smile was playing in his lips, and the laugh he gives at Yanjun’s shocked and confused face sounded like music straight into Yanjun’s ears. Ah, he’s truly whipped. And utterly in love.

 

___________

 

            If somebody had told the Yanjun a few years ago that the person that will make him this happy is a person like Zhangjing, he would’ve probably laughed straight at their face. He wasn’t really one who believed in things such as happiness in love back then, but now, he doesn’t even remember how he managed to live his life without Zhangjing before.

 

            Dating isn’t a completely new experience for Yanjun. He had tried dating both men and women in middle school and high school, but none of his past relationships had worked as well as how he and Zhangjing are currently doing. It was either the other was not “compatible” with him or Yanjun just simply did not like how they completely changed after just a few days of dating.

 

            So when he heard how Zhangjing had never experienced dating before, his heart melted instantly. How could someone as great and amazing as his boyfriend is has not experienced dating someone before?

 

            Zhangjing says that blind dates doesn’t count as dating because those were just one-time things in his life that he didn’t want to ever do again. Yanjun assumes it turned pretty traumatizing for the older, but it’s fine because he had Yanjun now. He’ll make sure to make him smile always, because Zhangjing’s happiness is his happiness as well.

 

___________

 

 

            Yanjun’s favorite times were when they just lie beside each other in the small bed inside his cramped, college dorm when work hasn’t piled up yet upon their shoulders. Zhangjing would be using his arms as his pillow, head tilted to the side to stare at Yanjun’s features. Yanjun’s hands would find its way to Zhangjing’s hair, caressing them ever so softly.

 

            Sometimes, it was just them basking in the pure silence, only the sounds of their breathing could be heard inside the room and neither is making a move to break the silence. It was just them beside each other, appreciating the little times they get to spend with each other without worrying about anything else in the world.

 

            There are times where they talk about everything. Memories of the past—either bad or good— and life dreams were their topics. Whether it was some nice reminiscing days of their high school lives or just some events that happened in the past few weeks, Yanjun took the pleasure in listening to his boyfriend’s voice. That time he knew, he would give everything just to not lose these moments forever.

 

            It goes on like that for two more years, until that happened.

 

            Yanjun was in his third year, while Zhangjing was studying for his last year before he graduates from college. Their relationship had gone like a rollercoaster ride for the past two years and they both knew it was the best ride of their life. Little did they know though, that the peak of the ride was just about to come.

 

            He was a wreck. He didn’t know what to do. He had woken up that morning only to get a call from Zhangjing’s dorm mates that his boyfriend had been sent to the hospital earlier after he collapsed just outside the door of his room. It was lucky that there were people who saw him and called the ambulance right away.

 

            Zhangjing had been complaining about headaches for quite a while now. At first it had been mild ones, but then it started worsening in just a short amount of time during the mornings. Yanjun had been worried, but the older assured him that he was fine. Just a few tablets of medicine and it’ll go away.

 

            Sometimes he forgets even the simplest of things. It was weird, especially when Yanjun had known Zhangjing as someone with a great memory. Zhangjing might have thought that the other didn’t notice, but Yanjun certainly did. He was more worried then, but the older could be so stubborn sometimes.

 

            He should have been more insistent, he now regrets. The doctors said it was a type of brain cancer, a tumor, with a name Yanjun couldn’t quite remember because his mind had started playing out different scenes in front of his eyes. It had gone too large and was at a dangerous side of his boyfriend’s brain that surgery might not even be an option. Had they sought a doctor a little more early, things would not come down to this.

 

            Zhangjing was already at the fourth stage of the cancer and treatment, while possible, cannot completely free him from the chains of the disease. It felt like the heavens and earth had come crashing down at Yanjun all at once, and there wasn’t anything he could do.

 

            The neurosurgeon had told them Zhangjing probably only had at least three to six months to live. Chemotherapy was an option, but it would only do so little to improve the other’s condition. Maybe a few more weeks to live, but that was it.

 

            It was heartbreaking for Yanjun. How could someone as bright and sunny as Zhangjing be in this kind of situation? It could have been anyone, could have been him, but why Zhangjing of all people?

 

            It shattered his heart to pieces, seeing the man he loves lying in a cold, hospital bed. He doesn’t even know what’s happening. He had a vague understanding of his condition— or maybe he did understand, but he was just trying to lighten up everything with his smiles.

