Ye Eun (Eva) Choi

*Note: Although cigarette appears as a significant factor to describe
the mood of this piece, however it has no intention to glorify
smoking it. I, myself, is a person who personally dislikes smoking.
If you are likely to be disgusted and humiliated by descriptions of
smoking, I would like you to ignore them in this piece.
– – –
She was sitting on the stairs to the entrance through the funeral
home, a half-burnt cigarette stick on her right hand. Her black dress
was like a little extract from the midnight sky, and oddly
matched with her long bleached hair. I stood there for a while;
staring at her like I was going to pierce her.

I knew her. She used to go to the same school with me, and lived in
the same building of the apartment. Her name was Hee Soo, a quite
masculine name for a Korean girl. She could have been the one more
than just a neighbor or a friend, but I never saw her having a
bleached hair, and spitting grayish-white smoke out of her mouth.

Hee Soo stepped aside against me, when I came beside and sat next to
her. Streaks of fluffy, cream-colored hair flew naturally within a
little breeze. It was quite awkward for just the two of us being in a
same place since we haven't seen each other for years, but strangely
it was nice hearing the pattering sound of the pouring rain, and
watching the mist coming from somewhere making everything blurry.

"…Do you miss Yoo Sung?"

The seemingly ultimate silence broke, when Hee Soo broke out
suddenly, spitting every word down in a surprisingly calm tone.
Yoo Sung was my best friend since middle school, and we were still
close to each other even we became adults. I couldn't say anything
about the answer for Hee Soo's question. Any word or comment over
him would make my eyes wet. Seeming to recognize that I am not able
to answer her, Hee Soo put the cigarette stick into her mouth and
sucked it once. When she exhaled, the stale-cold steam were blown out
and became the part of the mist.

"You guys were really close friends, weren't you?"

Her words, which she coughed out like faded saliva, came out slowly
as calmly like her previous one. It strangely soothed my mind, and
her low and quiet voice was like a lullaby in my ears. I couldn't
dare to let my tears out, but I felt my eyes are becoming weary. If
I instantly look at the mirror, they would have been stricken red.

Words were really hard for pouring out, like I had a huge rock right
inside my body. After taking a breath, I managed to let some words
and sentences flow, although I still felt quite painful to do so.

"…It could have been better if the accident wasn't happen, but you
know we can't rewind the time back. I just think it could have been
better if I could have spent more time with him, so I could have more
good memories about him."

After I said so, the sound of the pouring rain was smashing the
ground like it could have been an enormous ground. Yoo Sung used to
love music, and suggested me to make a band together when we get to
college. He told me that playing a drum would suit me the most.
As Hee Soo sighed staring to the front, streaks of her creamy-white
hair were flowing against cigarette smokes. I never knew her eyes
could be sunken that deep, and never knew the lids of her eyes could
perfectly define the word 'melancholy'.

"How bitter is that, to make time irreversible."

I heard Hee Soo's voice trembling a little bit when she finally
managed to speak up, so as her fingers holding a cigarette stick. The
end of the cigarette were bleaching and fading grey, with a little
line of smoke flowing like it came from thin sticks of incense. She
threw the burnt stick right into the trash can under the stairs, and
naturally took a small, white cigarette box with her left hand.

"…Want a cigarette?"

When she burst in, handing me a clean stick of cigarette, I was able
to look into her eyes for the first time today. It was an undeniable
fact that she had been changed a lot, with deep makeup and a weary-
looking expression. But, somehow I could recognize her wearing her
high school uniform from features of her face, when her hair wasn't
bleached and no cigarettes on her hand.

"No, thanks. I don't smoke."

Although I refused her offer like that, I still favored watching her
letting out "Oh." reluctantly, and fired the cigarette with a neon-
pink disposable lighter. I rather liked the smoke bursting out from
her mouth, and mixing with the mist and the sound of pouring rain.

"…You know what? I should be the one who should regret to meet Yoo
Sung at least once before he left us. I should've said…"

Still holding the inflaming cigarette with her two fingers, Hee
Soo stopped spitting out the words at some point. As she took a
little bit of breath out of her mouth, I instantly presumed that now
she's the one who has a rock insider her body. After whisking her
wrist to cease the fire and let the smoke out, she sucked the
cigarette and spit out the smoke. Then, she started to speak on in a
surprisingly calm tone.

"…I should've said I loved him. I really loved him a lot. It might
have been a girlish first crush, but I pictured the days when I saw
you guys together at the church. I imagined I met Yoo Sung outside
the church and spend time together, and become close to each other. I
dreamt of it sometimes even after graduation. I just couldn't dare to
speak out."

After saying that, Hee Soo put the cigarette inside her mouth once
again and let her breath out. She was rather like a dragon defeated
from a battle with a knight, or a distressed queen who realized that
she couldn’t win over Snow White by beauty. I saw a string of
liquid falling down from her left eye. It flowed down like a
raindrop through her pale cheeks towards her chin. I couldn't see
whether she was crying out a pouring rain, or multiples of Hee Soo in
indescribable resentment from somewhere above is shedding tears.
Still letting tears free to flow down through her face, Hee Soo just
went on exhaling the smoke. Half of the new stick was now bleaching
pale, like I first saw her on the stairs. Looking over her, I
realized that speaking something to her would be meaningless. I felt
my vision becoming blurred a little bit as well, and my nose would
feel that I want to sneeze out all the melancholy and resentment.

"…Jae Joon."

Moments later, Hee Soo calmly whispered my name. She wiped both sides
of her cheeks constantly, seemly to hide her tears.

"Do you think we could cope this? Do you think we could get out of
this melancholy?"

After she said this, she put the stick inside and sucked it with a
deep inhalation. Then, she deeply exhaled like she was trying to
eliminate all the smoke left inside her through her nostrils and
mouth. Wiping out the leftover liquidity over her face, Hee Soo
looked inside my eyes once again with her deep, sunken eyes. Trying
to be calm and controlling myself from burst out a cry, I replied to
her question.

"I think we could learn ourselves to do so automatically. Some day,
Yoo Sung will be only remain in our memory and we could let his
spirit free from us."

After saying that, I felt a little bit of collision is happening to
the rock inside my body, but I knew it would be only a scratch when I
felt my nose runny once again. I couldn't help myself to complete the
phrase, based on my true, genuine feelings.

"But, I think it would be an utterly difficult task."