The snow storms were unforgiving each time around. Being frostbitten was no longer a casualty. What they would leave behind were battle scars I was going to be proud of. Every time I would inform people that I was "heading up", I was bombarded with messages to not go incase something happened. I still braved Mount Everest every year anyway.
Considered as one of the most dangerous places to climb, Mount Everest was, ironically, named after George Everest who never got to its peak. In a remote region away from the technologies of the world that left things impaired, the Nepalese pride themselves for their Sagarmatha. Also known as Chomolungma by the Tibetans, meaning “mother goddess of the world.” A number of people fail the conquest to stroke the crowning glory of the highest mountain in the world. But not even the deaths can waver me from climbing up.
The weather and obstacles along the way are clearly not for man to encounter. The unpleasantness of witnessing corpses that once hoped their fires could power through the cold were now merely remnants of that bravery. Frozen limbs can be unearthed from the snow when trying to retrieve a dropped item. But it was just like sifting through dinosaur bones. It was right then and there where they were meant to perish, in the presence of the madness that drove them to test the prowess of the mountain.
Days of wind, cold and rock tested me. I was physically capable and very determined to make this my fifth claim of overcoming the mother goddess’ tests. Every step I took made me feel stronger and the farther I got away from the earth, it was a testament to my would-be victory.
After a week of climbing, sweating and shivering, I felt like I owned a piece of time for a while and everything became still. I looked over the mass of rock and snow I went through. It seemed like infinite proportions but it was not impossible to conquer. I planted my flag next to the ones of those who have been here before me.
I sat there for a while and took in the reality - Only a handful of the earth’s population can muster to climb these heights and witness the world from up here. I looked inside my soul and knew that the places with the least amount of people were where I felt my best. I always looked forward to that time of the year when it was time, once again, to leave everything behind. And to embark on a journey that always felt different every time.
I took a photograph of Fiona out of my pocket and looked at it for a while. It was time to bid her farewell and to let go of the frost that has homed itself within me for years. I watched the photograph leave my open palm and disappear in the white mist.
"It’s just you and me again, old friend," I said to the white, titanic cloud that was all around me. I patted the snow again and knew a snow storm was coming. I didn’t want to leave. I have nothing and nobody to go back to, as I have always done every year. This isolated pile of rock was a companion I looked forward to conversing with every year. I can feel myself weep for the remains of the good thoughts that I forced to carry with me during my conquests through the years. As I grow older, the warmth of being human slowly leaves me. I soon realized that it is within the ice and rock where I find solace and peace.
I decided to head for cover, hoping the snow storm wouldn’t be as extreme. Climbing down Mount Everest would make my heart sink as I descend to the grounds where I feel less great. I blew a kiss to the wind and bid Chomolungma goodbye. I promised her I would come back.
With all the strength I can muster for next year, I’m looking forward to traveling home to her again.
I felt a thirst from within even after chugging down two bottles of water. There were still droplets above my upper lip. I took a walk today and noticed that the flowers from a park I usually bypassed bent towards my shadow. I stood there for a while. I watched the freshly cut grass bed the foundation of these delicate, hued creatures that had enough vigour to remain as they are. Summer breathed all its energy around with one last hurrah as the sun was about to set. Steam trailed the corners of my spectacles as I tried to examine the jolly petals that caught my attention. I suddenly felt a little grateful about this little distraction. It was hot but I ignored it. The flowers felt like tongues whispering to the little beast inside me. They told it to resolve in slumber and the rest will be taken care of. I closed my eyes and breathed in scent of the petals. The delicate perfume tickled my nose and a smile broke on my lips. I continued walking to where I was headed and instead turned around. I ditched going to my meeting. It was the weekend and I felt my bones grow heavier as sleep slowly eluded me because of work. Not even three mugs of coffee could shake my cells to wake up. I headed back to the park and nested myself on a bench that was cozily set up under the shade of a nice, large tree. I looked at the sky. The clouds seemed to have shared a conversation with the flowers. The sun descended and the evening breeze made its entrance, whistling at the back of my neck. I was kissed by the sun today and sung to by the moon and stars. Today was a good day.
