theme: o67. Sunrise.
Thirty days. One month. One-twelfth of a year.
That’s what the doctor had said when she entered her office, sitting at her desk. She had did it in the typical fashion, probably procured in a way to make things… easier on the patient. She would sit there with the folder in her hands, quietly trying to compose herself. And then, when the patient and present family members could no longer take it - the point right before they demanded her for something, she’d place the folder down, lacer her fingers loosely and look up at them with a solemn face and pitying eyes.
One would then assume the mother to burst into tears, the father to get angry - probably turn the anger on the innocent doctor who had tried her best, while the patient would grow quiet, falling into themselves as the news repeated in their mind - the shock of it almost paralyzing.
However, that didn’t happen this time. Instead, both parents and patient thanked the doctor and departed from the office and hospital in silence.
“We’ll get a second opinion,” the mother stated simply from the front seat of the car,
“There’s a specialist in,” then the father would name a city that was unknown to the patient and add, “They’ll be able to do something. Everything will be okay.”
Their sickeningly hopeful attitude over the past few months were irritating, but having them be so towards the patient at this moment, after hearing the news, was down right unbearable.
“Drop me at my dorm,” the patient said quietly, eyes staring at the scenery that passed by,
“But Sungmin-” his mother would begin to argue, “You should come back home with us until we see another doctor-”
“I’m tired of seeing doctors. I’m tired of being in and out of hospitals. I was just told when it would all end, so why try pretending otherwise?” he questioned in a low tone,
“We can fight this!” His father exclaimed, almost angry at his lack of resistance,
He looked at the rear-view mirror, catching his father’s eye, “I’m tired of fighting the impossible.”
“It’s not the impossible!” his father argued with him,
“Dad… please,” Sungmin’s eyes pleaded with him, “I’m tired. Drop me off at the dorm.”
So used to his bright and bubbly personality, Sungmin’s parents were taken aback by his present listlessness. His father, pained to see the begging in his son’s eyes, merely nodded his head and drove on. Sungmin turned his gaze back outside the car window; the rest of the drive was filled in thick silence.
Upon entering the dorm, the other thirteen members were waiting for him in the living room. They knew today would be the day when he found out the result of his months of surgeries and treatment to attack the strange illness that had revealed itself inside Sungmin’s body. He took one look at them and, not having the strength to tell them, disappeared into his bedroom.
The others didn’t know what to do, but Yesung went in after him, closing the door behind him. Sungmin was already curled up on his bed beneath his blankets, slowly falling asleep from actual fatigue. Yesung sat on the edge of his bed and quietly sat there, a hand lying comfortingly on his dongsaeng’s shoulder.
The members did finally hear from Sungmin of the remainder of his lifespan. After the tears, Sungmin requested one thing and that was for all of them to act as if he wasn’t sick at all, that on the thirty-first day he would no longer see them. Struggling at the thought, but wanting to make Sungmin happy, they all complied.
Despite his sickness, Sungmin attended all rehersals, all shows, all performances. His only problem was his strength. He didn’t have the energy anymore to dance or partake in vigorous activities. So, anything that had him on his feet, he sat out of, merely sitting in the sidelines and supporting his friends. Although the others felt bad, he would merely smile and thank them for continuing without him.
When Sungmin told the members of what was to come, while he made them vow something to him, he secretly made a vow to himself. He would show them nothing but his bright side. He would show them the Sungmin they had known for years before he became sick. So, throughout the days, he kept smiling, forgetting he was sick. In the beginning he knew he was forcing the smile, knowing that it didn’t reach his eyes. However, he wasn’t sure when, perhaps on the eighth day, but he no longer had to force himself to smile. Watching the members and just being with them made him happy enough, despite the darkness looming ahead.
On weekends, Sungmin would return home to be with his parents. On the second weekend after the prognosis, they came to terms with how Sungmin wanted to handle the situation. Secretly, they still sought second opinions, third opinions - even seeking out specialists in Paris, Canada and America. Ironically, Sungmin soon realized he had never been happier than when living out his final thirty days of life.
However, while before all others he stayed happy and strong, when no one was around, he allowed himself to be weak. He allowed himself to remember that he was sick - it was during these moments that he let the illusions disappear, let dreary reality rear its ugly head and, in a way, he was grateful. It reminded him that he had a limited time left; it reminded him that life truly was precious.
