Jungkook really should be paying attention to class considering the failing grade he received on his last two tests, but drawing in the margins of his notebook is so much more interesting. He’s gotten really good at blocking everything out and really diving into his own little world. Whether that’s a good skill to possess in times like this is debatable.
Regardless, Jungkook is so tuned into his doodling that he completely misses the final bell to dismiss class for the day. He continues to scribble out a small cat hanging over the lines of his paper when he feels a tap on his shoulder. The first one doesn’t register. It takes three more tries before Jungkook even realizes that someone is trying to get his attention.
“Class is over, Kookie,” Jimin giggles at his friend’s obliviousness, closing his notebook for him.
This is the eleventh time this semester Jimin has had to do this. Jungkook has counted. Maybe part of him keeps put after the bell just so Jimin will come over and smile like that again. So he can hear him say his name like that again. So he can see his eyes disappear when he laughs like that again. Jungkook knows he’s staring like that again.
“Oh,” is all that Jungkook can say as his averts his gaze to his backpack, shoving everything in there haphazardly. He feels his body betray him a bit with a heat building up behind his face and his heart pounding a little harder than it should.
When Jimin sees what Jungkook’s doing he immediately bends down to his bag and scolds, “You’re going to rip all of your papers like that.” He starts reorganizing Jungkook’s folders and notebooks, making sure everything goes in neatly.
“I thought I was supposed to be the messy one,” Jimin jokes as he stands back up, his own backpack already hanging securely on his shoulders.
Jungkook just shrugs, not really able to form a witty response to that. He just zips up his bag and slings it over his shoulder, hoping his face isn’t as pink as it feels.
“Ready to go?” Jimin asks excitedly, bouncing on his toes in anticipation. This would be easier if he wasn’t so damn cute.
Jungkook nods and starts to walk out of the classroom, Jimin not even half a step behind.
It’s Friday and that means they’re going over to Jungkook’s house to hang out until Jimin’s curfew. And that would be all fine and good if it was a normal day, but it’s not. Today’s the day Jungkook’s decided to tell Jimin everything.
As they walk, Jimin’s talkative as usual and Jungkook feels like he’s bordering on implosion. This is the last time they’ll be walking to his home like this, for better or worse. Jungkook tries to be present, hold on to what very well could be his last moments with Jimin before he ruins everything tonight, but it’s hard. His mouth feels too dry and his hands feel too sweaty. Jimin doesn’t seem to notice much.
This is the third time Jungkook’s planned to tell Jimin, already chickening out at the last minute twice. He has to go through with it this time. Every time he’s around Jimin he feels like he’s lying to him. As much as Jungkook knows he could never live without Jimin, he can’t live like this much longer either. It’s a lose-lose situation, really.
“Are you listening to me at all?” Jimin asks, though there is not that edge in his voice that’s always apparent when other people ask Jungkook the same question. He laughs as he says it.
“Sorry,” Jungkook mumbles, offering an apologetic smile. He’s barely even able to look Jimin in the eyes.
“It’s okay, I know you get lost in your thoughts,” Jimin says sweetly, “You know you don’t have to apologize for that.”
Jungkook feels his heart nearly burst. Hopefully he can blame his sweating on the early fall heat. Thankfully, they reach Jungkook’s house only a few minutes later.
Jimin might as well have his own key to the place by now considering he practically lives here. He never looks out of place. Jungkook’s almost grown to expect to see his smiling face around the house everyday.
They grab some snacks from the kitchen and head up to Jungkook’s room just like they always do. Jimin puts on a song that he says he can’t stop listening to and Jungkook tries to not look like he’s about to vomit.
Jungkook sits on his bed, watching Jimin dance around to the bright song. When he notices Jungkook’s gaze, he starts trying to make him laugh by over dramatically lip synching the lyrics. It works. It always does. Jimin doesn’t even have to try.
When the song finally ends, Jimin is out of breath from his dramatics. He plops down on the opposite end of Jungkook’s bed, breaking into a bag of chips.
If Jimin was a stranger this would be so much easier. To have him so close is both a blessing and a curse. If they weren’t best friends, Jungkook could avoid him and eventually forget about him if he was lucky. But having him by his side every day is wearing on Jungkook. To have him so close yet so far away for so long is deadly.
Jimin can tell Jungkook needs to say something. He can always sense how he’s feeling without any words.
“What’s wrong, Kookie?” he asks so easily. If only the answer were easy.
“Can I tell you something?” Jungkook asks cautiously, “Something you can’t tell anyone else.”
Jimin giggles at that, endeared by Jungkook’s nerves. If only he knew.
“Of course you can,” Jimin assures, smiling as he sets the bag of chips down, giving Jungkook his full attention.
Jungkook feels like he’s standing on the precipice of a cliff, ready to jump off into god knows what. He could walk away now. Make up some lie and continue living in silence. But he knows one more day living like this will end him. There’s only one way out.
“I think I like someone,” Jungkook admits, mumbling over the slamming of his heart. That’s not even the first half of the truth and he can’t bare to look up from his fidgeting hands.
“Really? Who is she?”
If only things were that simple. Jungkook tries not to wince when Jimin says it so automatically. He knows he should’ve seen it coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to hear.
Jungkook’s heart is beating a mile a minute as he corrects, “He…”
The room stills. Jungkook’s not even sure either of them are still breathing. The seconds feel like hours. He realizes this is as far as he may get. Jimin may leave now. Jungkook might not even get to say everything that’s been eating at him for years now. He’ll just have to die yearning.
But Jimin does say something. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.
“Oh,” Jimin’s voice goes quiet, “Oh, okay.”
