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The boy in the yellow Tshirt

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There was a boy in his class. He had a pale thick neck and short black hair fringed his nape. He was sitting in the seat in front of him. He was wearing a loose yellow T-shirt that had definitely seen better days. Curious, Jungkook leaned sideways to get a better look and the English teacher came in at the moment. Jungkook took out his notebook and poised his ink pen over a blank page. The class was silent and he could hear the clock ticking from the cream coloured wall. He pressed the nib to page and ink spread on the paper. It made a wriggly heart and Jungkook squinted at it. He had to write an essay about love. He looked up from the ink heart. The boy was sitting still as a scared mouse. He had seen a cat corner a mouse under the stairwell in a friend’s house. Nothing moved on the mouse, not even its whiskers. He could see its heart pumping though. It pumped fear out and enticed the cat. He tried to chase the cat away but it merely looked at with cool eyes and purred low it in its throat. Jungkook had shuffled away in defeat. He stared at the boy’s exposed skin above the neck of his T-shirt and wondered if his heart was beating in fear while his whole body was still. The boy did not take out his notebook.

 

The bell rang and Jungkook had spent as much time staring at the boy in front of him as he had on the essay. There was a quick flurry of movements as the whole class shut their books, gathered bags and filed out. Jungkook made slow deliberate movements. He wanted to wait for the boy in the yellow T-shirt to rise from his seat.

“Jungkook…”

The call from behind him echoed in the nearly empty classroom. He turned.

“Yeah?”

Kaia jumped over a desk and landed on light feet. “Wanna practise after school?”

“I was going to.” Jungkook shrugged and fought the craving to look back at the boy in the yellow T-shirt. The air behind his back felt empty.

“You could have told me.” Kaia responded with a sulky twist of lips. “I would have joined you.”

“You are going to anyway, aren’t you?”

“That’s not the point.”

“I’m going to be late for my next class.” Jungkook did not want to get into an argument with Kaia about points. There were no points.

When he faced the front of the class, the boy was gone. He had made no noise of his leaving. Jungkook poked the inside of his cheek with his tongue. There was the faint smell of some perfume in the displaced air and it wafted after him as he walked out of the class.

 

 

Friday morning. The air was still and hot and it stifled Jungkook. The seat in front of him was occupied by a girl full of movement. She wasn’t still and she had long thick hair falling in a river over her back. Jungkook sighed and gazed out of the window to his left. He had to finish the grammar quiz but he couldn’t concentrate. Give examples of sentences using who and whom, the quiz demanded. As he dragged his gaze from the window, a flash of yellow lit up his peripheral vision. He snapped his head squarely in that direction. It was the boy in the same yellow T-shirt, sitting still, with his head resting on his folded arms on the table. He was sitting to his left, two rows ahead. He certainly wasn’t answering the quiz. The teacher did not seem to notice him sleeping right under her nose. Jungkook wanted to leap up with his arm raised and bring her attention to the boy in the yellow T-shirt. Look at him, he wanted to yell.

“Jungkook? Why are you staring?”

uh..”

“Have you finished?”

uh..”

The teacher sighed and the clock hand ticked away.

Jungkook looked down at the paper. The words danced on the page, seeking answers.

Who?

Tick tock

Whom?

Tick tock

 

Jungkook downed half a bottle of water in one go, throat working rapidly to swallow the flood. Drops of water clung to his bare torso. The pool glistened under the lights.

“Not bad, Jungkook.” Coach praised. “You bettered your previous time by four seconds.”

A breath of relief gusted out of him. He ran to the showers and brushed his always-too-long-bangs out of his forehead under the spray. He lathered himself up with his favourite body wash, taking sniffs of the delicate scent. He turned the shower on again and let the water carry away the suds from his body. He towelled himself off briskly and slipped into his tshirt and sweatpants. It was a warm evening and outside, the streetlights were on. Jungkook walked with his head bent, backpack bouncing on his back with every stride. He exited the building and thought about his English quiz. He hoped he would get at least a B. His right foot caught in a crack in the pathway and he tripped. He broke his fall with one outstretched hand and his backpack tilted to one side, bringing his body heavily in contact with the cobblestones. He let out a sharp cry of surprise and pain.

“Are you okay?” A low rough voice asked.

A pair of black shoes filled his line of vision.

