“Write me letters,” she said. “It’ll be fun,” she said.
So I decided to try writing those letters. Now you can’t say I didn’t do what I promised. You win the bet. I write the letters like some lovesick puppy.
Okay, fine. I can feel you rolling your eyes as you read this, so I’ll try to cut down on the sarcasm. I bet you’re surprised I’m doing it, huh? I figured now’s as good a time as any. I didn’t write when you wanted me to, but better late than never I guess?
Anyway, I gotta go, you can tell me how bad this letter is on a scale of one to terrible when I see you next week.
P.S. You like the stationery? I figured if I’m gonna write a letter, I should do it on the pretty paper I stole from your desk.
* * *
Can you believe it’s my last semester at university? It seems like just yesterday you and I visited here, and you made it a point to decorate my dorm room because you didn’t want to visit a place with bare walls and boring furniture. Speaking of, I’m bringing my roommate Jimin with me on our picnic tomorrow, hope you don’t mind. The guy won’t leave his room after fighting with Taehyung, so I figured I’d drag him along.
I know three’s a crowd, but you two always get along so well I’m sure I’ll end up being the third wheel, haha. Anyway, yeah, I’m no good at this. We’ll see you tomorrow.
* * *
How’s it going? I joined a new dance studio today. It’s just me, Jimin, Taehyung, Jungkook, and about 10 other guys. There are a lot of girls there, too, but don’t worry. I’ve only got eyes for you. They can’t dance as well as you can, anyway.
We all went out for drinks after practice today, and guess who I ran into? Felix! Remember him? The scrawny Aussie exchange student? That boy has glowed up now! He’s probably a good foot taller than before, and he’s quite the flirt, judging from how many of the girls blushed while talking to him today. I’m pretty sure he got almost all their numbers.
And by the way, this is still hard to do. I wonder how those famous guys did it. I barely know what to write.
* * *
My dearest Essie,
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date—”*
Oh, forget it. I’m no Shakespeare, and you know it. Remember when I fell asleep in our British Lit class, and the teacher called on me to answer a question? I can’t believe you tricked me into reciting this poem. I looked like a total idiot! I guess I can’t be too mad about it because at least you felt so bad that you agreed to go on a date with me (even though I ended up covered in spaghetti sauce after).
We were going over this poem in class today, and it reminded me of that time. I have to write a paper on it, but I don’t want to. I guess this is what I get for pushing a first-year class to my fourth year, huh? I’ll need to borrow your notes on this sonnet ‘cause I really don’t wanna do this.
P.S. I think I’m getting better at this. . . right?
* * *
Ma chérie Essie,
Je t’aime. Je suis impatient de vous revoir. Je. . .
Sorry, I tried. My French exam was today, and my brain is fried. (Hey, that rhymed!) I’ve never been good at French like you. I wonder how you’ve always been able to pick up languages so easily.
I’m so tired. I had to stage a mini intervention just to get Taehyung and Jimin to talk to each other. Seriously, those kids are so dramatic. Why would you stop talking to your best friend for weeks all because of a dumpling? Yeesh. Anyway, it worked, thankfully. Those two are best friends again, and Taehyung is hogging my bed as they watch a movie, that brat. I’m stuck at my desk while my own bed is taken over by someone else. This is what my life has come to.
* * *
How’s it going? How’s your mom doing? My parents came to visit today. I didn’t realise how much I missed them until I picked them up from the airport. Mom made sweet rice cakes, just how she did when we were kids. Remember that time you ate so much you got a stomachache?
I’ll bring some with me when I see you again. I know how much you like them.
She’s about to make dinner, so I’m gonna go help her. See you soon!
* * *
Happy Valentine’s Day! I know it’s not time for my weekly letter, but this is a special occasion. I’ll keep this simple; I know you’ve never liked all the extra pomp and circumstance this holiday brings.
Remember 3 years ago when I confessed that I loved you for the first time? I was so nervous, I could barely look you in the eye that day. I planned to confess in the morning, but I chickened out and found all kinds of ways to avoid you until you confronted me that evening. Seeing you worriedly asking me if you had done anything wrong made my heart ache because I hadn’t realised that was how you’d interpreted my actions. Looking back, it made sense that you’d think that way. It hit me that I just had to be honest and deal with it if you didn’t feel the same because I would regret not telling you.
