I remember what happened like it was yesterday; I stood in front of a coffee shop and smiled as I heard her voice over the phone. Hana stood across the street from me and we had promised to meet for our 3-year anniversary. Despite the cold weather and all the finals we had to take, she still came out to see me.
We were freshmen in college when it happened.
I only got to love her for three years; it didn’t seem fair to me.
I stood across the street and waved to her. Hana stood at most, twenty-five feet away from me, beaming brightly as the cold air kissed her cheeks pink.
“I see you babe. Don’t come yet–the light is red.”
“I know, Sunghoon, I know.”
I never let anyone call me Sunghoon, not even my family members. I acquired the nickname Kai at such a young age and always went by it; my mother told me that I liked the name after hearing it on TV. I closed off Sunghoon to someone special to me, and that special someone was Hana.
We met as freshmen in high school. She was the first friend I made and the only friend that stayed close to me throughout all four years. My best friend Kyungsoo even told me that she was the first girl who I considered a close friend. I met Jonghyun in my third year. We had calculus together and he was my seat-mate for two semesters. He was the one who kept the friend circle together. Youngjae, Hana, him and I–the four of us were inseparable. He was also the one who convinced me to ask Hana out.
I graduated high school without regrets; I had a small friend circle, a girlfriend and a scholarship for the university I wanted to go to. I loved life then; I thought everything was falling into place.
The friend circle broke up when college began. Jonghyun and I both went to Seoul University for dentistry while Youngjae went to Seoul National University to major in medicine. Out of all her acceptances, Hana chose Yonsei. She wanted to be a teacher.
We all had plans to go different routes and though we were in different schools, we lucked out because all of our schools were within the same city.
I remember leaving class to have lunch with the guys and the occasional “sneaking out” dates I had with Hana. The first two years of college seemed great; it was the third when everything fell apart.
Jonghyun’s family suffered financially and even though he was able to attend school, he was buried in student loans.
Youngjae’s father passed away and it was best that they move to the United States. His aunt was there, and moving to California was the only way he’d have family around him.
Then there was us, Hana and me.
It was finals week of the first semester. We promised not to get anything for each other this year. We celebrated our anniversary on Christmas and thought there would be more years to come.
On Christmas day, the first snow fell. Hana loved the snow–it doesn’t snow as much as she’d liked here and I promised that one day, I’d bring her to the ski resort in Hokkaido, Japan. She always talked about it, saying how much powdered snow there was and how so many people enjoyed the cold, crisp air.
I knew we didn’t have a lot of time on that busy day. I remember telling her we’d sit down in a café to settle our minds and escape from the thoughts that reminded us of our exams and all the upcoming assignments that were due.
I stood in front of the shop and waited for her; she was the easiest to spot in a crowd. I saw her in an instant as she approached the corner of the street, and I couldn’t help but smile and blush because every time I saw her it was like the first time I laid eyes on her.
I dialed her number without knowing it’d be the last time I’d get to hear her pick up.
“I see you babe. Don’t come yet, the light is red.”
Then I saw her eyes searching for me, I held up a hand and waved.
“I know Hoon, I know.” I loved it when she called me Hoon. It made me so happy.
I waited for the light to change from red to green. There were multiple people walking across the road–I didn’t understand why out of all people, it had to be her.
“Come here, Hana…I miss you.”
I heard her cute laugh for the last time. “Sunghoon, it’s been three days–”
Everything happened so fast. I walked towards her with my arms reaching out, but I never got to hold her. Instead, I watched a car ram into her fragile body. I heard it through the phone. What scared me the most was the sound of glass breaking as her body slammed against it.
I stood there, frozen and petrified. There was blood everywhere, and people began huddling around in a crowd. I couldn’t move…I couldn’t even dial 119.
Hana passed away on her way to the hospital. The paramedics told me that her last words were, “Hoon, go see the snow…I love you.”
I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe she was gone just like that…not until I stood outside the emergency room and watched as the doctors wheeled out her lifeless body.
I never got to say goodbye.
I graduated university and couldn’t find the will to pursue dentistry.
I couldn’t let go of Hana who had been gone for more than 4 years.
Sometimes I texted her number, quite grateful that no one had claimed it yet. I didn’t get to hear her voice again or the cheery way she used to greet me.
I miss that.
Happy anniversary, baby
Happy birthday, Hana
Happy Valentine’s Day, love
It was my only source of comfort and the only thing that truly reminded me of her, because it was where we began. Our friendship blossomed through text messages, and even when we were just beginning to date, we video-called each other almost every day.
On what would’ve been our 8th anniversary, I sent her a message.
Happy anniversary, baby.
I miss you.
For the first time in 5 years, someone on the other side replied.
I didn’t know what to do.