It’s not an outright rejection, but Jungkook wants nothing more than to be able to back out right now. Yet at the same time this is the farthest he’s ever gotten. He can’t say that and then not tell Jimin that it’s him he’s talking about.
“Is that okay with you?” Jungkook asks in a whisper. The walls feel like they’re closing in on him. He’s having trouble breathing.
“Oh, uh, yeah. Of course,” Jimin stutters out.
It’s not promising, but it’s better than nothing.
“What’s he like?” Jimin asks. There’s something to his voice that Jungkook can’t quite place.
Jungkook takes a shaky breath before he starts, “He’s beautiful. And it’s not just like a normal kind of beautiful. He glows. I would do anything to see that face everyday for the rest of my life. But he’s also kind and funny and thoughtful. It’s almost unfair that someone as perfect as him exists.”
“Wow,” Jimin laughs lightly, “He’s a lucky guy to have you talking about him like that.” Jungkook lifts his head just in time to see Jimin drop his.
“I’m not sure. I don’t even think he’d like me like that,” Jungkook admits. He watches Jimin sadly smile to himself.
“He’d be an idiot not to.”
Jungkook knows it’s now or never. He reaches down to pull his notebook out of his backpack. He flips to the back pages where he’s written out everything he’s wanted to say for a while now. Jimin looks up to see Jungkook’s hands shaking over the pages.
“Can I read you something?” Jungkook asks quietly, his voice betraying him, “What I want to say to him?”
Jimin just nods, not knowing that he’s the reason Jungkook’s heart is stuck in his throat. The reason his hands get clammy and his knees get weak just like in a cheesy romance movie. That Jungkook’s known for years. And that it’s taken years for the dam to break. Jungkook clears his throat before he begins.
THE TEN TIMES I KNEW
1. BY YOUR SIDE
I hadn’t seen you since we were kids. The whole school had rumors about your parents sending you to boarding school for reasons that would never really line up. I only half believed them.
I only half believed you were coming back. That I would see you again. You were my best friend and the prospect of that returning was a relief. But you wouldn’t be proud of the way I isolated myself without you. It is just easier to be alone. You are still the only person that doesn’t make me nervous. My parents thought I would grow out of it.
You were in my third class of the day. You walked in late and I recognized you immediately. There was no way I couldn’t have. Even with three years apart I could’ve spotted you in any crowd. No matter how different you looked, I would know you.
You didn’t see me until I approached you after class. You smiled just like you used to. It never felt so easy to fall back into something, so falling is exactly what I did.
I asked how were you feeling, trying not to look as relieved as I was. I was finally starting to give up on your return and search for someone else to rely on. I knew no one could’ve ever replaced you, though, so I’m glad you came back. I’m doomed to a life of comparing everyone to you and I know no one will ever match up.
“Good. I’m glad to be back. I think,” you laughed. Your laugh sounded the same. A little deeper, but it was the same. I hadn’t realized how much of you I held onto.
“I’m glad you’re back.”
“I’m sure you didn’t miss me that much.”
You had no idea how much I did.
I walked with you to the cafeteria. You said you’ve already gotten lost in the school a few times. I promised to be by your side whenever you needed it like it was nothing. Like three years of growing separately wouldn’t change anything between us. By some strange miracle, it didn’t. We’re lucky like that, I guess.
The relief I felt was deeper set than what I remember feeling when we were kids. It was like a total body exhale after taking shallow breaths for a decade. I’m sure the other kids were surprised to see me talking to someone as much as they were surprised to see you back.
“I’m still a little nervous about transferring to a school with so many people that already know me,” you told me.
“I’m sure there are rumors about why I left.”
I just shrugged. They never mattered to me.
The whole first month you were back, I thought it was just the relief that I was feeling around you. That I had spent so long feeling uncomfortable in my skin around other people and I was craving the release you brought. That was why I couldn’t stop thinking about you and your voice and your smile. But some small part of me knew that wasn’t it.
I remember in class one day I was drawing. I was distracted and missed the bell for lunch. When you weren’t there, the other kids would just leave me, let me stay there until the next class came flooding in. But you were there.
“Jungkook, let’s go,” you said. I didn’t hear you the first time, so you stepped in front of my desk and said it again. You were looking at what I was drawing with. My small red pencil that I taped together after it snapped in half in my backpack. I had meant to get new colored pencils for a while, but I had never gotten around to it.
You didn’t say anything about it then, but I remember the next day when you showed up with a pack of the nice colored pencils I would always have to save up for. You remembered to get the same brand and everything.
You said, “I wanted to get you a sketchbook, too, but I think you would get caught if you weren’t using your notebook.”
I tried to deny them, but you wouldn’t let me.
“No, it’s for your three birthdays that I missed,” you told me, “Plus you need the tools to be an artist. I want a Jeon Jungkook original in my house one day.”
I didn’t say it to you then, but no one outside of my parents had ever cared for me like that. I forgot what it was like. I would’ve drawn anything a thousand times over for you. I would wear all of those pencils to nubs just working on something that I thought would be worthy of you.
You smiled when I finally took them. I’m sure my words came out wrong, but I was thankful beyond words anyways.
I started drawing for you, though I never told you. Every discarded sketch in the margins of my notes was for you. I just hadn’t realized it until then.
2. WHEN I’M CLOSER TO YOUR HEIGHT
“Oh my god, put that away,” you groaned as I flashed an old picture of you on my phone. It was a selfie from when we were in middle school. Your hair was hanging low over your eyebrows and you were wearing the glasses you hated.
I just laughed and pulled up the other one I had saved on my phone. As soon as you see it you roll your eyes and threaten to throw my phone into the nearest trash can.
“We don’t talk about that Jimin,” you told me.
“You were cute.”
“I’m serious! It’s endearing.”
