In celebration of the birthday of my queen, my inspiration, Kim Taeyeon, I decided to pick five of her songs and make a story out of it: The Reading Playlist. Consisting of five installments that will be published every Friday of March (and one in March 9), The Reading Playlist is a story of the first love and the first heartbreak of our youth.
The Reading Playlist:
Four Seasons – Now Playing
What Do I Call You
I’m The Greatest
Do you remember that summer? Oh, I do. Very clearly. I always hated summers, the sun glared at everywhere. Even at night it was never cold. I’d rather adjust myself to the cold than the heat. Summer made me—forced me—to step out of the shadows, to walk into the light. I hated it. I just wanted to lie down somewhere and cocoon myself but even sitting down makes me sweat.
And so, I stepped out. And, you saw me. I didn’t. I was too preoccupied of the book I was pretending to read. It was too hot, I couldn’t concentrate. I needed air. I needed something cold. I have always loved the cold.
But you saw me, amidst the glare of the light, didn’t you? Ah yes, you did.
You told me that night. You sent me a message. We weren’t close. We barely talked at school. When I think of it, we haven’t even been paired or grouped together in school projects.
But you talked to me.
You were kind. You made me laugh, you made a smile play on my lips as I typed a string of words in reply.
It was summer and it seemed I had forgotten how hot it was.
When I was sitting outside one afternoon, like I always did, I saw you wave your hand. I hesitated. Should I wave back?
But I only gave an awkward raise of my hand as though I you had made me pledge.
You chuckled and walked away. We talked that night, it had become a routine as the days passed by.
And you passed by our house quite a lot too. My mother had started to notice.
I told you, she was strict with boys. Any boy. The only daughter of the family, I was pretty guarded like a coveted jewel.
But jewel I am not. Nor was I coveted. No, I was that fake necklace you pushed into the back of a cabinet. I lurked in the shadows. I thrived in the shadows, away from any attention. My mother seemed to be alarmed by that but she didn’t have any difficulty of reining me in, unlike the girls my age who scampered out and about.
It was all fine until you came.
Until you saw me.
You continued to talk to me. Then, you asked me, through chat, “Can I court you?”
“My mother wouldn’t let you.”
“I’m not courting your mother.”
“But I am her daughter who lives in her house.” Any other girl would have known what to say than the lines I sent. Perhaps a flirty punch line, perhaps even a yes. You’re handsome, kind, intelligent, has a sense of humor. Hell, if it had been another girl you wouldn’t be courting her, she would be dating you immediately.
But I’m not another girl, and I wondered why me. Why would you ask me?
I don’t know. My mother will kill me if she knew. I knew she would.
But you’re an interesting little thing. A part of me was curious. I have been emboldened after talking to this courageous boy who had paid me attention. I wouldn’t say I’m a nobody but I’m not anyone.
“You need to get through my mother first.”
And, you did. You came by more often and talked to my mother.
“Oh, we’re only a few houses down.” You told her with a dashing smile. You insisted on helping out on some household chores. You really are courting my mother.
But, why? Isn’t it tedious? You could have skipped this all and asked any girl and you would have her your way.
But no, you seem to be challenged.
And, I was challenged. You curious thing.
“He seems like a good boy,” my mother once commented over dinner. Oh dear, you have really captured her. I only gazed at her, amused, and replied nothing.
I relayed it to you soon after, “Let’s go out then.”
“I thought you would court me?”
“I have been.”
And you have been, indeed. For I was completely dependent on what my mother says. Craving for her approval, never ever imagining to go against her wishes and disappoint her.
Would I disappoint her if I say yes? You’re a good boy after all.
But I felt fear simmer underneath, somewhere inside me. This had turned more serious than I thought. You really were doing it. We were really doing it.
I thought you would be discouraged by the constant intervention of my mother in everything I do. I thought you would stop and then, I would be left again to the shadows. Back to my own routine as the last hues of summer started to change to fall.
But no, you persisted. And you seem to be more decided. Confident.
“Let’s go out,” you said one night, “Tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” The lone word in one text bubble, it seemed to be more of a question to me than you.
“Have a date.”