“Do I look like I’m okay?” he ground out in irritation and pushed himself off the path to sit back. He examined his palm. Skin peeled from scratches and his left hip throbbed. He roved his eyes up from the black shoes over tight black pants and paused at the hem of a T-shirt. It was yellow. It was the boy in the yellow tshirt from his English class. He was sure of it because the T-shirt had seen better days.

“Why do you always wear that T-shirt?”

“I don’t know.” The boy answered and crouched in front of Jungkook.

“Are you new to school? I’ve seen you in English class.”

“I’m not new.”

“Who are you then?”

“I’m Jimin Park.”

Jungkook stared at Jimin Park who was staring at his bruised palm.

Jimin had sharp flinty eyes, a small nose and plump lips. His skin was pale and he had dark circles under his eyes.

“I’m Jungkook Jeon.”

“I know.” Jimin stated simply.

Jungkook raised an eyebrow at the confession and tried to stand up. Jimin caught hold of his elbow in a brief touch and steadied him. His palms were cold on his skin and odd. Like his touch was there and yet undefinable. Jungkook rubbed his elbow while they stood silently.

“I’ll see you tomorrow in class?” Jungkook asked finally.

Jimin looked surprised at his question. He smiled, a shy one, revealing a crooked tooth. “Okay.”

“Aren’t you going home?”

“You go ahead first.”

It wasn’t entirely dark and the light from the lamps mixed with the waning sun to colour the air around them in an odd shade. Jungkook could feel the sweat beading on his brow. There was a nervousness around Jimin, a kind of tightness that showed in his eyes. Jungkook cradled his injured palm against his chest and looked towards his home.

 

He was annoyed. Jimin was wearing that yellow T-shirt again and he wrinkled his nose in distaste at that sight. He imagined he could smell an odour from all the way from the fourth row to where he was in the tenth row. It made him want to vomit. He would go up at the end of class and demand why Jimin Park could not wear any other clothes. Jungkook will not let him slip away today. The teacher was explaining The Ballad of reading Gaol to the class. A line repeated throughout the poem. Each man kills the thing he loves.

Jimin Park was staring out of the window. Outside, a flame of the forest was fading, with only a few flowers remaining. Jungkook knew that tree. It was where he first met Jimin. The falling night had masked the dying blooms but now he realized it was where he had tripped and scraped his palm.

Jungkook grit his teeth in frustration. Pay attention to class, he wanted to snap at Jimin.

The bell rang. Jimin was still staring out of the window.

“Watcha lookin’ at?” Kaila asked breathlessly from his side.

“Jimin. He’s odd.”

“Jimin? Who Jimin?”

“That guy in the yellow T-shirt.” Jungkook gestured in front of him.

Huh?

“That dude over there. On the fourth row.”

“Have you been smoking weed? Did you try it without telling me?” Kaia punched his arm.

Jungkook dragged him by the wrist to the fourth row and whirled Kaia around to face Jimin. “Him!”

He looked back and forth between Kaia and Jimin. Kaia’s brow was furrowed and Jimin’s smooth.

“Jungkook…” Kaia’s tone changed to one of concern. “There’s no one here.”

“Is this a joke. Did you and Jimin decide to pull one on me?” Jungkook asked with hands on his hips.

“Dude…Who the fuck is Jimin? I have no clue what you are talking about. I’m leaving.” Kaia shook his head and headed towards the door. Jungkook watched him until he was out of sight. When he brought his gaze back, Jimin was standing a few feet away from the desk.

“I’m glad you held on to your promise to see me Jungkook.” He said softly. “I’ll go first.”

“Wait…Jimin…”

Jimin walked into the wall and then he wasn’t there anymore.

A deep sense of dread rose in Jungkook, prickling his skin into goosebumps. He opened his mouth in a silent moan. His backpack slid to the floor and all around him students of the next class were taking their seats. A girl slid into the chair that had preciously been occupied by Jimin and gazed at him questioningly.

“Jungkook?”

Jungkook’s eyes were fixed on the spot into which Jimin disappeared.

Someone shook him. “Jungkook..”

He tried to focus on the person touching him. It was his teammate Lidua.

“Why are you here? Is this your class?”

“No” There was panic in his voice.

Jungkook fled.

 

Jungkook swam laps until his left foot cramped from dehydration. He still could not flee from the image of Jimin disappearing. It had to be his imagination. He hauled himself out of the water and shivered when cool air touched his wet skin. He talked to his coach briefly and then showered. He wanted to go home as soon as possible. He approached the path outside with trepidation.