You glared at me and I just smiled. You shook your head as I finally tucked my phone back into my pocket.
My middle school photos are much worse in my opinion, but you didn’t bring them up. I knew you had them saved in your phone.
I looked back up at you and you were still pissed. I made a face to try and make you laugh, but you didn’t crack. I said something else about them not being that bad and you threw a french fry at me. I tried to catch it in my mouth, but it bumped against my front teeth. At least that made you giggle a bit.
We finish eating without any more talk of middle school or bad haircuts or awkward phases. It’s a miracle we made it to where we are now, I think.
In that moment I remembered when I was shorter than you. When you would be the one to pick me up off the ground and tease. I remembered when your growth spurt hit first how excited you were. You would always act older and wiser than me, but you just amplified it with those extra inches on me.
“You’re just too young to understand,” you would always tell me no matter what it was about.
I promised that when I was closer to your height I’d take you down. That I’d be the one making jokes about how small you were. You left before I even reached your eye level.
That was one of the first things I noticed when you came back. That you had to look up at me when you spoke. I didn’t want to say anything about it because I didn’t know how you would feel.
I didn’t have the urge to use my new height to your disadvantage like I thought I would. Sure I started to tease you after a while, but more than anything it made me want to protect you. Not that you aren’t capable of fending for yourself, but something about that switch made me want to reciprocate what you did for me when we were kids.
“What are you thinking?” your laugh brought me back to the present moment. I just shake my head and dismiss my thoughts.
“It didn’t look like nothing.”
“Just thinking about middle school.”
I laugh at that. I knew you didn’t have fond memories of that time, but mine were bright because of you.
By the time we left the restaurant it was raining. You pulled your umbrella out and held it for the both of us. You didn’t notice, but the top of my head kept brushing up against it.
I grabbed it from your hands and lifted it up a bit. I saw you blush when you realized. You still weren’t used to being the smaller one.
Neither of us had much left to say for once, but silences between us were always comfortable. The rain hitting the pavement was the only sound. I normally hate the rain, but I would’ve kept walking with you until it stopped. You always made everything prettier.
We walked past the old middle school on the way to my house. I took that route on purpose. I saw your eyes linger on it for a second, but you didn’t say anything. You looked up at me.
“You were so different then,” you told me.
I knew I was. Not only in the way I looked, but in the way I acted. I didn’t want to tell you that you were the impetus for most of that change, even in your absence. That I was waiting for you to come back even when I wasn’t sure if you ever would. That my only bad memory from middle school was the day you told me you were leaving.
I just said, “I know. Now I’m the tall one.” Because that was easier to say than anything I should’ve said.
3. FEELING JUST FINE
Summer came quickly that year. I remember the heat sneaking up on me, slow and lethargic. I wanted nothing more than to lay unmoving in my bed. It was that kind of heat.
But you wanted to go to the boardwalk and I never was good at saying no to you.
I remember watching you bound down the wooden path towards the bustling shops and rides like it was nothing. I didn’t know how you found the energy to move like that under the beating of the sun. I watched you like you were moving in slow motion. You looked beautiful even red with sweat.
You lead me from stand to stand. It was a little too crowded for my tastes, but the look on your face was worth it. The way your eyes lit up every time you saw a precarious ride or a cute plush up for grabs if you managed to beat a game that’s designed to be nearly impossible to win.
We got ice cream first. You insisted that it would put me in a better mood. I couldn’t tell you that I was already having the time of my life just seeing you so happy. So I pretended that it was the cold treat that made me feel better when in reality it was your smile.
You ran into some kids you knew from school. You tried to include me in the conversation, but I didn’t have anything to add. Your friends would always look at me funny. Like they were surprised you would even give me the time of day. I always wondered what you said about me when they asked.
“Right, Jungkook?” you asked me. I wasn’t listening, but I nodded. You laughed.
Turns out I had agreed to going on one of the most intense rides with you. The kids dared you to, said you wouldn’t. You were always too stubborn for your own good.
The kids watched us as we stood in line together. I could tell you were nervous and trying not to let it show. So I started asking you how your dance classes were going to distract you. You seemed thankful, but I couldn’t be sure. You kept talking with me either way.
We didn’t even notice when we had reached the front of the line. There was nothing I could do to distract you once we were being strapped in the seats.
“Just close your eyes. I’ll be right here the whole time,” I promised.
You swallowed dryly. I knew the sweat on your brow wasn’t just from the heat. You looked at me and nodded before the ride started.
I saw you shaking as the ride started clicking up the tracks, bringing us high above the ground. You had a white knuckle grip on the handles. Right before we dropped, I put my hand on your shoulder.
You screamed as you grabbed my hand. You squeezed tighter than I ever thought you could as the ride dipped and turned. I could tell you were trying to put on a brave face. You were trying not to scream too loud, so you just tightened your grip.
Your face paled as our car whipped down the track. Your eyes stayed closed the whole time.
Thankfully the ride was pretty short. I’ll always remember the way you looked after. Your hair was mussed from the wind and your eyes and nose were pink from crying. I couldn’t tell you how beautiful you looked.
You were still shaking as we started to walk off. I pulled you aside before the kids could see us to fix your hair and dry your face.
You gave me a sad smile as you mumbled, “Sorry.”
“What are you apologizing for?”
“That was embarrassing.”
“It was scary.”
“You didn’t seem scared.”
“I’m used to this stuff.”
It was only then that I realized I still had my hands resting on your cheeks. I tore away from the touch and started walking before you could see my cheeks redden. You didn’t seem to notice.
The kids patted you on the back when you walked out. I could tell that you were still shaken. You smiled weakly, but they didn’t pick up on it.
When we walked away I asked if you were okay. You still looked a little pale. You snapped at me in front of the ferris wheel and told me you were feeling just fine.
