The Lights Will Guide You Home


“Here.” Jiyong handed him a thin rag, then went back to fiddling with the tea pot that didn’t seem to want to do what he wanted it to. Seunghyun tore his gaze off the smaller man long enough to run the towel over his face and through his hair a few times, trying to get as much water off as he could within the few seconds that he allowed himself.

Jiyong had led him down a few cross streets, pausing momentarily to say a friendly greeting to someone he knew, or give a comment on how the weather was supposed to look tomorrow. Seunghyun had only watched, taken it all in as Jiyong smiled, waved, commented on someone’s newly painted shutters, or freshly planted herb garden. There was something about this man that fascinated Seunghyun, made him want to learn more.

They’d arrived at last, slightly damp and chilled through to the bone, at a small shack set in the center of the slums. It was homely, not something he probably would’ve given a second glance to. But there was something about it, just like its owner, that made him want to learn more. After they’d entered, Jiyong had set to work on fixing the tea, and motioned for Seunghyun to take a seat at the small, makeshift wooden table near the window.

As he sat there now, the rain dripping down the window panes on his right in a subtle motion, he felt serene, like as soon as he’d entered, the weight of everything had been lifted off of his shoulders. It was calming in here, and he appreciated it. His eyes shifted from object to object around the room now, catching snapshots of what he thought Jiyong’s mind must hold.

There were papers strewn neatly, but somehow haphazardly around the small room, some covered in words, others content to wait their turn to hold one of Jiyong’s thoughts. He liked to write, Seunghyun observed, color pinking into his cheeks. The walls were whitewashed, and candles threw soft shadows and dancing lights onto their surfaces. Jiyong worked quietly at the low counter across the room, filling the teapot with water, mixing in flavors and aromas. There was colored paper on the table across from him – blues, reds, and yellows mixing to form the other colors and hues that might someday make up the colored lanterns that Seunghyun so loved.

It occurred to him then what was missing from the room. There were no lanterns. He would’ve pictured the ceiling covered in them, bathing everything in their cool glow. But no such sight was there. In fact, there were hardly any colors anywhere in the room, save for the papers across from him. Almost everything was white, clean, barren - but inviting. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around this.

“Seunghyun.” He looked up at the smiling face of the brunette, who held out a small cup to him. “Here.” Jiyong’s voice was like honey over his ears, so soft.

He took the cup and watched as Jiyong took the seat across from him, pushing the colors to the side with a gentle touch. Jiyong’s eyes moved slowly to look out the window at the rain as he pulled the cup to his lips. Neither said anything for several moments, both lost in their own thoughts, their own worlds.

“There are no lanterns.”

Jiyong smiled, not turning. “You’re surprised,” he commented, barely above a whisper. “No, there’s not.” The words left his lips like wisps of nothing, so fragile.

Seunghyun studied him for a moment, puzzled. Jiyong’s hands gently cradled the cup close to his mouth, like a safety net, a barrier between him and the world. His eyes still stared out the window, but they were glazed, unfocused. “Why?” Seunghyun questioned.

“Mm,” Jiyong murmured, finally pulling himself back into reality. He set down his tea, and moved back to the counter, opening a cupboard and pulling something into his placid grasp. When he returned to the table, he extended his hands toward Seunghyun, revealing the stout frame of an unlit candle.

Though it was just a candle, it sat in his hands as if it might crumble apart with the slightest movement; it looked so delicate. For a moment, Seunghyun thought it might just fall apart before his eyes. But Jiyong held it as if it was the strongest thing in the world, like nothing could break it, and Seunghyun realized that it wasn’t the candle that he thought might break – it was the boy.

“Here,” Jiyong’s face lit up as he pushed his hands across the table, eyes sparkling as he looked at the other man. Dropping the candle into the hands that Seunghyun gradually offered up to him, Jiyong said, “Let me show you something.” He reached for a piece of smoky red paper across the tabletop, eyes flickering from the man across from him, back to the paper.

Seunghyun said nothing, so entranced by everything, a smile tugging at his mouth. Neither man noticed the rain against the window anymore, or the tea cooling in their cups. The paper was the only thing they needed.