“ 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.”