Musings of the Heart Pt. 10: 괜찮다는 말 (Okay)

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As a little kid, he loved to look at the ceiling and find different shapes, creating millions of characters that found a home in his growing imagination. He would spend hours at a time jumping from daydream to daydream and he couldn’t have been happier. But it was different now. He was different now. For the past few years, when he looked up at the ceiling he would get lost in a sea of thoughts. Each time this happened, he would be seconds away from drowning. That’s why he preferred not to think, to have his mind blank or his hands busy to escape from the demons that hid inside. He would be forced to constantly put on a balancing act, tiptoeing on a thin line that separated a raging storm from the small bit of sun that still remained in his heart.

He was unsure of how he ended up this way. One day he just realized that he was sad, for no reason at all. There was nothing leading up to it nor were there any signs that it was coming. He was just staring at the ceiling and all of a sudden, the weight of the world pressed itself onto his chest, making it difficult for him to breath. Then in the blink of an eye, he found himself hyperventilating with tears running down his face. The first time left him angry and confused. He reasoned with himself that he shouldn’t be feeling this way, that the amount of joy in his life outweighed this temporary sadness. But as it happened time and time again, he slowly yet hesitantly accepted that this newfound darkness was now a part of him. That it had decided to call his body home. Or maybe there was a broken screw located in his head that could never be fixed. He firmly believed that he could never be fixed. And accepting it as fact helped to ease the pain every time the bouts of sadness decided to make an appearance. On some days, it lasted only a few minutes. On bad days, it would last for hours at a time and the only remedy was to wait it out, to ride it like riding a wave back to shore.

Despite being a good listener and hearing the problems of his friends, he never wished to openly admit to his sadness. He didn’t want to let others know that he can suddenly be plunged into darkness and there would be no reason at all. He didn’t think people would understand even if he tried. But he always thought about telling someone, of reaching out and crying for help. He dreamed that one day he would be courageous enough to seek out a permanent remedy for this disease. He dreamed of the day that he would be able to say “I’m okay” and actually mean it.

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Musings of the Heart Pt.9: Inevitable

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Her favorite word was goodbye. She liked the finality that would often follow and the small glimmer of hope that could be found in the darkness. Although she was never any good at saying goodbye. When faced with a farewell, she would cling on with all her might and try her hardest to postpone the inevitable end. She would never say goodbye unless it was on her terms.

But here she was, in her car at a stoplight at the break of dawn. She had just finished saying goodbye to all of the places that held some of her most precious memories, places that held the memory of “us”. The rising sun reminded her that there’s always light after the darkness, a beautiful rainbow that can be found after the rain. As long as you know where to look. However, she couldn’t help but to miss him. She missed his scent that would linger on her sweater, the way that he stuttered whenever he got nervous, how he could never keep a secret because he was so excited to tell her. But now that’s all gone and it can never come back. They didn’t hold any ill feelings towards each other. It was a mutual separation that they both agreed on. But it still hurt. There was still a trail of dried tears and broken promises left in the aftermath.

What hurt more than the breakup was that she saw the end coming for months. The first few days that she could sense it, she brushed it off and believed that it would fade. Sadly it didn’t. It would come back time and time again, yet she did nothing to stop it. They continued on with each passing day as their relationship withered and eventually became scattered in the wind. They were an ideal couple, two beautiful souls moving as one. But all things must come to an end and this was theirs. As the light turned green, she decided to allow herself to think about him for one last time. She decided that this would be her final goodbye.

Musings of the Heart Pt. 8: 내 마음의 숨기는 곳 (Hiding Place)

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Everyone has a little safe haven hidden behind closed doors where prying eyes can’t see, a hiding place from the world. For some, it might be a swing set on top of a hill with a perfect view of the city. Maybe it’s their room, with journals and walls filled to the brim with secrets whispered into the wind. Perhaps it’s a favorite song that’s played over and over and over again until the sun finally sets. For me? My hiding place is the bathroom. More specifically, the shower stall.

As a child, I’ve always loved the water, whether it’s the deep, blue ocean or the sound of raindrops falling onto the roof and into tin cans lined up on the side of the house. There was always something calming about the way water flowed in and out of my life with little to no effort. However, crying in the rain would bring too many wandering eyes and I could never bring myself to go swimming in the middle of the night. So the next best thing was the bathroom shower stall. I could (almost) always take my time there. It felt safe, private, free of judgement. I’ve spent numerous nights sitting in the corner of my bathtub, overcome with emotion and immersed in thought, while water hit every inch of my skin and provided camouflage for my tears. Oddly enough, I felt at peace.

