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Scattering Apart

Tags: love, life, loss

Jin looked out over the city from the rooftop of one of the tallest buildings in Seoul, it was a breath-taking sight. And he hated it. He hated the crowds. He hated the busyness. He hated the noise. He hated the tall buildings. ‘Skyscraper’, such a simple, yet symbolic word – to scrape the sky. Is that our way of letting God know that we’re here and we’re trying our best to touch Him? Or our blasphemous attempt to surpass Him? He hated the way the people acted; most of all the way everyone who moved there became someone else. The way she’d become someone else…

They’d met in college when he was in his second year, she in her first – the quiet academic and the shy musician. He’d known from the moment he first laid eyes on her that she was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his days with. The only woman he ever wanted in his heart.

His mind was flooded with thoughts of how to fix things between them. He still loved her, but it was hard being around her. She was like a drug – he knew she was bad for him, but he needed her, even while knowing she would be his undoing. He could see her smile, hear her laugh. Most of all he could almost taste her voice; sweet like honey, bitter like aloe.

Things were bad between them, every day a fight about something. Whose turn it was to choose the movie. Why the house was dirty every night when he got home from work even though they were the only two people living there. Why they had to eat take-out whenever it was her turn to cook. Her drinking. Her friends. And money, there were always fights about money. He needed to get out before they ruined each other.

At times he felt like he was freefalling, trying to hold onto whatever made him who he was, but it was no use. He knew that he didn’t want to stop loving her, and that was why he needed to get out, to get away before everything he’d ever loved about her got ruined, scattered apart.

He walked in with every intention of packing his things and moving out. He’d already called his old housemates – Sam and Daniel – and they were happy to have him stay with them for a while until he found a new place. The apartment was dark, but for a trail of tiny flickering lights leading to the kitchen.

He smiled, a wave of emotion hitting him as he reached the kitchen doorway. It smelled the way he remembered from back when they first moved in there – the smell of her cooking. His eyes lifted from the table and settled on the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. She was standing at the window, a vision in white, her dark hair pinned up in the way he remembered from when they first met. His breath caught in his throat, all the plans he had of leaving quivering like the candle flame on the elegantly set table for two. He needed to be strong and do what he came home to do.

It was the worst thing that could happen. He could feel each of his reasons for leaving slowly fading away, replaced by excuses for why he should stay. He hated it. He hated her for making his heart race with hope again.

“What’s all this about?” he asked, taking the two steps that would bring him close enough to look down into her eyes. Her eyes never lied.

She shrugged. “I was missing you and I remembered how we used to be. How we used to…”

He wrapped his arms around her, his lips brushing her temple, breathing in the scent of her hair as every resolve he had crumbled. The memory of the fight early that morning faded as he felt her breath on his neck, her heart beating against his, their rhythms matched in that familiar way he’d missed.

She looked up at him and smiled. “Forgive me?”

“You’re my first and only love, Mina,” he whispered. “Of course I forgive you.”

The meal was exquisite. That night they talked, they laughed, they loved.

*

“Get out!” His voice was calm despite the anger building inside of him.

They turned their vacant stares up at him, then back at her. He’d met a few of her friends before, but never before had he walked in on them unexpectedly while she was entertaining.

“Yah! How dare you speak to my friends that way?” she yelled, unable to hide her surprise at seeing him home early.

“I said get the fuck out of my house!” Jin said again, his tone dangerously low, ignoring her as he looked from one to the other of the strangers comfortably lounging around his living room as if they owned the place.

He grabbed the glass from the one closest to him, pulled her up roughly and shoved her toward the door. One look at his dark expression and the others got up and left too. He turned toward Mina as she dropped back onto the sofa, drink in hand.

“That was rude, Jin.” Her words slurred, but her brown eyes were clear.

“We talked about this. You promised…” He took a deep calming breath, the smell of alcohol and cheap perfume only making his anger grow.

“I promised? No, you decided what was right for me and wrote it in stone. Jin’s Commandments… oooh see me shaking in my pretty stilettos as I wait for you to smite me…” She laughed, it was a hollow sound.

“How can you do this to yourself?” He ran a hand through his hair as he paced the small space in front of the sofa, still trying to reel in his anger, her attitude not helping.

“Some of us drink to remember, some drink to forget…” She sipped at her glass again. “Me, I drink to escape… you.” She looked up at him as if to gauge his reaction to her words.

“Because I’m the worst person in the world for giving a damn about you?” His tone was soft, but he was still trying to keep his temper under control.

“Give a damn?” She laughed. “You have to actually be here to be able to do that.”

“You want to blame me for working two jobs so we can survive?”