 

            It hurt Yanjun too much that it felt as if a thousand knives were piercing at his heart all at once. Two years ago he swore to himself that he would do anything just to keep Zhangjing safe and happy. He would protect him at all costs, but what can he do against a disease that just entered their life as sudden as it did? It frustrated him, the inability to do anything. All he could do was watch.

 

___________

 

            Yanjun tried going back to college, only because Zhangjing told him to. He really didn’t want to leave the other’s side. The older, as sad as it may be, had no one else now except him and Yanjun knew that. He would rather be beside Zhangjing than spend hours over countless lectures every week that did nothing but add more to the stress and frustration he’s been feeling.

 

            “Your life should not only revolve around me, Yanjun.” He remembers Zhangjing saying this with a soft, little smile.

 

            Yanjun wanted to tell him that he was being cruel, because how could he not, when Zhangjing was basically his life? He had long forgotten how he managed to live when Zhangjing was not around, let alone continue college without the older by his side.

 

            Every day after his classes are done, he would go straight to the hospital which was just a little walk away from their dorms. He’d visit Zhangjing and even though sometimes he would come so late, the latter would always be awake whenever he arrives. He disapproved of that, but the older, again, was as stubborn as always.

 

            The silver lining of Zhangjing’s disease, as hard as it may sound to be, was that he cannot feel any pain. The kind of cancer that he has rarely causes pain and it eased Yanjun a little bit. At least he wasn’t in pain and it gave him a tinge of relief.

 

            Ever since Zhangjing got admitted to the hospital, they started doing the things they used to do again, although this time with a change of scenery. Where Zhangjing lay in Yanjun’s arms while telling him stories inside a small room and an old bed now became a hospital ward with a single bed, wires attached to his body, and Yanjun sitting beside him.

 

            If back then, they enjoy silence while spending time beside each other, the heart monitor attached to Zhangjing makes it impossible now. Yanjun would stare at the older with a soft gaze, and the machine would keep beeping day and night, recording his steady heartbeat whenever he sleeps or even when he is awake.

 

            Yanjun, sometimes, would even hear the beeping ringing in his ears when he’s attending his lectures. He did not dare think of what would happen when one day that beeping stops. He liked thinking that it would never happen, because that would mean Zhangjing will be gone, and that’s just ridiculous.

 

            Everyday he would look at Zhanging tenderly, reminding himself of the many reasons why he chose to love Zhangjing and why he can’t give up now. He had to be strong for the both of them because he knew, right now, it was all that he can do.

 

            The talks they used to have together were more frequent now. Yanjun loved listening to Zhangjing’s voice. He’d be a great singer if ever, he thinks. Even though sometimes his voice is a little strained, he still tells Yanjun stories that happened during the day when the other was busy with his college work. He’d tell him how he had made the nurse laugh yesterday and how it made him happy to do that. Yanjun felt like his heart was melting. Zhangjing was too innocent, too sweet for this cruel world.

 

            It was four months into battling with the disease together when these talks of them had reduced to small ones that sometimes don’t even happen. Zhangjing had started sleeping a lot now and the doctors said this was because of his disease, while Yanjun now has too much work to juggle all together. His professors had been especially cruel those weeks because their finals were fast approaching. They rarely see each other, because when Yanjun visits, Zhangjing would be asleep. And when Zhangjing wakes, Yanjun would be already off to college.

 

            Zhangjing had noticed this, and it made him a little sad. He missed Yanjun, the man who had been there with him since the beginning, the one who supported him along the many things he did when he was still up and about in college, and he wanted to be able to spend time again with him without bothering him of his studies.

 

            Every Tuesday, Yanjun only has three classes and he would have all afternoons his to spend freely. Zhangjing, the positive person he is, saw this as an opportunity.

 

            “Let’s do ‘the talks’ again every Tuesday, Yanjun. I missed them.” Longing was evident in his eyes, and Yanjun heard his heart breaking once again. Who was he to say no?

 

            And so, they start.

___________

           

            The first Tuesday, they talk about inspirations.

 

            He himself didn’t know why their talks suddenly became like this—too serious, too deep to even joke about. But he went along with it. It was Zhangjing, anyway, and he likes hearing the older’s voice.