You had never spoken to me like that before. It didn’t bother me too much, but I could see the regret flood your eyes as soon as you realized what you said.
You hugged me tight, holding on for dear life just like you did on the ride. I could feel your heart still slamming in your chest against my own. Your hands were shaky as they grabbed small fistfuls of my shirt. You would apologize for wrinkling it later, but it was fine.
Despite the unrelenting heat, I would’ve held you like that forever. I realized that I would do anything to make you feel better. That I wanted to be there when you felt like this. That I wanted to be the someone you found comfort in just as you were for me. I wanted to reciprocate the relief you’ve given me.
I had found refuge in you and I would often feel selfish about it until that day. I knew I could do the same for you. I knew that I wanted to do the same for you.
4. SMELLS LIKE CHOCOLATE
I was used to my birthday just passing by without much fanfare. The year before you just let us sit around and watch movies all day, but this year you had you insisted on us doing something to celebrate, anything. I didn’t want you to go out of your way, but you wanted to.
You came over to my house with a party hat and a box of cake mix. You put the hat on my head as soon as I opened the door. I complained, but I didn’t mean it. I was happy to wear it because it made you smile.
You gave me a big hug, singing happy birthday loud enough for all of the neighbors to hear. I was embarrassed, but I didn’t have the heart to stop you. Your voice sounded too sweet.
“Do you know how to bake?” you asked me.
“Not at all.”
“Then we’re going to find out together.”
You looked so excited over something as simple as baking a cake. I couldn’t say no. You were always able to find magic in the smallest of things.
You started pulling out all of the ingredients, knowing my kitchen as well as your own. I started to read the back of the box out to you as you spread everything out onto the counter.
“If we manage to screw this up, I’m going to be mad,” you joke at the simplistic recipe.
“We won’t. It’ll be great.”
“I won’t believe it until I’m eating it.”
I showed you how to crack eggs with one hand, something my dad had taught me. You were frustrated when you couldn’t do it right, but I insisted that you were doing just fine. You didn’t believe me.
You started to mix, but complained about your arms getting tired halfway through, so I took over. I know you thought I was going to tease you about it, but I didn’t.
“Is it bad luck for the birthday boy to make his own cake?” you asked, watching me.
“I don’t think so.”
“Seems like it would be.”
“Well, I’m not making it alone, so I think we’re in the clear.”
That seemed to appease you enough. You laughed when I made a face at your superstitious worry. So I made it again.
You almost let me pour the batter into the pan without greasing it first, but you saved it at the last minute. You said something about us getting half bad luck.
I remember you were carrying the cake pan to the oven when I said something to make you laugh. I forgot what I said, but it caught you off guard. You doubled over and tripped.
The batter flew everywhere, but mainly on me. I heard the pan clatter to the floor before I realized what was going on.
“Oh my god, I’m so fucking sorry.”
I just laughed as I wiped the chocolate from my eyes so I could see you. You looked mortified. I’d never seen your face so red. You told me to stop laughing, but I couldn’t.
You grabbed a towel and started to clean my face. I wanted to kiss you then. Tell you that it was okay, everything you do is okay.
That shirt still smelled like chocolate for weeks even after I tried to wash it out. You felt bad, but I didn’t mind.
“I knew it was bad luck. I’m so sorry,” you said over and over again. I couldn’t help but smile. Your made up superstition somehow came to fruition. I had never seen someone so concerned look so beautiful.
You insisted on cleaning up the kitchen when I went to take a shower. You told me to take my time, so I did. I had to wash my hair a few times before the water ran clear. The whole bathroom smelled like chocolate.
When I finally got back downstairs the kitchen was still a mess, but you were standing there with one of those huge cupcakes from the corner store at the end of the block. You stuck one candle in it’s center, lighting it as soon as I walked into the room.
“Make a wish,” you told me.
I was glad you were too superstitious to ask me what I wished for. I don’t know how I could lie and not say that I wished for you.
5. I’M NOT SCARED
It was halloween. We were in your living room while your parents were out at a friend’s party. They didn’t know I was with you. That was the only rule you ever broke.
You turned eighteen two weeks before, insisting you were grown enough to not be scared of scary movies any more. That you wanted to be part of my tradition and that you could handle it. I didn’t believe you, but you insisted.
“You won’t even let me try,” you pouted, “Have a little faith in me.”
I could never say no to you, no matter how much of a bad idea I knew this was. So I popped in a movie that I didn’t think would be too bad. It was an old one with cheesy special effects and over dramatic acting. It was more funny to me than anything, but I knew how easily you scared.
I wanted to keep the lights on, but you wouldn’t let me, saying you wanted the full experience. You grabbed snacks from the kitchen and candy that was supposed to be for trick-or-treaters and spread it all out on the coffee table.
We were both dressed up in onsies you bought us, insisting that we needed to wear costumes on halloween. You got a yellow chick for you and a grey bunny for me. I still have mine hanging in my closet, though I haven’t worn it since.
I started the movie. You were already anxious, jumping a bit when someone knocks on the door for candy. We ignored them and hoped they would assume no one’s home despite the brightly decorated lawn.
I’d seen this one before, so I knew what to expect. I tried to distract you a little bit before each jump scare or gory shot by saying something to ease your fears a bit.
“Did you know this actress is actually from this town?” before the killer grabs the girl’s leg under the table.
“Here try this chocolate,” when a head is about to be sliced off.
I wasn’t sure if it was helping any because you were still shaking. You had your hood almost covering your eyes, but you refused to not watch. You needed to prove something to yourself, I suppose. I thought it was cute the way you would screw your eyes shut and cover your ears whenever you tried watching something scary with me before.