Unbeknownst to the others, Sungmin prepared a list to complete before he died. Specifically, it was a list compiled of the things he wanted to do for each of his members, his family and his other close friends. It wasn’t anything filled with grandeur or extraordinary gestures, just small things that meant something.
For example, on the eleventh day, he said something that made Kibum smile. When Kibum looked away, Sungmin crossed him off the list. He wanted to be able to make Kibum smile just one more time; there was no other smile as bright as his.
Or on the thirteenth day, Sungmin told Eeteuk that he was a great leader and hyung - something he, nor the others, had ever voiced before. Eeteuk nearly burst into tears, but held it in as he flung his arms around his dongsaeng. Sungmin felt that his hyung should hear it at least once in his life and he wanted to be there when it happened.
Or on the twentieth day, he just asked Kangin for a piggy-back from the park back to the dorm. Kangin complied, albeit confusedly, but it had made Sungmin profusely happy, that Kangin ended up commenting they should do that more often. All Sungmin could do in reply was hug his hyung from behind as he rode on his back.
Or on the twenty-first day when Sungmin suddenly grabbed Yesung in the elevator and kissed him. When Yesung kissed him back before the elevator doors opened on the main floor, Sungmin knew he had made the right decision; even if it wasn’t on his list, it was something he had always wanted to do.
On the twenty-eighth day, Sungmin and the other members spent a quiet day at the dorm in silence. He’d be going home that evening to spend his final day with his family which was quite understandable. Sungmin begged them for no tears and no goodbyes and, even though they agreed, it was obvious by their red eyes and quiet voices that it was difficult. Sungmin was sorry that he asked it of them, but it was for the best, he felt. What they didn’t know was before he left that night, he left a stack of letters under Eeteuk’s pillow to be given out to them on the thirtieth day. He wouldn’t be able to take their goodbyes, but he refused to leave without giving them his.
The twenty-ninth day at home was inevitable for Sungmin. His family cried and when they could cry no more, a tense silence filled the home. They spent the entire day in the living room together, all squashed on one couch. Everyone was tentative of leaving the room for even a second, as if they believed if they left the room for one second, upon return, Sungmin would be gone.
Going to sleep that night was torture. Sungmin sat on the couch watching the television as one by one, his reluctant family members fell asleep, whether it be on the couch or on the floor curled with a cushion in their arms. Once they had all fallen asleep, Sungmin grew tired of watching the show that was on. So, silently he left the house, but not before he left more of his black-ink epistles on the coffee table for them to find in the morning.
In the quiet night, Sungmin walked the empty streets and found himself at the dorm once more. He made his way up in the elevator, entered the dorm as silently as possible. He was startled to find it full. All of the members were sleeping in the living room and adjoining dining area with nothing but blankets and pillows on the floor. He noticed Eeteuk was sleeping on the couch, the phone clutched in his hands to his chest, ready for the inevitable call from Sungmin’s parents.
Sungmin felt a lump form in his throat at the thought of his members. They all stayed together waiting for the news. He breathed steadily, controlling his emotions. Finally, he found the person he was looking for. Carefully stepping around and over bodies, he reached Yesung, fast asleep beneath the dining table. He shook his shoulder gently,
“Yesung, wake up,” he insisted quietly. After a few more minutes of shaking and talking, Yesung finally opened his eyes,
“Sungmin!” He gasped, sitting up suddenly only to have his head meet violently with the table above him. He cursed silently as he held his head with both hands. When the pain dissipated he opened his eyes and looked out at Sungmin again. He came out from under the table and immediately pulled him into a tight embrace, “What are you doing here? I thought you were going to stay with your parents until…”
Sungmin shook his head, “I said my goodbyes.”
“So why are you here? You said your goodbyes here too,” Yesung said, almost bitterly, his arms dropping from him,
Sungmin noticed then the envelope that was peeping out from beneath Yesung’s pillow, “It was the easiest way.”
“For who? For you?” Yesung hissed in a low tone, so as not to wake up the others. “You think it was easy for us not to say goodbye?”
Sungmin lowered his head, fighting the hot tears that threatened to fall, “Please hyung… I didn’t come back to argue with you.”
