"It was written in the stars."
To be continued...
the wiry smile and hazel eyes. curly hair that would never grow longer than an inch. a grade above but the same age. an imagination that surpassed my own. that was him. my elementary school friend.
the day he pulled down my pants in front of the whole playground while I was on the monkey bars, I was a little bit angry, but I let it slide. It wasn’t his fault, I just wasn’t paying attention. running around playing a game of pretend we would “become” our favorite characters, acting them out and creating plots. he would always be the hero while I was always the sidekick. but that wasn’t his fault either. I was always the one who stepped aside for others to take the lead. and I think I still am.
he was a boy scout, donning badges that I could have never gotten: archery, fishing, hiking, the list goes on. he sells overpriced popcorn to strangers while I couldn’t focus on the task at hand, opting instead to look around and tell people strange facts about manatees. what was it about those sea cows anyways? something about how lovably clumsy they are, floating around the water while seeming like they don’t even belong there. how they eat lettuce and chew with lulled eyes, almost ready to fall asleep at any moment. I almost envy them.
when I left, he cried. he made me promise to keep in touch with him even when I was across the country. I pinky-swore. but that’s all I remember of him. I want to remember, but I can’t. the memories are too far-gone, like a ball that you kicked in the wrong direction. you chase and chase and chase, but you can never quite catch up.
the stars feel so close that you reach out to touch them, only to realize they’re drifting away by the light-year, shedding ancient lights down on you from above. and ganymede orbits around jupiter, bearing wine to his lord and wishing that he could break free. wishing for something more than what he was.
suspended in a sea of memories, I’m a manatee. and all I want is to be able to breathe. to taste the childhood that I once had. to grasp hold of the memories that are slowly slipping away. I want to meet you once more, but it’s too late. time is too far and too fast.
- Jan 7th, 2019
ii. horse head nebula
hermione but with glasses and curly hair that would rain down from her head to her shoulders. new york was her city, or so that’s what I associated her with (possibly because it was vaguely reminiscent of her name). a leader. an air of determination always hung around her, and you knew — you could tell — that she would have no trouble telling you your flaws. but it always came from a place of heart. she was my friend from high school (and middle school).
there’s a fire in her eyes and in the way she spoke too. charged. her presence in my life was blue, not of the sea, but of electricity. blue like lightning hitting the ground and blue like a fire when it burns hot. blue like a star, the ones surrounding the horsehead nebula. newly born and shining bright.
she had a knack for detail. she would remember everything that I did or said and would personally make christmas gifts for me from those memories. even now, I want to remember who she was. I want to be able to talk to her and to feel that fire once more. but it’s been almost two years since I’ve last seen her. I have to say that I miss her. I miss the way she would talk about neuroscience as if it were a normal topic of conversation. how she would go on about the book she read and what it means, all the while berating me about how I never read. I still don’t, you know? I really should. and I’ll say it again in a year.
I remember the day when I confided to her. tears streaming down my face, I yelled at her about how I felt like no one cared about me. how they would ask me for answers to the calculus homework but would never get to know me as a person. I didn’t know why I was yelling. and I didn’t know why I was yelling specifically at her. but I think I was comfortable enough with her to finally let it all out. it came in waves. my face buried in my hands, I was never able to tell her that I was sorry.
she laid a hand on my shoulder and said, “I thought you were smart, but you’re terribly dumb if you think that’s the only thing that people see in you.”
I’ll never ever forget that.
now, I open up a senior letter from you while blinking back the sudden tears welling up in my eyes. I forgot who you were for a moment in my life. not your existence, but who you were. how fearless and brave and how bright you were. how strong and valiant you were. how you didn’t take no for an answer, all the while being able to tell others the same. to never back down. to stand your ground. and that one quality cannot possibly define who someone is or was.
we’ve known each other for so long (almost ten years now? wow.), but I realize that we haven’t seen each other in a long time too. I hope you’re doing well.
I don’t say this often, but I miss you.
