Today should have been a happy day. The sun was shining, it was warm but with a nice breeze to keep the heat from feeling suffocating and Park Jimin was graduating from university. Graduation meant all his hard work up to this point in his life was for something. Graduation meant that the last eight years of his life earning his master’s degree in business wasn’t a colossal waste of time and that better things were waiting for him. Graduation meant that all these years of keeping his true desires hidden from everyone he cared about was for a good reason; that he had succeeded in doing his familial duty in preparing to take over his father’s company even if it meant sacrificing his own personal happiness. Then why was he starting to feel a sense of dread creep over him as he looked around and saw everyone else overflowing with joy? Why did his suit suddenly feel hot and scratchy under his gown?
Running a hand through his ashy blonde hair, Jimin took a deep breath and tried to collect himself. His mind was racing with thoughts of doubt, anger, and hopelessness. What if I can’t do this? What if I fuck everything up? Why did I have to be the one who takes over? Why can’t it be JiHyun? He chewed on his lip, trying to get the thoughts to go away. He thought he had made his peace with his future; now was not the time for every doubt he’d ever had to come rushing back. He fiddled with his collar, trying to provide some relief from the tightness that was forming around his throat.
A tap on his shoulder pulled him out of his thoughts and he turned to his best friend Kim Taehyung who was the culprit. “Everything okay Chim? You look like you’re about to pass out.” Jimin’s eyes widened as it sunk in that he hadn’t kept his composure as well as he thought he had. He shook his head slightly as he mumbled, “Yeah I’m fine,” he lied. ”It’s just really warm today,” he mumbled, looking at his feet. “Is it?” Taehyung asked, looking Jimin over carefully. “I think it feels pretty great. The breeze is blowing and there’s such a sense of hope and a certain carefreeness that everyone but you seems to have,” he said, looking at Jimin while giving him a brilliant smile.
Jimin took a deep breath and gave Tae his best smile when he looked him in the eyes and said, “You’re right Tae. I’ll be fine. Just getting nervous about finally being done with university I guess, even though I don’t really have anything to be nervous about. My future is waiting for me on the other side of the stage,” he said with a small laugh.
Finally it was his turn and he quickly handed over his diploma, received his handshake, took his diploma back and all but bolted off the stage. He didn’t dare glance out at the crowd; he wasn’t sure he’d be able to contain himself if he saw his family looking proud of him. They shouldn’t be proud, I’m nothing but a fraud. I’ve been lying to them and myself for years. He felt tears welling up in his eyes and he quickly blinked them away. It wouldn’t do well for any more people to see him being emotional. That wasn’t how he was supposed to feel. He couldn’t afford to look weak.
He looked around and saw all of his classmates smiling and actually being happy as he made his was back to his seat and had to stop the rage from swelling up inside of himself. Why should they get to be happy and hopeful about their future? Why does everyone but him get to do what they want? As he reached his seat he felt wetness on his cheek and quickly wiped it away. A tear had managed to escape and he quickly looked around to make sure no one had seen him crying. Another deep breath and he chanced a glance at his family. His father was hard to read but his mother was smiling and trying to snap a picture of him as he looked over. He saw a look of concern come across her face and he cursed himself.
He smiled reassuringly and waved his diploma like a fan, trying to pass off his mood on the heat. Jimin then gave his mother his most brilliant smile as she took another picture of him, one she would surely put in her picture album. By then Taehyung had taken his seat next to Jimin and the two started chatting to pass the time until everyone had finished walking across the stage. The pair turned their attention to the stage as the last few students made their way back to where they were seated. As the choir took their place, everyone stood and listened as the university song was sung. Jimin looked around, keeping his stoic face on this time for sure, checking to see if anyone else looked as miserable as he felt. Everyone else seemed on the verge of tears but he was sure it was due to happiness instead of hopelessness. As the choir wrapped up their song Tae pulled Jimin in for a hug. “Congratulations Chim! We made it!” Jimin smiled and hugged his friend back, sending the negative emotions he felt away for a little while.
Later at dinner with his and Tae’s family, the feelings he had tried to shove down earlier came barrelling back, more intense and harder to ignore. Tae’s father was toasting to their successful futures, Jimin as the CEO of his father’s business and Tae as a blockbuster actor who was sure to win the hearts of everyone the world over. Jimin wished he could sincerely cheer on his best friend as he made a speech that had everyone else lingering on every word. He wished he could support his friend without waves of jealousy rolling just beneath his skin.