Where have you been? The rounds of her eyes were dark from lack of sleep. Her lips trembled when I repeated my question. Where have you been? She turned around and lit a cigarette. I saw her blow smoke into the air like the amateur that she was. Flesh almost left her bones and her limbs sagged like tired pieces of branches dying to shake itself off from the tree. I asked her for the last time. Where have you been? She turned around and faced me wordlessly. She took another drag of her cigarette and blew smoke towards the window. I saw a mark on her neck. A kiss mark. My vision was turning crimson. I was about to advance towards her, fighting every urge to pull all that hair from her head. But she beat me to it and lifted a battered cake piece to my face. A melted candle with barely a wick stood pitifully on its middle. I turn 22 today, she said. Her cigarette lent its fire to the candle. A bright flame in the shape of a tear danced to the wind from the window. She giggled and clapped her hands, forgetting that her cigarette was in between her fingers. It fell to the floor and burnt a hole on the carpet. She picked it back up and rested it in between her lips. It’s my birthday, Shelly, she croaked. I was in a place where you wouldn’t let me be. Happy. She turned her back on me again and sat on the windowsill. Looking at her, I knew it was helpless. You cannot prevent love. Even more so when it’s forbidden.
The sound of a trolley crashing into a large plant display distracted me from listening to Frank Sinatra. As I took off my headphones, all eyes were on an European family. The mother was shaking her finger in the air, reprimanding her middle child for not minding where she was pushing the luggage trolley. Her other two children were engrossed in their father’s newly-purchased souvenir. I looked around and saw that the crowd at the lounge only grew in a span of an hour.
There was a food court on the next level up while I was below it. Kiosks were spread across the floor, selling novelty items to luxury products that would entice the jet-lagged or excited traveler. People had their passports and tickets on one hand while the other either pulled a wheeled hand-carry behind them or wrapped up Duty-Free bags.
I couldn’t grasp what I thought about the smell of airports. I liked how you could never smell anything like it anywhere. At the same time, I despised how it made my stomach tighten, resulting in flatulence. The same goes for airplanes. The winds won’t let me catch a break. I love airplane food but visits to the lavatory were never pleasant.
I enjoyed loitering around the airport lounge. My flight was still three hours away but people-watching is a great start to what would be a very boring flight. 30 minutes ago, I witnessed a man in his 40s jam a soda vending machine and realized he didn’t put any coin in. The pin that is on the collar of my coat was given to me by an Indian boy in exchange for my singing him a song on my ukulele. A Greek family handed me a chicken wrap that was specially made with herbs and spices only available in Santorini. It was the best chicken wrap I’ve ever had. I think I saw stars for a moment there.
In all its noise and commotion, I find peace in standing in the middle of it all and witnessing thousands of things happen at the same time. The hands of the clock must be trembling at this part of the country. With Frank Sinatra making every movement beat in time to its tune, it felt like a musical number.
To some, the airport was a portal to getting home to their warm beds and in the familiar arms of loved ones. For others, the airport was an escape from settling for a single destination, finding solace in always being on the move. I’m still figuring out at which end I’m gravitating toward. Meanwhile, it’s all about soaking all this in like a sponge.