- Jan 8, 2019
I’m trying to remember the time when we drew a picture together in sixth grade. the details are escaping me right now, but I do know that by the end of it, somehow we became best friends. just like that our school bus rides became times when we listened to music together. I remember you’d pick a song and then I’d listen and then I’d pick a song and then you’d change it and then we’d listen to your song and then I’d pick a song and you never liked the songs that I picked. I started to wonder if you really liked me for who I was or if I was just there to be a companion, but I stayed anyway. I was too afraid to be alone. maybe you were too?
and I guess by the time we got to high school, after three years of doing this, I fell into the routine of listening to your songs and leaning my head against the window. that was when you started to hit me. that was when you called me "feminine" and "metrosexual." you didn’t like that I had better grades than you, so you took every opportunity to bring me down to your level. I didn’t notice. I just laughed like a fool because I didn’t want to be alone. I thought that this was what a friend was -- the one who might bring you down but who was always there. sometimes you needed a good punch in the arm to bring yourself back into reality.
but I kept leaning my head against the window, watching everything outside blur by as the school bus creaked with each bump it hit along the road. I kept my head down and smiled. how nice it was to have a friend. to have someone to talk to, someone that would give me the right criticism, someone that set me straight. he defined me, he decided who I was, and I never even noticed my head hitting the window with each bump as I began to fall asleep.
but I remember when I woke up. when I realized the trap that I set for myself as I extended my hand towards you, asking for help. it was sophomore year of high school, I wanted a friend who could break the thoughts rushing through my head. a friend who could stop the static and open my eyes to the truth.
"you're an asshole caleb, fuck you."
I remember sitting one seat away from you the next day on the bus because I couldn’t bear being far. but I didn’t want to be near. I remember queueing up the same songs that you listened to on my phone because it was all I had. I remember taking a deep breath and looking outside. I wished that I could’ve done better. maybe it was me. maybe I didn’t do enough.
I remember rubbing my arm as I consciously thought about the bruise that was once there just a week ago. now bare skin, I’d forgotten what it felt like to not ache.
I remember holding back. blocking you on social media, not reading texts, with each day I fled farther back into the bus. I wanted to scream, but had no voice to shout. I sat alone, listening to the songs that you gave me, holding onto a shard of friendship as my heart festered with regret.
I should've ended this a long time ago.
but high school days pass and soon they’re long forgotten. soon they bury themselves under the memories of college, and it’s like the trauma never happened. it’s as if I lacked trust because of a personality flaw. as if I was born indecisive. as if I was an asshole from day one, a nobody.
I’m the kid you go to for homework help -- only to laugh at later ‘cause A stands for Asian and B stands for Beating. I’m the metrosexual feminine boy who likes the color pink and cries easily. I’m the asshole who deserved to be kicked to the curb when all I did was keep my head down.
like mercury every day you changed, feeling one way and then another. your toxicity burrowing into my skin. and not a single satellite orbits around you.
but I want to thank you.
because when an apple rots, a seed grows from the remains, feeling the sun and reaching up towards the sky.
when a meteor crashed into the Earth it created the Moon.
- June 19, 2019
iv. canis minor
he’s a little sensitive and isn’t good at hiding his emotions. his confidence could use some work, but he’s getting there, just one step at a time, he just needs to take it one step at a time. he lays in bed and wonders what his life will lead to. he hopes for reincarnation because he wants to restart. following behind Orion the Hunter, he is canis minor.
he talks about soccer balls and chasing after them, wondering when he could ever catch up to them, legs too short to follow. he chases after lost memories and wanders through the night of endless stars, entranced by their presence but unable to understand. his tail wagging, he looks to the people he holds close to his heart, sometimes he’s too dependent on them. he can’t help but seek their validation. but through and through, he’s kindhearted, or at least he wants to believe so. when he sees other dogs, he feels a kinship towards them that he can’t explain.
he’s often misunderstood, he bottles up his emotions only to release them in a torrent later. he’s unable to express his frustration without harming those around him in the process. he knows how to hurt people because he knows how to care for them, but he doesn’t know how to hurt others without hurting himself. he’s naive, opting to follow behind others instead of leading the way. he’s easily persuaded, his own opinions are only based off of others. he’s earnest (and too much so), taking on piles of work without taking into account his own well-being. he knows that emotions govern his life, but he wants to suppress them.