You let out a little whimper as you watched one of the main characters run away from the killer, tripping and falling like they always do. I watched your eyes widen as the killer closed in on their scrambling legs. You shrieked and hid your face when his guts spilled out on screen.
I paused the movie. You were shaking, so I put my hand on your shoulder. You didn’t lift your head, so I got up to turn the lights back on.
“Turn them back off,” you mumbled, curled up into yourself.
“We don’t have to finish it. It’s not even a good movie.”
“I’m not scared.”
You looked up at me when you said it. Shiny trails of tears were running down your face, but you looked so determined. I knew there would be no convincing you. I hoped you weren’t trying to prove anything to me.
But I started the movie again anyways. This time I brought over a blanket to give us a secure warmth of sorts. You scooted closer to me to fit underneath.
Your eyes were dead set on the screen, even though you were flinching every second. We were nearing the gory conclusion, so I tried to figure out how to prepare you for it.
The killer was slowly stalking around the house, looking for the sole survivor. The music was swelling and the tension was building to a point where it was nearly palpable.
I could feel you getting scared. You were shaking again, wanting to hide your eyes, but not letting yourself.
“Can I hold your hand?” you asked meekly, eyes not leaving the television screen.
I slipped my fingers between yours right as the killer found the main character. You squeezed so tight I felt like my bones might crumble, but I didn’t mind. I was glad to make the sacrifice.
You made it through the rest of the movie with my hand in yours. You kept holding it as the credits rolled. I only let go when I went to go turn the lights back on.
6. YOU LOOK SO COLD
“Stop going so fast, I’m going to fall off!” you laughed into my ear when we were flying down that hill. I only started to pedal faster when I felt your grip tighten around my chest. You were so warm.
The wind was whipping past our faces as my bicycle cut down the pavement. You stood behind me on the pegs while holding on for dear life, screaming both out of fear and joy. I couldn’t help but smile as I took the sharpest turns and pedaled as hard as I could.
“You’re going to kill us!” came out as a giggle. I went faster.
“You’re insane!” bubbled out in between laughs. I took the off road.
No matter how bad my legs burned, I felt like I could have ridden like that for hours. With you against my back and the early winter air just turning bitter, everything looked beautiful and smelled sweet. This town always looked prettier in a blur. This town always looked prettier with you.
I got tired and slowed down, but you were still holding on just as tight. I don’t even know if you noticed, but I didn’t mind.
I use the rest of my strength to take us up to the overlook, where all the kids with cars go to either smoke or have half-hearted sex. I didn’t have enough money for a car and weed always made you anxious, so we were more than fine with the bike.
That night it was abandoned. It was the first time I had been up there with no one else in sight, except you of course. It made me less nervous. I’ve always been less nervous when it’s just you.
You told me you wanted to go sit on the edge and watch the sunset with me. I couldn’t tell you that I’ve dreamt of doing that with you for years now. I just sat next to you and listened to you talk about the new drama you started watching. I had a hard time following the plot, but you were so excited about it that I didn’t mind. I took note of all the things that made your eyes light up like that.
We fell into an easy silence. The golden light of the sun started to settle over your face. I tried not to stare.
“Kookie?” you said to me. You had started using that nickname more often now. I didn’t want to tell you how much I liked it out of fear you’d think it was weird. I didn’t want to admit that your voice calling my name was my favorite sound.
“Do you think I’m ugly?”
I remember laughing. I laughed because I couldn’t believe you’d ever have to ask that question. You, the one who looks beautiful even when you rush into class late with messy hair. You, with the perfectly round nose that scrunches up when you smile. You, glowing skin and glossy lips. You of all people.
You told me to be serious. So I was.
“No, of course not.”
“Are you just saying that?”
“Why are you asking me this?”
I saw you deflate. I wish I didn’t know that look so well.
“I heard the girl I asked out talking about me with her friends. I don’t think they meant for me to hear, but they told her that she could do better. That- that I was nice, but I looked too- I don’t know, never mind. It’s stupid.”
I felt my heart breaking with yours, but I also felt anger building up in the pit of my stomach. Anger that someone had the audacity to hurt you like that. Anger that someone could so easily have you and they chose not to.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about. You’re beautiful.”
That wasn’t my first time telling you that, but I always had to be careful. I couldn’t say it too sincerely. I had to be clear that it was a completely objective, platonic opinion. Easier said than done, but I had plenty of practice at this point.
“But am I handsome?”
I saw your eyes start to get watery, so you dropped your gaze. I didn’t know what else to say. I wanted to reassure you, but I didn’t know how. You always thought of my compliments as skewed, biased. You never let yourself believe any of my praises no matter how much I meant them.
“It’s cold,” you shivered, changing the topic.
The sun was dipping it’s last sliver below the horizon as you said it. It was getting dark and without the sun to warm us, the temperature had dropped significantly. You shifted over to lean into my side and glean some body heat from the touch. It wasn’t enough. You were still shivering, but you refused to say anything else.
We watched the sun disappear completely. I could feel your teeth chatter against my shoulder. You were holding onto my arm, grip as tight as it was on the bicycle.
I slipped out of your grip to give you my hoodie. I saw you start to protest as I took it off, but you were too cold to actually stop me. I didn’t mind.
You were swallowed by the heavy fabric. I remember the way the hood settled low over your eyes and only the tips of your fingers poked out from the sleeves. I remembered when I was the small one.
“Thank you,” you mumbled, smiling up at me. You looked so warm in my hoodie. I couldn’t tell you how happy it made me. I took a picture telling you it was because you looked funny. I took it because you looked better in my clothes than I could’ve ever imagined.
I rode you back home not long after because your parents were expecting you home by 9. I could’ve stayed up there with you all night.
