theme: o23. Tears.
(Sequel to Forever Theirs)
Something in him had changed. It had begun in the fall, and progressed slowly. However, it wasn’t until the end of November when it became so evident. He had always been so stiff in life, so stressful. He was a busy-body, always moving. But by the time the first snow fall came, he was not the same Yesung that Shiwon had known through all their years as friends.
After autumn had passed, Shiwon noticed the differences. Yesung had become more free in life, more calm. He was still the same busy-body as he always was, what with university life and all, but he had learned to stop. He had learned to just stand still and appreciate things around him.
If Shiwon were asked to pinpoint the exact moment when Yesung had begun to change, he wouldn’t be able to answer. What he would say, however, would be the night when he was first able to notice the change and why the change had happened.
It was the final Friday of November and Yesung was nowhere to be found. Earlier that day in class, Shiwon had asked him for help later that evening and Yesung absent-mindedly agreed to it. As Shiwon waited in the empty classroom after classes had ended, he soon realized that Yesung’s reply of “Yeah, sure” had not been casual, but more of a brush off.
Shiwon sighed heavily and left the classroom after an hour and half of waiting. Packing up his bags and slinging the strap over his shoulder, he left the university with a bitter heart. The wind had picked up since the morning, nipping at exposed skin. He shoved his hands into his jeans’ pockets and briskly walked towards the apartment he rented since the beginning of university.
After five minutes of walking in the fresh air, he realized that he hadn’t dressed as warm as he should have that morning. With resentful resolve, he decided to cut through the park to get home. Usually on Friday’s he took the long way home because he’d be able to pass all the small stores as he went; see other people; and sometimes he just liked the half hour walk home because he was able to think. However, that last Friday of November, he wasn’t given that luxury. Sure, he’d get home twenty minutes earlier, but he had been looking forward to seeing if any of the stores had sales that afternoon.
He was a few minutes down the park path - cursing Yesung for making him wait for nothing and convincing himself that because of Yesung he had to leave school when the temperature dropped, thus preventing him from browsing the shops on the long way home - when he chanced upon Yesung. He stopped in his tracks and clenched his fists. Shiwon moved to storm up to him and give him a piece of his mind when he saw it.
Shiwon first saw one tear fall from Yesung’s eye. Then more followed; a waterfall of tears poured forth from the youth’s sorrow filled eyes. Shiwon stood there quietly, suddenly unaware of the cold, as he watched Yesung. His friend was sitting on one side of a park bench, a book opened in his lap. Shiwon couldn’t tell what kind of book it was, but the more Yesung stared at it, the more he cried. Suddenly, Yesung flipped to the back of the book.
Shiwon felt his heart break when - for the first time in their thirteen years of friendship - Yesung cried out. He closed the book, but clutched it to his chest as he sobbed uncontrollably, completely unaware - or perhaps apathetic - to his surroundings. Shiwon glanced around and noticed mothers who turned their children down a path away from Yesung and people who walked by the park bench, staring and whispering. His fists clenched inside his pockets as an urge to protect his hyung came over him.
He walked over to him, standing before him, staring down anyone who so much as looked in their direction. Yesung didn’t so much as flinch at his presence, so overcome with grief was he. Once no one was around, Shiwon turned around to face Yesung,
“Hyung? Come on,” Shiwon insisted quietly, reaching out for Yesung’s arms.
Yesung shook him off, “You can’t be here!” He exclaimed angrily, his eyes narrowed despite the tears that continued to flow, “You’re not allowed!”
Shiwon made to sit next to him, “But hyung, I can’t-”
Yesung jumped to his feet and, with both hands, shoved Shiwon away before he was able to even touch the bench seat. Startled at the sudden defence, Shiwon stumbled backwards, regaining his balance right before he fell.
“I said you can’t be here!” Yesung grounded out, his breaths coming in staggered intervals, his arms tightly crossed over the book - a sketchbook, Shiwon was able to notice - at his chest.
“It’s just a park bench, Yesung,” Shiwon stated calmly,
“It’s not! It’s not JUST a park bench! It’s ours!” Yesung was screaming now, his face reddening at the effort as his knuckles whitened with his increase of grip on the book.
“What do you mean ‘ours’? Whose?” Shiwon asked hesitantly, anxious to calm him down.
“MINE and HIS!” Yesung replied angrily, flinging an arm towards the empty seat beside him, “Mine… and… his…” Yesung began to tremble as he turned to look at the vacant space. His words shook as he plopped down into his seat again, “Mine… and…” he flung himself across the other side of the bench as he cried out, “his…”
Shiwon stood there silently, watching over Yesung protectively. He didn’t want to chance being pushed away again, but he didn’t want to leave him; so he just stood there. Yesung’s body was wracked with sobs as he sat on the bench, his torso twisted to cover the empty side. When his voice gave out and all there was, was his body shaking from silent crying, Shiwon closed the distance between them, kneeling before him. With little effort, he made Yesung accept his comfort, and pulled him into his arms.