he’s chronically sleep-deprived. food is his primary motivator, and he’s been told more than once to chew, to chew slow. to feel each chew and to count to thirty before swallowing, but he swallows anyway because he’s too impatient. he gets stomachaches from eating too much and too fast. they say that there’s a second brain in your gut, and he only has his second brain. his first brain clocked out a few years ago. he should take things slower, he should learn to take it one step at a time.
he wants to sing. he howls at night while strumming a ukulele, trying to feel some semblance of self-esteem towards his own voice. he only knows one strumming pattern and tries to use it for every song. he writes lyrics and then throws them away in an hour. he could sing the same song on and on for the whole day if nothing stopped him. these days he just wants to chase his own tail, but he knows that he needs to stop sooner or later.
he feels like he’s missing something, but he doesn’t know what it is. he isn’t easily satisfied. hobbies that were once fun have become chores, his schedule fills itself with commitments, and schoolwork has lost its novelty. maybe he’s been reading too much sadboi ancient Chinese poetry. maybe he just gets tired too easily.
there was that one time he was asked out by a guy in high school. he was taken aback and replied with, “sorry, I’m not interested in you in that way.” he told the story to his mom later, and she asked him, “are you gay?”
“I’m not,” he replied, “why would you think that?”
“Well, you didn’t reject him by saying you’re straight. You said you weren’t ‘interested’ in him that way.”
he wasn’t able to reply.
it wasn’t just his mom. he was asked if he liked guys multiple times (too many times to count) throughout his life. but it was never a sincere question. it was always colored with hate. he was always the “feminine" one, the one with too many emotions, the one that did musical theater and didn’t play sports. those were what made them think he was gay. and so he hid and dug himself into a hole. he tucked his tail underneath his legs, pressed his ears against his head, and hid. he wasn’t gay. he just liked “gay things.” he told himself. he didn’t want to cave into the stereotypes that society built around him.
it’s only until recently that he’s been using words like “spouse" or “significant other” instead of “wife" or “girlfriend.” it’s only until recently that he’s been internally accepting himself. but he isn’t quite there yet. and he hadn’t told anyone about any of this until now. they say that there’s a spectrum, and he supposes that he might be at the center of it, but really, who even knows? not him.
he gets scared easily. and he isn’t one to make waves. he isn’t one to bark. he isn’t one to voice his opinions. he’s a coward in a lot of ways, and bravery isn’t his strong suit. he’s scared even now.
he’s usually the one who sits back and hopes that others understand him, but then becomes disappointed in himself when he realizes he hasn’t given any hints to be understood by. he sometimes feels like there’s a muzzle on his mouth.
he’s been going to the gym because he wants to be healthier. he also wants to look “better.” whatever that’s supposed to mean. he realizes that it’s probably that he wants to look more “masculine.” gender is such a construct. it’s almost silly sometimes. if his body is a house for his soul, he wants to build better roofs, better walls, and better windows. he wants to fill it with better furniture, better lighting, better pictures. but maybe he should learn to feel comfortable with what he currently has.
he wants to become an academic but lacks the logical capacity to write analyses that are well-suited for his field. if he was any better at writing, then maybe he could have been a poet or an author of some kind, but for now, he’s a student looking into the future, unable to know what’s going to come next. he types up words that he’ll forget in an hour and sentences that become blurred in a second. nothing he writes is particularly novel, but he dwells on the same ideas: loneliness, memory, trauma, and stars. but his writing persona is different from who he is in reality.
he was an optimist and an extrovert, an ENFP. he was described as “sunny” and never not smiling. he was the one you could turn to if you were having a bad day. annoyingly bright. he was the one who was able to play video games even when under immense academic pressure and laugh even when he felt down. he’s still a dreamer, and he still has heart, but somewhere along the way his star has dimmed. maybe he just got tired.
but as winter arrives, and as the world needs more light than ever, he feels the need to open up. he’s breathing in fresh air and allowing himself to smile once more. he’s trying new things and letting go of old ambitions. he’s going to stress a little about grades but ultimately put himself first. he’s going to be true to himself. he’s not going to conform to others. that’s who he wants to be.
but, he knows that a week later, he’ll be writing another sad post about how his life is falling apart. but, when he does that, he wants to come back to this post and be able to read and remember. to remind himself to breathe and return home.
