theme: o21. Park benches.
It was a cool autumn day when Yesung decided to go for a walk through the park. Ever since he started University, it had been a long time since he was able to just relax and have some time to himself. He had finished all the things he had to do the night before, so, that Friday afternoon while others were out enjoying themselves, he opted for taking a walk in the park. After an hour of circling the park, he felt the need to rest, coming to a stop at a park bench occupied by only one person.
“Excuse me, is it okay if I sit down?” Yesung asked the young man.
Startled at the sudden voice, the young man looked up from the notebook in his lap, “Eh? Oh yes, of course, of course,” He said, sliding down the bench a bit to make room for Yesung.
Yesung sat down, an audible breath leaving his lips as he relaxed against the bench. He stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets as a crisp wind blew past. Just sitting there, he found his mind racing of things he had to do when he got back to the apartment. Sure, he was done his work for the week, but he had six assignments to finish by next week, three tests in a few days. Shaking his head, he focused his mind on his surroundings. No matter what he did, if it was just a quiet walk in the park, or peacefully sitting on a park bench, he couldn’t calm his mind down, he couldn’t get rid of the stress of daily life.
Looking for something else to occupy his mind, he furtively glanced at his companion. He sat there, one leg crossed over the other, his notebook - which turned out to be a drawing book of some kind - propped on his lap as his hand guided the pencil in smooth strokes. Yesung, in attempt to be discreet, only looked from the corner of his eyes, so he was unable to make out what he was drawing.
“It’s that leaf on the ground,” the other’s voice said in a calm and clear way. He looked up at Yesung, “it’s okay, I can feel it when others watch me draw.” He moved his arm and tilted the sketchbook so Yesung could see it more clearly, “what do you think?”
“It’s good - really good!” Yesung commented, shocked that such a realistic drawing came from one so young.
“Eh? You think?” he looked at his own drawing, a small smile coming to his lips, “Thank you.”
“Can I see more of your drawings?” Yesung ventured. He wasn’t sure why, but something about his companion made him feel at ease, made him forget about the stresses that awaited him away from this park bench.
“Eh… I never let other people see my drawings…” He admitted. However, upon seeing the slight drop in Yesung’s expression conceded, “But there’s a first time for everything.” With that, he handed over his sketchbook.
Yesung started at the beginning and began perusing through the drawings. His eyes went over ever line, ever minute detail of each drawing which increased in realism as he neared the more recent drawings. “These are amazing, it feels like I’m seeing a photograph rather than a drawing - no, seeing it in real life. You’ve got real talent!” Yesung looked up and smiled at him, “I’m Yesung, by the way.”
The other stretched out his hand as his cheeks pinked from the compliments, “I’m Kyuhyun. Thank you.”
And it was that first meeting that began their make-shift friendship. Every Friday after finishing his work, Yesung would leave his apartment and head over to the park. As if on cue, he’d approach the bench where Kyuhyun always sat. He’d slide down for Yesung to sit and the two would sit in a companionable silence until one of them thought of something to talk about. Sometimes it would be Yesung, talking of school, his work, his teachers; and sometimes it would be Kyuhyun, talking of the curve in a particular detail he couldn’t get right, of losing inspiration. They were completely different, Yesung realized, and yet they always managed to find a common ground between one another.
“How come you never draw a full picture?” Yesung asked one day.
Kyuhyun looked up quizzically for him to elaborate. Ever since their first meeting, Yesung was never permitted to see his drawings. He never inquired why, just accepted it as Kyuhyun‘s wishes. It never bothered Yesung too much, from what he could see, Kyuhyun was always just drawing bits and pieces of things.
“Well, the first time we met, you drew just the tip of a leaf… the other drawings in your book, the eye of an old woman, the stitching of a baseball, the wing of a duck. And the other week you were just drawing a nose - sorry, I caught a glance when I sat down. You always draw parts of things, never the whole being.” Yesung explained,
Kyuhyun thought a moment before answering. He closed his book on his lap, “I guess it’s because I prefer to concentrate on the smaller things in life. It’s easier, less stressful.”