 

            Yanjun knew Zhangjing was a good singer. Singing inside the shower was his hobby, and Yanjun had heard him more often than not. When he’s cooking breakfast, he’ll hum a low tune from a song Yanjun’s not familiar to. He assumes it’s a Malay song, because he grew up in that country. Or when he’s thinking, he would tap his pen along to the beat of the song he’s quietly singing before he stops and writes again.

 

            The older told him it was his mom who taught him how to sing. His mom used to sing at the local church’s choir and Zhangjing had always admired her voice. His dad played the piano, so he knew bits and bits of music from his childhood.

 

            It was a pity they passed away, and Zhangjing had lost the people he looked up the most during his younger days in a tragic accident. But the older said it was okay, because he made sure to carve every memory of them in his heart and mind so he can never forget.

 

            He then asks Yanjun what inspired him to continue on life and Yanjun didn’t even have to think before answering. What inspired him to go on with life was just there, in front of him, smiling like he was the sun itself.

 

            You inspired me to continue, Zhangjing. I hope you know that.

 

 

 

___________

 

            The second, they talk about questions.

 

            Zhangjing tells him how he had questioned God when his parents died, and how he had asked himself many times how and where to start again. The way his eyes lost its flicker while he speaks made Yanjun’s heart clench tightly he almost felt like he couldn’t breathe. He knew he would do everything just to bring back the fire in Zhangjing’s eyes. He’d give everything, even his own life, just to make the other happy.

 

            In that moment, Yanjun realized. If he had one thing to ask that powerful entity above that Zhangjing’s talking about, it would be why Zhangjing, of all people, should suffer like this?

 

___________

 

            When the third Tuesday came, Yanjun had arrived later than usual. His last professor that day had extended his class for at least an hour more, and Yanjun was too bothered thinking about how Zhangjing must’ve been waiting for him to even care about what that lecturer was talking about.

 

            Yanjun learned for the past two years that whatever happens, Zhangjing is top priority. If he calls when Yanjun is in class, he would gladly ditch it. If Zhangjing only knew how he had Yanjun wrapped around his fingers, he would probably laugh.

 

            When he arrived at the hospital an hour later than the past weeks, Zhangjing was fast asleep. His long eyelashes touched his cheeks and his face showed serenity, almost like the calm of the sea. His chest rose and fell along with his steady breathing and Yanjun had never seen someone as breathtaking as his boyfriend is.

 

            When he woke up, Yanjun was at the couch beside his hospital bed, wearing his eyeglasses while typing profusely in his laptop. His eyebrows were knitted together in concentration and Zhangjing thinks it better than to disturb him. Too late though, because Yanjun must have noticed him move because he immediately looked up from his laptop and smiled at Zhangjing.

 

            He took off his glasses before saving his work and closing his laptop, placing it in the couch. He walked towards Zhangjing’s bed and pulled a chair to his side, took his right hand and kissed it softly. “Sorry, I was late. Did you sleep well?”

 

            Zhangjing, sporting a pair of droopy eyes which were probably still hung over by his nap, smiled at the gesture Yanjun did. Nodding, he asked Yanjun, “Was that the thesis you were working on?”

 

            The younger looked confused for a moment, before he finally realized what Zhangjing was asking and he nodded. “Yep,” popping the ‘p’, he continued, “I’m close to finishing my part.” He gave Zhangjing a smile, the sides of his lips dipping a little, dimples peeking.

 

            “Why don’t you continue doing it? It’s important.”

 

            Yanjun laughed a little. “Idiot. You really think I would do a boring thesis when I can talk to you instead? How about no?”

 

            The smile that Zhangjing gave him was blinding. “Who are you calling idiot, huh?”

 

            Feigning innocence, Yanjun raised both his hands together. “No one?”

 

            The laugh he gave Yanjun sparked something inside the younger’s heart once again, like rekindling a fire that has already been burning bright. Yanjun wouldn’t exchange these happy times with Zhangjing for the world. He knew he’d keep them forever.

 

            Needless to say, Zhangjing, to Yanjun, is life itself and nothing else defined that word better in Yanjun’s heart.

 

___________

 

            The fourth and fifth Tuesday came quickly, and before Yanjun could grasp it, they were only a month away from six. He didn’t know what would happen once those six months expires; he didn’t want to think about it yet. Not yet, he wasn’t ready. He will never be ready.

