Reality, Hallucination, Love
Taeyeon was afraid to fall, and in retrospect she couldn’t help but think that she was right to be so. Why did she let go of that fear of loving, losing herself to another person? She reached a point where she wasn’t afraid to fall; she jumped.
She considered it as she stood on the roof of the hospital and stared at the air. Not the sky, not the ground, not the scattered few people below or the thinly shining stars above, but at the air that was thick around her eyes with tears she was keeping stored there.
She knew it, that she reached a point where she decided she would love Tiffany. There were buts and ifs at first, and then there were none, and she just loved Tiffany with all of herself and none of her fears. How did that happen? And how did she let it?
There were no answers, she felt, as a weak breeze failed to push at the air around her. She did it. Tiffany did it, or so she thought – and once again she wondered if Tiffany had ever even loved her, and if she did, then she wanted to know what made that love go away. Taeyeon wasn’t naïve, she knew well enough that love wasn’t forever, but as far as she knew, there was always a reason why it all ended and why love disappeared. There was a reason her breath was cut off when Tiffany ended it. She knew there was. There had to be.
And if there wasn’t, then the world was really just that much crueller than she had thought.
The dance floor was crowded, the circle around the newlywed couple breaking and expanding into a pool of guests plodding in a politely party-ish manner. It was the development of a formal occasion in an intentionally casual environment. People gave it a try but not really. The music was neutral; nothing too scandalous, but nothing too outdated. The room was dimly lit, with neatly lined lights in different colours around the edges and Taeyeon was only thankful that there was no disco ball.
She was also thankful that Tiffany was currently attached to her. Their arms were linked as they stood on the edge of the dance floor and watched dubiously as middle-aged professionals made an attempt to go wild without relaxing.
“You know what these people need?” Tiffany whispered in her ear, causing a ripple along Taeyeon’s skin which culminated in an automatic grin. “I think they need a couple of young, attractive women to liven up the dance floor.”
Taeyeon turned to smile at her. “Oh? I didn’t realize there were young, attractive women at this wedding, you must point me in their direction immediately.”
Tiffany raised her eyebrows, and then she laughed. “Nice try. Now, I know this is my uncle’s wedding, but I never see ninety percent of the people in this room, so I would like us to blow their socks off with a killer dance and then we shall go home.”
Taeyeon gazed at her for a while, and then she held out her hand. “Shall we?”
They ventured unobtrusively onto the dance floor, and then they stopped and shifted awkwardly.
“Uh, do you want to lead or –”
“Oh, I don’t know – well, maybe you –”
“You know what, I’ll just lead and we can switch later.”
Taeyeon thought about it for weeks at a time, the differences and similarities in how she held Tiffany and how Tiffany held her. The softness, the tenderness, the solidness. They watched each other, and they laughed, and they kissed, and they switched leads as they danced. Then they went home, and it truly felt like it.
Taeyeon found reality was still there when she woke up. The room was the same, the world was the same, nothing had changed from when she went to sleep; and that was reality. Except she didn’t want to accept reality.
She was back in her apartment, her name left behind on about three different watch lists, Sunny set to drop by every day basically just to make sure she was still at least partly alive.
After much pushing on Sunny’s behalf, Taeyeon also agreed to regular drug tests. This decision surprised not only Sunny but also herself, because it was so sudden, partway through an argument, dull and soulless – but then Taeyeon realised it was because it didn’t make any difference. Drugged or not, reality was reality. Or at least it seemed so. Truly, the drugs provided the same sort of useful hallucination that sleep did, but just like sleep, reality was still reality when she woke up.
So she found herself fine with the choice to avoid drugs and be tested for them, simply because she did not care either way. Life still sucked. The drugs were only temporary, from the very beginning.
She put down the glass of water she was holding. She meant to sip from it ten minutes ago, but once again she got lost in her thoughts. Were they thoughts, or were they feelings? She was losing the ability to differentiate. She felt angry and she thought angry thoughts. She felt empty and her thoughts were empty. She felt sad and thinking made her sad.
Talking to the psychiatrist at the hospital had been long and pointless, and very quiet. The psychiatrist was a composed-looking middle-aged woman who asked her general questions and was probably only half-interested in any answers she may have given. She didn’t give any answers. She supplied sentences as general as the questions, and Sunny vouched for her when they informed the psychiatrist and the hospital of Taeyeon’s agreement to stop taking drugs and doing harmful things. So in the end they let her go, and Taeyeon would never be going near a psychiatrist again if she could help it.
Although, she didn’t really seem to be able to help herself at all. This became clearer when she realised she was sitting in her car, across from Tiffany’s apartment.
She gazed at it, identifying the window in the building that was covering Tiffany’s living room. She remembered being there for the first time, and the last time, and she started dreaming of how that last night could have been different.
For one, Tiffany could have answered her damn questions. Why? It was apparently impossible for her to answer that one. Why was it so sudden, why was it happening at all, why did it have to be the way it was.
Taeyeon blinked at Tiffany’s apartment.