What is it really like to live, to exist? I woke up with an aching body that craved for more sleep. My mind was thirsty for something I’ve lost. I skipped work and didn’t regret the hours spent on segregating books and applying paint and brush on paper. I fingered the texture of the paper when it was still damp with paint. I lit three scented candles and placed them on the dresser. I closed my eyes and imagined laying on strawberry fields. Even as I took in the lazy hours that smiled at me, there were flashes of paperwork, a scary being and my two hands reaching out to the skies. I found myself on the floor, swimming in clutters of my mother’s files. I stumbled upon dozens of doodles that I’ve done through the years. A familiar ache appeared on my cheeks. I touched the ends of my mouth and found a smile. Pasting a few of the doodles on my wall, I lit up the lantern lights and took in the beautiful rebirth of what was once my world. Pencil, pen and paper made up the portal that took me away from the mess of things. Somehow, I’ve forgotten that I possess poetry in my wrists. They craved to spill their dreams on any surface, as if it was its sole purpose. I glanced at my phone, thankful that nobody was looking for me. For once in what seemed like millions of weeks, I was alone. And I was happy. Reclining on the sofa and embracing the cold sheets, I glanced up at the wall. There were posters, small canvasses and photographs of the ones I hold dear. Glancing back at my study, I was finally greeted by old friends. Books that were once my only excuse to exit human contact continue to be my free ticket to a place unknown to anyone. I blew a kiss their way. I closed my eyes again and time-traveled to how my lungs ached when they breathed. There were flashes of tears, blurry street lights and an exhausted reflection in the mirror. I took a deep breath. I embraced the muteness of the world that is nothing but music to my ears. I’m glad I took a step back today.
He met my gaze with a look of worry on his. As I laid my warm palm on his cold hand, I was too happy to know that a crappy morning at work eventually led to this evening - my only calm without a storm. He examined my face, hoping to decipher any fault or illness with my silence. A kind smile appeared on his lips, paving way for his two cute dimples to appear above his mouth. I smiled back, moving closer to smell the scent of his face. We were silent throughout the trip back home. He always drove smoothly through the highways, street lights whizzing by like dancing fires. I sometimes took the opportunity to make the subtle vehicular movements rock me to sleep. More often than not, I would wake up to his gentle caress, whispering that I’m already home. I would break into a frown and look at the time: past 11 in the evening. His inquisitive eyes sparkled even in the absence of light around us. He squeezed my hand lovingly and spoke words that once again made my heart aloft. I pulled him close for a tight embrace. He was and still is my solace, peace and comfort. As I shut the passenger door, I waved at him. After several steps closer to the apartment’s entrance, I turned back and waved again. His presence despite the distance still continues to melt the cold in my bones. As I approached the door to the building, I turned around for my last wave. He still wore a big smile on his face, signalling that it was time for slumber. I tucked myself in bed and dreaded the next morning’s hours. But I slept with a prayer on my lips and joy in my heart, knowing my day would still end beautifully.
"Son, you will be a fine young man one day." Mr. Bennett dusted off the shoulders of his little boy’s new tweed jacket. He tossed the empty Harvey Nichols shopping bag on the sofa and placed his hands on his hips. A pale young face looked up at him and a smile emerged in between flushed cheeks. "Do you like it, Theodore? You look just like daddy now." His son nodded. Theo looked at himself in the mirror. He leaned a little to the right and noticed he had the same jaw as his father’s. But Mr. Bennett was handsomer. With a stubble that still made him look fresh and the light wrinkles on his forehead telling tales of the life he has lived, Theo knew his father was all he wanted to become. He knew his dad worked at a factory because he often came home with soot on his hands. But he said this year was going to be better - he was going to be promoted. Mr. Bennet gifted himself and his son a new pair of tweed jackets, while presenting a fancy box of chocolates to Mrs. Bennet. She wore a smirk as if expecting a pashmina instead, but Mr. Bennet held her close anyway and planted a kiss on her cheek.
He took a step back to look at his son again. Mr. Bennet ruffed Theo’s hair, but it still remained in its place. He broke into laughter as he held his palm out in the open. "Again, Theo? You silly boy." Theo had developed a liking towards gel after seeing those commercials on the television. Mrs. Bennet often reprimanded Mr. Bennet for having kept the gel within his reach. He almost always seem to find where they were. He once slept with gel on his hair and woke to a stiff pillow the next day. Mrs. Bennet was not pleased.
