“We found traces of narcotics in your blood, Ms Kim.”
Taeyeon’s eyelids fluttered, and she felt woozy. She turned her head to the side, considered vomiting, and turned back to look at the doctor standing next to her bed.
“It’s quite amazing that you survived your little escapade,” commented the doctor dryly. “And I would advise against doing it again. Now, you must stay here for three days and three nights, Ms Kim. And we are legally obligated to arrange for a psychiatric consultation.”
Life had not really taken off again after that night at Tiffany’s. She waited to die in the morning, still without sleep, and the clock ticked from 6am to 12pm with no end in sight. She showed up to work, didn’t speak a single word, and got fired partly because of her attitude and partly because she turned up in a sweatshirt with messy hair and bare feet and it showed on her face how much she wanted to be dead. Something stirred in her heart when it was finalized; she was almost pleased to be rid of it. No more job. She didn’t have to go to work. Well, that was just fine, she thought. Now she really had no reason to get out of bed, no obligation to attempt a normal life.
“Is there anyone you can contact to keep you company for a while?” the doctor asked.
Sunny was insulted at first, when she heard Taeyeon’s conviction about life, and didn’t talk to her for a few days because she considered her friendship enough of a reason to stay alive. Then she showed up at Taeyeon’s apartment with a box full of cleaning products because she knew the place would be a mess, and she made it spotless and dragged Taeyeon out of bed so forcefully Taeyeon’s shoulder must have been close to dislocation. Good old Sunny, Taeyeon thought, precious little Sunny who actually thought there was a way out of it.
“Yeah, sure,” Taeyeon croaked, not meeting the doctor’s eyes. She was done with the conversation. She wanted to close her eyes and spend some time in her darkness.
The doctor waited. When she made no move other than to gaze at the ceiling, he leaned forward on the balls of his feet and said, “Now, Ms Kim?”
“What?” Taeyeon muttered.
“Is there someone you can contact now, Ms Kim?”
Taeyeon frowned. She swallowed the saliva that was building up in her mouth. “Why now? Can’t I just sleep?”
“I would recommend contacting someone before you sleep, Ms Kim. So that your loved ones don’t worry.”
A scoff grew in Taeyeon’s chest and scraped through her lungs and she wheezed with laughter. “Sure. Yeah. Sure.”
The doctor watched her for a moment. “Well,” he said eventually, “your cellphone is just over there.” He pointed at the small bedside table.
Taeyeon hummed in acknowledgement. They both looked at the cellphone for a while, before the doctor glanced at her again. She wasn’t moving. If it wasn’t for the slow, gentle rise and fall of her chest he would be concerned.
“Would you like me to hand it to y–”
“No,” Taeyeon interrupted. She grimaced at him. “Just leave.”
The doctor blinked. He rocked back on his heels and blinked again. “Uh. Okay then. You make sure to rest, Ms Kim. And don’t try to escape. It won’t go well. If you need anything – medical – press the buzzer next to you. The psychiatrist will come visit you when she has time.”
She grimaced again. He looked affronted and left, closing the door behind him.
“Now, Ms Kim,” she mocked, raising the pitch of her voice to one much higher than the doctor’s. “It’s quite amazing that you survived. I would advise against doing it again.”
She beamed at the ceiling.
Her fingers fumbled with cold plastic as she turned on her cellphone. Twelve missed calls, twenty text messages with forty-two curses.
“Close my eyes and dream about a Sunny holiday,” she giggled, and swiped the screen.
The beeping of the machine that measured her heart was not in time with the ringing in her ear as she waited for Sunny to answer her phone, and at first it was fascinating and then it was incredibly irritating, and when the phone clicked and Sunny’s voice said, “Taeyeon?” she was filled with anger.
“Sunny I can’t stay here,” she said, brow crumpled in a tight frown. “But they won’t let me go.”
“Where are you?”
Sunny sounded tired. Everyone always did when they were dealing with Taeyeon. She noticed it. She thought about it sometimes, when she was examining the spaces between her knuckles at three in the morning with the light of an orange streetlamp to show her the bruises, and she realised that it hurt and yet she didn’t care.
