The sun hides behind a twin of creamy clouds as a ray of coral light reflects through the glass pane windows. I cover my eyes with my fingers, letting candlelight of orange peak through. I’ve been daydreaming and resting my head on my desk since the last period started to drag on. Although I’m quite a serious student, my habit of constantly being lost in thought has troubled me unconsciously. I play with my long, wavy hair while I let my mind trail off into a cloudy romance of pink hues, although I would never let my imaginations spill out. As the sun starts to slowly set, the final bell rings and I’m released from my romantic horrors back to my dull reality.
The school bell echoes through the halls and the classroom, as a gentle smile begins to curve on my lips. I can feel his eyes on me, just as I do every evening. “M-minjee?” With just a tap on my shoulder, he sits on the desk in front of me and glances towards my face. I cover my face with my arm as a giggle escapes from my lips. “Minjee, what are you doing?” Subin, my best friend, grabs my arm and lifts it up, being his regular gentle but vigorous self. He’s a year younger than me and in the class down the hall but everyday, when the school is noisy and crowded, he comes and finds me. I quickly shoot up and run out of the classroom, knowing he’ll chase after me.
“Aish, come on!” I can hear Subin yell, bumping into seniors, slowing him down as he apologizes. I don’t stop until I reach the entrance of the school, laughing when I see Subin panting and leaning on his knees. When he catches his breath he glares at me and hotly throws my backpack at me. “Stupid. How can you leave without your bag?” He says in between breaths as he grabs my arm, pulling me out of the high school courtyard. How can I leave without you? I think to myself, as I gaze at his bothered, tired expression. Although, I would never tell him that. We lock arm and continue down the sidewalk as the sky starts to turn into orange tones. This time of day, with you, warms my heart. Although, as the seasons' change and the air sets into a dense chill, it’s getting harder to breathe. My warm heart is starting to cool.
Subin is quiet as we make our way home, taking the long route because this is our precious time. The time where it can be just the two of us and we can truly feel secure. His chestnut hair is messy with a hint of curls flipping up on top of his head. His dark, shaggy eyebrows makes his expression look uptight but I know he’s drained and probably the tiniest bit annoyed from my actions. “I’m sorry,” I muttered as I hug his arm close. “I was just playing around.” I look up at him, giving him my best puppy eyes, knowing how easily I push his buttons. “Stop.” He grunts but I can see his lips curl into a smile. He finally looks back at me as he rustles my hair, something I absolutely loathe. Normal friends probably thrive on making each other happy, but Subin and I have grown up arguing with each other and thriving on making up.
This is my youth, my beloved time of day, with Subin my heart is lavish and protected. We were destined at birth, as our moms were best friends growing up, inseparable. We were always there for each other, holding each other's hands. He took care of me whenever I would get hurt trying to keep up with sports he liked to play, I helped him with his studies and took care of him when he was home alone with the flu. It was difficult for us to make friends because when we’re separated it’s as if we’ve lost a piece of ourselves. Subin and I are destined to be together forever.
Or so I thought.
“Do you have to go to practice?” I pout and tug on Subin’s indigo blazer, I know the answer when I see the look: the look of guilt and excitement. I’ve seen him with this expression too many times and I know it’s my fault. I know how I make him suffer with remorse and I also know how deeply he wants my support. I only show Subin my bad sides and I hate the way he worries more about pleasing me than chasing his dream. I’m spoiled and whiny, yet he cherishes all my ugly parts.
“I’ll call you tonight, I promise it won’t be late again.” He starts to slowly part from our embrace as he runs his fingers across my arm down to my own fingertips. I want to grab his hand, entangle himself into me so deep that he can’t escape, but how can I? I repress my hideous needs as I wave to him with a forced smile on my face. He parades a deep smile at me, his eyes closed and his cheekbones enhanced. I’m motionless as I see him fade away into the backdrop of orange and pink.
These past couple of years, Subin has been an idol trainee. I’ve never seen him more passionate and driven, but I’ve also been there through the injuries, the rejections, the breakdowns, and my emotions have turned to stone. I want to encourage him, I want to be his strongest admirer, but I can’t get the image of his tear smeared, broken face out of my head. I love him. My best friend is my whole universe. He is my milky way and I am his moons. The Subin that I’ve treasured all my life is slowly slipping away from me and I’m becoming a scary person.
My legs move on their own as my bad manners of daydreaming completely takes over the dangerous despair Subin left me in. I kick dirt as I drown myself with images completely unrelated to Subin. Anything to get my mind off of this strange, uncomfortable feeling I’ve never felt before. The sky is almost kissing night and the cool October breeze sends chills throughout my body. I look up wishing I could be asleep on top of the clouds. Far away from earth, from reality. I continue to walk while admiring the glowing sky. Just when I was fully hypnotized by the admiring heavens I’m thrown to the ground as a full force crashing into me.