I didn’t go as fast on the way home. We were both tired. You hung loosely over my back as I took the easy route home, the crisp night air surrounding us. I thought you fell asleep at one point, but you were just resting your chin against my shoulder.
The cold was getting to me. The wind chill made me shiver. I kept sniffing and it made you giggle, so I did it more. You were warm against my back.
We got to your house with a few minutes to spare, so you took your time saying goodbye. I walked you to the door and you started to take off my hoodie, but I stopped you. You looked at me funny.
“You look so cold,” you told me.
You looked worried, thinking that you didn’t want me to catch a cold on my short ride home. You started to take it off again, not listening when I told you not to. You shoved my own hoodie over my head.
I was laughing, but you were pouting, angry at me for not wanting to take care of myself. I wish I didn’t know that look so well.
“Text me when you get home,” you told me.
You hugged me tight and that was all the warmth I needed for the rest of the winter.
7. TAKE YOUR MOM’S CAR TO THE EDGE OF TOWN
You had a bad day which wasn’t rare lately with your parents on your back more and more each day. But today you were pissed, angrier than I’d ever seen you. So angry in fact that you stole your mom’s car and drove to my house even though you never learned how to drive.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I asked half amazed as you stuttered to a stop in my driveway, almost crashing into the garage door.
“Can you drive me somewhere?”
“Isn’t this your mom’s car?”
“She’s going to kill you.”
I slipped into the driver’s seat as you slid into the passenger’s. The car was old, barely running. I was surprised that you were even able to get it this far without having any idea what you were doing.
I started driving without a real direction. You hadn’t given me any. You actually hadn’t said a word since I’d gotten in the car.
“Where to?” I asked, driving straight through green lights that lit up in our favor.
With a town as small as ours, there aren’t many places to go. Every restaurant has the same food and every park has the same faces. There’s nothing to do except drive around in circles or leave.
“Anywhere far from here,” you told me. I couldn’t argue with that.
You rolled down your window as I drove on. You stuck your hand out into the wind, letting that cool you down a bit. I could tell you were still fuming. I knew you would tell me why when you were good and ready. I didn’t want to push for something that wasn’t my business anyways.
I reached over to turn on the radio, but nothing good was on, so I shut it off after a few minutes of trying. You started humming a song as you watched the buildings pass you by. I couldn’t pinpoint the song, but I was sure I’d heard it before.
You started singing some words I didn’t recognize, but you sounded beautiful. The wind swept your voice out of the car and into the trees we were flying by. Only me and that endless green blur as a witness to your songs.
When that one ended you sang another. And another. And another. You had enough songs in you for a lifetime. I would listen to each one.
You would always sing around me, but not like this. This was a catharsis for you. You weren’t just singing for fun, but yearning for some kind of release. Hoping to find comfort in reforming the words of others.
You started singing a song I knew when we reached the beach, the farthest we could go with a car. Without even thinking about it, I started singing with you. I didn’t mean to, but when you heard me you smiled for the first time all day.
I parked the car on the edge of the sand. You got out and took a big breath of the salty air. You didn’t know this is where you wanted to go, but I did.
“How did you know exactly where I would want to be when even I didn’t?”
I could only shrug. I know you well. I pay attention to you more than I should. More than a friend should. I try not to, but love is a scary thing. You fall in and before you know it, it’s too late. You looked at me after you said that and I knew I would be falling forever.
We walked down to the shore. The sand was cold and the air was colder. We were both prepared this time though, covered with warm jackets and beanies as protection.
You sat down where the water would just barely lap at the tips of your shoes. It was scary to see you this quiet. I had never seen you like that, so I had no idea what could have caused it.
But I sat next to you silently. As much as I wanted to know, as much as I didn’t want you to carry your burden alone, I didn’t ask any questions. I just let the ocean do all of the talking.
I watched you watch the waves fold in and out. I think you found the rhythm of it soothing. The perpetual cycling. The endlessness of it. It would take a miracle to stop the waves from rolling.
“Do you ever think about disappearing?” you asked me. Your eyes didn’t move from the sea.
“Not really, no. Do you?”
“Yeah. I’ve been having dreams where I fall into the water and just drift. Forever. I never drown. I’m just gone. Too far and too small for anyone to find.”
“Are you scared in the dream?”
“No. I’m happy.”
I didn’t know what to say, I rarely do in moments like this, but I couldn’t help but think selfishly. How would I survive if you disappeared? Sure, you may be happy, but what about me? Maybe you can live without yourself, but I can’t.
I didn’t say any of that, though. Because at the end of the day, I just want you to be happy. And if that means floating in the middle of the ocean where no one can find you, then I’ll be driving the boat. I’ll cry when I leave, but I’ll do it.
Neither of us said anything, the silence was thick with salt. I wished I had sweeter words to share with you.
“Does wanting to hide make me a coward?” you asked me.
“Depends on what you’re hiding from.”
You looked over at me and the waves were reflected in your eyes. The water rolled back and forth gently as you stared unblinkingly. Your lips parted as if the water was about to come rushing out, but it never did.
I’m not sure if this hiding I’m doing is cowardly or not. This hiding from you between glances and words. I’m not sure if the hiding you were referring to is either. You never told me what you wanted to say that day. You never have to tell me if you don’t want to. As much as I want you to be my business, you aren’t. As much as I look at you like you’re mine, you aren’t. So I hide my eyes.
8. HARD TO SAY BYE
This summer you left on a trip with your family for a month or so. I hadn’t gone that long without you since you came back into my life.
You were so excited about seeing the cousins you hadn’t been able to talk with in a few years. You called me excitedly as soon as your parents told you. In that moment I was just happy for you because how could I not be when you sounded so bright?
