I stood by the edge of the railing, looking out at the parked planes through the floor-to-ceiling windowpane. With a cup of overpriced coffee in one hand and my glasses fogging up under the heat of my mask, I looked around, my heart pounding and a knot tightening in the pit of my guts at the thought I might be too late. Just as I had almost let anxiety consume my brain, I saw him. I saw him walking through the sliding glass doors. I saw him wearing that jacket he gave me last winter on the bus home. I saw him rolling that grey suitcase filled with all the memories of our future, which have now become our past.
“Hyung!”, I called out as I waved my hand out at him, smiling as I tried my hardest not to let any tears fall. Approaching me, he gave me his signature, brotherly smile, towering over me as he ruffled my soft hair.
“Did I keep you waiting?”, he asked. In all honesty, he had. He had kept me waiting for almost an hour, yet that was purely out of my own anxiety. Anxiety that today may be the very last day I’d ever see him.
I’d sent away numerous friends in the past few years. Some finished their degrees and went back to Korea for work, some went back to serve their mandatory military service. Whatever the reason was, I’d been able to accept it. Sure, it was sad, but they were simply moving onto the next chapter of their lives, and so was I. But this time, things were different, because instead of moving onto the next chapter of our lives, we were being forced to tear apart the remaining pages. Borders were closing all over the world, people were scrambling to see their friends and family, and COVID-19 had just been declared a pandemic.
I always knew I’d be sad when he left: he was my first love. It’s always embarrassing to say those words, but they rang true. He was the first person who had ever made my heart flutter at the thought of seeing him, keeping me up all night listening to love songs, and teaching me what both love and pain truly meant. Of course, I never dared to even whisper of these thoughts near him. It was a secret I knew I’d take to my grave, and perhaps even beyond.
Walking with him to the check-in line felt fast yet slow. I found myself analysing every step he took, wanting to leap forward and grab him as if to take him back. Thoughts ran back and forth in my mind. Perhaps it was time to let him go and move on? Perhaps I’d see him again in a few years once all this was over? Or perhaps we’d never meet again, and these were the final minutes I’d ever get to spend with him alive?
As the lady at the counter handed him his ticket, I walked over to the security entrance, preparing myself to say goodbye. Without a word, he put down his bags and spread out his arms, shooting me another one of his signature smiles. And that was it. In that moment, a year’s worth of tears flooded from my eyes as I buried myself into his embrace, though not a sound escaped my lips. Feeling my head sink into his chest, I closed my eyes as his arms wrapped around my back, cherishing his warmth like a wolf stuck in a blizzard.
“Hey, why are you crying? It’s alright, buddy. You’ll be alright”, he said with a chuckle as he patted my back.
I don’t really remember what I said back to him, the words drowned in tears. I watched as he made his way down the escalator, smiling up at me and waving before he disappeared through the security gates. I tried to remind myself that everything happens for a reason.
I’m sitting by the Christmas tree, wondering how he’s spending his Christmas. Wondering if he’s quit smoking yet. Wondering if he still loves Blackpink as much as he used to. Wondering if things could’ve been different.
This work is supported by MAV, as part of their 2022 Ahead of the Curve Commissions.