My body is thrown on its side as my head clashes into the dirt road. I hear a shocked gasp followed by a high pitched yelp. “Are you ok? Are you ok? I’m sorry I was running without lookin-” A tall boy with straight dark amber hair falling down his forehead bends down and reaches his hand out. He abruptly stops speaking when I look up and make eye contact. His fawn-like eyes are chocolate as they stare into mine, leaving us speechless. My heart trembles as I softly cry out from the throbbing pain. “Ah!” He grabs my arms and lifts me on my feet with one yank. I’m stunned at how strong he is, which probably explains why I flew to the ground.
My hair and cheek are covered in flaky dust as I stand in silence. “Ah, I really am so sorry.” The strong deer-like boy starts ruffling my hair as specks of dust fly out into the atmosphere. My heart starts to quicken its pace as he inches closer to me, cleaning me off. When he reaches my cheek, we lock eyes again. His fingers are slender and silky as they gracefully run across my dirty cheek. As I look into his eyes my face begins to burn and I start to feel self-aware. I turn away from his delicate long fingers and break eye contact with him. “Ah, I’m sorry.” He whispers.
We stand in a lull stillstand for what seems like an entirety. I feel the heat from my cheeks graze my ears and I scream in my head. Don’t notice, please don’t notice how weird I'm acting! Just then, his creamy voice speaks up. “I want to apologize in some way! I feel awful.” His voice trails off as our gaze meets once again before turning away from each other. “Uh,” I can feel his eyes on me again as I’m too embarrassed to look back.”Here.” He says before grabbing my phone out of my hand. I make a weird noise to protest but before I could finish he starts typing on the screen. His own phone rings in his pocket as he hands me mine back and reaches for his. “I’m super late, but now I have your phone number and I’ll properly apologize to you next time. I promise.” He tilts his head as he shows me the text message he sent himself from my phone.
“But,” I start to say but he interrupts me by waving and precipitously retreating. He turns back once more and waves to me, a wide smile appearing on his face. When he completely vanishes, I let out an awkward loud sigh while dropping to the ground. My knees hit the stain as I stare blankly into the street. Nightfall made its appearance swiftly today as the streetlights start to flicker. I smack my chest with the palm of my hand. What was that?! I’m extremely timid of strangers and always feel uneasiness with encounters but this was completely and utterly something I have never felt before. I slap both of my cheeks as I can’t get his doe-like eyes out of my head. My bad habit of vividly daydreaming has cursed me.
There’s always this aching in my chest whenever I leave Minjee. We’ve always been attached to each and being separated had its uneasiness but these last couple of years it’s been physically painful leaving her side. I sigh as I lean against the wall and slide to the ground. Today too, she looked so lost when I left her… I look down at my phone and hesitate to message her, would that just make it worse? “Aish!” I yell and throw my phone on top of my bag. I nod my head back and cover my eyes with my arm. Lately, our friendship has been draining and I’ve been doting on her. More than feeling content and secure I’m brimming with anguish. I’ve become selfish and Minjee is the one suffering from it.
“What’s wrong with Subin?” I hear Hanse whisper as the vibration of footsteps approaches me. I peek out to see Hanse and Heochan sit next to me against the wall in our practice room. I prepare myself for all the questions I’m about to be bombarded with. “Ladies problems, hmm, Subin?” Heochan teases me and pokes my ribcage. I can’t help but let out giggles, I’m extremely ticklish, which turns both of them into awe. Hanse wraps his arms around me and pulls me into a clingy hug. “H-Hanse!” I shout in a muffled voice. “Well, you need to tell us what’s been bothering you lately,” Seungsik says, suddenly appearing, with a concerning tone and then sits in front of us. Hanse finally releases me but still hangs his arm around my shoulder. “I can’t tell you how many times a day you sigh and I can tell it’s not from practice.” Heochan scoots over just close enough where our hips touch. “We’re just worried.” He leans his head on my shoulder as I start to feel a sense of guilt for not confiding in my members more.
The only true friend I’ve ever had was Minjee, now I have a family. These boys have become my family as we all work harder and harder each day to reach our dreams. I think of them this highly and yet I’ve never mention Minjee to them...and I don’t even know how I’d tell Minjee. “Actually,” My voice cracks as I start to instantly regret this decision. “I have this childhood friend and I feel like we’ve been distant from each other and I don’t really know how to make her feel better.” Hanse, Heochan, Seungsik, and now Byunghcan and Sejun all surround me seriously taking in my concerns. Seungsik clears his throat. “You know friendships are like- wait did you say her?!” Seungsik shriek as absolute chaos breaks out.