I said yes.
I pondered during that night, in my bed, why? I tossed and turned, why? Until light passed through the thin fabric of my window curtains, brushing against my sheets and my sunken eyes, lacking any sleep, why?
I sneaked out of our house, and we went out that afternoon.
And, on the first day of fall, I was yours.
But were you ever mine?
Fall always reminds me of school. I hated school but not because I hated learning but I hated mingling with people, with a crowd, speaking and doing things. I liked to be myself, doing things alone, letting time pass by without exerting much effort.
But then, I already have you, didn’t I? I can no longer be alone.
And so, you came to my house every morning and we rode to school together. We ate lunch together. We went home together.
I never dated anyone until you. You were my first. Of course, I’ve read novels about high school students dating but I didn’t know it felt like that. Comforting. Something new. I realized I welcomed this new feeling, this new experience, this new reality that I didn’t have to do things alone anymore.
Because I have you.
Was that why I said yes?
Was that why I sneaked out of our house just to be with you? Attend parties with you? Go home late from our spontaneous rendezvous?
I know I didn’t say yes because I liked you. No, you were more of a sign to step out of my comfort zone. You were a challenge that I thought, what if I tried? I had nothing to lose.
You were a game to me. An adventure game.
But I realized this was no longer a game. It was starting to become something more. And, I’m scared. I have become acquainted with you beside me. With you doing everything with me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything alone. I couldn’t even imagine how I did everything alone before. How I managed it.
You were a constant in my life and I no longer wanted to look back.
Dear god, I really was alone back then. And, I realized I don’t want to be like that. Not anymore.
Is this love? Am I falling in love? With you?
“Why did you ask me out?” I once asked. You were driving, we just removed ourselves from a party of your friend’s. It was late, there were barely cars on the road.
“Because,” you turned to take a brief look at me before resuming your eyes on the road, “I like you.”
Well, that wasn’t quite love. But then, not many people liked me. Not that they hated me, but most were just… indifferent. They just didn’t care. Nor I.
“What about you?” You asked, after silence had stretched much longer than I thought. “Why did you say yes?”
“Well,” I didn’t know. I didn’t know at the time besides seeing you interesting, like one would look at a foreign specimen inside a glass tank. I have pondered the same question since that day, the first day of fall. Why? I have answered them, of course, but it would be inappropriate to say them to you as my reasons, wouldn’t it? Instead, I replied, “You made me feel things.”
I couldn’t make out your face. You were confused but amused, your face crunched in confusion but arched in curiosity. “Feel things, you say, but not like?”
“I liked that you asked me out.” Because no one had. I knew why and I have never fussed about it until you.
“You’re a curious thing, do you know that?”
And, so are you, I wanted to reply but I didn’t. Instead, I held your other hand. The hand that I had held almost everyday that I felt something was missing when I couldn’t get those calloused palms on mine.
I think you have made me fall in love, that fall.
And, I wondered, did you feel it?
The cold, I have always loved the cold. I may be bundled up in multiple layers of clothing but I always loved the cold. I love its bite. I love the air. And, if ever it made me uncomfortable, I can easily turn on the heater. Bundle myself in another thick layer of clothing with a hot cocoa in my hand.
But with you, winter became more than cold. You made me love winter more. Winter is often seen as a symbol of death, of loss, a harbinger of bad luck.
But not you.
No, you put the color in the white and grey winter.
You made me feel beautiful. I never felt beautiful. In fact, I was insecure. But you made me see what I didn’t see. You made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. I no longer compared myself to others.
“You’re beautiful,” a soft smile across your lips, a hazy gleam in your eyes as you looked down on me. “Never think otherwise.” And, I would replay those exact words, that exact moment whenever I feel insecurity creeping into me, slowly, like the talons of the monsters of my childhood.
You accepted me for who I am, with my flaws and faults.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” I once asked about my flaws. I was not as beautiful as the girls in school. Not as beautiful as the girls you must have dated before me. I don’t exactly think about them but it would be a lie if I say I didn’t. Fleeting moments, I think of them, but the way you look at me immediately wipes those thoughts away.