The shower stall held many secrets that I wished I could tell to those around me. The secrets that if left alone, would eat away at one’s soul until they are let loose into the world. But I’m able to keep them satisfied, providing them with enough to quell their hunger until it’s time to feed again. And when that time comes, I’ll be in the shower stall once more. It’s not that I don’t want to open this box filled with secrets and memories. It’s just that I’ve always felt that it would be a burden to those around me if I didn’t keep them contained inside.

Perhaps people may notice. Perhaps they may be concerned but are unsure how to ask. Perhaps, I am wired so differently that I can only find solace behind closed doors, inside of a bathtub with the water flowing from the shower head. There are so many things to consider, so many roads that I could take. Yet I remain on the same path and do the same thing over and over and over again, expecting a different outcome. And perhaps this has become my downfall. Maybe I have become a bit too comfortable. Maybe I need to turn off the water and dry the tears from my face, so that I can see once again and escape this prison. Perhaps this is the time to find a new hiding place. And instead of it being a room contained within the boundaries of four walls, my new hiding place could be between the arms of a person that has made their way into my heart. Perhaps that person could be you. In your arms I could be safe and in your arms I would never drown.

Musings of the Heart Pt. 7: 다시 만나면 안돼 (Again)

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At a very young age, he was thrust underneath the spotlight for being different than other children. His parents called him special. His teachers and after school tutors referred to him as a prodigy. Even his piano teacher saw something special in him and refused to let him give up. And from that point onward, the pressure began to build. What felt like the weight of the world flung itself onto his shoulders and remained floating around in the back of his mind everyday. There was a standard that he needed to keep and if he didn’t? The waves of doubt and disappointment would be enormous. Then he would end up as the only casualty.

As he became older, the weight stayed the same and his body became covered in scars, barely visible to the naked eye. However, he hid them well so others would be unable to see or touch the remnants of his past. But one person, and only one, was allowed to see through his daily charades.

It was a Friday night and he was searching his studio apartment for a wedding invitation. Although he didn’t plan on attending, he thought it to be proper etiquette to at least send a reply. As he was looking underneath the couch, he heard a knock at the door. He picked up his phone that blinked 11 p.m. and stood up perplexed. ‘Who could be here at this hour’ he wondered. He walked over, opened the door, and almost fell over in shock. It was his first love. She looked almost exactly the same, the only difference being her wardrobe and hairstyle. But it was her. It was the first person that he ever truly loved, the first person who didn’t place a burden on him, the first person to ruthlessly break his heart.

“Hi,” she said, nonchalant. “I’m sorry it’s so late. I’m sure this might be a surprise.”

“Hey, what are you- how did you find out where I live?” he asked, his bottom lip trembling.

“I was in town and I met up with some old friends from high school. We got to talking about you and, well, here I am.”

He had imagined this moment at least a million times since that day, the day that he knew they were officially done. Of course, everything that happened in his head became more and more dramatic than the last. The first time, he imagined it would be a sweet reunion between the two, ending with a peck on the cheek. Other daydreams involved kicks to the shin, tears streaming down his face in the middle of a coffee shop, or even a raunchy bed scene appropriate for an R rated movie. The bottom line was that he continued to think about her and he always believed he was alone in this. And now that she was standing right in front of him, he was speechless and didn’t know what do.

“I’ve missed you,” she said, breaking the silence.

He thought for a moment, carefully considering what he should say in response. He was nervous, afraid that history might repeat itself. He looked at her, right into her eyes. And in that moment, he knew.

“I loved you and I love you still. But I’m sorry. Goodbye,” were the words that he wanted to say. But the pressure and the weight of her world got to him once again and dragged him in. His hands reached out to her and pulled her into a kiss, his old scars growing warm and fresh once again.

Musings of the Heart Pt.6: Sunset Waltz

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In high school, she wanted to meet the love of her life underneath a blanket of stars, looking out into the distance as the sea meets the sky. She wanted it to be during an autumn night in a place where the leaves refuse to change colors and the transition of seasons ambiguous and unclear. She wanted a fairy-tale happily ever after, to be swept off of her feet and brought to a castle on a hill where she would be able to fall in love with her prince day after day. But, reality can be so much more different than the lofty ideas of a teenage girl pining for love.