As the dinner progressed and everyone was eating and talking and enjoying the feeling of merriment Jimin just sat there sipping on his glass of whiskey. He didn’t feel like celebrating. He wanted to go home to his apartment and drown himself in a bottle of alcohol and just cry. It’d become somewhat of a routine of his these past few weeks as his graduation had gotten closer and closer. He would turn down offers of his friends to go out and celebrate their last month as young adults, preferring to stew in his feelings along. Of course he never told anyone what he was doing; he would lie and say he had to study to make sure he’d ace his finals.
At some point his father had taken the seat next to Jimin, patting his back and telling him he was proud of doing his duty and he couldn’t ask for a better son. Jimin just nodded, not being able to find any words. He was starting to feel comfortably numb now, three glasses of whiskey sitting in his stomach. His father was prattling on about some business deal he was going to have Jimin sit in on but Jimin wasn’t paying much mind until he heard the words, “You’ll need to come in early tomorrow so I can start showing you how we do things.”
He turned to his father, a look of horror on his face. Tomorrow? Jimin was supposed to start working tomorrow? He thought he’d have at least a week to get his mind right. One last week of freedom and time to himself before he signed the rest of his life away doing something he hated. He shook his head, trying to find the words to say. “To-tomorrow? But appa, I thought I’d have some time to adjust my schedule.” Jimin’s father just laughed at him and told him the world of business never waited on anyone’s personal time issues.
That comfortable feeling of numbness was now gone as the dread and doubt and anger came rushing back to him. He just sat there shaking his head, not knowing what else to do. Why was it getting harder to breathe? When did it become so hot in the restaurant? He had to leave. He couldn’t stay, couldn’t put on this facade of everything being okay any longer. Slamming his glass down on the table, he stood and left the room as quickly as he could, hoping no one noticed. He didn’t realize he was running, didn’t really care either. He just had to leave.
Once he was outside Jimin found himself gasping for air. His stomach was uneasy and he thought for a second he was about to throw up. Shakily he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, dialing his driver’s number on instinct. He put the phone up to his head, praying for his driver to answer quickly. “Seokjin-ssi? Please, please just come pick me up.”
It was only then did he hear the footsteps behind him, freezing his blood slightly. He wasn’t ready to face his family; wasn’t ready for them to see him in this state of panic. He turned around slowly, breathing a small sigh of relief when he looked upon his best friends face.
“Jimin? Is everything ok?” his friend asked, concern painted across his beautiful face. Jimin shrugged and looked at the ground. How could he explain that his whole life up to this point had been a lie? That he never wanted to take over the company? That his whole existence had been carefully formulated for him?
“I don’t know Tae. I just had too much to drink I guess,” he said in what he hoped was a convincing enough voice but one look at his best friend told him he wasn’t going to get off that easily.
“The hell you did. I’ve seen when you’ve had too much alcohol on many occasions and not once has it lead to you running away from the people who love you. What’s going on with you? You’ve been acting weird all day.”
“I don’t know Tae. I’m just having a hard time adjusting to not being in university anymore. I don’t know if I’m ready to start the rest of my life yet.” Jimin leaned against the outside of the restaurant, looking out at the busy street in front of him, admiring all the people who looked like they had their shit together. He had so many questions racing through his mind. How was he ever going to face his father again? What about his mother? How could he explain that all the schooling they put him through was for nothing? That he didn’t want what he had been promised to him? That he couldn’t do this? He spotted his car coming down the street and had never been more thankful to his driver than right at that moment.
“I’m sorry Tae, but I’ve gotta go. I’ll call you in a couple of days ok?”
Jimin opened his car door and climbed in. As he was about to shut the door Tae grabbed it and held it open, effectively keeping Jimin in place.
“What do you mean you have to go? Where are you going?” Taehyung asked quietly, eyes filled with sorrow as he looked at his friend.
“I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I get there. Now let go of the door.”
Taehyung did as Jimin said, frowning at the slightly older man. Jimin and him had been friends since they were little children, they had immediately bonded over a love of dinosaurs at the elite preschool their families had sent them too. They were soulmates, Jimin has promised him that when they were 10, that they would tell each other everything; that they would be each other’s shoulder to lean on if they needed it. He was sad that Jimin was choosing to leave him out in the cold when he clearly needed some help but he knew that Jimin was stubborn and nothing he could do or say would stop him. So he let him go and hoped that Jimin would be alright.
Jimin watched Tae disappear as the car pulled away, tears rolling down his face. He didn’t bother to wipe them away; he knew he’d be crying again as the night went on. “Where to Jimin-ssi?” his driver asked causing Jimin to pause for a moment. Where did he even want to go? Only one place came to his mind. It was his favorite place in the world when he was younger, a place where he always felt he could be himself.
“Take me to Busan please.”