“No,” you replied, “You’re you. Your perfection and imperfections, it makes you you. Anyone who would take your perfections but not your imperfections is undeserving of you.”
No one has ever told me things like that except those self-confidence quotes I stumbled upon the internet.
But it was different, coming from you.
“I have flaws too.”
Indeed you have, and I loved you more because of them.
I love you, three words I haven’t had the courage to tell you. Oh, a coward I am, yes. I am scared that if it did escape my lips you would be discouraged because you don’t feel the same. Like and love, afterall, are far different from each other. And, I’m scared it would push you away. I’m scared you will leave me. Instead, I only laid my head on your shoulder as I sought for your heat, for your comfort. I can still live with those words unspoken, as long as I have you beside me.
And, until you have spoken those exact words to me, they will be left unspoken.
But I didn’t have to wait for long.
It was Christmas Eve, and instead of helping for the Christmas preparations, I sneaked out and we walked all day long until it became evening and the streets were void of life but the Christmas lights and snow.
There were no cars on the roads and it was only minutes before it turned midnight.
“Let’s dance,” you pulled me into the middle of the road. I knew there were no cars but it was exhilarating standing in a place where, in another time, would have deemed us idiotic. It’s not everyday you get to stand in the middle of the road.
“But I don’t know how to dance,” you knew this already but you gripped my hands and we did all sorts of things, even ring-around-the-rosie, which elicited a frenzied laughter out of me.
Then, you pulled me close. I hung my arms on your shoulders and your hands wrapped around my waist and we swayed to the song of the snow.
I hated the bundle of clothing that separated us.
You were taller than me, and never have I been thankful of my meager height until moments when you looked down on me with your green eyes that were speckled with brown. I’m not sure if you knew but I didn’t point it out. It became my own little secret.
“I love you.” I saw the clock struck twelve on the bright electronic clock behind you. “I love you,” and you pulled me into a kiss. My first kiss. I didn’t know exactly how I felt. If I were a robot I would have shut down. You made me senseless with your kiss. I remembered your passion, the fervor of which you searched mine, of which you sought after those unspoken words I had promised not to utter.
“I love you,” I told you as we broke away, gasping for air. A huge smile broke into your lips and you pulled me into another kiss.
I’m all yours, I realized. I have pulled myself bare in front of you. I have shown you the deepest insecurities of mine, the flaws that even I am ashamed of. I have let you know me that no human ever had, even myself.
I laid myself to you to cherish, to love.
And, I wonder, did you do the same?
Happiness flowed throughout me. There was no day I didn’t smile. There was no day my heart didn’t leap at the mere mention of your name, at the sight of you and the smile you gave me that always reached your eyes when you noticed me watching you.
And I’m scared. For when happiness exists, there will be time of sadness. Of loss.
And I can’t bear the idea of losing you. Of being alone again.
You have changed me into someone else, who smiled, who realized who no longer wanted to be alone, who wanted to be cherished, to be loved like no other. You gave me confidence to face my fears, to step out of my comfort zone.
You made me be me, and made me realize I could do anything as long as I am me.
As long as you’re with me, beside me.
If I feel such happiness, such love, then there will be bound a time of sadness, of heartbreak, of hate.
And I couldn’t bear to go through that. The mere thought—imagination of you leaving me—it would break me into pieces that would be impossible to mend. It would bring scars that will never heal.
I’m deathly frightened. It occupies my mind every night that I end up crying to sleep.
I have attached myself to you, I have let you anchored deep within me, far deeper than anyone—the exact reason I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to be attached to someone else, to have them the power to change me, to make me feel things that I would no longer long for the past.
You did all that. You have perfectly caged me with your love. I’m scared if that cage breaks. I’m scared to step out of it and bleed to the shards you will leave.
But I can’t really ask you, can I? “Do you really love me?” “Can you stay beside me, forever?”
Can love really last forever? Can love really last as long as we want to?
Spring is often a symbol of a new journey, of something new.
And, I’m afraid you’ve found something new as well.
As a budding writer, leaving a feedback or any constructive criticism would tremendously help me improve my writing. Thank you so much!