Today, my mom died. In the span of a two-minute phone call, her life is gone, and my world shatters.
I'm left alone, half-way across the world from my hometown in South Korea, with thousands of miles of ocean and obligations between us.
Suddenly, the pristine streets of London no longer hold my interest. The Thames is a muddy patch of misery, it's banks overflowing with thousands of tears.
All I want is home and the comfort of her arms around me.
The familiar comforts of home: the sugar-sweet scent of her perfume,
The familiar comforts of home: the sugar-sweet scent of her perfume, the spicy rice cakes she'd make whenever our days went poorly,
The familiar comforts of home: the sugar-sweet scent of her perfume, the spicy rice cakes she'd make whenever our days went poorly, even the sound of her reprimanding my siblings and me, are now forever missing from my life.
I miss the way her brow crinkled when she was upset and smoothed out with her smile.
I no longer have a comforting place to hide whenever my tears are heavy.
My mom had been walking my dog, a short little thing called Bada, when she'd slipped, hitting her head before disappearing beneath the Yeongsan River.
My mom had been walking my dog, a short little thing called Bada, when she'd slipped, hitting her head before disappearing beneath the Yeongsan River. She'd drowned before anyone could save her.
And I, her only son, had been on a stage living a perfect dream, my band members bright stars beside me.
And I, her only son, had been on a stage living a perfect dream, my band members bright stars beside me. We're on a world tour, celebrating our music with the thousands of fans who've brought us fame.
And I, her only son, had been on a stage living a perfect dream, my band members bright stars beside me. We're on a world tour, celebrating our music with the thousands of fans who've brought us fame. This tour is a highlight of my career, but no longer of my life.
My family tried to call me, but it'd only went to voicemail. I'd made a habit of leaving my phone backstage, silenced, so it didn't distract anyone.
Because of this, the staff hadn't seen it ring. There was no warning when I called back, only an unusual amount of calls when they knew I'd be busy.
Now, I walk the rainy streets of London, occasionally stopping to stare at the boy reflected back at me.
Those dark eyes are haggard, drooping with every drop of rain; tears still well from them, dropping to the wet pavement below. My lips hold no smile, frowning at every passerby, wishing to express my despair with every downturn.
I want to scream about the injustice my family's been dealt, but no words leave my mouth.
I kick a puddle, scattering my reflection. Waves ripple, doubling back on themselves whenever they hit an edge.
It's painful to look at my face, knowing the woman who created, nurtured, and cared for it is gone like a drop in this rippling puddle.
This grief collects just like that rain, steadily growing larger. It's all-consuming, and I'm afraid I'll never find my way to the surface again.
However, I know I must. The world continues, and people rely on me and my music to make their lives more bearable. Who will sing their hopeful anthems if I can't even muster a smile?
As I move from puddle to puddle, my umbrella a dark shape above me, I try to drag my mood out from the depths it's fallen into.
I have four more shows before I return home, with thousands of eyes watching my every move. I must find a semblance of the joyful exterior I always present onstage, or people will worry.
Too many questions can ripple across a peaceful image, tearing into my reputation. A soiled reputation is the last thing I need right now. My career is finally steady.
I can't risk even the smallest issue.
Of course, the bit of me that cares about my stage presence is small and shrinking. I only want to grieve in peace like any other person. I need the comfort of my shattered family at the moment, not the questioning stares of my fans.
More than anything, I want my mom.
I stop at a park bench, sitting before sinking my head into my hands. Beside me, my umbrella floats to the ground, letting the rain pour over me. I barely feel it.
In the peace and anonymity of a bustling city park, I let myself cry.
However, even if I remain anonymous to these Londoners, I'm not truly alone. I have security and a manager with me at all times. They let me cry, giving me a small bit of space to mourn.
I'll take whatever I can get.
They focus on their job, keeping the cameras at bay while my tears come. I don't care what those flashing films capture.
My shaking shoulders and wet sobs only inquire a few cursory glances in the busy park. I sink into the pain with little care.
The rain falls in soft patters around me, a faint sound that would typically be soothing. Time passes with each small drop.
It's only when my manager taps on my shoulder that I realize it's stopped raining. The sun is bright and burning in the sky, just past its highest point.
"We have to go, Mr. Seo. Everyone's waiting for you at rehearsal." His words are soft, his eyes even softer. He doesn't want to pull me from my grief, but I have a job to do, despite any personal tragedies that might befall me.
I send him a small, shaky smile, trying my best to stop the tears that threaten. The soft-eyed manager hands me a handkerchief and holds his umbrella above me. Water pours over him, but he doesn't seem to mind.
He's preoccupied, his mind wandering as his free hand worries a corner of his jacket. He releases it, that hand twitching towards me, hesitating, before returning to the worn fabric.
I stand up, using the handkerchief to wipe away my tears. I take a settling breath in before I face the world; my shoulders square.
Then I pick up my own umbrella, shaking the water from it. Though I'm already soaked, I hold it above me anyway. Pretenses are all I have now.
With him in the lead, we head back towards the rehearsal space. We walk in silence.
My eyes are glued to the dirty puddles collecting along the street, unwilling to make even the slightest of conversations.
I've barely had time to comprehend my mom's death, but I know soon, I'll have to push it aside to focus on my job. Oddly, I don't mind.
It's better if I stay occupied, instead of dawdling on what can't be changed.
Just before we part ways, me joining my friends and him joining the staff, the man stops me. His fingers stop worrying the fabric of his coat. It's a crumpled mess now, but he pays it no mind.
He hesitates, his jaw clenching before finally reaching out to hug me. His grip is firm, reassuring.
I don't know who needed it more.
In the seven years we've worked together, though he has always been supportive, he's never hugged me. This first hug is a comfort. I welcome it.
"I'm so sorry, Jisung."
(Author's note: Hey guys, thus piece is actually part of a longer short story! You can find it over on my wattpad, in my book "The Lies We Tell." Link will be in the comments if you want to check it out! Thanks. -Ivory)