 

            During the fourth, they talk about happiness, and Yanjun wanted to tell Zhangjing how relevant that word was to him; because he gave Yanjun happiness he never thought he could have. Yanjun wishes he wouldn’t take away that happiness too, because he knew the moment Zhangjing leaves (he hopes he won’t), a part of his heart and soul would leave too, leaving almost nothing behind for Yanjun to get his self back together.

 

            In the fifth Tuesday, they talked about time, and Yanjun thinks he now knows what Zhangjing is trying to do. He was trying his best not to admit this to himself, because then it would hurt more. The fact that Zhangjing is preparing him for what’s to come hurt the younger a little, because it only meant that Zhangjing himself knew that their own time was running out and Yanjun, who still has yet to let the situation sink to his self, continues to blindly grasp at the remaining ropes of hope he has left.

 

 ___________

 

            By the sixth Tuesday, their friends dropped by for a visit. It was a happy moment, seeing Zhangjing laugh and smile again with them felt like he was back in his freshmen years, where he met and fell in love with a foreign boy.

 

            They looked back on their memories together, and Yanjun knew every single moment he had with Zhangjing he would keep safe inside his heart, because he couldn’t afford to lose them.

 

            Yanjun didn’t say anything about it, but he did notice the sympathetic looks his friends had given him. The pats on his back before they left were meant to give him strength and encouragement, but it only crumbled Yanjun’s resolve more. He concludes in that moment, that sooner or later, reality would wake him up from the beautiful dream that is Zhangjing and god, he does not anticipate that.

 

             If Zhangjing is truly a dream, then he would prefer to sleep forever and not wake up, because he’s been the most beautiful one he ever had.

 

___________

 

            The seventh Tuesday approached faster than Yanjun expected it to. His classes had finished now and his vacation already started a few days ago and now he had all his time to devote to Zhangjing. He felt bad, because trying to continue college without the older by his side took a toll on him (or maybe on them both), but Zhangjing wanted him to do so, so he did.

 

            That day, they talked about love. The memories of their relationship over the past years brought a smile to both their lips. It wasn’t perfect; their relationship wasn’t the most ideal one out there, but for Yanjun and Zhangjing, it was more than enough.

 

            Yanjun was thankful for all the memories he shares with Zhangjing, for all the care and the love he receives from him, and Yanjun thinks he can’t possibly ever give back enough no matter how much he tries to do so.

 

            Yanjun remembers it all. Vividly. All their shared kisses, whether it was the short, morning smooches or the passionate, sweet ones at night, he can’t possibly forget the feel of the older’s lips against his own and how he tasted impossibly sweet.

 

            “Yanjun,” Zhangjing called. “Can you kiss me?”

 

            Yanjun was a little taken aback from his boyfriend’s request. Ever since Zhangjing had been admitted to the hospital, the kisses they used to share became less frequent. Yanjun did not intent it to be that way, he most certainly did want to kiss his man again, but he just couldn’t seem to find the right timing.

 

            All Yanjun gave Zhangjing were sweet, forehead kisses that were enough to melt Zhangjing into a puddle of goo. Yanjun’s lips contained that kind of magic, and he wanted to feel that magic again against his own lips.

 

            “You didn’t even need to ask,” Yanjun responded. Zhangjing’s request stirred something inside of him, and (not) oddly enough, he almost felt like he was on cloud nine.

 

            “Stop talking and just do it.”

 

            And soon enough, Yanjun’s lips found its way against Zhangjing’s, and a surge of emotions exploded inside them both. There was the sense of familiarity, the thing they both missed. They weren’t rushing, time may be running out on them both but they didn’t care. At that moment, there was only Yanjun and Zhangjing. Time became limitless, the universe stopped. Their lips were dancing with each other as if the world didn’t exist, and the two of them were the only ones that mattered.

 

            When they parted, Yanjun tightened his hold on Zhangjing’s hands. He intertwined their fingers and pecked the other’s forehead.

 

            “I love you.”

 

            Yanjun wanted to record Zhangjing’s voice and listen to him forever, if he could. He had never heard words as sweet as those before. They were simple, straightforward, but they held emotions only both of them understand.

 

            Yanjun smiled, the biggest he ever did since the past few months. “I love you, too.More than you could ever think.

 

            It was enough.

___________

 

            They’re only a week away from six months, and Yanjun’s mind was a mess. He didn’t know what to think about anymore. All his mind had was Zhangjing, the boy who gave him happiness and probably is also the only one who could take it away in a snap.

