the letters left behind
They sent him the box, because they didn't want to deal with the memory of Jongin. They didn't say so, but Kyungsoo knew. He wanted to scream at them, ask them why they thought he, of all people, could handle it any better than them. But he kept quiet, because Jongin's soul had been packed up into the box, and Jongin had promised his soul to Kyungsoo, who may or may not be worse than the Devil.
He certainly felt like it. He felt like the Devil would cower in fear in front of him, kiss his feet, clean his house, make him food every day. And then he'd snap out of it, because he knew the Devil was the one who had taken Jongin.
Kyungsoo did not want to be worse than that.
It was drizzling. Rain drops plopped strong and steady against the windowpanes of Kyungsoo's apartment, the street below turned into a slow sea of umbrellas. They were different in shape and size, but to Kyungsoo, it all seemed gray. He expected to see Jongin wading through the sea with only a white tanktop and too-tight jeans on, then stomp up the stairs to the apartment, and get his floor wet as he shook his hair in the living room and stripped on the couch. Then Kyungsoo would scream at him, slap his bare skin as Jongin begged for him to stop in a mocking voice, smirk playing on his lips, and somehow, they'd end up stumbling into the shower together.
But the sea of umbrellas did not part for a particular tan boy, clearly under-dressed for early spring.
Kyungsoo pressed his fingers against the glass, hoping it would shatter.
The box sat in the corner of his bedroom for days. The bedroom itself looked like a bear had been set loose inside. Broken glass and torn clothing littered the ground, the bed dismantled and the pieces thrown against an already-broken wall. The window was duct-taped. It was dark, aside from the light on the ceiling. It wouldn't be long until it would be broken too.
Kyungsoo had to wear his shoes when he shuffled through the debris in his room to get to the box. He picked it up and made his way to the living room, where Jongin had first kissed him. The gray couch's cushions had been sliced open.
He sat on the floor, pushing a box of tools away. The wrench was missing. Kyungsoo found it sticking out from the top of his television. He didn't bother to pull it out.
The box was open. Kyungsoo couldn't remember when he opened it, if ever, but brushed the thought away as he pushed the cardboard flaps open. He stared at the inside of the flaps, Jongin's handwriting covering every inch. He spotted his name multiple times, but refused to read anything else. Looking inside, all he could see was a stack of envelopes. Each was labeled in bold black, a number written on it. He tipped the box over and let the contents pour out. He threw the tool box into the kitchen, the bolts scattering across the wooden floor and a screwdriver clanging against the metal oven. The sounds brought no reaction from Kyungsoo.
He spent the rest of the day sorting through the envelopes and stacking them in the right order, wandering away to break something or write on Jongin's wall for an hour or so. He found they were numbered one to nineteen. Fifty envelopes for Kyungsoo to read. Some where skinny, as if there was nothing inside, and some threatened to burst open. He left the envelopes on the floor as he crawled into Jongin's bedroom and fell asleep on the floor beneath his desk.
Baekhyun stopped by. He didn't bring Chanyeol this time, because Chanyeol was too happy, and Kyungsoo couldn't take happy right now. He was silent as Baekhyun surveyed the damage throughout the two-bedroom apartment. After he was done, he turned to Kyungsoo, who stood impossibly still with the front door held open. Then he'd say "He wouldn't want this" and walked out. And Kyungsoo would already be sobbing, not enough energy in him to slam the door closed. He would just push it, let it click softly before sinking onto the floor and letting his tears flow freely.
Baekhyun would listen from the other side, wishing Jongin was in there with him.
Trembling fingers picked envelope one up, sliding under the flap and ripping it open. He pulled a square of thick construction paper out.
it said. He flipped the card over.
in death & love
it said. He cried again.
When his eyes were dry enough, he took the second envelope from the pile. A Polaroid slipped out onto his lap. It was of a rose in an empty glass Coke bottle. It was dated four months before Kyungsoo had met Jongin at the city library. He wondered of the significance of the picture, and his heart clenched painfully. He would never get to ask.
Envelope three was filled with white daisy petals. Jongin had always hated daisies, while Kyungsoo had loved them. A receipt fell out, dated three days before they had met. It was for the daisies. Kyungsoo wondered what Jongin was doing, buying flowers he didn't even like. And then he wondered if Jongin knew they'd meet.