“But if you don’t look at the big picture, you might not end up where you want,” Yesung argued amicably,
“I never said I don’t look at the big picture, I said I prefer to concentrate on the smaller details. It’s the smaller - less significant things that make the big picture. Who knows where I’ll end up, but at least I’ll enjoy the way there,” Kyuhyun commented,
“Aren’t you ever scared of getting lost?” Yesung inquired, a noticeable tremble in his voice,
“Of course, who isn’t? But getting lost is inevitable, so why try avoiding it?” Kyuhyun countered, “Life is full of small things that make bigger things. I prefer to concentrate on the smaller things and you prefer to look at the bigger things - but in the end, we’re the same. We’re both trying to live our lives as best and as enjoyable as we can,” He ended with a smile as bright as the autumn sun before opening his book and drawing once more.
Yesung could do nothing more than nod at his friend’s wisdom. He had always felt that it should be the dongsaengs to learn from the hyungs, yet here he was: a university student sitting on a park bench, learning about life from a boy still in high school.
The last Friday in November, Yesung found him heavily craving for the reprieve of the park bench. Finishing two tests that day and handing in three assignments, he was in much need of the rest and relaxation he only found when sitting in the park with Kyuhyun. He found it odd that he found solace with Kyuhyun - whether it be because the boy was three years younger or if it were because his friend was male - that he didn’t feel around his other friends or even his family members. Despite all reason, Kyuhyun held a place in Yesung’s heart that he couldn’t quite define and decided to leave it abstract just like how the boy lived life.
After nearing their usual park bench, Yesung was peeved to find the person on the bench not Kyuhyun at all, instead, it was a young girl, a book and rose in her arms, expectantly waiting for someone. Yesung sighed and continued through the park, perhaps Kyuhyun chanced upon this girl as well and decided to sit somewhere else that day. Before she completely left his sight, Yesung looked back, she looked familiar to him. She looked too young to be at his school, let alone his classes. The rare chance he met anyone from his home town here in Seoul seemed to farfetched and yet, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he knew her from somewhere.
After circling the park two times, Yesung let out a frustrated sigh; Kyuhyun was no where in sight. To top it off when he wanted nothing more than to at least sit down on their park bench, that infuriating girl was sitting there, still waiting for her lover - Yesung had assumed after the first lap around the park - who seemed to be at least two hours late.
Finally giving up on his search, and just wanting to at least sit on the bench - despite the foreign presence - Yesung approached the girl, “Excuse me, is it okay if I sit?” He inquired. When she nodded and moved for him to have some space, Yesung thanked her and sat there quietly. Despite his polite words and manner, secretly, Yesung resented the girl. She had no right to be on their bench and - if anything - it should be HER asking to sit, not HIM.
What upset him even more was her voice. When he heard it, he felt a tug on his heart - had she been one of his past girlfriends? He glanced sideways and decided against it. She looked too young for his taste, but yet why did his heart react to her voice? Perhaps she was one of the many little sisters of his friends that sported crushes on him when he grew up. He glanced again, trying to see if he could see any resemblances in her face to any of his friends. Giving up, he looked ahead at his surroundings, purposefully blocking her out.
As he sat their quietly, wondering where his friend would be, Yesung realized how tense the girl sat, how anxiously she looked left and right for this love of hers to appear. She clutched the book to her protectively and held onto the rose so tightly, he was sure she was bleeding from its thorns. Perhaps this love was her first, so she stayed there most loyally, not knowing any better. For the first time since seeing the girl, he felt pity for her, perhaps it was his time to enlighten the dongsaeng as they sat there.
“Er… are you waiting for someone?” Yesung asked, breaking the silence.
Startled by his voice, she nodded, “Eh… yes.”
“You’ve been sitting here for over two hours and it’s getting cold, isn’t it time you start heading home? Your friend is quite late,” Yesung suggested as nicely as possible.
“Eh, if I could leave so easily, I would have done so hours ago, but I can’t. I must meet this person,” She explained, a strange strength coursing through her words.
Immediately, Yesung was drawn to her voice again. She was affecting his heart and memory with reasons he still didn’t understand. “Who is this person, if you don’t mind me asking? For them to make you wait for two hours is quite cruel.”
“They don’t know I’m waiting for them actually… but I was told they come here ever Friday to this bench,” she explained quietly, “Kim Yesung.”
Yesung’s eyes widened, “You… you were waiting for me?”
She blinked at him with doe-eyes, “You’re Kim Yesung?” She peered at him to almost the point of being rude when a light of realization entered her eyes, “Of course! How could I not have realized it sooner! You look just like your picture!”