Are you cheating on me? She could have asked. After all, Tiffany said she found someone else.
Did you ever really love me? But she didn’t really want the answer to that one. Or maybe she did.
Are you sure? Just in case Tiffany was undecided and could change her mind. It could have happened.
Could you love me again?
Taeyeon felt helpless. It was two years now since she started dating Tiffany, and during that time there had been ups and downs and they were all so different from anything she had ever experienced before. They were bigger, deeper, heavier, and they all left a mark on her heart whether they were scars or fingerprints. By all accounts it was a mostly happy relationship, and they had problems and arguments and they talked through it. Taeyeon knew communication was undoubtedly one of the most important factors of a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
So this kind of silence from Tiffany made her feel helpless.
In all the two years that they’d been together, there had never been a down like this, and she could only hope that there could be an up.
She sat down beside Tiffany on the couch, and hesitated for the first time in a long time before putting her arm around Tiffany’s shoulders and bringing their bodies to rest together.
“Do you wanna talk about it?” she murmured, nuzzling the side of Tiffany’s head gently.
Tiffany didn’t answer, but she angled her head slightly to be closer to Taeyeon. After a while of careful stillness, she turned and let Taeyeon kiss her mouth.
The kisses were different, weaker, only half as presnt as they usually were. Taeyeon could feel the way Tiffany’s lips lost tension partway through their kiss, and the way she moved her head back a little before trying again; she was absent, but she didn’t want to be.
Taeyeon pulled back, staring at Tiffany, and she wondered if there was any way that she could articulate what she was feeling now. But apparently she didn’t need to, because when Tiffany’s eyes met hers, there were suddenly tears, and then Tiffany was letting it all out. Her crying escalated, and they wrapped themselves together.
Losing a family member was hard, and that was an understatement, and Tiffany had already gone through that devastation as a child. Losing a friend was a similar kind of hurt. It was the kind of pain that was stinging, and pulled your heart in a direction you couldn’t follow. It brought emptiness, a gap where that friend would be, a silence where their messages would have arrived, and the kind of soft dissolving of another connection fading.
Tiffany cried for a long time, feeling the loss of her friend, and Taeyeon held her and felt the pain spilling over into her own heart. And that was exactly how she wanted it to be. She wanted to be there to catch Tiffany’s pain when she was overflowing.
Even death would never stop her.
Taeyeon knocked on the door of Tiffany’s apartment five times, quickly, shakily, not meaning to do it the way she did but her arm was uncontrollable. She gulped. She stared at the door, hearing her breath stop in her throat.
There was no movement, no sign of life.
She knocked again, harder, erratic.
She turned away, taking deep breaths to calm down her faltering heart. She checked her watch – it was 7.23pm. What day was it? She scuffled with her phone. A Thursday. Tiffany would normally be home, surfing the net with her TV on in the background.
Taeyeon closed her eyes, and then she squeezed them even tighter shut.
Tiffany could ignore her calls easily enough, but there was no way she could know it was Taeyeon knocking on the door. And there were no sounds of footsteps or anything. Tiffany really wasn’t there.
She turned and lashed out a foot, kicking the door with a sharp jab that reverberated down the hall. It wasn’t satisfying. She kicked it again, and again, feeling the anger rising at the back of her skull. It made her so, so mad that Tiffany wasn’t there. She was supposed to be there. It was a time when she was normally there, when she would be right there and Taeyeon would know where she was, and she could see Tiffany again and know that it was all right.
She smashed her fists against the door over and over, and kicked it, and tried her best to make it break and shatter so that it could suck the world away as it disappeared.
Tiffany was supposed to be there. Tiffany should have been there. Taeyeon came here because she knew Tiffany would be here. And then she could get questions, and answers, and she could get another glimpse of Tiffany’s face and smell her scent and bask in the warmth of her glow.
She missed Tiffany, and the ache reached out from her heart and pulled the blanket of anger from her mind.
She slumped against the door.
Tears cracked through her eyes. She let the sobs take her.
She turned, angling her face upwards to blind her eyes with the brightness of the light in the ceiling. She slid down the door, feeling the back of her jacket ride up and the harshness of the door scrape against her bare skin.
Tiffany wasn’t there anymore. How did she know this was reality? Reality was supposed to be different, it was supposed to be a world where she could go see Tiffany and know she was still there, still real.
What if it was all a hallucination?
With an absent hand, Taeyeon wiped away the wetness on her face, her lungs calming down and smoothing out her breaths. She looked at her shoes, not really seeing them, and wondered if anything was real.
But if this could be a hallucination, this world where Tiffany was no longer here, then what if everything was always a hallucination? What if Tiffany had never been real at all, just a dream that Taeyeon thought up while she slept and that kept her warm during the night and then left her when she woke up.
She closed her eyes.
She was tired.
All she ever wanted, in reality or in hallucination, was Tiffany. Tiffany was her hallucination and her reality.
But Tiffany wasn’t here anymore.
And Taeyeon was losing her grip on reality and her hallucinations.