It took Shiwon half an hour to pull Yesung - physically, pull - away from that bench, still crying. He brought him back to his apartment and led him to the bedroom. Yesung’s body relished in the soft mattress, but his heart didn’t give a damn. Shiwon sat on the edge of the bed, a hand on Yesung’s back as he cried himself to sleep. When Shiwon woke up on the couch the next morning, Yesung was long gone.
For a week Shiwon saw nothing of Yesung. They had two classes together and Yesung attended none of them. Out of worry and desperation, Shiwon even went to the park every day between classes to look for Yesung. He realized from the past Friday that the particular park bench where he found Yesung, had some special significance, so he would go there; but Yesung was no where to be found.
Apparently, the moment the sun rose on that past Saturday morning, Yesung had become completely unreachable. The door to his own apartment was locked and none of his neighbours from the building had seen him. His home phone wasn’t being answered, his cellular was turned off and Shiwon was sure that the fifty-two messages he had left on the answering machine remained unheard. Several times during the week Shiwon found himself in his apartment dialling the number for Yesung’s parents’ house, but before he pressed the last number, he’d always hang up. Something in his gut told him Yesung was not in his parents’ home and, if he assumed correctly, the last thing he wanted to do was upset his parents.
It was after class let out for the weekend on the Friday after he last saw Yesung, that Shiwon decided to try his apartment one more time. Best case scenario, he break down the door himself and find Yesung in hibernation. Worst case scenario, he break down the door himself and find Yesung in a pool of his own… Shiwon shuddered at the thought and pushed all dark thoughts and fears from his mind. With a newfound resolve to find his friend, Shiwon made his way to Yesung’s apartment, but not before taking a quick detour through the park to check the bench.
It took Shiwon ten minutes to get into Yesung’s apartment. He had tried ramming the door with his shoulder, even disassembled a pen to use the smaller parts to pick the lock. And when all else failed, he found the building janitor for a key, insisting he had forgotten his key at home that morning.
Once in the apartment, Shiwon found himself completely shrouded in darkness. The window curtains were drawn, the patio blinds were shut securely, it was completely void of light. When he found the light switch for the living room, he almost regretted breaking the darkness. Beer bottles were everywhere: strewn about the floor, lined up on shelves, stuck in crevices in the couch and even shattered about the room in places - Shiwon realized worriedly - close to the walls.
He fought all instincts to scream when he found Yesung sitting in an armchair in the living room. He was dressed in clean clothes, so neatly that Shiwon could still see the pressed lines of a shirt that was heavily starched and tightly folded. His hair was brushed to perfection, not a single hair out of place. His posture couldn’t have been better, still and ramrod straight despite the comfy chair where it was situated. He had his arms on the armrests, his hands conformed to the ends of the rests.
Shiwon approached him hesitantly, kicking and sidestepping bottles along the way. When he walked around the couch to stand before him, Shiwon realized that Yesung had a paper in his hand, and the same sketchbook from before in his lap,
“Yesung-sshi?” Shiwon began tentatively as he gingerly put down his bag on the couch. “Are you drunk?”
“I’m more sober than I have ever been,” Yesung said. His voice was clear and strong and his tone was flat, however, Shiwon could feel a sad undercurrent to his words; “He’s gone…”
“This… this person, is it the ‘him’ you mentioned before?” Shiwon asked.
As if in a trance, eyes staring straight ahead, he raised the paper up for Shiwon. Shiwon took it and read silently:
Dear Kim Yesung,
I know my brother said his goodbyes to you in his sketchbook, but I felt it my duty as his sister to write to you. My brother died last night as he was falling asleep. He said his goodnights to our parents and after two breaths, he was gone. His last week we tried to keep as normal and simple and as happy as possible. However, I soon realized that the only thing that would liven him up was when I asked him about you. He would smile often during those moments.
The wake will be on Monday and then my brother will be buried on Wednesday. It’ll be a private service for just family and his closets of friends. Although he didn’t know you for long, I felt it right to invite you since you were the one he loved. Enclosed in this envelope will be details and directions for both the wake and funeral. Despite the sadness of the circumstances, I do hope to see you. From his words, it seems you’ve seen a side of Kyuhyun no one else has, and I thank you for awakening that side of him.