“Hi.” Jimin was waiting for him beside the flame of the forest. The ground around him was littered with dying blooms and dead leaves.

Jungkook walked past him, heart pounding.

“Today’s class was interesting.” Jimin’s voice followed him.

“Who the fuck are you?” Jungkook asked. He continued to walk swiftly.

“Jimin Park. I told you.”

“No. Who are you? Please tell me I imagined you disappearing into that wall. It wasn’t real right?”

Getting no response, Jungkook chanced a look back. Jimin looked troubled.

“Tell me.” He yelled, stopping in his tracks. Adrenaline and fear ran through his veins.

“I think I’m dead.”

“Is this a joke? There is no such thing as ghosts.” His breathing turned shallow and uneven.

“I’m not a ghost. I’m a spirit, soul of a body.”

“This is not real. None of this is real.” Jungkook backed away.

Jimin’s eyes were sad. “Please. Will you help me?”

“Leave me alone.” Jungkook said in a harsh whisper and ran. He ran until his lungs burned and his cramp returned with a vengeance, shooting pain through his foot. That night he slept, but not deeply and with many dreams. When he woke up, the house though very dark, was alive with movement and urgent whispers.

Please. Will you help me?

 

 

Jungkook gripped his pencil anxiously. Jimin was leaning back in his seat and if Jungkook extended his arm he could touch that frayed neck of his yellow T-shirt. He pressed the tip of his pencil into the paper until it broke and the lead rolled away. Jimin craned his head back to him. Jungkook noticed a large purple bruise on the side of his neck. His fingers shook.

Jimin smiled.

 

 

Jungkook knew that Jimin would be waiting. He could have taken a different route to the main gates but something, maybe it was morbid curiosity that lead him to the familiar path, past the bloomless tree.

“I didn’t think you would come.” Jimin said.

“What do you want from me?”

“I’m having trouble passing on.”

“I’m having trouble believing you. This whole thing.” Jungkook snapped.

Jimin shifted closer to him. Jungkook could make out details he had missed earlier. Like how Jimin was slightly shorter than him. How he looked strong and fragile at the same time. How his skin looked like it would bruise easily.

“I’ve never dated.” Jimin looked at him beseechingly. “I have never been in love.”

The air felt cold on his fevered brow.

“So?”

“Can you date me?”

Jungkook was flummoxed. “Date you?” he parroted.

“Yes. I think if this desire of mine is fulfilled, I could pass on.”

This whole thing was crazy. This had to be a joke. He expected one of his friends to pop out and say surprise motherfucker. Ghosts weren’t real.

“I’m not a ghost.” Jimin said as if he could read his mind and Jungkook took a step back.

“You felt solid when you touched me.”

“It’s not like in the movies, you know?” Jimin smiled. “I’m not a puff of air.”

“Everything about this is just like a movie.” Jungkook countered. “How do I know you are not malicious or evil?”

Jimin grinned. “Does that mean you are starting to believe that I’m a spirit?”

“Fuck…I don’t know..Why did you choose me? And how come others cannot see you?”

“I’m a year ahead of you in school. I mean, I was.”

Jungkook tensed, a muscle twitching in his cheek.

“Math is my favourite but I saw you first in my English class. You ran into class and informed the teacher that she was summoned to the principal’s office. She was taking a class on Robert frost.”

Jungkook remembered that day. He had gone to the principal’s office to submit a note for his upcoming swimming competition when he was asked to run immediately and get the English teacher from classroom 22. He tilted his head and wondered where Jimin was going with this.

“I had…have a crush on you.”

This was definitely entering strange territory. Jungkook has not seen Jimin in school. It made sense in a way because he was an introvert and he did not really seek out others. It’s a different thing that he was fairly popular. If Jimin was a year ahead then all his classmates would be in college or at the very least, out of high school. He wondered if he knew anyone from Jimin’s year and then a face jogged his memory. Taehyung.

“I’m going home.” He announced and Jimin’s face fell.

“Jungkook….please..I need you.”

The night was warm, yet as Jimin pleaded, he was shaking hard.

The wind picked up and carried Jimin’s words. It was desolate, falling to ruin around Jungkook’s ears.

 

Jungkook: Hi.

Taehyung: This is a surprise. Golden boy of school texting me?