She sat on the bench at the bus stop, listening to an autumn playlist she had made on her phone. Every few minutes she would check for the bus schedule but to her dismay, the website would stop loading halfway through. She had twenty minutes to get home and she despised being late for anything, especially if it wasn’t her fault. Filled with impatience, she started to go back and forth between sitting and standing to check for any sign of the bus.

“You’ve stood up four times now in the past three minutes. I don’t think the bus is going to come any faster,” someone said from behind.

She took out her headphones and turned around. She recognized him right away. It was a boy from her Japanese language class who sat in the back of the room. They barely spoke but were on friendly terms whenever they were partnered together for class.

“It’s a force of habit,” she replied, turning back to check for the bus. “You haven’t gone home yet?”

“I guess that’s what it looks like, doesn’t it?”

She turned and gave him a look of disapproval.

“Sorry,” he said half-apologetic. “I was working on a personal graphics project and I lost track of time.”

She folded her arms and looked at him from head to toe. She could smell the faint scent of cherry blossoms coming from his direction. She loved the scent of cherry blossoms, although she had never seen an actual cherry blossom tree before.

“So I guess it’s my turn, then. Why haven’t you gone home yet, Miss Representative,” he asked, taking one step towards her.

“It seems like you already know. Winter Ball is coming up so our meeting ran a little later than usual today,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

“You know I’ve never been to a dance before?”

“Wait, really?” she looked at him in disbelief and astonishment. “You’ve never been to a dance before? Not even in middle school?”

“Nope. Not even in middle school.”

“You should definitely change that. This year would be a good time to start!” she said in excitement. “The venue is really nice and the decorations we’re planning on buying are-”

“It’s not like I’ve never wanted to go,” he said, cutting her off. “It’s just that I’ve never really had anyone to go with.”

She looked at him with wide eyes and her mouth agape.

“I’m sure you may not have noticed before, but I don’t really hang around anyone in particular. I’m kind of a drifter, going from group to group but never staying long enough to become close. I get to know an inside joke or two, but that’s it. That’s the extent of my friendship with most people, if not all. So it would be kind of weird for the loner kid to show up at a dance, don’t you think?”

He looked away in embarrassment. He hadn’t expected to share one of his secrets to a girl he barely knew. But being with her made him feel strangely comfortable and certain. He felt certain that it would be fine to share this much. She wouldn’t attempt to pry for more information, to tip-toe over the walls that he had built around himself. He was certain of at least that.

“You know, now that I think about it, we’re probably the same you and I,” she said, amusement in her voice. “The only reason I joined council was so that I could finally belong to something. I got tired of jumping from group to group and failing to remain relevant. But even now, it can be so tiring, pretending to be someone that I’m not.”

Their eyes locked and a sudden calm entered their hearts. So this is what it’s like to find someone like me, they both thought. It was an event that had never occurred in either of their lives until this point. They had always been desperate for human interaction, but never enough to go out to find someone like them. They had always settled for a tier below their ideals.

“Hey, do you hear that?” he asked.

“What are you talking about? I don’t hear anything,” she said in bewilderment.

“It’s ballroom music. You don’t hear it?”

“I thought you’ve never been to a dance before?”

“That doesn’t mean I haven’t listened to ballroom music.”

He smiled at her as he took off his bag and held out his hand. She laughed, her cheeks blushing a light pink, and reached out to him. He pulled her close and they began to dance, twirling and moving from side to side. And as the sun set, creating long shadows that stretched across the ground, unknowingly both of their dreams were fulfilled. He didn’t have to be alone anymore and love had come to her. They both knew that it wasn’t a happily ever after, but they would make sure that it came damn close.

Musings of the Heart Pt.5: 이별밖에 (Farewell)

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She believed that sometimes the end can be painfully obvious, like a red coat in a sea of black and grey. She thought that if it can be seen standing right in front of you, drawing closer inch by inch, you can be prepared for the end and the aftermath that follows. Of course there is also the choice of walking towards the end, the choice to embrace it and carry out it’s plans. And then there are times when the end is not so obvious. It stealthily creeps around in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce and bring down it’s next unsuspecting victim. That can be the worst part of it all, when you didn’t see the end coming.