 

            He remembered clearly, almost six months ago, when the doctor first told him that Zhangjing just had more or less six months to live. It broke his heart thinking about what would happen when they finally reach that time, but now that it’s just days away, he doesn’t think he could even survive.

 

            It’s stupid. Yanjun thinks. All these time, yet he still doesn’t understand why it had to be Zhangjing. There are billions of people on the planet, but why does it have to be him? He’d rather prefer to be in Zhangjing’s position than see the other fighting for his own life. It was selfish of him to think, but his mind doesn’t allow him to think otherwise.

 

            He knew sooner or later he’d have to face the hard truth. He always knew that one day it would just straight up slap him in the face, its mark forever to remain. He knew one day Zhangjing would have to leave him for good. He knew one day he’d have to venture into the world, yet again, alone.

 

            He knew one day, Zhangjing would get tired of fighting. He knew, one day, Zhangjing would have to rest, just like how the sun sets before the moon appears. But this time, he won’t be able to meet sunrise again.

 

            Yanjun wishes time would stop, because he did not want to lose Zhangjing. The boy was his life and taking him away is like killing him too, tortured and beaten until his heart just decides to give up because it can’t take the pain anymore.

 

            He wasn’t ready. He never will be.

 

            And so, the last Tuesday came.

 

            Yanjun had slept at Zhangjing’s hospital room for almost a month now. His nights had been restless. As he watched Zhangjing breathe into the night, the thoughts on his mind were endless.

 

            The last few days with Zhangjing were eventful, but at the same time they weren’t. All Zhangjing did was sleep and the neurologist said it couldn’t be avoided. The disease did that and even if Zhangjing wanted to fight his drowsiness, it was near impossible. It’ll just be like that.

 

            Yanjun would watch Zhangjing sleep, and seeing his boyfriend being so peaceful somehow brought ease to his heart. He wouldn’t mind Zhangjing sleeping for almost all-day long, as long as he sees him breathing, alive, and fine, then everything is alright.

 

            Zhangjing was weaker now, too. Treatment had taken a toll on his body, making him skinnier than he was before. Slowly, Yanjun felt as if the Zhangjing he met in freshmen college was slowly slipping away from his fingers, and there was nothing he can do.

 

            He was still the same bright and positive Zhangjing, though. The smile never left his face, but Yanjun knew some nights he cried as well. Yanjun knew how hard it must be for the older; probably harder than how he is experiencing it right then.

 

            He wanted to wipe his tears, tell him everything will be fine and that they’ll just be the same as before. But Yanjun also knew that while words may be comforting at the moment, they may as well hurt in the end. They both knew things were not okay. They were both hurting and lying would be of no use. Admitting the truth was hard enough, what more are sugarcoated lies when they both know what reality has in store for them?

 

            That Tuesday was one of Zhangjing’s especially energetic days. The moment he woke up he had asked Yanjun to help him sit up, he ate some apples, drank some water which was all he could drink since then, and laughed together with Yanjun.

 

            He had a good time with their good friends as well. They dropped by at noon to pay him a visit once again, altogether, something that they had started doing since Yanjun told them that Zhangjing missed having all of them together in one room.

 

            They told stories, ones that Zhangjing didn’t have the chance to witness because he was at the hospital. Yanjun thought he saw a hint of sadness and longing in Zhangjing’s eyes while their friends were reminiscing, but it quickly went away as fast as he had saw it come. Yanjun knew he didn’t imagine it; it was there but Zhangjing was too fast to wipe away any traces of it.

 

            The older had just awakened from a nap when the night approached. The previously blue sky already had hues of orange with a mixture of yellow and a tiny bit of red. The moon had already peeked and the world was already saying bye to the sun. The stars had started shining one by one and Yanjun just heard the happiest sigh from Zhangjing.

 

            “Today is a great day, isn’t it?”

 

            Everyday with you is a great day.

 

            “You’re especially happy today,” Yanjun points out. “Why is that?”

 

            The chuckle he gives Yanjun was short, but enough for the other to feel the happiness radiating from him. “Have you ever had a dream, Yanjun?”

 

            He nods. You are the dream, Zhangjing.

 

            “Because today feels like one. And I don’t want to wake up if this really is,” he spares a glance at Yanjun who was sitting beside him, cutting fruits from the bedside table.

 

            “Me too.” I don’t want to wake up from this dream that is you.