Jungkook: Sorry I was out of touch.

Taehyung: I would take offence but knowing you I won’t

Jungkook: Thanks. That almost felt like a compliment😊

Taehyung: No fucker. It wasn’t.

Jungkook: Anyway. How are you?

Taehyung: Great Segue

Jungkook: Please let me live. I said I’m sorry.

Taehyung: What do you want?

Jungkook: Do you know a Jimin Park

Taehyung is typing…

 

Jungkook frowned at the screen. It was twenty minutes and yet Taehyung had not replied.

Jungkook: ?

 

His phone rang and he nearly dropped it in shock.

“Why are you asking about Jimin?” Taehyung demanded even before he could say hello.

“No reason..I heard rumours about him in school.”

“What rumours?”

“Just this and that…” Jungkook hedged, not knowing what to say. Internally he was relieved that there was an actual person called Jimin Park.

“Well, stop gossiping about him.” Taehyung snapped.

“I wasn’t. I just wanted to… I mean there’s a sort of mystery around him.”

“You can tell the gossipers to fuck right off.”

“I will, but I don’t know anything about him.”

Taehyung sighed, loud and audible. His voice softened. “Jimin’s parents tried to keep the incident on the downlow. We all did.”

“What happened? What incident?”

“Jungkook…..”

“If you don’t tell me I’m going to search the internet anyway.” Jungkook’s voice rose.

“He was molested. The guy…Jaehwon…he strangled him with a steel chain when Jimin fought back.”

Jungkook was horrified.

“Listen Jungkook…I don’t want to talk about this. He was a good friend…” Taehyung choked up.

“Sorry.” Jungkook whispered.

Taehyung disconnected the call and Jungkook remained motionless, the dial tone ringing in his ear.

How had he not known this? He knew there was an incident involving a student and there were rumours. He had been a new student that year, having moved from another city. He searched for articles on Jimin and there were surprisingly very few and almost no photos save for one or two on the molester and one of Jimin smiling brightly, so full of life, in a yellow T-shirt. He clenched his fist when he realised that the photo of Jimin was from that day. The image of Jaehwon incited an anger, so fierce that it burned his inner eyelids with a white light. He was inflated with a wild fury against something he was powerless to stop. Jaehwon had attempted to molest Jimin and then strangled him with a dog chain when Jimin fought back. Then he had slit his own wrists and committed suicide. Jimin was eighteen and Jaehwon, two years older. They were acquaintances and it happened in the empty parking lot of an old supermarket. Jimin had fallen into a coma, air supply cut off to his brain for nearly six minutes. There was no update on him after that.

Jungkook dropped his phone on his bed and opened the windows. Warm air rushed in brining no relief to the turmoil in his mind. He touched his cheek and it felt real. The skin on his bones, the leaves ruffling in the wind, the moonless sky full of stars, hundreds of people living new lives. The bruise on Jimin’s neck. He stared into the night, silhouetted by the terrible and empty light of his room.

It is real. Jimin is real.

His cheeks were wet with sorrow.

 

Jimin wasn’t in English class. Jungkook looked and looked. He wasn’t there in the chair in front of him. It was occupied by someone who wasn’t Jimin. There were no empty seats in the class.

 

“Where were you?” Jungkook asked, aggrieved. Jimin was sitting on the ground, leaning against the rough bark of the tree. The ugly purple bruise was exposed to the world and Jungkook supressed the urge to run up to him and hide it from prying eyes with his palm. But there was no one to see anyway. It would be futile. Jimin jumped to his feet eagerly when he caught sight of Jungkook.

“You came.”

You didn’t.”

Jimin looked down. “All the seats were occupied.”

“Did you think about what I asked?” He mumbled to the ground.

“Do you really think that dating me would help you move on?”

“I don’t know.” Jimin admitted. “But I think I can let go if….I’ve always yearned to love, have a boyfriend. It was the one thing that was missing from my life. I was a good student, I had great parents and friends. A nice life.”

Jimin laughed nervously and then continued. “I had a crush on you for months before I was…taken. I liked you.”

“Why?”

Jimin’s eyes lingered on his skin like the warm light of sunset. “You are sweet and shy. I like the way you treat everyone. I felt like you would cherish me. I imagined it. Us on dates, holding hands, eating icecream on a warm day. I imagined we would laugh together and you would look at with your kind eyes and tell me that you like me too...” Jimin’s voice broke. “I could not take it from you, but I wanted it and I thought you would give it to me generously.”