After my nervous, stuttering confession, I could see in your eyes that you felt the same immediately, even though it took you a few minutes to stop crying long enough to tell me you loved me. Do you remember? We spent that entire evening dancing in the studio together, only leaving after 1 a.m. where we talked on the phone for hours until you fell asleep (you snored, by the way ^-^).
Perhaps I’m being long-winded, but I cherish all those little moments we have together, every single one. You are the one who gave me hope for the future in my darkest days, and you are the one who brightens my mood as soon as you walk into a room. Thanks to you, I base my life around hope and love. I love you, Essie, to the very ends of the universe and back, with my entire being.
Your hope, your angel,
* * *
My head hurts so much, I can hardly think properly. As you know, my birthday was yesterday so the guys all took me to this new club that opened up downtown. We spent all night there. The music was tacky, the dancing horrendous, and it was way too loud. I wanted to go home within the first 20 minutes but they convinced me to stay 4 hours because one of our new dancers, Jin, was being swarmed by girls and guys flirting with him. . . It was fun seeing all of them trying to dodge the people asking them to dance, buying them drinks, and trying to hook up with them. But all I could think of was that I wanted to visit you so we could spend my birthday together, just like old times. I usually don’t hate my birthday, but ever since we started attending different universities, I’ve hated that mine is right in the middle of the semester. I can’t see you, and that makes celebrating it so boring.
Well, I’ve got a term paper to start writing, and I need to stop procrastinating (probably never gonna happen, though). I’ll visit you soon.
Hungry and hungover,
* * *
It’s so cold here I feel like my hands are permanently frozen. Sadly I don’t have you here to hold my hand or give me a heat pack from that bottomless purse you have.
Remember when we went to that stuffy socialite party 2 years ago? I was so surprised when you went into an alcove, pulled out a pair of sandals from your purse and put your heels in ‘cause your feet hurt. You could probably fit a whole store in there!
Jungkook has a cold, and we’ve been babying him all week, haha. He’s like our spoiled little brother, and he knows it. The rest of us guys all pamper him too much, but he’s just the cutest little brother we could ask for (other than the fact that he’s got this massive crush on my sister -_-).
I can’t wait until the weather warms up a bit because I’m not feeling too healthy either. I have a minor case of the sniffles, and I’m in need of your hugs.
* * *
I need an IV of pure energy. I’ve been up for the past 58 hours and counting because I had 2 projects due, 2 exams, and 3 quizzes yesterday and today. And it’s not even midterms yet! Why does it feel like these professors plan their assignments together? >.<
I was so tired today that I fell asleep in the middle of my Information Systems exam. Yeah. The professor had to wake me up so I could finish it. The poor lady looked so worried, and I felt bad because she doesn’t deserve me falling asleep in her class. Thankfully, I studied hard for it, so I’m pretty sure I made an A on the exam. The others? Not so much, but we’ll see. Hopefully, I can get at least a solid B on the rest of them.
I just got home because dance practice was also today, and I can barely see straight. I just wanna sleep. I can almost hear you yelling at me to sleep and stop doing useless things, so I’ll just head to bed, haha.
Catch you later!
* * *
I’m done! At least, for now. I just finished my last class and exam of the week. Spring break can officially begin now! I’m gonna sleep early and get my energy back after all those midterm all-nighters. Lazy weekend, here I come!
I’m so glad it’s spring now. The weather has warmed up a bit, and it doesn’t feel like I’m freezing my toes off anymore. How are you now? Is the weather warmer where you are? (This feels like an awkward date lol.)
I can’t wait to go see you on Monday. I’ve been counting the days when I get to visit for longer than an afternoon. I get to spend a week away from school, and I fully intend to not step foot back on campus until the day before classes start again. Until then, I’ll be staying in my childhood home until I leave, so I’ll visit often. That’s one thing I like about our town: almost everything is within walking distance.
Anyway, I have a long-awaited rendezvous with my bed. I’ll see you soon, Essie. 날 기다려 (Wait for me.)
* * *
The Ides of March
“Here’s your ticket sir. Please, take a seat,” the conductor said.
“Thank you,” Hoseok said as he took a seat near the middle of the train by the window. Setting his items down gently across his lap, a light smile played across his lips as he stared out at the passing scenery.
“Those for your girlfriend?” a kind-looking old man asked when he was getting close to his stop.
