Written by Varrick Kwang
Art by Burak Kostak

The afternoon was sweltering and blindingly sunny. Jim sat by the television while he savoured his can of coca-cola under the hot weather where he had his rare breather from constant business decisions, negotiations and the constant pressure of innovation.

The digitized chimes of the bell rang, followed by a knock on the door that called for Jim to move his butt from the couch. 

“Coming. Hold still.”

He opened the door to a sight that instantly strangled his heartstrings.

It was the box that he had decorated with glitter hearts and a little bear sticker. The box he spent nights decorating for her.

Oh, how could he ever forget that day? The feeling of glitter getting everywhere and how much trouble it was for him to clean it up. 

All for Li Ying to see her smile after she failed her university entrance exam.

Decorating the box was a hassle and being a klutz when it comes to decorative handwork didn’t help. He had to endure the hassle to clean up the glitter that had gotten all over his room. He had spent all of the next morning scrubbing his desk with copious amounts of detergent.

Ever since then, he would somehow always find a minuscule shine of glitter under the ceiling lights in any obscure corner. He has found those specks such as a switch or the top of a bookshelf with his finger.

However, when he saw the sparkle return in her eyes and her smile widening once more. His effort was worth it.

For three years, they were happy, blissful and everything between them was stable. 

He picked up the box, avoiding the glittered areas. The box made a clunking sound as it moved and felt heavy to the touch.

Something from the deepest recesses of his heart tore through again. His voice whispered to him, but it was so quiet that even he could barely hear it himself.

“Just open it up again. Process the feelings one last time. Maybe she left something in there too.”

This is bullshit. Jim retorted in his mind. He does not want to relive this. 

As much as he had loved Li Ying back in the day. All that was left was bitter memories and countless tears

And then Jim remembered that he had given an old judo belt to her- a maroon brown belt when she had achieved that rank a year ago. Now she has long gone past the second degree to be an assistant instructor. Jim on the other hand, quit at the first dan level to focus on his new job. 

It could be in the box too. It would be disrespectful to simply throw a belt in good condition into the trash like it was worth nothing. It would be harmless to take out a belt from the box.

So Jim opened it, expecting to see everything he had given her. 

The surface of the pile was every little token of love he had shared. A BTS mug he gave to her during their fourth date. A plushie rose he gave her on her 23rd birthday

Under the plushie rose and the mug were hand-made envelopes decorated with kisses of heart stickers and another pink mug decorated with a cartoon judoka. 

The ones he put the most effort into making though, were all the handmade bracelets he made for her. He had made them the day before her first day at university

He fondly remembered making those string bracelets for her, spending hours at night weaving those tricky threads to make them look pretty. 

Now that he looked at those bracelets again, he saw nothing but loss and regret. The broken threads of destiny. Today, those bracelets looked creased and the individual threads have been untangled making it look more like messed up strings of yarn than properly made bracelets. 

Were those bracelets even well made to begin with though, like the foundations of their relationship?

Jim could do nothing but ask himself where everything went wrong and blame himself for letting their love go up in ash.

Every item jostled Jim’s memories with Li Ying. 

All the gifts he gave her were there, except the brown belt.

As the memories of their relationship welled up. He cannot help but ask himself the question that ate him up from the inside. Isn’t it ridiculous that two people who once had such a deep love for each other could suddenly turn into strangers the next? How could things turn out so callous and so fleeting?

Once again, he asked himself the question he has already asked himself a billion times,

“Why did we come to this?”