Jungkook’s insides squeezed at the heartfelt words. An unamed emotion swelled in his throat.

“I don’t expect you to like me now. I mean I’m dead and you can’t like a dead person. Obviously. And I don’t want you to either. I just want to know how it would be to date you. That’s all. One date.”

“Okay.” Jungkook agreed. “If you think this will help you move on, I will. Let’s go on a date.”

Surprise and delight fluttered into Jimin’s eyes and Jungkook could see the almost visceral reaction Jimin had to his words. One by one the lights came on around them to meet the falling night and one shone directly on Jimin. Gold dust drifted around him and his dark eyes scanned Jungkook as if seeking out a refuge. A place to rest, a place where he can be set free. Like a soul tentatively sounding out a place it might alight.

 

Jungkook: There are no updates about Jimin.

Taehyung: Why are you still asking about him?

Jungkook: When did he die?

Taehyung: Leave it

Jungkook: Please?

 

They were going to an amusement park. Jimin said he wanted to go on a date there but he has never been.

“Never?”

“Never been on a date. So no. I want my first date to be at the amusement park.”

Jungkook dressed up for this first date of Jimin’s. He wore his blue ripped jeans and a white T-shirt and added two hoops and one stud to his ears. Jimin was waiting for him at the amusement park. He looked the same. He wore a Yellow T-shirt, black jeans, purple bruise and nervous anticipation. Jungkook got two tickets.

“Why two?”

“One for you.”

There was something breaking down in that moment and both looked away.  

Jungkook’s phone pinged. He ignored it.

“I don’t think I can sit on any of the rides, so you will have to do everything for me.”

And it became a series of that. Jungkook going up on the rides and Jimin laughing from the sidelines. “Did you enjoy it?” He asked gleefully after every ride. “Did you feel giddy? Did your stomach churn?”

“Let’s eat cotton candy.” Jimin said, face alight with excitement. Jungkook groaned. He did not want to think about food after that last ride.

Ugh no. It’s too sweet.” He made a face.

“Please? You would buy it for me won’t you? I would take a bite and then give it to you anyway, because it would be too sweet for me.” 

“What’s the point then? It’s too sweet for you, it’s too sweet for me.” Jungkook asked in bafflement.

“You don’t know anything about romance.” Jimin huffed.

“After all the rides then. I still have the roller coaster.” He conceded.

“And the merry go round.” Jimin reminded him.

“I’m not getting on the merry go round!”

“Yes, you are! I would sit on the mermaid, so you have to.”

“I don’t understand that logic.” Jungkook argued. A few people around him stared at him as if he has lost his mind and so he raised his phone to his ear and pretended to talk into it.

“Because it’s my first date.” Jimin crossed his arms.

They bickered all the way to the rollercoaster and Jungkook joined the line.

“Aren’t you scared?”

“No.” Jungkook said, phone still glued to his ear.

He reached the end of the line and Jimin got on the deck along with him.

“Have fun.” He said softly as Jungkook sat in the front. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

Jungkook nodded and suddenly wished that Jimin could sit beside him. They would maybe hold hands and scream, stomachs whooping down along with the rollercoaster. He looked back to where Jimin was standing. The coaster moved forward and poised itself at the edge of the fall. Jungkook craned his neck keeping Jimin in sight, until the rollercoaster bore him away. He gripped the handle tightly and everything passed by in a blur except for how Jimin seemed, waiting for Jungkook, bleak and lonely. The ride ended soon and Jungkook got out on shaky legs and into Jimin’s brilliant smile.

“How was it? Did your stomach churn?” Jimin asked eagerly.

“It was okay.” He shrugged.

“What’s wrong? You were excited before the ride.”

How could he explain to Jimin when he did not understand it himself?

But the brief feeling of melancholy passed when Jimin tugged him by his sleeve to the merry go round. It was the second time Jimin has touched him.

“I’m not going.” He whined.

“Don’t be a coward.”

They stood in front of the revolving machine with its flashing lights and melodious music.

“Look. There are adults.” Jimin pointed.

A child screamed in delight on a horse. She was held carefully by a man from behind her.

A no formed on Jungkook’s tongue, a firm refusal. But then Jimin’s eyes sparkled and a smile flitted on his lips. He looked alive and electric and if Jungkook touched him he was sure he would feel the current of him on his fingertips. He walked to the person manning the gate.

