BY Nina Cobankiat


Dedicated to Love Yourself: Answer by BTS

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  My phone vibrates inside the pocket of my shorts, waking me up on my fourth attempt of memorizing the biology textbook. God, I wish I was smart. Raindrops pound on the side of the window, married with the sound of car horns honking in desperation to move an inch on EDSA. I gingerly reach for my device to hit that snooze button, making sure that none of my notes fall from my lap. “Why is an alarm set at 5:00 in afternoon?” I whisper under my breath. As soon as I had asked that to myself, the title of the notification gave me the answer. “It’s here!” I squeal. Dashing for the tangled white mess that I like to call my earphones, I drop almost all of my notecards. Speedily, I plug earphones into my phone, open Spotify, and hit play.

I find myself on a rooftop. It is decorated with vibrant clothes hanging on drying wires. The wind brushes up the little hairs of my body, tickling me and yanking me to move. I give in. Like my childhood on a playground, I run up and down the uneven ground, feeling a sense of euphoria. A special emotion pushes me to get out of the building, which brings me to a familiar utopia. The picturesque beach is a wonder of this world, which I recognize to be the same one engraved in my memories of my past youthful self. The waves are crashing against the stone pavements and the seagulls are squawking, flying wild and free. At the corner of my eye by the docks, I see people my age having the time of their lives. One guy from the crowd waves at me and motions for me to join the party. I feel giddy already, for I want to just dance and dance and dance all my worries away. I motion towards them, but before I get near, another guy points to the water behind him. I think that he wants me to jump. Part of me is reluctant, but the part that takes over charges in and jumps.

I do not land on a body of water. Instead, I’m thrown onto a soft bed in an apartment with white walls, white floors, and white furniture. Kisses of light erupt from the windows covered by thin layers of white curtains. It’s quiet. You can hear the the movement of the air. Getting out of the bed, I explore the room to find anything. I hear the soft purr of a cat, barely audible. Following its noise, I ambly walk to the next room, which is where I see a small calico cat laying by one of the windows. To the right of the creature is the only item with color— a yellow balloon. Dumbfounded, I grab the balloon, and rub the soft fur of the cat, who surprisingly didn’t hiss or try to avoid my hand. The cat leaped and landed gracefully on the floor. Through pure serendipity, it ran towards the direction of a door I hadn’t noticed before. I open it. Upon me is a sight out of this world. I see the bright burning stars twinkling against the deep atmosphere, the grand and powerful planets orbiting the sun, and the earth so natural and beautiful. I see the whole universe. With a view so vast in size, I feel as small as the DNA in my own body. Out of impulse, I leap into the endless galaxy. I float and I soar, I smile with my dimples protruding more than ever. No words in a dictionary can describe my feelings at this very moment, causing questions to formulate in my brain. It’s as if I am falling in love. However, nothing lasts, as gravity sets in and I fall. “Her life will never find happiness like this again,” I hear from an unknown voice, as the twinkling stars shrink from my view.  

I land on cold concrete with a big thud, pain spreading from my right shoulder to the rest of my body like lava flowing from an erupting volcano. Struggling, I stand up to find myself in a dimly lit hallway. There, I see seven old and moldy wooden doors lining up on both sides, except for the large door farthest from me, made out of the same grey concrete as the floor. A singularity. One of these doors must be a way out - like the doors in the past scenario. I open the nearest wooden door and almost step into a room with sections of the floor crumbling down by the second. I scream, quickly banging the door shut. The next room is a living room engulfed in flames, and the one after is a bathroom flooded with rapid waters. One room was stuffed with candy bars, while another is lined with dirty mirrors everywhere. “How the fuck do I get out of here!” I scream. My heart is palpitating and my hands are shaking. What if I imagine that all of this is fake, like the fake “I’m alright” I tell everyone - or the fake love I have for myself. I enter the sixth room to see the words “Save Me” written on the wall. But rather than moving along like the other rooms, I stay. There is a truth untold in this situation. Someone else had written these words. Someone else is still stuck in a cycle of looking for an escape - like a seesaw; going up and down but never moving forward. A tear escapes my eye. Hopeless, I walk to the seventh and final room. I struggle to get the door open, but as soon as I enter, I freeze like a tree in the winter. The room is lined with windows on both sides, dead Smeraldo flowers on the ground, and a ghostly man in the center. The man is wearing a thick black dress robe with a hood on his head. His face is covered by a white mask. It was as if I were staring right into a phantom. Could his voice be the one I heard before falling? Bang! The door shuts behind me. I jolt and I turn around quickly, but when I look back, the man has vanished. In his place are two items:  A red notebook and a small mirror shard. What catches my attention first is the notebook. What could be written inside? I think. Flipping through its pages, I see notes on everyone of my insecurities; from my feeling of being unstable all the way to my feelings on the way I look when I stand in front of a mirror. But on the very last page, it says, “Love.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I say. I can’t tell if I’m frustrated that I can’t get out of this hell hole, or depressed being reminded by the things I hate the most about myself. I scratch my head, crumple on the ground, and question everything. Why was I brought to the beach of my childhood? Why was I given a taste of the universe, only to have it taken away from me? Why did the masked man give me those items? Why? Why? Why? I stare back and forth between the notes and the mirror, and then I had an a thought. An epiphany. What if I was brought back to my childhood to remind me of what made me happy? What if I had the universe at my fingertips, only to realize that I shouldn’t find love and happiness from other places? The person in front of the mirror is no one but yourself. Not a superhero, not an idol, but you. So what if the notebook is telling me to accept all my insecurities; to say “I’m not perfect but I’m fine with that.” What if the answer is to love myself? As soon as I said it, a door appears beside me. I rise up. Going through the door, I’m sucked into a celebration. Colors are everywhere, like every spectrum of the rainbow presented itself. Instruments are blasting, yet I hear my own thoughts clearly. The people are jumping and laughing all over, all of them with the faces of the people I love. Soon after, I join in too, finally and truly happy with who I am and whom I’m with.

In the car, I open my eyes to realize that the rain had stopped. Still, there are the sounds of honking horns and angry drives that I personally couldn’t care less about. Out the window, I note that I’m still quite far from home, despite listening to an entire album and being stuck in traffic for more than an hour.  Instead of trying to study again, I take out my phone, open Spotify, and hit play all over again.

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