 

            “Hm?” Zhangjing furrowed his eyebrows. “What was that?”

 

            He shook his head, implying ‘nothing’.

 

            “Oh. Remember two years ago? When you told me you dreamt to be an idol during high school?” The question surprised Yanjun, he didn’t think Zhangjing would still remember that.

 

            “How come you still remember that?”

 

            Yanjun remembers dreaming to be an idol when he was younger. He knew how to sing, he had been told that his voice makes all the beautiful colors explode to form an exhibit show. He was good at dancing and his dance teacher in high school had praised him many times that he can remember.

 

            Before college, he had considered auditioning in a company, but his parents were against it. His father had wanted him to be a ‘professional’, and not just a person who relies on other people’s money to make a living. The words they used hurt Yanjun a lot. He was young back then, and discovering his self thru music had been a great and exciting experience to him, but all those got crushed the moment his parents opened their mouths.

 

            There were days were he still thinks about that. He imagined himself in a stage, performing with all his heart. He also had imagined Zhangjing with him before. The older could have been a great vocalist and he thought of countless what-ifs about him and his voice. They could debut together in a group, or if Zhangjing doesn’t want to be an idol, then he could be Yanjun’s number one fan. Yanjun knew he never grew out of that dream. He doesn’t think he ever will.

 

            “Do you ever think of fulfilling that dream?” Zhangjing wondered aloud.

 

            “Sometimes, I do. Why?” Yanjun admits.

 

            “What’s stopping you?”

 

            I don’t know. He was tongue-tied; he couldn’t find the right words. He thought he had long buried that dream six feet underground because he knew there was no use for a wishful thinking. He doesn’t really know what’s stopping him from doing what he wants to do. There simply were just no words.

 

            “Do it, Yanjun.” Those three words were short but Yanjun thought it had brought back the fire once again in his heart. Zhangjing’s words were that powerful. He had that effect on Yanjun no one could ever possibly achieve. “You’re still young, healthy, plus you’re talented and handsome. Girls would kill just to get a piece of you,” he chuckled.

 

            “I’d only give that piece to you, though. Too bad for them,” he jokingly says.

 

            Zhangjing faked a cringe, but he was suppressing a smile and his ears had turned a slight pink. “Ew, stop that.”

 

            “But you like it,” Yanjun teased further.

 

            He was as red as a tomato now, and it amused Yanjun a lot. “I don’t!”

 

            “If you say so,” and Yanjun tried to wiggle his eyebrows at Zhangjing just to tease him a little bit more.

 

            A moment of silence consumes them both after that. But it was not the awkward nor uncomfortable one; it was a welcomed silence, and it stayed until Zhangjing decided to break it.

 

            “Do it, Yanjun. I’m not kidding. I’ll even wave your lightstick for you.” He gave a wink, and boy, did it send Yanjun’s heart to do some extreme somersaults.

 

            The image showed itself to Yanjun’s mind, and strangely enough, he felt energized and motivated at the thought of Zhangjing waving a lightstick and holding a banner containing his name.

 

            “You promise you’d do that?”

 

            “Until I can, I will.”

 

            The atmosphere shifted from playful to serious right away, and Yanjun felt the weight in Zhangjing’s words. He knew what they meant and he did not know what to feel about it.

 

            “Just promise me, alright?” Zhangjing looks at him expectantly, hopefully. “Promise me you’ll live your life fully and you’ll chase your dreams?” He raised his pinky, asking for a seal of promise from his boyfriend.

 

            “Dreams don’t always get fulfilled, so do the best you can because if the chance slips away, you can never get it back.”

 

            A lump had formed in Yanjun’s throat and he was finding it hard to stop his tears from streaming one by one from his eyes. He raised his pinky, locked it with Zhangjing, and stared at his eyes. He instantly felt like drowning. It was a good feeling. “I promise.”

 

            That was the last promise he gave to Zhangjing and Yanjun never broke any promises he made with him, not even once.

 

___________

 

            They spend a few more days after that.

 

            Yanjun had taken Zhangjing out of his room for a stroll. He sat him in a wheelchair and he was also the one who pushed him around the garden so he could look at the beautiful flowers surrounding them. In Yanjun’s eyes, Zhangjing was far more beautiful than those blooming flowers. He was far more ethereal, sometimes he even felt unreal.

