Blooming Lungs

one of one

He clenched his chest as that acute ache returned, he had been feeling it off on off for a few days. It felt as though something was piercing his insides, ripping through them in the most agonising way. Every time he crossed his mind, another excruciating sting ripped at his lungs. How could he be blamed for feeling this way, though?

The object of his affections was a golden-skinned man by the name Hoseok, who owned a flower shop right next door to Yoongi's record store. They had long been business neighbours and perhaps even friends, in a sense. They never exchanged more than a few kind words, but Yoongi was absolutely in love with Hoseok's cheerfulness, the way he greeted him every morning with a smile as bright as the sun itself, even on rainy days. And to Yoongi, who seemed to carry around a dark cloud of his own, seeing the young man so ebullient every single day of his life was a true blessing. He believed Hoseok to be a sunflower: bright and full of life, fueled by a thousand suns.

But perhaps Yoongi's so far dormant feelings towards the younger man really started to bloom on a certain morning, as the streets came to life with all the shops and restaurants opening around the same time, Hoseok and Yoongi both busy preparing their usual outside displays, when sunshine boy stood before the oldest holding a yellow flower in his delicate hands.

"Have a nice day," was all the younger beamed before returning to his own affairs.

That wasn't the first time Yoongi had felt an odd pain in his chest but he didn't pay it any mind. After all, it could have been anything. And the flower, a beautiful chrysanthemum, was most likely devoid of meaning and a nothing more than an amicable gesture between neighbours. Nevertheless, Yoongi kept the flower inside of a glass cup filled with water on top of his desk right by the till. It was a nice touch of colour to the otherwise rather dark interior of his small shop, covered in posters of artists from another time, a time he thought to be simpler, as we tend to think of times before our own.

From that day onwards, Yoongi's feelings towards Hoseok became more vibrant, awoken by that flower that still brightened his shop, somehow kept alive in the little glass for quite a few days. Everything was still the same, with the exception of Yoongi's inner turmoil. Every time the youngest walked by, usually whistling or humming some tune to himself, Yoongi felt a sharp pain in his lungs, like a needle piercing a hole in his tissues. Was love always that unpleasant, he wondered to himself.

That night, he went to bed feeling sick. It could be said he felt butterflies in his stomach, floating about; that really was the best way to describe the physical sensation in his tummy, paired with the discomfort in his chest. It felt as though his rib cage was expanding, his bones growing out of his skin and ripping through his organs. It was hard for him to breathe or fall asleep but his mind was still occupied with thoughts of the sunshine boy from the flower shop next door. Yoongi was embarrassed by himself, he truly was. Never in his twenty-four years of existence had he felt so silly.

He entertained the thought of confessing his feelings to the youngest, but also of just letting it go and eventually he would fall out of love. Perhaps it wasn't even love, maybe Yoongi had fallen in such loneliness, he was willing to see fondness where it did not exist. That was good reasoning, Yoongi thought, perhaps his self-inflicted isolation was clouding his judgment. And Hoseok was definitely the perfect target for his odd affections: a handsome man only one year younger than himself, who worked right next door and was as bright as an entire galaxy full of stars, the exact opposite of Yoongi, who has always been gloomy and melancholic like a starless night sky. But this thought alone worsened his pain tenfold and he felt his stomach twist in an unpleasant knot like he needed to gag.

Sure enough, he ended up curled on the bathroom floor, a bitter taste in his mouth, the evidence of his mishaps on the tiles and staining the toilet bowl. Yoongi finally opened his eyes, trying to at least clean up the mess and hop in the shower before trying to get some sleep but, to his utter shock and dismay, the remains of his misfortune weren't what he had expected. Instead, droplets of red covered the otherwise white surfaces, along with... petals! Bright yellow petals he thought belonged to a daffodil -he had seen a lot of daffodils on display outside of Hoseok's shop- and a thin layer of watered down blood adorned his bathroom, nothing else.

His eyes widened at the sight before them. Yoongi was rendered speechless, beyond confused. He could be dreaming, that would be a good explanation for this odd event. He was dreaming and he would wake up any moment now, sprawled in his bed definitely not puking flowers... Except he didn't wake up at all because he wasn't dreaming at all. Deciding to deal with his mind later, he started to clean himself and the bathroom. He didn't get any sleep that night.