“Hospital,” she said shortly. And she hung up. She switched off her phone again and reached over the side of the bed, let the device dangle from her fingertips, and dropped it.
The day would come when Sunny wouldn’t heave a weary sigh and start calling hospitals, trying to find her. She was sure of it. As she closed her eyes, she thought for a moment that she was looking forward to the day Sunny would stop caring about her, and then she found it strange to be looking forward to anything at all. She slept.
That Summer Day
They met, half-nervous but trying to be friendly, palms a little sweaty in the heat of the afternoon, and Tiffany smiled. It wasn’t just a smile. It was Tiffany.
“Hi, I’m Tiffany!” said Tiffany, and their hands squeezed together and slipped apart.
“Oh, are you?” Taeyeon replied, because she wanted to hear Tiffany say more. Then she coughed. “I mean, hi, I’m Taeyeon.”
Tiffany giggled, just a little, and then tilted her head to one side curiously. “Have I met you before? You look kind of familiar.”
Taeyeon echoed the tilt, frowning slightly. “I don’t think so.”
Tiffany pondered for a moment, looking deep in thought, and then she snapped her fingers and her face brightened again. “Oh, that’s right,” she said with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, “it must be because you’re the girl of my dreams.”
Taeyeon nearly choked on air. She made a noise of confusion and blinked at Tiffany’s expression. “Huh?”
Tiffany laughed, so warm and happy that Taeyeon couldn’t help but smile through her surprise. She had never met someone so forward, and bright, and just generally beaming with personality – she didn’t even really notice when the summer party around them faded to a distant blur in the background as she watched Tiffany.
And that was it. That was the moment. It was the first time she felt like Tiffany was… it.
Three days and three nights in the hospital.
It had taken Taeyeon three days of excruciating self-pity before she decided to call Tiffany. Three days of lying around, rolling around, throwing herself around as if she was on a cliff, and then she took hold of her cellphone, ignored the notifications that were waiting for her, and dialled Tiffany’s number. By hand, not by going to her name in the contacts list and initiating the call with a single tap. She slowly, carefully, diligently tapped out each digit. She double-checked it even though she knew it was right. This was the phone number she had made an effort to learn after their second month of dating, when she knew Tiffany was by far The One and she would need to know her number off by heart in case she got kidnapped or something. Modern technology made it so easy to swipe, touch, and listen. She wanted to feel the numbers.
Tiffany didn’t answer. Taeyeon comforted herself, assured herself that Tiffany was busy, or her phone was dead, or she left it somewhere. When she called again later, that voice of reassurance was combated by another voice that pointed out that Tiffany was attached to her phone like another limb and she never let it die and she always answered it. By the third time she called, a little less later, the other voice was bit louder and her comfort diminished rapidly.
And that was how it began. She didn’t want to listen to the voice telling her that Tiffany didn’t want to talk to her, so she listened to the dial tone, the ringing, the beeping. Incessantly. She wanted Tiffany to answer and until she did, she would rather listen to the sounds of an ignored call than her own thoughts.
When Taeyeon woke up in her hospital room, she reached for her phone again, leaning down from the bed until she was barely even on it, and she returned her head to her pillow with the phone in her hand and a lot of dizziness in her brain.
She typed out those numbers. Then she stared at them, erased them, and tapped them each individually with particular care.
The familiar sound of ringing relaxed her. Tiffany would answer, and everything would be okay.
When she didn’t, Taeyeon curled up into a little ball and closed her eyes again.
Taeyeon was starting to anticipate Tiffany. It was different from the nervousness of their first meeting or the anxiousness of their first date, or the tentative excitement of the second, third, fourth. It was the kind of feeling where she was pretty much over-the-moon happy to be seeing Tiffany and her heart was racing because she was getting that feeling like this could really be a big thing. This could be that thing that people sometimes dreamed about and sometimes managed to find, that thing that gave so much unbelievable happiness that she actually didn’t believe in it, not really. Until now. Until Tiffany. Now she was getting that feeling like things were picking up, and she was taking off on a really great journey.