- Oct 11, 2019
v. sirius b
[Binary stars orbit each other, sometimes eclipsing one another along their respective paths. Their collective brightness varies over time based on their orbits as well. Sirius A is a white star twice the size of the Sun. Sirius B, a white star about the size of the Earth, orbits around it. Their home is in the constellation, Canis Major. They are collectively known as the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.]
we came to this campus with dreams in our heads and with prospects for the future. we moved into our new homes, ready to start a new chapter in life, meeting people left and right, unable to tell who would last, unable to tell who was right and who was wrong. it’s still hard to tell if people have the best intentions for us, and it’s still hard to tell if people will last in our lives. but like any white dwarf, you stayed behind for a long time, and I know (and hope) that you’ll stay for even longer in my life.
Sirius B circles around its brighter neighbor, feeling outshined, feeling a shadow on itself. it forgets that it too is a bright star, it forgets that it has the longevity, the patience that the other doesn’t have.
(to represent you with a binary star system is somewhat ironic, I know.)
memories spiral around me when I think about her. I find myself unable to immediately start writing, there are too many recollections to put onto a single page. I know that by the end of this, I’ll only have represented a fraction of who she is. my thoughts feel disjointed and come in vignettes of moments in our friendship. through it all though, through the rough waters and the grassy plains, she was one of the few constants that I held onto while navigating a space that was foreign to me.
she’s the kind of person that tells you more things in a subtle smile or a glance than through words. others might describe her as “closed-off,” but once you pick up on the right cues, a world opens up behind the walls. a glare that could make anyone stop in their tracks. a smile that could brighten anyone’s day. a laugh that cuts through the air, making heads turn. the slamming of the face of her phone against the desk in frustration. the smug look on her face when she holds a cup of tea, getting comfortable in a plush couch or some blankets. that look of disgust she puts on when someone does something distasteful. the way she doesn’t mess around, straight to the point, she’ll schedule a meal with you on the spot, nothing is just a greeting to her. that’s the way she says “I love you. I care about you."
she’s a 노력파, ceaselessly working on everything at once and balancing all of her efforts. she invests so much time in the things she cares about. what’s most striking about her is her will, her unwillingness to give up. she doesn’t let anything go, and that’s both her strength and her weakness. it’s worrying sometimes to see her feel so much pressure from the weight she bears on her shoulders, but through sheer will, she carries the world and manages, in the end, to take the role of Atlas for another day. in a lot of ways, she inspires me.
but most of all, she was always there. even when I wasn’t. it’s her perseverance, the persistence, the constancy that makes her who she is.
[the introspection method is used in linguistics to dig deeper into the ideolects that we carry in our minds, the ways that we, alone, perceive language. is this sentence correct to me? let me make a list of twenty examples to show that it makes sense to me. after I do it, I’m able to find out that, yes, I have a weird way of using English completely different from anyone else, or maybe not. maybe I’m just one of many people who have a weird grammatical quirk.
this will be my fifth time gathering the memories of a human in this world, taking the dust and heavy metals floating in space and putting them back together again to make a star. we only see the face-value of people, we forget to dig deeper. behind the exterior is a whole universe of stories and memories. every neuron in the brain carrying a thought, and every neuron connecting to more thoughts. all thoughts creating a constellation, and those constellations creating a galaxy.
I label people with stars, moons, nebulae, and planets, but they are all galaxies to me. I try to capture them in writing, but I’m thousands of light years away.]
there was this time when I was playing video games in the library, and she was sitting next to me, face in her hands, she muttered something about how her paper was going to destroy her this time. I very unhelpfully continued to click away, saying absentmindedly, “mood” and talking about how I have so much schoolwork too. this was common between the two of us: meeting up out of coincidence, complaining about schoolwork, her doing the work, me not, me eventually typing away with one hour left before the deadline, her laughing at me as I desperately start reading aloud whatever shoddy writing I decided to craft that night, me sending it in and throwing my arms into the air. it was all normal, everything had a routine.
until she cried.
and that’s when I realized how functionally fixed I could be, how stuck in a routine I am. it snapped me back into reality. I let myself die on the screen, closed my laptop, and asked her what was wrong. the conversation that followed wasn’t very productive, and we ended up falling back on the old routine, but it still hangs in my memory.