“You’ve had a girlfriend this whole time?!” Hanse screams in my ear. “Her? Her? Who’s her?” Byungchan’s high pitch screams reverberate across the room. Sejun begins to fake cry as he pretends to wipe his fake tears. “I can’t believe our Subin has been dating.” My ears start to blaze up as I try to hush the members. “Guys stop- dating?! How can Minjee and I be dating?!” My voice cracks more than before from saying this embarrassing lie. Seungsik grabs my arm. “So her name is Minjee?!” The members all start screaming again as feelings of regret and uneasiness wells up in my chest. Dating?! How could Minjee and I be- I let out a grunt of frustration and cover my face in my hands as the members continue to make a fool out of me.
“Sorry! I’m sorry I’m late!” Seungwoo barges through the door open and slams it shut with full force as he appearance silences the mess. Seungwoo walks over to us, analyzing the situation. “What?” He asks. No! I try to stop everyone but they all run up to him, enclosing him as Seungwoo has a serious expression of confusion on his face. “Seungwoo, you’re not going to believe this-” Hanse starts as Sejun pushes him to the side, “Subin has a girlfriend!” His loud scream makes Seungwoo wide-eyed as he looks at me. “What?!” He yells and pushes the members aside. He grabs my shoulder, firmly looks me in the eyes and pulls me into his arms. “Don’t listen to them, they’re just teasing you. Besides how can you have a girlfriend, you’re our baby.” Seungwoo’s backhanded compliment reassures me and irritates me. I push my hands against his chest in an attempt to free myself, to no avail. Seungwoo is just too much of a beast.
Before anymore lunacy can ruin my day, manager Dongjin strolls in the practice studio. Everyone settles down as the anticipation swells. We always get hopeful when we see Dongjin, just waiting with sparkles in our eyes for any news on our Debut. He signals us to sit down as we all huddle into a circle with Dongjin. I look to Seungwoo, who surprisingly seems different today. His expression is aloof and he seems to be absent in thought. I poke his side as he makes a weird noise and turns to me. “Why were you late anyway?” I figured something happened on the way here to make our leader so distracted. He blinks his eyes at me as I notice a warm flush start to form on his checks. He covers his face with his lanky fingers and shifts his face away from me. “I don’t know.” That’s all he can say before manager Dongjin perks up, ready to speak.
I can’t stop myself from being curious. What happened to Seungwoo, is he okay? My interest turns into concern. I stare at Seungwoo, studying his face when I’m interrupted and startled by anarchic cheers. The members all scream and shout as if they’re celebrating, including Seungwoo. Manager Dongjin notices my puzzled gaze as he grabs my arm, demanding my attention. “You guys are officially are debuting! I know it’s late, but you guys are going to be moving into your dorms starting tomorrow night.” He says, giving me a gentle smile of pride. I clenched my fists and shake them in joy. “Really? Really? This is actually happening?” I yell as we all prance in excitement.
Just as my body is balmy in happiness, a cold feeling of dread consumes me. Tomorrow night? That soon? I haven’t come up with the courage to tell Minjee anything that’s happened in the last couple years. Not about the member or that we’ve been training in hopes to debut. Now I have to move away from her and the image of her face makes my chest twinge. We’ve been neighbors our whole lives, having our bedroom windows facing each other, always being there to wish each other sweet dreams.
The moon is covered by a thick ray of clouds and the crisp air bites at my exposed ankles. I bend down and lift my socks up high and grip my school back. I’ve been walking home from the studio, dragging my feet, cringing at every inch I take. The practice expanded until I was scared to even look at the time. I promised Minjee I’d call her and that it wouldn’t be late again, but just another promise broken. When I finally reach my house I walk towards the middle of our houses. Minjee’s bedroom is dark with just a hint of yellow flickering light from her candles. I warn her just how dangerous it is to sleep with a candlelit, but I can just hear her whining how it soothes her insomnia.
I reach in my pocket for my phone. 3:17 am, god. I wipe the sweat still dripping off my forehead. The members and I are so determined and with today’s news, we’ve never been so motivated. I’m proud of myself and the members, I just wish I could relay these wistful emotions to my best friend. I dial Minjee’s number, with her photo ID of an ugly Minjee stuffing her face with noodles, and nervously place the phone on my ear. With each ring, my heart becomes less and less settled. When her soft, groggy voice answers my heart rumbles away from normal altogether.
“Subin? What time is it?”