One last thing I want to say before I end this letter: up until his final moments, my brother thought of you. Before he went to sleep that night, he told me “Do you think tomorrow will be a nice day? I hope so, then Yesung can enjoy sitting on our park bench.”
He loved you deeply and I thank you for being in his life.
“When did you get this?” Shiwon asked as he looked up from the letter after finishing it,
“It was slipped beneath my door early this morning. I guess she found my address in the school registry,” Yesung replied in the same misleading monotone as before. He looked down at the book in his lap and with graceful movements, opened up the book to its first page.
Shiwon stood there a moment, admiring the drawings despite them being upside down. If the sketchbook had belonged to Kyuhyun - as he surmised - then this person was extremely talented. However, Shiwon noticed as Yesung quietly turned the pages, giving each drawing individual, silent praise, that there was no complete drawing. Each page was filled with pieces of things: tip of a leaf; eye of a person - someone old from the surrounding wrinkles; thread in some sort of stitched pattern; the wing of some kind of fowl. Before Yesung reached the end of the book, he closed it slowly with care.
“Excuse me, I find myself in deep need of sleep,” Yesung said as he brushed past him and disappeared into his bedroom.
Shiwon prayed that Yesung wouldn’t disappear again, but he didn’t. This time, however, he only disappeared until the following Wednesday. At the end of his first class, Shiwon was thoroughly startled to find Yesung out in the hallway waiting for him, the sketchbook in his hands as always. Yesung looked up at him and then walked away. He didn’t need to say anything, the look in his reddened eyes told Shiwon to follow. It took Shiwon about five steps to realize where he was following Yesung to. And when they got outside and he followed his hyung into a taxi that was soon directed to a cemetery, his guesses were confirmed.
When they arrived at the cemetery, Shiwon made to move towards where a small group of black-clad people stood before a grave, but Yesung stopped him.
“Yesung, you should be there,” Shiwon argued,
“No. Those people knew him all his life, I knew him for a mere few weeks. I don’t deserve to stand before his grave with them,” Yesung stated, the monotone he had adopted last Friday returning,
“But even his sister said you’re the one he loved,” Shiwon reminded exasperatedly,
Yesung leaned against a nearby tree as they watched from afar. “It’s better this way,” Yesung said finally, “I’m a part of his life that no one knew, save his sister… and in a way, I like it like that because it’s more private… more intimate… more just ours.”
They stood together , watching the small ceremony. They didn’t wait long before the pastor closed his book and made a cross in the air; those present crossing themselves simultaneously. Slowly, very slowly, they walked away from the gravesite. It was a whole hour before all friends and family had dispersed and once they did, then - and only then - did Yesung push off from the trunk of the leafless tree and head over to the grave.
For the first time, Shiwon was finally able to put a name to the letter: Jo Kyuhyun. He turned to look at Yesung, but he was already kneeling beside the gravestone, his head bowed in silence, the sketchbook lay forgotten behind him on the decaying grass.
He felt guilty for prying, but his curiosity peaked and he picked up the book, flipping to the final page. It had been this page that had completely affected Yesung one week ago on the park bench. If what was on the first page - a letter, Shiwon caught sight of - had hurt Yesung, it was the last page that broke him. And when Shiwon saw it, he knew why.
On the final page of the book was a completed drawing of none other than Yesung.
When Yesung finally stood up, he looked for the book and was only slightly startled to see it in Shiwon’s hands. Shiwon half-expected a fight, especially after he tried to sit on the bench - on Kyuhyun’s side, he assumed. However, Yesung glanced at the drawing, a distant look in his eyes before he turned his gaze back to the gravestone.
“Who was he to you?” Shiwon asked, his eyes following his hyung’s; he was childhood friends with Yesung and had never heard the name ‘Kyuhyun’ before.
“He was… is… the love of my life.” Yesung declared in a quiet, strong tone as the tears flowed freely down his face. “Thank you for coming with me.”
All Shiwon could do in reply was close the beloved sketchbook and pass it over to Yesung’s waiting hands. They stood there silently a moment before Shiwon placed a hand on his shoulder. Yesung looked back at him and nodded his understanding; it was time to say goodbye. Shiwon walked away first, feeling as if he never should’ve been there in the first place because, of course, the less that knew of the love between the two, the more it was just theirs.
He walked until he reached the tree where they had been waiting by before, glancing back periodically to make sure Yesung was alright. When he reached the tree, he wanted to give the couple the privacy they deserved, so he averted his eyes. He looked away just as Yesung touched his forefinger and middle finger to his lips then brought that hand to touch the gravestone.
“Until we meet again, I’ll be waiting my love, ” Yesung murmured warmly as his fingers, warm from his kiss, slipped away from the cold granite; “On our park bench.”