Hoseok looked down at his neatly-wrapped present and bouquet of flowers, smiling as he spoke. “Yeah, they are.”
“You remind me of myself as a young man,” the old man said jovially. “I used to bring my Emi fresh flowers and kimchi every week—”
Beside him, his wife chuckled, effectively interrupting him. She tossed her curls out of her face with a flick of her wrist, her hand coming to settle on her husband’s slightly tanned arm. Hoseok looked over just as the sun illuminated her glowing brown skin, revealing a mischievous smile.
“Herbie here used to pick flowers from his mother’s garden every week and got his poor mother so exasperated that she gave him a plot so he could grow and pick his own flowers,” she said with a laugh in her voice.
Hoseok laughed with the couple as he imagined the scene.
“What’s your girlfriend like, dear?” Emi asked curiously. “That is, if you’re willing to tell of course. We old folks love stories as you can see.”
“Ah, no worries. I don’t mind,” Hoseok said. “My girlfriend’s name is Essie, and she’s like a bright light that fills a room. We met as kids and have been best friends since then. She’s beautiful and kind to everyone, no matter who they are. She saved my life and gave me hope for the future,” Hoseok gushed, oblivious to the smile the couple shared.
“She sounds like a keeper, son. Someone like that you never wanna let go,” Herbie said, a grin matching his twinkling eyes as Emi leaned closer to him the way a sunflower grows toward the sun.
The train slowed to a stop as Hoseok gathered his things.
“This is my stop,” he said, wishing he could talk to the couple some more. “It was so nice talking to you. Have a great day,” he added as he got up to go.
The couple waved to him and exchanged goodbyes. Just as he was about to step off the train, Herbie’s voice floated toward him. “What’s your name, son?”
Hoseok smiled as he remembered Essie’s nickname for him.
“Hobi,” he responded, seeing Herbie and Emi grin even wider. With one last wave, he stepped off the train and into the cool, spring air.
* * *
Taking the scenic route, Hoseok bundled his jacket around him as he walked through town, reminiscing about a time that once was. He smiled as he passed the swing set where he had sprained his ankle and cried like a baby while Essie laughed as she half-carried him home. The bakery, where they would put on their cutest faces, hoping for a warm, tasty treat, still stood like a beacon of all that was lovely about childhood days.
Wow, I should come through this way more often instead of taking the shortcut. This place is still beautiful, Hoseok thought.
As he got closer to Essie, his heart thumped with anticipation as he clutched his present and flowers tightly. Opening the gate, he walked up to her, smiling wider as she came into view.
“Hi, Essie,” he said with a bright smile, his eyes glittering with unshed tears. He sat down on the grassy hill and gently set the flowers down, arranging them in front of her. “Guess what happened while I was on the train here! I met this old couple, Herbie and Emi. Essie, they looked exactly like how we imagined we’d look as we grew old together. It was nice talking to them and I wish they could’ve met you,” he said wistfully.
After staring for what felt like an eternity yet was closer to the blink of an eye, he took the present and held it up.
“I know you’re curious about what’s in this box,” he laughed as he gently undid the ribbon and opened the present. “It’s for you. I was so busy preparing it that I didn’t come to visit you often, and I’m sorry. But I hope this makes up for it!”
He set the box down and took the first thing in it. Then, he began to read.
“Dear Essie. . .”
* * *
After he finished reading all the letters out loud, Hoseok carefully put them all back in the box and redid the ribbon. His tears threatened to spill out at any moment. He looked at the epitaph bearing the name of his best friend, his confidant, his girlfriend, the love of his life.
Looking up at the sun, he let it warm his face as he pulled his windbreaker closer to him. He moved closer to the stone and placed a hand on it as he stared at the clouds. In that brief moment of tranquillity, Hoseok’s heart broke all over again as his tears finally started to fall. It felt like someone had ripped out his heart and crushed it before his very eyes.
The girl he had once seen as his best friend grew up into a beautiful person who was there for him even in his darkest moments. The woman, who was now long gone, was once the teenager who stubbornly refused to let him die, who pulled him off the edge of the bridge and took him home to care for his self-inflicted cuts and shattered soul. She was the one who saved his life and gave him a new perspective on the word that became his mantra: hope.