It was a fine Sunday in Consett, County Durham. The wind was cold but the trees remained sturdy. Lone newspaper pages wobbled on the curbs and the distant sound of dogs being walked reached the open windows of Theo’s room. He rested his head on his folded arms. When he didn’t play with his toys, he often stayed by the windowsill and observed people. He knew the postman came at 3pm every afternoon to slip in thin parcels onto a big red box, excepting Sundays. He knew the ambulance passed by their street at least twice a week. He knew the milkman came at 11 in the morning to hand Mrs. Bennet bottles of milk and would leave by 2 pm. He knew his father always left for work before the sun rose and would be back as the sun is setting.
Theo heard arguments from the living room. Mr. Bennet just reached home, but he didn’t visit Theo’s room with a small present like he always did. He pressed his ear against the door and heard both his parents in a heated conversation. Turning the knob of his door slowly, he tiptoed to the beginning of the stairs and listened closely.
"I can’t believe you did this, Mary. Right under my nose. Right under Theodore’s nose. Our son! Has he seen any of this? Has he seen any of it! My poor boy! Our son! My son!" Mrs. Bennet sobbed amidst the raging voice of Mr. Bennet. He heard a screech as his father pulled a chair and sat heavily on it. Mrs. Bennet was whimpering. "What? What are you trying to say, Mary? What on Heaven’s name can you possible tell me?"
"I’m sorry, Thomas! I didn’t mean any of it!" Mrs. Bennet continued crying and Mr. Bennet’s voice took over again. Theo held the handrails of the staircase tightly until his palms went white. He heard more than he should. He quietly crept back to his room and took his pillow. He held it tightly as how his eyes remained shut. Theo opened them again, now slightly red. He walked over to his bed side table. He grabbed his unfinished milk bottle and placed it in the garbage.
… . .
It was Sunday. Consett seemed gloomier when Theo last remembered it. The streets were wet and the lamp posts reflected on them. He listened closely to the way the rain pitter-pattered on his window and onto the roads. He saw people running with bags over their heads. He heard vehicles honking from a distance. The mailman didn’t arrive today. The ambulance passed by every two days. The milkman hasn’t come by in years. His father hasn’t left for work about the same time.
Theo visited his father’s room. A pale, thin man raised his head as he saw his son enter the room. "Theo.." He wheezed. Theo sat beside his father and stroked his forehead. His skin felt cold and ill. He looked around the room and was no longer surprised of the clear absence of Mrs. Bennet’s things. The coat rack that used to overflow with her coats were bare. Her mirror usually stained with lipstick was dusty and unclean. Her slippers remained untouched by the door. Theo’s eyes landed on her picture that remained by Mr. Bennet’s bedside table. Mr. Bennet coughed heavily for several minutes. Theo reached over to pass his medicine onto his shaky palm. He tossed it in his mouth and wore a displeased look. Theo held the frame that had Mrs. Bennet’s picture in it. He looked up at Mr. Bennet, expressionless. "Son. I know it’s been a long time. But we wait for the people we love. She will come back, Theo." Theo placed the frame back on his bedside table. He didn’t know what to feel about Mrs. Bennet. Or Mr. Bennet.
"I have a gift for you, son." Mr. Bennet coughed. Theo hasn’t received a present from him in the longest time. Mr. Bennet pointed under the bed. He retrieved a box beneath the thick bed sheet and told him to open the lid. In it rested an expressionless maroon teddy bear, wrapped in thin white paper. "Your mother and I used to call you Teddy when you were a baby. You used to loved teddy bears." Theo attempted a smile but placed the lid back on the box. He no longer played with toys. He kept them all away.
Theo held the box in between his arm and hip as he stood up to leave the room. But Mr. Bennet suddenly held his hand. “Son, isn’t it time for that show? Switch on the television for me, will you?”
