Life has its little quirks at times. Curveballs. Little ones. Like today. Curveballs like meeting her under the awning of a random candy store along the street.
I was walking down the street when a sudden downpour forced me to take shelter and so here I am, standing here, under the awning of a candy store along the road, staring at the rain pitter-pattering onto the road. Hearing it hitting the awning that keeps me dry. Inhaling the tangy scent of chill winds fusing with raindrops in the heat rising from the sun-baked pavement.
I’m thinking about how my day has been disrupted. How I’m going to be late for the meeting I’m rushing to. How I should have brought an umbrella with me. How things would have been different if I had done things differently.
“Hey! Oh my gosh. Taeyeon!”
A surprised voice jolts me out of my thoughts and I look up to see a smiling face that seems all too familiar yet foreign at once. My mind boggles as it tries to gather my scattered wits and it takes me a second to react.
“Fany!” I blurt out in…surprise. Or shock. Or…
“Wow, I can’t believe it. How long has it been?”
My brows furrow a little as I try to come up with an answer to her question. “Mmm, about five years maybe?”
Fany mouths ‘wow’ as her eyes widen with the realization. “It doesn’t seem that long ago when we last hung out.”
A corner of my lips curves up into a half-smile the way it always does when I feel a little out of my element. Fany, on the other hand, seems perfectly comfortable with me even though we haven’t met for so long.
“How have you been?”
How have I been? These kinds of questions are never easy to answer. Nobody wants a detailed answer that denotes every up and down yet a patronizing reply like ‘fine’ or ‘good’ doesn’t seem to suffice.
“Oh you know, the usual ups and downs,” I answer after a pause.
Fany nods vigorously, expressing her understanding and smiles again. It is this smile that got me seven years ago. It is also this smile that left me five years ago. And it will be this smile that I remember for a very long time.
“What about you?”
“Me? I just got back from the US. Finished degree a year ago and worked for a year before deciding to come back here. I’m so glad to be back.”
And as I look into her eyes, I feel a stirring in my heart. My gut. My blood. A stirring that I haven’t felt in the past five years ever since she left. A stirring that had never been addressed. A stirring that had been left to its own devices. Left to stir on.
For a moment, I’m reminded of how I never said it. I’m reminded of how I kept it to myself. In my heart. Under lock and key. I had been so close to telling her how I felt about her at the airport but I chose to keep it a secret in the end. And then, she left. On a jet plane. And for the first time, I realized how sad that song could be.
“Sounds good. Are you staying here long term or just holidaying?”
“I’ve got a job here. I’m staying here long term.”
“That’s great. We can meet up or something. Catch up with good ol’ times.”
“Yes, I’d love that.”
“I’ll bet you have many stories to tell me.”
Fany giggles. “I do.”
I smile and we look out at the rain that seems to have lessened. In a corner of my mind, I wonder what we would be like now if I had told her five years ago. Would we be in each other’s arms right now? Would we be holding hands, watching the world pass us by? Would we be happy? Would we be broken up?
“You know?” Fany speaks up suddenly. “I miss hearing you calling me Fany. They all call me Tiff over there. Only you still call me Fany. It brings back nice memories. And some long lost feelings.”
She turns to me and I turn to her. We lock gazes and look into each other’s eyes intently for a moment. Too many things have been left unsaid between us and in that moment, I think we both comprehend. I smile and she smiles and we look out at the rain again.
“Anyone in your life, Fany?” I ask, suddenly curious to know.
The smile in her voice is evident when she answers. “Yes. I’m back here mainly because of my someone. I met her in San Francisco but she came back here last year so I’m back here to join her.”
I smile upon hearing the sweetness in her tone. I’m happy for her and I tell her so.
“Thanks.” Fany smiles warmly. “What about you?”
It’s my turn to smile bashfully. I’m a little shy when it comes to talking about her. “I have a girlfriend too.”
Fany giggles at my bashfulness. “You’re still so shy. Some things really don’t change. Even after five years.”
I grin as I blush and Fany laughs at me.
“Oh Taeyeon, you’re still so cute. Who’s the lucky girl? How long have you been with her?”
“We’ve been together for two years now. And we only just moved in together.”
“That’s great! I’m happy to hear that, Taeyeon.”
We smile at each other and it seems so natural to give her a hug just then so I do. We hug and pat each other’s back before parting.
“It’s time to go. Rain has stopped,” Fany remarks. “I’m so glad that we met again, Taeyeon.”
“I’m glad too, Fany. Let’s meet up again sometime. And bring our girlfriends along.”
“Good idea. We should definitely do that. My girlfriend and I could do with more friends in Seoul.”
We exchange numbers before stepping out from under the awning. We wave goodbye and she turns to the left while I head to the right. And as I walk briskly to the meeting that I’m most definitely late for, I can’t help but smile. We almost knew what love was, but I’m glad that we both found it somewhere else anyway.