“When’s the last time you had any fun, Jin?” She looked up at him, her eyes a mix of anger and sadness. “Your idea of fun is going up to a rooftop of a building across town and sitting about doing nothing for hours with those idiots you call friends. When’s the last time we had any fun?”

“They’re my family, you knew that when you met me.” He sighed.

“Family?” She took another sip from her glass before looking up at him. “You don’t know what family is, Jin. They’re your default family because you grew up together?” She shook her head, her eyes filling up with tears. “I’m not your family? Me? What am I if they are your family?”

Growing up in an orphanage wasn’t easy. Never knowing who your family was, or why they’d abandoned you. It meant never knowing who you were. When the world has turned its back on you, the ones who are at your side every day, through smiles and trials, they were your family. And that was what his friends were to him. Mina was right, they were a bunch of idiots, but they were his bunch of idiots. His family. The only family he’d ever known.

“I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore.” He threw his hands up as he spoke, unable to meet her eyes.

“It gets lonely here. And you just don’t understand. You never will.”

“What I do understand is that you can’t mix your meds with this shit!”

He grabbed a half-full bottle from the table and hurled it across the room, the sound of shattering glass echoing off the walls. She laughed again. He kicked the coffee table, glasses and bottles crashing to the ground as it toppled. Still, her laugh mocked him.

She shrugged. “Go ahead, break it all. It’s your money crashing all around you.” She looked up at him with sober eyes. “Everything in this place belongs to you, bought with your money, as you keep reminding me. Including me…”

Something inside of him snapped at the sound of her taunting laugh; thunder rumbled in his ears, his vision tinted a dark red as he raised his hand…

*

He’d come up to the roof to think, to help clear his head, but all he’d been doing the past hour was cry. Her words as he walked out of the apartment – ‘I hate you!’ – playing themselves over and over in his head. Why was she doing this again? Hadn’t they resolved this? Hadn’t she promised? Her words were like a mask for her to hide behind at times, at other times it was a dagger she enjoyed driving into his heart.

He raised his head when he felt a hand stroke his back, meeting concerned eyes. He tried to smile, but his lips trembled and more tears flowed. Strong arms wrapped around him and he sobbed unashamedly into his friend’s shoulder.

“I thought I’d find you up here when you didn’t answer your calls,” Sam said once Jin had stopped crying into his shoulder.

“Why were you calling?” Jin asked.

“We were worried, so just checking in. We were expecting you last night, but we sort of weren’t expecting you either. If that makes sense.”

He nodded. It did make sense to Jin. He’d decided to leave her several times before, but somehow he always changed his mind. His friends knew him better than anyone else did, whenever he needed someone, one or all of them would always be there even without him asking.

They’d all lived at the college dorms after leaving the orphanage – Jin, Sam, Daniel, Jimmy and Hansol – going on to live their own lives once they’d graduated. Jin had married. Sam and Daniel had moved in together, no surprise to any of them, their relationship had always been something they could not hide from the others. Jimmy enlisted and found living at the barracks easier. Hansol had gone to do his mandatory military service and was now living at the orphanage where he worked. Each of them had found their path in life, yet their paths always led back to one another in the end.

“This is the last straw, Sam.” He took a steadying breath. “I’m losing control. I… I got so angry I… I…” he stammered, burying his face in his hands.

Sam lifted a quizzical brow, his expression one of concern. “You didn’t…”

“No, but I came close,” Jin said.

Sam let out a sigh of relief.

“I saw red and it was like someone else took over my body, I wanted to hurt her so badly. Hurt her as much as she’s hurting me.” His voice broke again, so he paused for a moment. “I came so close… the look in her eyes was all that kept me from hitting her.”

“You would never have forgiven yourself if you had.”

“I know, but she…” He let out a soft growl of frustration. “I feel like I’m in love alone. I know this and still, I keep needing her. Like a fool. I need to stop loving her, but my heart won’t stop.” He closed his eyes, turning his face to the darkening sky. “I feel like I’m going crazy.”

*

Jin left the roof in a much better mood after the talk with Sam and Daniel, who later showed up looking for them. They reminded him of the early days when she was the shy new girl at college and he fell head over heels for her at first sight. They reminded him of how long it took all of them to convince her to even sit with Jin at lunchtimes. They reminded him of how awkwardly he proposed to her with all of them secretly watching. They joked about when Jimmy, the only one of them who had a flair for words, had written the love poem, as well as his proposal. They teased him about how long it took him to memorise it all. They laughed at the memory of the youngest among them, Hansol, jumping out from their hiding place and doing a happy dance when she’d said yes. They reminded him of their wedding day and the vows both of them took.

