But I hate to travel. If I even leave my house for too long I have a panic attack. When I am leaving for work, I make it to the end of the driveway before I have to go bac(more)k in and make sure everything is unplugged and nothing is on fire. I check the outlets and utter a mantra so I will remember later when doubt sets in: "Oct 31. Everything's off. Door's locked. All is well, all is well."
I have never been anywhere hot. Yet I think of beaches, not the rough kind of beaches in the Pacific Northwest, but the faraway kind where the sand is white and radiates the glare of a tropical sun. Where the ocean is an improbable swimming-pool blue. I have never experienced a warm sea or a shore that isn't rocky with barnacles. Yet somehow this white beach is a fixture in my brain.
I know that if I could look down from above, that swimming pool ocean is a-swarm with sharks. That sand is groomed and milled, trucked in. The debris of storms is hauled away, no logs or garbage left, no corpses of crabs, no dead fish. But that sandy crescent seems like a peaceful cradle for dreams, for letting go, for serving as a mental refuge when the world around me is itchy, when I feel chased away from sanity and my own skin, when nothing seems possible and everyone around me is outpacing me ten steps to my one. I dream of a brochure-esque silence, the salt air, the salt skin. I dream of being absorbed by that kind water.(less)
"What...?" Zen asks, scratching at his arm and staring at the pink patches on his skin. "What the hell," he says, turning to stare at his partners. "Which one of you saw a cat today?"
"What're you talking about?" Yoosung asks, leaning over the counter to see his arm.(more) "That's an allergic reaction rash," Jaehee says. Seven, sitting on the counter, glances up at Zen, winks, and then ducks his head. "Now I know it wasn't you," Zen says, "because if you saw a cat you wanted to pet, you wouldn't shut up about it."
"Dating you stopped being fun when I realized you'd learn all about me," Seven says, but he doesn't look upset. Zen turns to the only other possible suspect.
Jumin doesn't turn around. In fact, he seems extra focused on the messenger app.
"Did you find a cat today?"
"Don't be ridiculous. I know how allergic you are. I wouldn't put you through something like that."
"He's there right now?"
"Go and check."
Zen stares at Jumin through the window of the cat shelter as he leans against the black car he knows to be the heir's. Jumin is, for once, smiling as he cradles a kitten. The T-shirt he's wearing is old and he's even wearing shorts. Zen waits for him to leave, but by the time Jumin moves to go to the back and returns, he's in his suit. He hesitates at the sight of Zen, but continues out.
"I didn't think you'd catch on."
"I've been making sure I kept my outfit clean," Jumin tries, and Zen sighs as he fights back a smile. "Dude. It's okay. I wasn't expecting this, though."
"It's cute. And I'm okay with it, by the way."
Jumin sighs with relief. "Thank you."(less)