“Don’t get too hopeful,” she muttered, reminding herself, as she parked her car and turned off its engine. “Just take it easy. No need to get too ahead of yourself. It might not work out.” She gave herself a stern look in the rear-view mirror. “You’d better not fall head over heels for this girl, because you know it’s not going to be perfect. It might even get horrible after a while. Maybe she’ll try to kill you tonight or something, she could be a psychopath.” She frowned. “Okay, no need to go too far in that direction either.”
She got out, locked the car, straightened her clothes as if her hands were irons and despite the fact that they were not in need of ironing, and then she took a deep breath as she turned to face the building in front of her.
Tiffany’s house. It would be their first house-date, her first glimpse of Tiffany’s home, and her first taste of Tiffany’s cooking. She wasn’t sure how much Tiffany was joking when she said she was a bad cook, which was why she had just hesitantly laughed along, but soon she would find out.
When Tiffany opened the door, she was flustered and hot – in more ways than one – and her face changed from a stressed frown to a beaming, welcome smile at the sight of Taeyeon.
Taeyeon felt her heart falter. That single look at Tiffany was a lot. It told her much about Tiffany, solidified what she had inferred, and sent her soaring. She would eat the food later no matter how it tasted, she would like the atmosphere of the house no matter how adorably unkempt it was, and she would kiss Tiffany with more love than she had allowed herself before.
Taeyeon stirred, waking properly, opening her eyes. She inhaled, and looked beside her.
Sunny didn’t look happy to see her. She just looked tired, and generally emotionless. It scared Taeyeon a little as she realised that perhaps she really had pushed Sunny too far at last, but quickly she reminded herself that it was what she wanted. Wasn’t it?
“Drugs, Taeyeon?” Sunny said in a small voice. “Really?”
Taeyeon watched her for a moment before she shrugged and looked away indifferently.
“Where did you even get it?” Sunny pressed, her voice getting stronger at Taeyeon’s reaction. “They said it’s serious stuff. Who -”
“It just happened,” Taeyeon interrupted. She offered no further explanation.
There was a long silence before Sunny sighed. Taeyeon kept her gaze averted. There was a rustle of Sunny’s jacket as she ran a hand through her hair and tried to keep her temper and sadness in check. Then she stuck her hands in her pockets and gave Taeyeon a burning look.
“Well, you’re staying,” she said.
Taeyeon looked at her.
“I’m not going to bust you out of here,” Sunny said, tired and angry. “You’re staying, and you’re going to get the treatment you need. The depression was expected, but I thought you’d move on. The obsession over Tiffany… well I thought I could help you get out of that. But this? Drugs? I don’t see you for days, hear anything from you, can’t find you, and then you show up at a hospital because you got wasted and – what? Tried to beat someone up? Smashed a store window? I don’t even know what you’ve been up to.”
Taeyeon’s jaw tensed. She had no answer. She didn’t know either.
Sunny stepped closer, and rested a hand on Taeyeon’s shoulder. Slowly, her expression softened. There was an edge of pity, laces of regret, sadness, worry.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I wanted to help you. I can’t. You need something else. Please, stay here. Get better.”
“You say that like this is all my fault,” Taeyeon replied, her speech biting. “It’s not. I’m not doing this. I didn’t do this to myself.”
Sunny closed her eyes briefly, holding her mouth shut. It wasn’t the first time they’d been through this. Her hold on Taeyeon tightened, and then she let go and stepped back, opening her eyes again.
“I know, Taeyeon. It’s Tiffany’s fault, isn’t it? She did this to you. Well… get better. I’ll come visit you tomorrow. Please be here.”
She turned and left before Taeyeon could find a way to keep her there.
The loneliness set in hard in the silence that followed. She stared at the ceiling. She listened to her own breathing, unimpeded by another person’s life. She felt her heartbeat in her own body, no one else’s.
“Tiffany did this to me,” she whispered to herself, assuring herself, convincing herself. “Because love did this to me.”