Theo couldn’t hide his smile. He ran towards the television and clicked it open. Hopping onto Mr. Bennet’s bed, the reflection of Charlie Chaplin reflected on their identical black-pearl eyes. Theo laughed as Mr. Bennet imitated several of Chaplin’s comical movement. It has been a long while since they both watched their favourite show. The same goes for Theo’s smile. Remembering his present, he took the teddy bear out and held it close to him. Theo rested his head on Mr. Bennet’s pillow and both continued laughing. After several minutes, Mr. Bennet started to breathe uncomfortably. "Son…" he said, "I will rest for a bit. Father feels a bit unwell." Theo nodded. He held Mr. Bennet’s hand. It was cold, but it still clung tightly around his fingers. Theo continued watching with his teddy bear.
Charlie Chaplin went on for another 15 minutes. Theo laughed, almost having to turn away to catch his breath. He knew he was fidgeting a lot and it must have bothered Mr. Bennet. The show came to an end. He wondered why Mr. Bennet didn’t reprimand him for laughing too loud and for being too fidgety. He normally told Theo to keep it down.
Theo noticed Mr. Bennet’s hands were colder and limp. He looked over and saw his eyes were closed but almost open. He shook his father’s wrist first, and then his arms. With tears in his eyes, he leaned closer to hold his face. Theo knew that something always moved below his chin, a sign of life and warmth. It was gone.
… . .
Everyone wore black that Sunday. People familiar to him and strangers gathered around the casket. There were distant sobs and frequent small talk from people around him. Theo responded with a nod. Someone arrived in a white dress and a small book. They said a prayer for an hour until the people paid their respects to Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet approached Theo with someone he hasn’t seen in years. "Theodore… Honey." She held her arms open to embrace Theo. He stepped away and went closer to Mr. Bennet’s casket. Her eyes were red from crying, the collar of her coat damp with her tears. The milkman grew weight from the last time he saw him. Theo winced as he held Mrs. Bennet’s hand. He watched them turn away. He felt a surge of anger rest between his chest.
A man in a loose suit approached Theo. "Theodore. Your father has left you several things in his will." Intrigued, Theo ignored everyone and sat down with Mr. Townsend. This was the only time since Mr. Bennet’s passing that anyone had anything worth knowing to tell Theo. Mr. Townsend handed a Charlie Chaplin poster, a watch, several books, an envelope with several bills and a teddy bear. Mr. Townsend said other things. They seemed important because they included the words "legal", "law", "stay elsewhere", "come of age" and "sorry". But Theo wasn’t listening. As he held the remnants of Mr. Bennet close to his body, he shut his eyes tight and waited for Mr. Townsend to move away.
Everyone wore black that Sunday except for Theo. He wore the the tweed jacket that still fit him perfectly, along with the red tie Mr. Bennet always went to work in. Everyone parted from the funeral. Theo went closer to the casket. After hours of keeping everything, he placed his head and hands on the surface and cried a silent one.
Theo felt his heart break from his chest, his entire body giving up on him. He wanted to scream. He wanted everything to end. But a kind whisper cooed at him. It came from the ground. Teddy looked up at him with a gentle smile on his face. Theo picked him up and they both kept Mr. Bennet company for a little while longer.
Teddy (Mr Bean’s backstory)
Her skin felt like it was lit up by fire. I held her close and cried silently as I looked upon her pale face. The previous nights, she was stricken with a very high fever. Confined at the hospital for a few days, I barely slept as I chose to watch her at all times. Witnessing a little girl at the age of six suffer weakened my heart. I recall holding her close and rocking her in my arms when I could. The medicines finally kicked in and I was glad to see her eyes rid of pain. Colour was back on her soft cheeks. She was back home.
"It’s alright now mom", she crooned. “You didn’t have to cry you know. You didn’t have the fever.” Putting her hair into a braid, I whispered, “Pain happens when we see the ones we love have a difficult time, my love.” She nodded in agreement but continued to question me.
"How does it feel like," she asked, “The pain. You didn’t have a fever. But I saw it in your eyes” I took a moment to process her question. How could I describe how empathetic pain felt like to a six-year-old?