 

            In their last days, Yanjun spent his whole time with Zhangjing and they created new memories together. The suffocating white walls of the hospital didn’t stop them from making their last days eventful and memorable for each other. And slowly, Yanjun learned to accept the hard truth.

 

            “Are you tired?” He asked Zhangjing one day, while they were both watching the sunset at the rooftop of the hospital.

 

            Zhangjing gave him a smile, and once again he was more beautiful than the sun itself. “I am.”

 

            Yanjun caressed the remaining strands of hair on his head affectionately, placing a kiss on top of his head.

 

            “Is it fine if I rest already?” He looked at Yanjun, and his eyes were still shining, just like how they always did. They never lost its spark, even after all this time. Yanjun felt like he was back in freshmen college once again, because the way Zhangjing looked at him reminded him of the first encounter he had with him. He was lost, and Zhangjing found him. They both found each other and Yanjun couldn’t be thankful enough.

 

            “You fought a good fight, love.” He sat in front of the wheelchair Zhangjing was sat on, and he held his cheeks warmly. “Thank you.”

 

            Zhangjing smiled, he was glad he met Yanjun. His life may have been short, but at least it was worthwhile. Lin Yanjun was the best part of it all. “Thank you to you, too.”

 

            Tears were threatening to spill from Yanjun’s eyes. His eyes were already glassy and anytime soon, he would explode. It was still hard for him to let go, after all this time. His thumb had caressed Zhangjing’s cheeks now, and he leveled his head to match Zhangjing’s. “You’d wait for me, right?”

 

            “I will,” Zhangjing assured him. A drop of tear now made its way to the older’s cheeks, and Yanjun wiped it. It would probably be the last time he could ever wipe Zhangjing’s tears, because there won’t be ‘next times’ now. “No matter how long it takes, I’ll wait for you.”

 

            “Okay,” Yanjun finally explodes, and the river of tears he’s been keeping since a few months ago finally flowed out from his eyes. He kissed Zhangjing’s forehead, then down his eyes, kissing his tears away. He moved to his nose, then down his lips. He left it there a little longer, because he knew, then again, it would be the last. Zhangjing kissed back with the same passion, the same longing, the same emotions. “I love you. Always. Forever. It’ll always be you.”

 

            “I love you, too. More than you could ever think.”

 

            Two days later, the heavens finally decide that it was Zhangjing’s time to go. He had left peacefully, much to Yanjun’s relief, because he didn’t have any more pain or suffering before he gave his last breath. He was just sleeping, and Yanjun held his hand tight, until he had to let go.

 

            The beeping from the monitor beside Zhangjing then stopped and there was silence, once again. He was finally resting and Yanjun knew he was in a good place now.

 

            Zhangjing had been a good, good dream. But it was already time for Yanjun to wake up.

 

 


 

 

            The moment he and the others walked in, bright lights were already flashing right in front of their eyes. Yanjun hears the loud screams coming from the sea of fans laid before his very eyes and the thousand bright lights shining like stars beneath them. He sees everything from the stage he long dreamt for and he thinks of how far he’d have become.

 

            “Hello! We are Nine Percent!”

 

            The screams that erupted were louder, each of the audience beneath the stage screaming a name of their favorites, and Yanjun feels his heart swell in pride. He walks to his position where they introduce their selves one by one and he sees more of what he has worked hard to reach. There were banners of his name and there were people cheering for him. It felt all unreal.

 

            “Hello everyone, I’m Lin Yanjun!” He was still in the state of unbelief; everything still feels surreal to him.

 

            When they get in to their positions for the first song of the night, Yanjun gave a good look at the fans below the stage. He had to blink twice, but he thinks he sees Zhangjing, all bright and glowing, standing out from the crowd with all of his beauty. He was waving a blue lightstick, and he was holding a banner that screams Yanjun’s name.

 

            “Lin Yanjun, jiayou!”

 

            “Just promise me, alright?” Zhangjing looks at him expectantly, hopefully. “Promise me you’ll live your life fully and you’ll chase your dreams?” He raised his pinky, asking for a seal of promise from his boyfriend.

 

            “I promise.”

 

            That was the last promise he gave to Zhangjing and Yanjun kept it, after all these years.

 

            “Do it, Yanjun. I’m not kidding. I’ll even wave your lightstick for you.”

 

            “You promise you’d do that?”

 

            “Until I can, I will.”

 

            He did.

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