Their vows… it meant something then. When did it stop having meaning?

He stopped along the way to buy flowers, her favourite kind. He rehearsed what he would say to her while he walked home, despite the odd glances from passers-by who thought he was some crazy person for talking to himself. What he’d almost done to her scared him. She was right, she wasn’t his possession, she was his wife and he didn’t want to lose her.

He wanted to tell her how much he loves the smell of her hair. He wanted to tell her how waking up and feeling her body pressed close to his was the best part of his day. He wanted to tell her that when he looked into her eyes he saw his future, every good thing he’d ever dreamt for himself. They’d talked about children in the past, long before things got bad. They could fix this. Surely he wasn’t the only one wanting that.

He stood outside the apartment door for a minute to rethink what he would say to her. She would be angry, he was prepared for that. He smiled as he thought about how beautiful she was when she was angry.

He stepped into the apartment, grimacing as the smell of booze from the shattered bottles hit him. Other than the sound of glass crunching under his shoes the apartment was silent. She was no longer on the sofa where he’d left her.

He checked their bedroom. Empty.

He checked the kitchen. Empty.

He checked his office. Empty.

His eyes moved slowly to the closed bathroom door. It was never closed when they were home alone.

He knocked. Silence.

He called her name. Silence.

He turned the handle. Locked.

He called out her name again. Silence.

A panic he could not explain arose in his chest. He rammed the door with his shoulder. All he got was a bruised shoulder.

He threw down the flowers and ran to his office to get a paperclip, the bathroom lock was a cheap one, the kind you could pick easily.

The first thing he noticed was the blood.

A bloody handprint on the mirror. No!

Bloody fingerprints on the sink. No!

Blood smears on the wall. No!

Bloody droplets on the floor. No! No! No!

He didn’t want to turn his head. He didn’t want to see. He knew what he would find before he turned to look.

She was wearing the white dress he loved so much. Her hair was fanned out around her head like a dark halo. Red streaks ran up the length of both her arms, dripping slowly onto the tiled floor and staining her dress. An empty pill bottle lay beside her.

“Mina,” he whispered.

He knelt beside her and lifted her head from the cold floor, smoothing hair from her face. He cradled her head gently, one finger caressing her cheek.

“Mina, wake up. Mina please…” he whispered. “You need to wake up. I need you.”

She looked at peace. Finally at peace.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered into her hair, rocking her slowly back and forth.

He knew that he needed to call someone, an ambulance, the police, a friend… anyone. Instead, he sat there rocking her, whispering into her ear.

“I’m so sorry… please, you have to say something. Anything. Please. I can change. I will be better. I promise. Please don’t leave me here by myself…”

*

At the funeral, her parents looked at him as if he was to blame. He didn’t fault them for that. He was to blame. He fell in love with their child, made her fall in love with him, married her against their wishes and then he returned her to them in a casket.

She was gone. Their daughter. His wife. His love. Was this really how it ends? He had so much left to say, so much left to show, so much more…

Where does love go when it has nowhere left to go?

He listened to the things people around him were saying about her – all the beautiful things he always told her about herself, the things she never believed. How beautiful she was. How kind-hearted she’d always been. How talented she was. Her music had meant everything to her once, it could have again if she’s only believed in herself. How could all these people have seen in her what she never saw in herself?

He wished she’d believed him.

He wished he’d shown her how amazing she was.

He wished he’d told her how proud he was of her.

It angered him to listen to them say all those wonderful things about her. None of them knew her the way he did. None of them were a part of her life. None of them watched her struggle with depression and low self-worth. None of them watched as she drank to dull the pain. Not her parents, not the priest, not any of the other faces in the sea of sympathetic faces surrounding him.

It was a beautiful spring day. Her favourite season. The kind of day she’d always loved. And he hated it. He wanted to look up into that clear sky and curse it for daring to shine when she was no longer there to see it. She would never again feel the warmth of the sun on her skin. Or the spring breeze through her hair.

He felt a hand at his back and turned to smile. Another hand took his, squeezing it comfortingly. They came. They always came even when he didn’t ask them to. In the sea of sympathetic faces, theirs were the only ones he wanted to see.

When the service was over and everyone started to leave, they still stood there, surrounding him like an army surrounding their prince. They stood there until the last mourner had gone, before one by one each of them placed a single white rose on her casket, then turned to hug him before heading to their car to wait for him – Sam, Daniel, Hansol and Jimmy – the people he loved and trusted in the world. His brothers, not by blood, but by bond. His family.

“I couldn’t save you,” he whispered, tears he felt would never stop streaming down his face again.

 

 

 

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