Jede opened his eyes and the first thing he thought it was another day to travel miles and miles from home to school. He stood up and went to the sink to do his usual morning routine—drink tap water. He looked in the mirror on the wall and noticed some white lines on his hair. It was his first year in college. That wasn't surprising.
He brushed his teeth, washed his face, ate his breakfast, and took a shower. He did all of that without thinking at all. The only thing he remembered was wearing his backpack. He saw the black bracelet attached to the lock of the zipper and smirked. He bought them as a pair and he gave the other one to his friend.
It was around 5:30am, and the sun was peeking on the horizon. He didn't take his usual walk from home to the bus stop and took the cab instead. The walking only took ten minutes or so, but the dogs in the neighborhood always seemed to know he was coming—they were in the way before the entrance to the highway.
His chest always tightened, and his breaths became heavy when he saw stray dogs on the street. He remembered a specific experience with dogs in his grade school days and it wasn't really a pleasant one. He'd walk as if tiptoeing—slowly, holding his breath, pretending not to notice the dogs along the way. It was something taught by his father. He remembered him saying, "you should pretend not to see them when you walk. They won't chase you." Although he didn't understand why, it worked for him. At least most of the time.
As the cab reached the sidewalk next to the highway, he continued to mindlessly look at things they passed by. There were noticeably fewer vehicles during this time. Less smoke, less irritation. The smell of smoke made his head and chest ache. It was similar to drowning. If only vehicles were this few everyday.
He arrived at the stop and saw a bus was about to leave so he ran and hopped in. Long rides gave him headaches, but did he have a choice? Of course he didn't. He had to experience this on weekdays—waking up, travelling an hour, arriving at school with a constant ringing in his ears.
During this long ride, he'd always listen to his favorite song: All Too Well, by mother, Taylor Swift. He always played the 10-minute-version and sang along in his head to keep himself from having stray thoughts. When he was about to open his bag to get his headphones, he noticed something was missing. It was the bracelet. But where did he lose such important thing? At home? But he left with it attached to the lock of the zipper of his bag. Did it fall when he took the cab?
He felt his chest narrow. He opened his phone and sent a message to his friend, saying he lost the bracelet.
"Calm down. I still have the bracelet you gave me," he said.
"But that's yours," Jede replied.
It was something important. He had never bought gifts for someone before. He was never fond of material things. He didn't like receiving gifts either. It made him feel like he must give something back. He didn't want that.
Jede sat there on the bus, beads of tears on his eyes. He'd spend his day with his head empty.
IT was the last day of the week, and next week will be the holy week. They won't have classes for seven days. Jede and his friend decided to get some matcha milk tea before going home. They didn't live in the same town, but they both lived in the same province. Despite that, however, they didn't ride the same bus.
He watched his friend walk beside him. It was a bit odd that they were friends. He remembered him saying he didn't expect their friendship. They didn't have the same personalities and hobbies, but they still clicked.
"You're a godsend," his friend told him in the past through a letter. He remembered not knowing how he'd feel about it.
Jede didn't notice they were already in front of the milk tea shop. The crew gave them their orders, and they both drank it on their way towards the bus stop.
"It's gonna be a week-long vacation, huh."
"Yeah. I might look for another bracelet in my town. I hope I find a similar design," Jede said.
The road was loud. Vehicles beeping, gray smokes rising. Yet, he found everything peaceful. They reached the stop, and Jede saw a bus was about to leave.
"Bye," he said after having a sip from his milk tea.
"Wait," his friend called.
He put his right hand in his pocket and took something out. He reached out his arm to Jede with his knuckles close.
Jede reached out his palm, and his friend put something on it. It was a bracelet. Similar to the one he bought. Black, braided.
Jede stood still for a moment, and sat on the back seat, beads of tears on his eyes. The bus left, and he felt his phone vibrate. A message on the notification bar popped.
"I bought you a new one!"
Bracelet by Jam Denver