Hoseok noticed his neighbour's absence all day, the small and dark record store next to his bright and colourful flower shop didn't open at all that day. It also didn't have notes on the door, which meant Yoongi's absence hadn't been planned. On the rare occasions Yoongi took a day or two off work, mostly to visit his family, he would leave a note on the door apologising to his customers and promising he'd return shortly. That was the first time Hoseok had seen the record store closed without any warning. And when Yoongi didn't show up for two, three, six days in a row, Hoseok knew something had to be wrong with the older boy.

So after one week of not seeing Yoongi, Hoseok decided to search for him. He wasn't sure where he lived but he remembered the older mentioning a small park next to his home where aunties would hand wash their white garments in the fountain, so at least he knew where to start looking. With a humble bouquet of nine pansies, Hoseok hopped on his bicycle after closing down his shop, speeding towards the park Yoongi had described. He would knock on every door if he had to, until he found the older man and made sure he was safe.

Finding the house wasn't difficult: an old lady with a black cat on her shoulder indicated Hoseok where the young record store owner lived, so he left his bicycle chained to a lamp post and made the rest of his way on foot, clutching the flowers tightly to his heart, hoping his friend was home and well. In all truth and despite the fact that Yoongi wasn't one to talk much, Hoseok had grown attached to the older man, who had seemed so closed off at first but over time revealed himself as a kind soul, shyness aside. They never met outside of work, they never so much as touched each other physically, not even a handshake. But for some reason, Hoseok felt his life had been touched by Yoongi, his serene presence quieted Hoseok's loud mind and the darkness of the record store made his flowers seem all the more dazzling by contrast.

Tragically, however, Hoseok's feelings did not match Yoongi's. He wasn't in love with the older nor did he want him as more than a beloved friend. He loved Yoongi the way his flowers loved the earth: he fed off of his tranquility but he didn't feel any ardent desires. Yoongi, on the other hand, was ready to claim the youngest as his lover and as a consequence of his unrequited love, he had a garden growing in his insides, threatening to expand to the point of ripping through his skin.

The week he was absent, Yoongi's condition had worsened at a slow pace. The petals he regurgitated came in all shapes and colours and it wasn't long before entire flowers came out of his mouth, drenched in blood. The man was getting weaker by the day, his home had turned into a garden, adorned by all kinds of flowers, from carnations to irises and forget-me-nots, the blood seemed to feed them and make them grow into whole bushes until his small home was covered in colourful flowers, inviting gorgeous butterflies and diligent bees into his space.

When Hoseok's desperate kick knocked Yoongi's door down, the younger boy gasped at the sight of a full blown garden inside, a pale and weak Yoongi lying down on the grass-covered floor, seemingly on his deathbed. Never dropping his pansies, Hoseok ran to the man and checked his pulse and temperature. His skin and lips were white from the loss of blood, the man's chest lined with dark veins resembling tree trunks imprinted on his skin. Hoseok knew what was wrong with him, he had seen it before: Unrequited Love.

Holding the man in his arms, Hoseok rested the pansies in his cold hands and talked to him, assured him he was right there, that he adored him with all his soul, a hand in Yoongi's neck, feeling his faint heart beat and doing his best to keep him alive.

Yoongi's eyes opened slowly, squinting in the darkness to try and make up Hoseok's face against the moonlight irradiating from his window. The youngest kept speaking, assuring Yoongi he was deeply loved and the oldest let out a faint sigh and smiled gently, his face very slowly regained a tiny bit of colour as his heart seemed to return to a more normal rate. Hoseok couldn't contain his tears as he saw his friend recovering his senses, the worst had passed and he would most likely survive.

Hoseok never left Yoongi's side during his recovery, which was unhurried yet steady. The flower shop and the record store remained closed for six more weeks, until the flowers inside Yoongi's chest died down and he could finally breathe easy again.

When they finally returned to their businesses, Yoongi was amazed to find the chrysanthemum still alive in its little cup of water, as bright as ever. He hugged Hoseok tightly and the youngest placed a chaste kiss upon Yoongi's forehead, before life returned to its normal course.

Love, in its many forms, truly is healing.