“One, please.”

The woman scanned him from head to toe and then back again.

Jungkook flushed and fidgeted. When the machine got ready for the next round, he hurried to snag a place on the mermaid, reaching it a few seconds before a boy, all of eight years, could. He clambered onto it ignoring the fierce glare directed towards him. The merry go round swung into motion and it ran in gentle circles. Every time Jungkook passed Jimin, he pulled a funny face, sending him into peals of laughter. During the last few rounds, Jimin ran along his side. Hair from their foreheads bounced and flopped in sync. Their lips stretched into toothy grins.

“Thank you.” Jimin screamed in joy as he took the last turn.

When Jungkook walked up to him, he saw Jimin’s eyes glisten as if he had been crying. But how could that be? For which soul would weep in the face of passing on? He wanted to touch the purple bruise and caresses it away to nothingness. He wanted to bring back the dull plainness of the colour of skin.

“Let’s get cotton candy.” He said stiffly.

He could hear Jimin’s essence, rising loud against the sound of the music from the merry go round. It was lit up and burning faintly. Like the fairy lights strung in his bedroom, delicate and soothing.

 

Jungkook held the stick in a sweaty hand and they sat under a tree. The air was cooling around them and dusk settled around them like a fine mist. Swirls of cotton candy melted into his palms. Sugar coated his tongue and the roof of his mouth. He gagged. Jimin laughed.

They talked while Jungkook ate bits of the pink cotton candy, pulling it apart with his fingers. They exchanged growing up stories, of siblings, parents and all the little things that made them up. Jungkook took care to not ask anything about the assault. He did not want the smile to leave Jimin.

“Why didn’t you talk to me in school?” 

“You looked out of my league, but now I know you aren’t.” Jimin teased. “You are just a dork.”

“Hey!”

“I lacked courage I think. You were always so focused and serious. I went to your swim competitions, you know? Cheered loudly for you.”

“I wish I had known you then. I would have looked for you in the crowd.”

“You wouldn’t have been able to find me.”

“I would have. Because no one smiles like you.”

“Oh Jungkook.” Jimin’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment as if he was afraid to reveal himself. When he opened his eyes, Jungkook fell into them. There was a chasm, a gap, into which fell all the connotations of their sentences. It was as if Jungkook’s words were stripped of all their nuances and reached Jimin in a bare unadorned state, susceptible to all the unknown meanings his heart attached to the words.

Jimin smiled dreamily at him. “You would have made the best boyfriend.”

And in that instant Jungkook knew. He knew he would have loved Jimin, cherished him. This sweet, affectionate boy who was free with his smiles. The knowledge heaved inside him, twisting his stomach and wringing out acid. He felt nauseous from finishing the cotton candy and lost possibilities. He threw the stick away.

“My hands are sticky.” He complained.

“Let’s be sticky together then.” Jimin held his hands and rubbed their palms together. Jungkook grinned at him and went along with it. It still felt strange to Jungkook. It wasn’t like a touch from another person, rather a feeling of warmth and cold and something heavy. Jimin pulled away and patted his own cheeks with sticky hands.

“Don’t rub it into your cheek” Jungkook said and went to touch Jimin’s cheek, but he could feel nothing. He jerked his hand back, horrified.

“What happened?”

“I can’t feel you.” Jungkook whispered.

“Oh.”

That sobered the both of them. For a brief moment Jungkook had thought it was real and he was embarking on a relationship with a young man who was full of things that he did not know existed in people. He did not know what would happen to Jimin and he was afraid. Afraid for himself and for Jimin.

“Can I kiss you before I go?” Jimin asked.

He nodded instinctively. “You are not coming back?” Jungkook asked, meeting his gaze.

Jimin shook his head slowly. Then he surprised Jungkook. He leaned and kissed his neck, just at the point where his hair brushed the skin, in the place that carried Jimin’s bruise. The kiss was a sensation of warmth and it was gone.

“You don’t have to go today.” Jungkook said, kneeling beside him. “You don’t have to go at all.”

Tears streamed down his face. He had not known he was crying. All around them, light dimmed in a wail. The pain of parting curled like fire behind his eyes. He wanted to close them, count to three and go back into the world before, where Jimin had lived.

“I have to try to move on. I cannot stay here and watch you fall in love with someone. Someone living and breathing. What will I be Jungkook?”