But when you came over to my house to say goodbye the day before you left, I realized that I didn’t want you to leave. I felt so selfish for wanting you to stay. I felt childish for getting upset over something as small as a month apart.
But it wasn’t just that. I knew I could handle being on my own, so I didn’t know why it broke my heart when you came over that day.
You hugged me at the door. We hung out in my room like we did every day. Neither of us said anything about you leaving. I was happy to pretend it wasn’t happening until it was absolutely necessary for me to face it.
You asked me what time it was as soon as you realized the sun had set. It was just after 8:30, so you started packing up your things.
“I’ll see you as soon as I get back,” you told me.
I just nodded and hugged you back. I tried to hold on forever, get a month’s worth of you in a few seconds. You pulled away too fast.
“I’ll text you when I land tomorrow,” you laughed, “And then probably every day after that.”
I tried to smile, but I couldn’t. The curling of my lips was a trigger for the tears I had been holding back to start lazily streaming down my face.
I remember seeing your face drop at the sight. Your smile melted as you immediately took a step closer to wrap your arms around me again. I tried not to let any tears fall on you as you held me. You rubbed small circles on my back. I don’t know why, but it made me feel better. The rhythm of your movements may have stuck with me a little while longer.
“Kookie, why are you crying?”
I couldn’t explain it. I knew you would be back soon, but I was so scared of being without you. That maybe you would leave again and I would never get a chance to tell you everything. It sounds irrational now, but I was already bursting at the seams.
You use your thumb to lightly swipe away the few tears that I let roll down my cheeks. I try blinking them away, but that just causes more of them to fall.
“I’m going to miss you,” I told you.
“I’ll be back soon.”
You were waiting for me to say something else. You knew me well enough to know that’s not it. That I was hiding something. Thankfully you couldn’t see exactly what I was hiding.
I knew I couldn’t live without you. Even the idea of a month away was more than I wanted to imagine. I had gotten too used to you being so close. I’d forgotten how easy it would be for you to leave again.
“Sorry,” I mumbled as I wiped the rest of my tears. You tried to offer me a reassuring smile. I tried to memorize it.
“I love you, Kookie,” was the last thing you said to me before you left my house.
I told you that I loved you, too. You just didn’t know how much I meant it.
9. PICTURING YOUR BODY WITH SOMEBODY ELSE
You told me that she was taking you to meet her parents that night. You said that you were nervous, you wanted to make a good impression. I assured you that it was impossible for them to not love you. That if I was her, my parents would be relieved.
That didn’t make you feel much better. This was the first girl that ever wanted to bring you home and you didn’t want to screw it up. I told you that you wouldn’t, but you swore up and down that you somehow always find a way to. That you can never make anyone stick. Except me.
You joked that you should just start dating me. I almost told you then. You changed the subject too fast. I think the way I looked at you when you said it made you nervous. A little too serious.
It was always so hard to be your best friend at times like this. Watching you go after people that never love you back. Picturing your body with somebody else.
Two weeks later you came over to my house after she broke up with you. She said she felt like you were distant and cold. I had a hard time believing that. She told you that you weren’t affectionate enough, that you never held her long enough or kissed her deeply enough. That wasn’t the you I knew.
That night we were curled up on my couch, your head in my lap. You hadn’t stopped crying all night, your body still shaking softly even when I turned on your favorite movie to distract us. One of my hands carded through your hair as you held onto my other one.
It would’ve been so easy to tell you then. Tell you that it could be us. Because you were always so warm with me. Because I would never leave you for the world.
But with you lying with me like that, how could I say that I don’t want to just be your friend? That I want to be that someone you talk about like you did her. That being able to hold you like this is both heaven and hell. What if that would just make everything worse? You needed me for support then. It would be selfish for me to bring my own feelings into the mix.
“Is there something wrong with me?” you asked me.
I didn’t know what you meant.
“I feel like no one will ever love me,” you told me.
“I love you.”
“Not like that, though. I mean I’m going to die alone. No wife, no family.”
But it was like that. I would marry you in an instant if I could. I wouldn’t hesitate if that’s what you wanted. To even think about spending the rest of my life with you was a dream.
I told you that you wouldn’t. That high school is stupid and you still have so much time. That you were being ridiculous. That you were only eighteen.
“My parents fell in love at fifteen,” you told me.
“You’re not your parents.”
“Yeah, no shit.”
I knew they’d been pressuring you into finding a girlfriend already, They always were. I think they knew how much love you had to give and wanted to see you share it. They didn’t know how much of it you were giving to me. I don’t even think you knew. But we were laying there like that for hours.
I reminded you that I never had a girlfriend. That I should be the one worrying about dying alone. I didn’t tell you that’s because I knew no one would ever be as good as you.
“But you’re so easy to love,” you told me.
To imply that you are not nearly made me laugh. You’re the easiest person to love, more than you’ll ever know.
“So are you,” I said.
You laughed bitterly. I hated that laugh. It only came out when you were feeling like this, like the whole world was against you. Except for me.
“Don’t just say things like that.”
“I’m not. I mean it.”
I don’t know why, but when I said that it just made you cry harder. I didn’t say much for the rest of the night, I just stayed close by your side. You didn’t say much either aside from asking for a glass of water and telling me goodnight when you left.
The next time I saw you it was like none of that ever happened. You were back to smiling and laughing like it was nothing. It was so convincing that even I almost believed you, too.
I knew that I never wanted to see you hurt like again. You didn’t deserve that. You put too much of your heart into people for them to treat it like it’s nothing. And it kept happening. I knew the only way for it to stop was for either me to tell you everything or to help you find someone that was worthy. Both were impossible tasks.
It was one week ago when I realized I was reaching a breaking point. That I was either to speak or die.