“It’s late...I’m sorry, I’m still at practice.” Silence.
“I wish you wouldn’t even have called me…”
“Minjee.” Her cruel words don’t surprise me. I know it’s just because going back to sleep would be impossible for her. The phone line is muted and the silence becomes heavy. “Minjee.” She doesn’t answer me but I can still hear her supple breathing. “Aren’t you happy for me?”
More heavy, frightening silence. “I’m scared.” She finally answers as I strengthen my grasp on my phone. “Subin, will you be happy when you leave me?” Her voice ripples like delicate water. “How…” I don’t know how to answer this. This Minjee on the other line, wrapped in her blush silk sheets, just feet away from me is haunting. “Goodnight, Subinnie.” She says in a hushed tone before ending the call.
On this chilly autumn night, my beloved friend, our treasured friendship started to slither through my hands no matter how tightly I grasp it. I shiver as my thoughts can’t shake that image of her crying face, can’t help but feel that everything is going to change after tonight. This night, with the stars hanging gracefully over us, we’re under the same sky and yet I feel so removed from you. The streetlights gleam and the cool air is muted as it weighs heavily on me. I turn away from Minjee’s window and just as I enter my gate I hear the muffled chime of her phone.
I hurl my ruffled pillow across the room, knocking down a stack of textbooks. My head starts to pound as grisly tears soak my cheeks. Ugly , my thoughts are psycho and I’m afraid of myself. I fall down on my side as my tears roll onto my cotton pillow, as it absorbs into a bitter stain. Ugly. You’re so ugly. The repulsive, bitter things I say to Subin… I could die. Sniffling, I make no effort to stop my dangerous imagination from tearing into me. How can you be so disgusting? You bitch!
Just when I couldn’t sink any lower in the abyss, my phone chime startles me. I slowly reach for my phone, my heart isn’t prepared to hear Subin’s voice but if I could just apologize, if I could say the right thing, say what I really mean by all the hatred. “H-hello.” I try to steady my voice but it’s cold and shaky. “Hello?” An unfamiliar deep honey voice whispers in my ear and then silence.
“Are you crying?” He heightens his voice from a whisper to a normal tone as I shoot up from my position. Hugging my pillow, I wipe my tears away. “N-no,” My voice still jittery. “Who is this?” I slowly take a deep breath to calm myself. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I actually introduced myself, but I’m the careless idiot who bumped into you ah,” He laughs through the phone and my heart skips a beat. I press my hand against my forehead. Am I getting sick? “My name is Han Seungwoo, I didn’t mean to call you this late...I didn’t think you’d be awake, I was just going to leave you a voicemail.”
“Why are you up so late?” He asks. I jumble through my thoughts, I’ve never spoken on the phone with anyone other than Subin and my parents, thinking about it makes me nervous. “I have trouble sleeping…” My throat stings from the lump suffocating me when I was trying to hold back tears from Subin earlier. “Oh… can I help? I might be able to,” Seungwoo lets out a little hum and then clears his throat. “Let me sing you to sleep, I feel bad waking you up.” The volume in his tone hushed and it’s like a blanket wrapping itself around me.
For some reason, I say ok, with a diffused voice not knowing if he can hear me. I lie back down on my pillow and close my eyes, resting my phone in between my ear and the pillow.
Seungwoo’s voice is tender and soothing. It’s always as if his words are coated in nectar and I’m melting into them. He only sings a gentle melody, slipping in words like “sleep” and “dream” into the lullaby. Oh, how I want to sleep. My throbbing head starts to cool and my unease hands start to rest. I sense my body begin to drift off, I can’t move, but it's pleasant and warm. Seungwoo’s softhearted tune slowly erases all the physical pain, starts to ease into my soul. My hurt, anger, and selfishness that was engraved in my heart now are fluttering out of me. Everything is soft, everything is evaporating.
Memories I’m scared of, why do I see you so often? Why do you only glance my way, never letting me completely understand what you mean? Ah, I’m a child. My hands are smaller and everything around seems so colossal, I feel so small. My tiny hands are warm? Oh, I’m wearing gloves, they’re knitted. A touch of cold powder lands of my nose, ah it’s snowing? I hate the snow. I’m afraid. I’m going to get swallowed! Subin? Subin?! Where are you? I can’t feel your hand anymore, Subin! I’m going to get eaten again! Ah! I’m screaming why can’t you hear me? Ah!
My hand feels warm again, but not from the knitted gloves, not from Subin? I look up but the reflection from the snow only allows my eyes to see a shadow. “It’s ok.” Ah, it’s so warm. It’s almost like a song. I’m embraced and I’m safe. Finally, it can be ok.