Red yarn came from envelope four. A piece of folded notebook paper stated
we were meant to be
written in white-out over a blotch of black ink. The date September 14th was written in pen in the bottom left corner.
The next three were bracelets, all the same dark brown string with a metal tag at the end, the word 'his' engraved on the front. Kyungsoo didn't dare put one on. He didn't even leave it out for too long, stuffing them back into their respective envelopes before sealing them and tossing them back into the box.
Envelope eight produced a thick rectangle of paper, a single stroke of emerald green paint striking the card in the middle. A plastic sunflower was taped onto the back. It reminded Kyungsoo of the time they had walked through a meadow of sunflowers for hours, fingers entwined, sky clear and blue. It was there that Jongin properly confessed, saying something incredibly cheesy and making Kyungsoo double over in laughter, despite the situation. Jongin always knew what to say to make Kyungsoo laugh.
He cried now, his palms pushed into his eyes as choked sobs shook his whole thin frame.
He sat at the kitchen table, staring outside while mixing a mug of cocoa that had gone cold an hour ago. A kitchen knife was lodged into the wooden table next to him, but he payed no attention to it as his dull eyes followed the clouds, rolling lazily across the sky. They shouldn't look so happy. It wasn't fair.
Standing up and abandoning the mug of cocoa on the table, Kyungsoo made his way back to the living room. He was almost half-way through it now, with eleven left. He sat down and took the next one, slipping it open with his pointer finger, a band-aid wrapped around it to keep from getting any more paper cuts. Jongin always went crazy when Kyungsoo got paper cuts.
A folded piece of notebook paper dropped out. There were words on it; a whole paragraph of writing. It was the most of Jongin's handwriting he had seen on one piece of paper, and the ghost of a smile tugged at his lips.
i met you at the library. you were wearing red jeans and a black polo. you looked cute next to the cooking books. i thought you were going to faint when i talked to you. but that was cute too. i knew i'd meet someone important, and i had been preparing myself, thinking of all the different scenarios and the witty things i'd say, but it all sort of flew out the window the moment you said hello back. do kyungsoo, you said your name was. and then i told you mine: kim jongin. it wasn't nearly as exciting as yours. my heart seemed to appear again at your voice. how cheesy, our relationship and meeting are. but i didn't mind. i don't mind. i'm just wishing i wasn't such a coward. i'm just wishing we could've lasted longer, and i'm just wishing i didn't have to leave you to tear yourself apart. i know that's what you'll do. please don't.
Kyungsoo crumpled the note, smoothed it out, crumpled it again, and smoothed it out a final time. He wished he wasn't so in love with Jongin, even though he wasn't with him anymore.
Envelopes ten through seventeen were all pictures. Some were blurry lights while others were side profiles of Kyungsoo cooking, cleaning, writing, or sleeping. Then there was the one they had taken together at the river, Jongin holding the camera while Kyungsoo held the button down to take the picture. It was of the sunset, the golden orb of light sinking down below the city skyline, the river lighting up like it was on fire. And then there was the one that Kyungsoo had taken by himself, of Jongin squatting next to the river's edge and pushing a small paper boat out onto the water. A tear fell on Jongin's out-stretched hand.
i couldn't take life
was what envelope eighteen said.
i couldn't take love
was what it said on the back.
but i love you, do kyungsoo
were Jongin's last words to him.
"They say he killed himself."
"Yeah, I heard that, too."
"It was an overdose, I heard."
"He got high and slit his throat."
"Yah! Don't joke about someone's death."
"I'm positive it was an overdose."
"Didn't he have a boyfriend?"
"Poor guy.. must be blaming himself."
Kyungsoo wondered how they knew.
The apartment was clean again. The wrench had been pulled out of the television, which was probably sitting in the city dump by now. The bed was put back together, the floor swept and vacuumed. He could walk without his shoes on now. He had the couch replaced, too. The pictures were re-framed, and the bedroom window fixed and in tip-top shape.
He hadn't quite moved on. His heart was still heavy, Jongin was all he could think about, and he could still feel his presence with each step he took, but he wasn't completely falling.
He actually drank his cocoa warm now, staring out of his window down at the sea of umbrellas on rainy spring afternoons, keeping his eyes sharp for a certain tan body to come pushing his way through the current of people.
He only got to see him in his dreams.