It was Christmas night. She had just parked the car and turned off the engine, but stayed seated and didn’t move an inch. She looked over to her boyfriend in the passenger seat and just stared at him, deep in thought.

“I have something to tell you,” he had said right before they turned into the parking structure.

Now they were just playing the waiting game, something that the both of them knew how to do all too well. It felt like the calm before the storm, the moment just before they would become thrust into the catalyst that would change their relationship forever. The silence felt endless but necessary if both were to survive through the night. Her boyfriend took a deep breath, then the first step towards the end.

“I think we should break up.”

“Why?”

“I love someone else. I’ve been in love with someone else.”

“Who is she?”

He paused for a moment before he struck the final nail in the coffin.

“It’s the person before you. My first love. I’m still in love with her.”

Suddenly, all the memories that they had built together seemed perverted and tainted. They started to crumble and break apart, piece by piece. She wished that she could have yelled at him, to ask him to stop lying and to keep all the promises that he made. But how could she? She had an idea that the end was coming. However, she kept herself in denial and shoved rose-colored glasses onto her face to mask the glaring imperfections of their relationship that had started to grow.

“I’m sorry. I’ll come for my things this weekend,” he whispered as he opened the door. “Merry Christmas.”

She watched as he walked towards the door to the stairwell that led to the visitor parking down below. He reached out for the handle but turned around and took just one step back towards her. He scrunched up his face and shook his head, then he turned back and disappeared into the stairwell. If he took another step back, she would have gotten out of the car and ran towards him, asking him to stay. She would have allowed herself to cry into his chest and plead for forgiveness, even if she wasn’t at fault. She would have wanted to postpone the end as much as she could or at least end things on her terms. But life isn’t always filled with happy endings or endings that we create for ourselves. Life isn’t always fair, especially to someone like her.

Musings of the Heart Pt. 4: Habits

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There’s always something intimate about being in another person’s room. You can see a different side of them that you haven’t seen before. You get to stand in their personal space. You’re given permission to see their hiding place from the world. This was the first time he invited me into his room. I was nervous but excited at the same time. My mind was blank yet racing with millions of thoughts. But I had fantasized about this moment since the first day that we met.

“Well, this is it,” he said, opening the door to his room.

It wasn’t what I had been expecting. His bed was properly made with sky blue bed sheets, only his backpack occupied space on the floor in the corner of his room, and his desk organized with a cup of pens beside his desktop monitor. It was neat and clean, more so than how I kept my room.

“There’s really not much in here, I’m pretty simple. Not sure why you were so bent on seeing my room,” he said, amusement in his voice.

“I was feeling curious and I just wanted to see your room,” I replied, making my way towards his bed.

I came to his house, mentally and physically prepared to clean up his room. But as I scanned it from wall to wall, there really was nothing that I could have done to make it better. I felt disappointed and cheated, as if my time coming here had been wasted. I sat down on the foot of his bed and looked up to see him staring at me, smiling. He came towards me, hugged from behind and pulled me onto his bed.

“Why is your room so spotless? I had so much planned because I was certain that there would be some mess to clean,” I said in annoyance.

“Cleaning is a habit of mine,” he quietly said.

“It’s a habit?” I turned my body so that we faced each other, our lips just inches apart. “Is there any reason why?”

“Do you really want to know?” he sighed. I made eye contact with him and nodded my head that I did.

“Well,” he started, “I was heartbroken once. When I was a little.”

“You were heartbroken? By who, your first grade crush?”

“No, it wasn’t from any of my classmates. You know you’re my first girlfriend,” he said, pulling me close to his chest. “I was heartbroken by the people who live in this house with me.”

He paused for a few seconds. I could tell from the silence that he was gathering his thoughts. I felt him walking on eggshells as he tried to find the right combination of words so that he could continue speaking.

“I don’t have a typical family,” he continued, on the edge of a whisper. “As a child, I was forced to grow up a little too quickly. At least in my opinion. I had no friends to play with, so I would often lock myself in my room and start cleaning until everything was spotless. And these people that call themselves family, they always looked at me different, that I was going to end up like my parents and somehow leave, too. And I almost did, but I decided against it at the last minute.”

“Why not?” I hesitantly asked.

“Because I had nowhere else to go.”