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Nearer To You

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When we start going down towards the ground, piercing through the thick wads of fluffy, cotton-like clouds, I peer through the window anxiously, feeling a wave of nostalgia wash over me at the sight of the airport, as well as an overwhelming joy at the prospect that we are closer than we have been in months, years—and that we are about to meet again at last after a long separation. We’ve exchanged a few messages and phone calls since filming ended, it’s true, but our busy schedules and the rumors about us have made it hard for us to meet since we last parted, and although I have no regrets, I find it rather painful, and wish it weren’t so. Well, you know how it is.

To tell you the truth, I tried to doze off and get some rest on the way here, but my anticipation was so strong that it ended up keeping me up, and I couldn’t sleep a wink.

But it’s alright, really. I don’t mind.

Sleep will be there for me to go back to later. You won’t.

The first thing I do when the plane arrives at the airport is to turn on my cell phone, ignoring the various popups and dings of notifications, and going straight to my WeChat app.

I look at the screen and stop breathing. There’s a message—from you.

Text me when you get here. I can’t wait to see you.

My heart flutters at the words—and the promise behind them—and exhilaration fills my whole being, grounding me to reality and reminding me of my reason for coming here.

Time to move.

Inside, my smile widens with each one of your messages popping in at a steady flow.

You welcome me to Shanghai and offer to be my humble guide, and I smile at the ease and cheerfulness behind your words which I can hear echoing through my mind in your voice, forever engraved there.

Silly... You haven’t changed.

Following your instructions, I pick up my luggage and start heading towards the West gate with my heart in my throat.

Throngs of enthusiastic people calling my name await me there, and I stare at their beautiful faces and smile at them shyly, apologetically. I want to stay—I wish I could stay, but I’m afraid, so very afraid, to miss you again. I need to get to you as soon as possible to ensure that none of this is a dream, and so I search for you among the crowd, over the pretty heads of admirers and up above to the alcove overlooking the first floor, expecting to find you leaning against the railing, waving at me with a wide smile plastered on, but you’re not there. Of course not.

I have to keep going.

I manage to make my way through the mass, relishing the fact that each of my footsteps takes me a bit closer to you. Eventually, your directions take me around a bend and into a dark alley, but I’m not afraid, for I trust you. I turn my head and...

And suddenly, you’re there.

You’re just there and I know it’s silly, but it feels so surreal for both of us to be back here where it all started. For all that I tried, I still can’t wrap my head around it.

Slowly, we pause in our step and stand like fools staring at each other, taking in the other, drinking him in.

I take the initiative and walk a bit closer still, covering the remaining distance between us, and walking into your space to stop at what is probably considered too close to be acceptable, but that has always felt like second nature to us. Natural. Right.

Then, instinct moves my hand and, feeling uncharacteristically bold, I reach forward and scratch your chin affectionately like what feels like ages ago. My mind is confused, for my fingers remember the coarse hairs of your beard, yet brush against a silken-smooth skin that feels unaltered through the years, and untouched by the passing of time. For a moment, I search for the handsome, rugged look that I know and that no one wears quite like you, but the youthful beauty that I find, made bare and exposed by the absence of facial hair, frankly, blows me away.

Still, your smile remains the same, and so does the way your eyes crinkle happily when they see me. Just for once, I want to be selfish and think that it’s because it’s me, that your smile doesn’t reach nearly as high with others.

Looking at you, I feel myself getting choked up with emotion, and I can see that you’re holding back the tears, too.

You hide it well—but I can tell. I can always tell.

Maybe later, we’ll each go our separate ways again. Maybe I’ll try to fall asleep, missing your lips, craving your touch.

But that will be then, and this is now.

You’re here.

You’re here, and I’m here with you.