“Hello?” The soft voice speaks into the mic, breaking the dead silence that had previously felt suffocating. There’s no response. “It’s been a while.” He looks over to an old picture standing on a ledge and smiles sadly. His eyes moisten. It’s stupid, he thinks. So many years have already gone by. At this point, tears don’t make sense. He’s moved on with life. But the memories never really fade, do they?
Tears spill from his eyes, running down his cheeks to drip from his chin. His phone is still pressed to his cheek and he reminds himself that he’s been silent for a little too long, that he needs to say something.
“I tried not to call,” he says quietly, “And it’s been so long since we last spoke this feels weird.” He bites down hard on his lip. He’s never been good with words. “You know I’ve never been the talkative type. But… do you ever get the feeling that you just need to talk to someone?” He swallows hard. There’s a lump in his throat that forces more tears to his eyes. There’s a sharp pain in his chest.
He doesn’t want to continue. But now that he’s started, he can’t just stop. “Recently I’ve been wanti-needing to talk to someone. But there’s nobody I can talk to anymore.” His fingers grip the picture frame so tightly his knuckles turn white. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles, “I’m so sorry. I should’ve done more. I should’ve-“
His voice breaks off. He doesn’t know what he should’ve done, but he knows he should’ve done something. Anything. “You deserved so much better.”
“How have you been?” he asks, the silence swallowing up his words. “I hope you’re doing well.” He blinks, the action dislodging another few tears, “You’re probably happy,” he adds as an afterthought, nodding in agreement with himself, “And you deserve that more than anything.”
His lower lip trembles slightly, another wave of tears threatening to spill over. He exhales deeply, trying to steady himself. “I miss you,” he says, voice breaking. “And I’m so sorry that it means nothing now.” There’s a quiet beep at the other end.
"Hello. You have reached your recording limit of three minutes. The mailbox is full and cannot accept any messages at this time. Goodbye."
There’s another quiet beep, and then a short vibration signals that the call has ended. He closes his eyes and lets the screen turn black against his cheek before letting his arm fall back to his side again, phone tightly gripped in his hand before he sets it next to the picture frame. His head hangs downwards and he lets short sobs rack his body, tears dripping from his eyes to splash onto the marble below. “Clear your voicemail already,” he manages to chuckle bitterly. “Clear your voicemail so I can talk to you.”
There’s nobody around to hear him. He lift his gaze to the small marble structure in front of him. It’s brutally simple, as are the words carved into it.
June 30, 1990 – November 10, 2015
Thank you for being you.
Taekwoon crouches down to run his fingers along the engraving, like he’s done the past five years. “Thank you for being you,” he echoes, the words barely audible even to his own ears. Then he straightens and walks away, leaving the picture frame and cellphone lying on top of the headstone.
I’ll see you next year, Hakyeon-ah.