He cocked his head in confusion, “My picture?”
She nodded before handing him the book and rose, “I was charged to give this to you, Mr. Kim.” She explained in a trembling voice. With that, she rose and made to leave.
“Wait!” He read the name at the front of the book, “How do you know Kyuhyun? And why are you giving me this?”
“He asked me to give it to you… I… I can’t speak for him, just, open the book,” she insisted before saying her farewells and hurrying off.
Saturated in disbelief, Yesung looked down at the book in his lap: it was the sketchbook Kyuhyun always kept with him. He was surprised that he was given it, especially since Kyuhyun never let him see it after that first Friday months ago. He looked up just as the girl completely disappeared from his view. Startled, he looked back down at the book and opened it. Helpless as to what to do next, he read the inscription on the inside cover. Kyuhyun’s words were there, written in his neat print:
My dear Yesung,
I must begin by apologizing for not being completely honest with you, when you have been nothing but honest with me. I had always come to this park to find a peace I could not find at home. Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer this past summer, my home life became hectic and stressful. So, I came to the park to escape. It was in this park that I met you, my friend.
I never had expectations of becoming friends with you, nor never expected to become as close to you as we have become. It is with a heavy heart and conscience that I say my final goodbyes to you through this letter. As cowardly as this seems, I did not want you to see me as I am now. I want you to remember me as you knew me during our time together. The doctors don’t give me longer than a week more, so I sent my little sister to give you my sketchbook - the olive branch that began our friendship.
It is at the end that I wish to say things I’ve wanted to say since the beginning but never did. You are a great friend, although you may not realize it, you brought a solace to my life that I could not find with my other friends, nor even my family. You cleared my head of all other shadows in my life and kept me in the light. I know you always thought my way of thinking, of living seemed too abstract, too unstable; what I never told you was that I never thought or lived like that outside of this park, away from this park bench, far from you. The organized way you lived your school life - despite how much stress it gave you - brought an odd sort of organization to my own life. I was able to sort through demons I didn’t dare face prior to meeting you; and because of that, I was able to think and live freer than I have ever been.
So, it is with what I learned from you, that I now give you advice. It is fine to be organized in life; to have stresses; to look at the big picture. However, as you go on in life, never forget to live spontaneously; to relax; to pay attention to detail. Lastly, I ask you this one last thing - no, I beg of you this final request: never forget me.
May you have a happy and easy life Yesung. I love you in more ways than one, in some ways that others may deem wrong, but all the same, I love you. Thank you for everything you have brought to my life, that you have done for my life. Because of you, I can leave this world with a heart full of love and a smile on my face.
Your eternal, loving dongsaeng;
By the time Yesung’s eyes read his name at the bottom of the inside cover, a veil of tears blurred his vision. It suddenly made sense. The girl had been Kyuhyun's sister. She looked like him, sounded like him. How could his heart realize this before he did? As if another force moved his hands, he went to the last page of the book, eager to see the last drawing Kyuhyun ever created. He felt the last bit of his weak heart break when he found himself looking at a drawing of his own face. In neat script near the bottom was a small message: I wanted it to be a surprise.
Suddenly, not caring the time or place of where he was, Yesung let out a loud cry, the tears cascading with no end in sight. He sat at their park bench for hours, sobbing uncontrollably as he clutched the notebook to his heart.
After that last Friday of November, Yesung continued to visit the park every Friday. Without any justification or reason, he would still expect to see Kyuhyun sitting at their bench: one leg crossed over the other, his sketchbook propped on his lap as he bent over, concentrating on his latest creation. And every time, his heart would break at the realization he wasn’t there. Despite, the familiar sadness and ache that would come to him every time he reached their familiar spot, he would sit down on the bench. Not in the centre, but off to the side, as if it Kyuhyun would appear, he’d have space to sit.
He relaxed against the bench as he always did, his hands stuffed into his jacket pockets as a crisp wind engulfed him. Finished with that week’s work, he sat there in a quiet calmness, not allowing himself to think of the next week’s stresses. Instead, his mind was full of thoughts and memories of the companion he would share that bench with, those previous Fridays so long ago. Regardless of being alone, he would sit there, refusing others the spot that was obviously vacant. Yesung would sit there and think. And remember. And love.
All the while, sitting on their park bench.
(For the sequel: One Last Kiss)