I wish I could have said something better. done something better.
she’s often mistaken to be a child, she steps onto buses in Korea, and drivers offer her elementary schooler discounts. she’s actually a whole year older than me.
but in her small body, she holds so much pressure. so much weight on her shoulders. she battles between identities and is split between too many decisions. I wonder how she even stays sane from day to day. I would’ve been crushed under the weight. she punches through a wall instead but breaks her hand along the way.
the world is too cruel, and people are too unforgiving. they don’t think about what they say or what they fail to do. we’re all on our programmed paths, our routines, and our filled schedules. yet she shoves everything aside just to meet someone. being friends with her is realizing how much effort friendship takes in our time. she reminds me that friendship is more than just saying we’re friends. friendship means investment. friendship means shoving things aside and privileging an important person in your life. friendship is constancy. I’m reminded sometimes that I don’t do that often enough.
she wipes her tears off and opens her laptop, “We had a dinner on Saturday, right?”
“Good, I’m glad I have something to look forward to.”
[to keep up relationships, they need to be watered like plants, or else they’ll wilt away. that’s a lesson that I learned from her.
but to keep up memories and to preserve them, they need to be kept frozen. or else they’ll rot and morph, discolor to be different from before. but every once in a while, you let them thaw, revisiting them and letting them melt in your hands. remembering how they tasted, how they smelled, putting it back before it’s all gone.
but maybe memories are more like clay. malleable, tough but pliable. let them sit too long, and they dry out and turn into dust. play with them too much, and they become something entirely new.
I guess what I want to say is…
if memory is ice, then I want to let it melt in my hands. to close my eyes and breathe it in once more before it fades.
if memory is clay, then I want to put it in a kiln, fire it, and set it permanently on a mantle. so that even if it tarnishes, it’ll stay intact.]
but to me, memories are stars: connecting with each other like constellations, dying and giving birth to new ones, and shining brightly even in the darkest of times.
white dwarfs are said to live for 13.8 billion years, and that’s permanent enough for me.
- Dec 25th, 2019
“The Greeks associated this constellation with the tragic story of Phaethon, the son of Helios the sun god, who demanded to ride his father’s sun chariot for a day. Phaethon, however, was unable to control the reins, forcing Zeus to destroy the chariot (and Phaethon) with a thunderbolt, causing it to plummet to the earth into the river Eridanus. According to the myth, Phaethon’s close friend or lover, Cygnus, grieved bitterly and spent many days diving into the river to collect Phaethon’s bones to give him a proper burial. The gods were so touched by Cygnus’s devotion that they turned him into a swan and placed him among the stars.”
I took a trip into the deep past of our message history, where it all began in 2017, when we carefully messaged each other about our favorite music, and you thought I was some kind of aesthetic Korean dude (but I’m not), and I thought you were like the coolest person ever (and you were). I don’t know what it was, I don’t know what threads of fate decided to coil and tangle to bring the two of us together, but on April 6th, 2017, it felt effortless to talk with you. it felt like I finally found someone that I could click with. someone that connected with me in a way that was strangely beyond even the friends I had in reality. but I brushed away those feelings because maybe I was watching a bit too much anime.
I remember going through the motions of pushing and pulling, trying to preserve whatever friendship we were able to form by not being too clingy, not messaging too much, not sending too many texts at once. I bit on my lip as I waited a few minutes before answering while at school just so that it seemed like I was taking time out of my “busy” day to reply. I remember thinking that by the time summer came, all of this would end. we would both walk onto campus and never meet each other, maybe even forget each other’s names. the motions of manically typing on a screen while having this dumb smile on my face would stop. my mom would tell me once again that internet friendships never last while judging me for being glued to my phone.
there was a moment when we did stop texting each other, and I remember typing and then deleting texts, wondering if there was anything worth saying. I wondered if this was it. my mom asked me if I was still talking with you, and I replied with, “we haven’t been messaging these days.” and she, as expected, nagged at me about how I get too invested in others. “don’t worry,” she said, “when you get to Yale, I’m sure you’ll be able to make friends. don’t invest yourself in people you haven’t even met.”
but then I went back upstairs after dinner and did just that.