“Why did you ask me then?” Jungkook screamed. “Why didn’t you leave me alone? You are so selfish.”

“I’m sorry. Please don’t hate me. I like you so so much.I….I can’t be tethered in the middle of nothing. It’s not in my control.”

“Go then.” Jungkook gave his back to Jimin. “Go.”

“I like you Jungkook.” Jimin pleaded faintly. “Please don’t hate me. I’m scared. I don’t know what will happen to me but this last memory of my time with you gives me solace. I feel like I can let go.” His voice fragmented into a thousand sorrows.

“Go!” Jungkook yelled. He pressed the palm of his hands to his ears blocking any more of Jimin. He stood still in the darkness. Through the quiet, through the things that were absent. Through the memories of what had been there. His left foot throbbed. When he turned around after agonizing minutes, it was to an emptiness as if the world had been scrubbed away. 

The scent of orange blossoms spilled into the air. It stabbed into him with every breath he took. He realized then that living was not what you take, but what you leave behind.

 

 

Taehyung: He was in a coma for over a year. His condition worsened last week, but he woke up early this morning.

 

 

Jungkook took a cab to the hospital. He had begged Taehyung earlier in the morning for the name of the hospital and other details. He  checked with the front desk to go to room 313.

“You aren’t a regular visitor.” The man said. His badge read Owen.

“I’m a friend from his school.”

“I don’t know kid. I’ve never seen you visit him before.”

Jungkook fished out his ID card from his backpack. “Here.”

Owen studied it with narrowed eyes.

“Taehyung….He knows me.”

“Taehyung? Hmmm.”

“Look, I will call him on the phone and you can ask him.”

“Yeah. You do that.”

Jungkook dialed Taehyung’s number and Owen had a brief conversation with him. He handed the phone back to Jungkook. “Alright. You can go. Fifteen minutes.”

Jungkook took the elevator with a pounding heart. He got out on the third floor. He counted the door numbers. 310…311..312…313. In one hand he held a bunch of flowers. The florist had helped him choose the brightest blooms. Lilies, roses, daises and sunflowers. He breathed in the sweet living scent of flowers in front of room 313. He rapped once on the door and pressed it inwards. The first thing he noticed was that the room smelled clean and fresh. The window was open. A woman was siting in a corner, reading. She looked up.

“Jungkook is it?" She asked.

He nodded mutely, averting his eyes from the bed.

“Owen told me you were coming up. I’ve heard about you from Jimin. From…before.”

His tongue remained glued to the roof of his mouth.

“I’m sure he would be thrilled that you came to see him.” The woman smiled and then Jungkook realized she was Jimin’s mother. It was in the smile and the scrunching of eyes. “We aren’t sure how much he can remember of his past, but he would be happy. I know this.”

“Taehyung.....he…he told me Jimin woke up.”

“Yes, He did briefly.  He is sleeping now. I’ll give you a few minutes.” She pressed his shoulder and went out.

Jungkook took careful slow steps to the bed. A blanket covered his body and was tucked under his neck. Tubes snaked in and out. Jungkook sucked in a harsh breath. His heart was pumping so hard that it made him dizzy. Jimin’s eyelashes fanned against his pale skin. His face was gaunt, the plump cheeks stripped down to the bone. His overlong hair curled around his ears and his lips were cracked and dry. Jungkook touched a shaking forefinger to his cheek, almost expecting the stickiness from last night. The flowers fell from his hand and he turned and ran. He ran past Jimin’s mother, down the stairs, past a surprised Owen. He dropped to his knees outside, stomach churning and heaving up bile. He coughed and rubbed a hand over his mouth. The sunlight hurt his eyes.

You came back.

By the time he pulled himself together, the visitors gathering outside Jimin’s room would not see Jungkook, no. They would see the boy who must have flowers to give to a boy he loves.

 

 

Jungkook pushed the door and stepped inside. There was a boy in front of him, lying on a bed.  He had dark hair, a yellow T-shirt that had seen better days, and a pulse thrumming in his throat against a faded bruise. The boy in the yellow T-shirt opened his eyes. The air between them filled with memories and there were dreams of falling in love. A hesitant tremulous smile swooped and settled on the boy's lips. And somewhere, in a place that only they both know, a flame of the forest burst into gentle blooming, a slash of glorious red against the dark sky.