And now, she was gone. He could never again hear her laughter reverberating through the studio as she danced. He could never again see her beautiful face as she beamed at him with love in her eyes. He could never again tuck away that one unruly curl that always got in her way behind her ear and cup her face to draw her in for a kiss. He could never again put his arms around her in a hug as she cried over the littlest things, like a sad story or movie. He could never again hear her breathe next to him after she fell asleep on his shoulder. Never again.
Hoseok was bawling by this point, his chest heaving as he bent over the tombstone, muttering incoherently as he allowed himself to let loose and cry for the first time since Essie had died. Even while she was going through chemotherapy, he never shed a tear or even let a smile leave his face. He was determined to appear strong for her, just as she stayed strong for him all those years ago. Even though his heart broke as she slowly lost her beautiful hair and was often confined to a wheelchair, he always came to her hospital room with a smile and a fresh bouquet of flowers. He encouraged her as she learned to walk again and danced for her whenever she asked. Then, when the illness came back and quashed her newfound hope of survival, he made it his mission to inject hope and happiness into her life, a better medication in her last days than what the doctors put in her IV drip.
But now, he couldn’t stop sobbing as he kept muttering, his body shaking from the intensity of his grief.
“It’s not fair,” he said brokenly. “Why was it you? Why did it have to be you? I’m so sorry, Essie. I’ve failed you. I should have been the one dying, not you! You were my hope, my love, my everything. Why did you have to die? We still had so many dreams, so many plans! That foundation you were going to start for poor families and foster kids. How we planned to get engaged and marry right after university. . . We were supposed to grow old together!”
Hoseok couldn’t stop crying as the floodgates he had locked tightly for a year finally opened. Even when he was too tired to cry anymore, he leaned his head on Essie’s tombstone as his eyes continued to leak tears. It felt like the sun was mocking him with its bright warmth that chased away the remnants of winter. He felt it was unfair that the world got a rebirth in spring, yet she was forever stuck in the cold winter of death, never to return to him again. Reaching down for his phone, he looked through blurry tears as he picked the song he had chosen to play for her earlier.
“I found this song right after you died, and I think it’s time you heard it, too,” he said, his voice thick with tears as the beginnings of the song started playing. “It’s in Japanese and English, so go ahead and dust off your Japanese skills from all those anime and dramas you used to watch,” he said with a forced laugh as another tear fell.
“Before we say goodbye, let go
But I’m lost in the maze of my heart
From stereo to mono
That’s how the path splits. . .”*
The nostalgic song permeated the desolate atmosphere with the singers’ melodic crooning as Hoseok started to calm down, his eyelashes wet with tears and eyelids puffy from crying. As his sniffs subsided, he closed his eyes in that sunny patch of grass and let the memories wash over him again.
The time he first realised he loved his best friend as she quietly stitched his cuts after pulling him off the bridge where he had nearly attempted suicide.
The time she visited the local shelter and lovingly hugged and spoke with the children while comforting the broken mothers and fathers who didn’t know how they were going to feed their families.
The time she adopted her puppy Mickey from the animal shelter and cuddled with him every time she got scared of thunder.
The times they danced together in the studio, not caring about technique or body lines, but just letting the music carry them.
The times he picked her up for a date, seeing the excitement in her eyes as they talked for hours, their hands intertwined like puzzle pieces.
The lazy days when they cuddled so close he didn’t know where he ended and she began.
Every time she smiled, her eyes twinkling with unconcealed joy as she lit up the entire room with her beauty. . .
As the last notes of the song faded into the wind, Hoseok lay still in the silence, his mind completely blank as he stared at the sky. He could see the leaves beginning to sprout on the tree next to the grave and the birds chirping happily as they played in the fountain nearby. All around him, spring was starting, yet his heart was still wrapped in the icy cold of winter. He knew it would be a long time before he was ready to love again, yet Essie had begged him to let her go and move on while on her deathbed.
He knew it would take time. But for Essie’s sake, he would try. In that quiet moment, he promised himself he would carry out Essie’s wishes. Almost literally, he felt his heart begin to thaw as he exhaled deeply.
* * *
It’s hard to completely move on now, but for you, I’ll try. I’ll never forget you for as long as I live. I love you, and I’ll miss you.
I’m ready to let go.
Loving you forever and always,
*Poem from “Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare
*Lyrics translated from BTS’s “Let Go”