When Taeyeon wakes up in the morning, she is inescapably aware of the fact that her days are numbered.
Something has been added on to her vision, strokes of a chalked calendar with dotted lines and numbers stretching before her from where she is to the little 3…2…1.
It must have arrived some time during the night, after she managed to fall asleep, after she thought for hours about nothing at all, after her discussion with the doctor. But it’s there when she reaches consciousness in the morning and it’s staying, ticking, following her.
It blurs in front of her eyes while she eats her cereal, expands and flows as she travels on the bus, and it snakes around her as she stands in front of her family’s house.
What will she say, she wonders, as she presses the rubber button at the side of the door. The tinkle of the doorbell gives her no answer but an image of a happier time, of a child running to answer the door and being cautioned by parents. Stranger danger. Iconic. A valuable part of childhood, and it was a stepping stone in the path to where she is now, and now she can see the path’s end.
Her mother is almost happy to see her – almost; her surprise is tinged not just with excitement but with doubt and curiousity. Her mother knows. She can see it on Taeyeon’s face. She bites it back, holds it in her mouth until the moment Taeyeon says it when she can deny it. Taeyeon holds her a little tighter in a hug. She knows.
It’s not going to go well for the rest of her chalked days. It’s called a torturing disease. It’s not just an illness that will pass; she will never be healthy again. She will crumble and then she will fall. And that’s exactly what she tells her family.
She squeezes her eyes shut as she cries. At night, she curls her body as she tries to sleep. She tries.
There is Tiffany. Without fail, she can make a day brighter. Taeyeon knows it. Taeyeon begins to crave it. Her mornings don’t start off with the light of the sunrise anymore. It’s dim. It’s dark. She needs to see Tiffany at least once a day; she needs to see that smile just to be able to see.
It’s a shame Tiffany doesn’t see her. Somehow, despite the mathematics of probability, Tiffany never looks in her direction. She never sees Taeyeon who stands at a distance with her hands in her pockets and her head covered with the thick hood of her jacket, she never sees the imploring eyes that grab onto her and search for a saviour. She never sees the pain, and the hope, and the wish.
Taeyeon falters with each day that is erased. The chalk is running out. Soon her slate will be clean.
And so she goes, whispering “please, please, please”.
Tiffany didn’t see.