"I’m guessing honey," I started, "It would feel like… Let’s say you have a drawing you did in art class. You drew a pretty unicorn on it, with your favorite flowers and all. But someone suddenly came up to you and scribbled on your masterpiece." I saw her wince and I chuckled. "It’s just an example, honey. It only means that we usually become a part of what we do."
"But I’m no drawing. I’m your baby. I’m human, see. My teeth." She sunk her baby teeth playfully onto my arm. I giggled and said, “Now that is real pain. My daughter is half dinosaur, I think.” “Rarrrr!”, she cried out.
I took another moment to give her an explanation. “Okay, how about this,” I started again, "Let’s say we got you a puppy. And you named him Rover. Rover is a cute little puppy and you love him dearly. But one day, he suddenly got lost. What would you have done?" She stood up with a worried look on her face and placed her hands on my shoulders. "Poor puppy, mommy. I would look for him. But I think I would cry first." I stroked my daughter’s face and shushed her. It looked like she was about to cry over a fictional puppy.
"So what did you feel?" I asked again. She pursed her lips and replied, "I felt sad. I think I would have loved the puppy. The puppy is mine. He shouldn’t be lost. I’m sure he would be looking for me too."
I nodded. "That’s how it felt like for me the other night, my love. You were like the most precious painting I could have ever done, but something or someone tried to spoil it. You’re more precious than a puppy, but seeing you in pain made me wish it was me instead." She hummed.
"It’s confusing," she giggled. "But it’s okay. I would have cried too if you ever got sick too. So don’t get sick, mom. I forbid you to be sick." I laughed at my daughter.
"Mommy won’t be sick," I kissed her on her forehead. "I still need to come up with better stories to tell you, my love."
I waited by the sea. That was where we first met.
With hair all over my face, he came over to ask for my name, asking if it was my book that I dropped on the sand. I nodded. It was our favourite book. He went on length about the author and the significant parts of the book. I nodded enthusiastically, even if I only bought the book the day before.
We spoke of sunsets and how it was a beautiful introduction to the night. The night was black and full of dusty stars that pranced around each other. The breeze tickled spines and sent invisible spiders crawling upon skin, yet I enjoyed every shiver. He told me of tales when he won chess tournaments. Rubbing my arms as we rested on the sand, he told me it was in the tournament when he felt like he was a king. He won more than he lost, yet he took his losses as a symbol of advancement. He said in winning, nothing is gained. But when you lose, mistakes are highlighted and that is where scrutinisation comes in. He pressed me closer to his body and had my arms wrapped around my shoulders. I could smell the scent of his skin and hair. Leaning backward and gently nudging his cheek, I continued listening to his stories as he opened a chapter of how he got to learning the violin.
With hair all over my face, I drew on the sand as I waited for him. He was supposed to be here an hour ago. My watch has grown tired and refuses to move. The sun was almost gone and the moon was shyly presenting itself in between the clouds. The sea was calmer tonight, but the waves danced like younglings taking a swim for the first time. They crashed upon the shore, attempting to drown the distant vehicular notions with their songs. The lighthouses in a distance started to signal to each other. They reminded me of christmas lights. It was a beautiful sight to see. But I felt cold without his presence. The moon and stars are finally out. He is still absent.
I continued to wait by the majestic sea. The sea continued to wait with me.
I was eight when my grandfather took me in for the summer. The fields of green were too pure for my sight as the sun shone bright and high up in the sky. I took off my sandals and ran through the gravel and sand to greet my grandmother. She held me close before inviting me into her kitchen with freshly baked batches of cookies. My grandfather would breathe heavily on his rocking chair before he’d take me to the field with him. My boy, he would wheez, today we will be planting bananas. I gobbled up as much cookies as I could and raced to the door. He laughed at my enthusiasm. He slowly walked towards me and held my chin as he pressed the lips of the glass upon mine. Drink up, he said, today is a hot summer’s day. The water trickled from my mouth down my neck and I giggled.