Seeing the slight tremble in Sungmin’s shoulder and the crack in his voice, Yesung immediately apologized, pulling him back into his arms, “You’re right… I’m sorry. But if you didn’t want us to say goodbye, why did you come back? Not that I’m complaining on seeing you again before…”
“There’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do with you… and… and it’s the last thing on my list,” Sungmin admitted quietly. He pulled away from Yesung and pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket.
Yesung took it, unfolding it curiously. It was obvious from the creases that the paper had been unfolded and folded several times. He looked at the list written, each sentence crossed out - all except for the first one. With nothing but moonlight to see, Yesung brought it closer to his eyes, making sure he was not mistaking the neat script written before him. Finally, he lowered it and looked into Sungmin’s eyes and nodded. Picking up his blanket, Yesung took Sungmin’s hand and silently led him out of the dorm and into the elevator.
They remained in silence as they rode the elevator up until the roof. When they got up there, Yesung looked around them, his eyes calculating something. Finally, he led Sungmin to the west side of the rooftop and plopped down with his back to the fence surrounding the roof’s edge. Sungmin sat beside him, both of them facing towards the east,
“Perfect spot to see the sunrise,” Yesung stated as he unfolded his blanket and laid it before them on their laps as he stretched an arm behind Sungmin’s back and pulled him closer.
Sungmin sighed as he leaned his head against the crook of Yesung’s shoulder, “Thank you, hyung.”
Yesung looked down at Sungmin, “You haven’t slept yet have you?” Sungmin shook his head, “Sleep for a bit… I’ll wake you up when the sun starts to rise.”
Sungmin complacently closed his eyes, sighing peacefully again, snuggling up closer to Yesung before falling promptly asleep. As the night wore on, Yesung pulled the blanket up to go over their shoulders and Sungmin, although asleep, instinctively moved even closer to him.
As the first few rays of light kissed the sky, breaking through the darkness, Yesung began to shake Sungmin gently, “Min, wake up, the sun’s starting to rise.” He continued a moment until suddenly Sungmin slumped forward. “Min? MIN!” Yesung held his torso over his lap, his fingers trembling as they touched the side of his face; it was cold. “MIN!” He called desperately as tear drops fell onto Sungmin’s cheeks, rolling down his serene visage.
Yesung pulled him closer to his heart, clutching him tightly as he whispered, “Saranghamnida, Sungmin.”
Sungmin blinked, looking around curiously at his environment, had he dozed off? He looked at his parents who sat on either side of him in the doctor’s office. He pinked immediately, “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” the doctor insisted from her chair as she looked up at him, a smile on her face, “it’s common for patients to blank out a bit when they’re told such good news.”
Sungmin blinked again, he was told good news? “But, what about the thirty days?”
The doctor looked at him peculiarly, “What thirty days?”
“Didn’t you say I only had… wait - good news?” Sungmin exclaimed,
His parents looked at each other then at him, “Yes, Sungmin, the doctor just told us the virus is completely gone,” his mother said hesitantly,
“Are you feeling alright?” His father asked tentatively, “You… ARE feeling alright, yes?”
Suddenly a smile tugged on his face and he nodded, “Better than alright.”
In the car, his parents were chatting happily about the good news and of how they needed to celebrate,
“Ah, but I have to go to the dorm first!” Sungmin exclaimed, “they’re all waiting for me!”
His mother turned in her seat and grinned, “We’ll all go out and celebrate, son. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s over. It’s finally all over.”
“We’ll stop at the dorm so you can tell them and invite them out for lunch with us,” his father prompted as they neared the building.
Sungmin practically jumped from the car before it even pulled to a complete stop. Dashing through the lobby, he pressed the ‘up’ button several times as if it would make the elevator move faster. The doors opened and he bolted in. On the ride up, his newfound happiness suddenly receded for just a moment. If everything had just been a reverie as they were waiting in the doctor’s office, then nothing with Yesung had happened.
“So we’re still just friends,” Sungmin muttered as he slumped against the wall, stuffing his fists into his pockets.
Suddenly, he felt something that wasn’t there before. He pulled out a worn-out, folded piece of paper. Opening it up, he was shocked to see the list he had created, but this time, nothing had been crossed out. Rereading the list, a smile tugged at Sungmin’s lips; had he been given a second chance? He no longer needed death at his door to convince him, he knew now what a gift life was and that he couldn’t waste a second of it. His eyes scanned back up the page to the first thing on the list, it would be the first thing he would do:
Watch the sun rise with the one I love.