on that first day, when we met on move-in day, you were exactly the person I knew from our texts. a person I wanted to be friends with, and that I knew I would be friends with. there was a gravity that I couldn’t shake, and I remember in the midst of being introduced to so many other people and being thrown into so many new situations, I knew that I would fall back on you. maybe that’s a bit selfish for me to say, but on that day, I remember going up to my dorm on the fourth floor and bawling my eyes out after saying goodbye to my parents. I felt the world crumbling around me while I thought about how I was supposed to calmly walk outside and talk with people at a pleasant picnic while wondering if they’ll ever like me. I remember being told that I would never achieve anything if I failed to make friends, imagining myself as the failure who would sit alone that day eating a sandwich he didn’t want to eat while watching people talk with each other, enjoying the summer air and making connections while he takes deep breaths and tries to hide the red of his eyes.
maybe I should’ve made a hundred Facebook friends that day. maybe I should’ve exchanged pleasantries and shared stories about my achievements in high school with the other successful former high schoolers who managed to make it to an Ivy League institution. maybe I should’ve ignored all of it and moved on, who needs friends anyways.
but instead of doing any of that, I wiped my tears, laid down in my bed, skipped the picnic, and messaged you.
(and then I napped. typical.)
he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and maybe I’m a bit biased because I’m his friend, but I’ve never met someone who is so good at keeping track of other’s likes and dislikes. he’s selfless to a fault, and it almost frustrates me how little he stands up for himself (even though he tells me that I need to as well). he’s the type of person that won’t ask for help because he feels like he’s a burden to others. every time I send him a stream of anxious texts, he gives cool advice and then asks if I want to hang after. he’d appear with my favorite food, plop it down in front of me, and I’d ask “wait is this leftovers or is this like.. a full full order?”
he smiles and says, “it’s a full order bro" while waving the receipt attached to the bag. I smile, reminding myself again of his kindness.
I feel like I know so much about him that if I keep writing, it’ll dig too deep, and he can do the same to me. it goes without saying that he’s generous, he’s funny, and he’s someone that I want to keep for a long time.
oh, and he has the best taste in stationery.
I’m thinking about my happiest moments in college, maybe even my happiest moments in life.
laid across the floor of his suite, comfortable enough to fall asleep on the cold hard wooden floor, I slowly close my eyes as he screams that he would kick me out if I drifted off. video game music playing in the background, thinking about schoolwork I wasn’t doing, falling back into the rhythm of this satisfying procrastination. waking up to a blanket being placed on me because he thought that I might get cold. feeling warm.
another moment: clutching my stomach, doubling over in laughter, tears in my eyes, my knees start to buckle as I sink to the ground. it’s happened so many times, I can’t even remember what kind of humor could possibly immobilize me like that. I just know that it was stupid. really stupid.
[did you know that I’ve cried while thinking about you? not because of anything you did or said, it wasn’t because of anything I did either. I think I was scared of time passing by. I think I was scared of saying goodbye.
I was thinking about graduation and how (scarily enough) it wasn’t all that far off. I was thinking about my life plans and yours and how it would be a modern miracle for us to end up even near each other. they say that college friendships are meant to be temporary, that at the end of these four years, all of us will leave behind the friends we so care about and move on with our lives. but, I can’t seem to do that. I know that we’ll all move on, but I also know that we won’t. I know that I’ll keep coming back to these memories. I want to write them down before I forget them.
full disclosure: I’ve never had a friend as close as you. I’ve never invested so much time, never shared as many secrets, and never laughed so much with anyone else besides you. is it selfish for me to worry about what happens when we graduate when we’re still a whole year away from it? is it selfish for me to write all of this in the first place? is it wrong for me to admit that I don’t think I knew what a friend was until I met you?
in high school, being left behind was normal for me. it happened regularly enough to where I wondered if I was meant to be left behind. that there was something wrong with me. I still wonder about that today.
but can I say that I’ve never had those thoughts when I’m with you?]
“have you ever heard of like… god, it’s so hard to explain… in Korean, it’s called 인연. you know,,, like,,, if there are past lives, then two people are like… meant to be together in this life because they were super related in their past life?”
“ah yeah yeah yeah, in Mandarin it’s 缘分,, it’s like… destiny??… chemistry?? but in the cosmic sense.”
“yeah! yeah! exactly.”
“do you believe in that stuff?”
“I… I think that I do.”
“I think I do too.”
- Jan 31, 2020