We went to the park together. You had said something about school making you crazy and that if you didn’t get fresh air soon you would lose it. So you stood on the pegs of my bike as I rode down the street. The fall weather had just started to cool, the leaves had just started to change. A few crunched under my wheels as we rode.
You whispered in my ear that it felt so nice out. I think you were mumbling it more to yourself than anything, but I still heard it.
You hopped off of my back and onto the grass as soon as we got there. You looked so happy, the happiest I’d seen you in a while.
You lead me to our spot, a little patch in the corner of the park that gets just enough shade from the tall trees with a few bright spots peeking through. You lay out your blanket and stretch out in the sun. I told you that you looked like a cat. You warned me that what I just said better be a compliment. It was.
I sat down next to you and pulled out my sketchbook. You had bought me new pencils again for my birthday. I only used them for moments like this.
You were reading a book, I can’t remember what it was called now. All I remember is the way that the sunlight lit up your skin. Golden. The way your lips parted and your brow furrowed as you focused on the words you were reading. No matter how many times I drew and redrew the way you looked that day, nothing could ever capture the fullness of you.
Because it wasn’t just the way you looked that was so breathtaking. It was the way you are. It was the way your lips would curl slightly when you read a funny line. It was the way you would look up at me every once in a while to see how I was doing. It was the way you laid out so easily in the sun.
Everything about you was always so easy. So effortlessly beautiful and kind. So easy to be around you, to love you. Fuck, it’s easy to love you.
I have seen you for so many days, so many hours, but I had never seen you like that. Fully. As you are when you’re sure no one is watching, not even yourself. I have loved you for so many days, so many hours, but I had never realized I loved you like that.
The ‘I need to tell you or I’m afraid I may die’ kind of love you. The ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to ever love anyone else’ kind of love you.
I knew that this wasn’t going anywhere. That this isn’t something I could just will away. That I can’t live without you. That I can’t live without telling you that I know I’m in love with you and I always will be.
Jungkook doesn’t realize he’s crying until he’s finished reading. He feels empty and light, like the biggest weight has been lifted off of his back. That euphoria only lasts for a second though as the reality of what he’s just done finally sets in.
Soft hands come to rest on either side of his face. They wipe away each crystalline tear that falls from his eyes. Light fingers are replaced with lips, pressing gently all over his tear-salted skin. It’s too soft, too sweet to not be real.
The lips reach his own. They fit into each other perfectly, just like Jungkook dreamed they would. If only he wasn’t crying, he wouldn’t be able to tell if this was a dream or not.
Jungkook tries to memorize the way Jimin tastes, the way he feels. He’s been waiting for this for too long not to. He doesn’t have to tell Jimin that this is all he’s ever wanted because he’s already told him in ten different ways.
When they finally pull away from each other, they’re both crying. But they’re both smiling. They laugh at the sight of one another, realizing they’ve been keeping the other waiting for years.
“I love you, Jungkook. I’m in love with you,” Jimin assures, voice cracking under the weight of his words.
Jungkook feels like he’s floating. Everything he’s ever wanted is in his arms. Everything he’s ever wanted is Jimin.
He brings their lips together again, hungrier this time. They kiss like they’re trying to make up for all of the lost time. For all of the moments they’ve wanted to do this, but didn’t act. For the nights spent in silent yearning.
It’s not a movie kiss, but it’s honest. It’s messy, both out of practice because no one else is the other. Jungkook can hardly believe he’s waited this long to have this. To think that this could’ve been in his life for years now.
When Jimin pulls away, neither of them are crying anymore. They’re both giddy, love drunk. Nothing could ever compare to the feeling of requited love like this. One that you’ve waited so long for. One that is so fully reciprocated that it almost doesn’t feel real.
“I never thought you would ever love me like this,” Jimin shakily admits as he slides down into Jungkook’s arms.
Jungkook presses a kiss into the top of Jimin’s head just like he’s wanted to do a hundred times. To think that he could ever not love Jimin. Not want to hold him like this.
“I thought if I found someone else,” Jimin chokes on his own words, “That if I found someone else to love me, I could forget how much I love you. But I never could. No one could compare to you.”
Jimin’s head feels heavy against Jungkook’s chest, resting right over his unceasing heart.
“Thank you for being the brave one,” Jimin laughs. Jungkook feels the warmth of him against his side.
Jungkook doesn’t feel like it was bravery, though. It was desperation. It was feeling that he may die tomorrow if he doesn’t say this today. He had left it bottled up too long to be called brave.
“I’m sorry for making you hide that for so long,” Jimin says, taking the words right out of Jungkook’s mouth.
“Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault,” Jungkook assures. If he was brave, he would’ve told Jimin years ago.
He can tell Jimin’s about to deflect that, so he continues, “I wanted to tell you for so long, but I always stopped myself for one stupid reason or another. I was so scared of not having you at all. But it had reached a point where I couldn’t even look at you without feeling my heart jump into my throat. I love you too much for my own good.”
Jimin lazily traces the print on Jungkook’s shirt as he speaks. He’s started crying again, Jungkook can feel the dampness of his shirt under Jimin’s head.
Jungkook lifts Jimin up so they’re looking eye to eye. Even with tear-tired eyes Jimin is stunning. It’s unfair. How could Jungkook not have fallen? Jimin kisses him again quickly.
“What you wrote-,” Jimin starts to ask, “When did you start writing that?”
Jungkook doesn’t even have to think. He knows the exact day it started.
“It was your birthday the first year you got back. When I got home that night, I realized I’d known for months,” Jungkook explains.
“And you kept going for months. Years,” Jimin clarifies in disbelief.
All Jungkook can do is nod. What more can he say?
“I fell for you once and I guess I just forgot how to stop falling.”