We carried on for several blocks and sweat beads were gathering on my forehead and upper lip. Grandpa, I asked and held out my hand. What my child, he replied. I extended my open palm closer and motioned for seeds. Don’t we have seeds for growing bananas, grandpa?, I asked in all my innocence. Grandfather guffawed into the gentle summer breeze and rubbed his fist upon my scalp. Child, he said, we are gathering a bark from somewhere down the road before we plant it. I rushed to his side and continued walking next to him.
I couldn’t remember if we ever did get to plant those bananas. All I could recall was the pain that struck me as I carried the corm bark between both of my shoulders. My grandfather knew I was bound to abandon the idea of planting anything and proceed to engaging myself in activities that wasn’t as feasible in the city. I had my kite strapped to my back the entire time. A wire bent due to the weight of the corm bark but I was able to restore it. While my grandfather disappeared in one of the sheds, he left me in the fields as I flew my red kite up in the powder blue skies.
The plastic on my kite hit against the wood and wire furiously as the wind danced with it. I noticed heads from the nearby houses peer from their windows at the noise. They shook their head but smiled - They knew that I was my grandfather’s boy and that I was back to annoy everyone with my kite.
When my arms grew tired, I would crawl my way around the fields and trees with an empty jar in hand. I was always fascinated with insects and that day, I was hoping it would rain. The rain brought out my favorite type of beetle, the ones that seem to be coated in gold - Gold-coated beetles that were brought out of their homes because of the damp grounds and petrichor. My grandfather called out to me and said it was time to plant bananas. I told him that it’s a pass for me this time. I heard him chuckle coarsely and set the corm bark several steps away from the shed.
I sit here today in front of my porcelain white desks, juggling two giant monitors in an IT centre that I now call my own. The summers spent in the town my grandparents called home was a memory I keep coming back to. My kite didn’t survive that summer and all I had left were its mangled pieces. One of its pieces rests at my desk in front of me. Like a fruit to its bark, I knew I would flourish best from the city. It was where I was meant to bloom. Despite the white-washed walls and shiny gadgetry that is programmed to be the solution to every being’s beck and all, the simplicity of the town is an experience money can ever replace. Sometimes, I wished I had enough money to relive that memory.
I Feel Beautiful
He caressed my hand in silence, his fingers gliding through mine. I imagined that if comfort had a sound, it would be his silence. Even in those moments when our warmths embraced each other, the existence of the cold was a significant component to our strengths. We were frail, but we held each others bits and pieces. Sometimes, I’d feel like I’m sawdust. He told me that was how he felt whenever he saw me. I liked using the warmth of his skin as if it were a cloak upon my own. It felt as if the sun gave birth to the happiest children and they took the form of invisible things that suddenly made you feel as if everything will be okay. He makes me weak in the knees, but he makes me strong. It was once said that "A life unexamined is one not worth living". It is always beautiful being a witness to the unfolding of something from a person or moment. It is also beautiful being caught unexpectedly in an unfolding of your own. He helps me everyday, even in the littlest ways. He taught me that in just being, the life that is worth living examines you in return. I feel beautiful, because he’s beautiful.
The humidity made the windows of every shop in the city square cry amidst the moist. Passers-by dragged the back of their hand across their forehead as the rushing of vehicles drowned their blurted profanity. It was eight ‘o’ clock on the dot. Everywhere continued to teem of steam like a vast open sauna. The moon was almost full. It seemed exasperated in the warmly damped sky. Or my judgement was made due to utmost discomfort from perspiration.
I sat outside the cafe to accompany friends who went for a smoke. I allowed my mind to drift off like the vapour that rose from their pursed lips. The city was beautiful - but only if you watched it from a screen, in the comfort of your own home. Being in the scene itself is voluntary torture. The weather is too warm. It allows one to witness their fats crying out of their skin. Despite wearing summer clothing, I furiously tried to fan myself with my wide palm. I was desperate for the rush of air. Most of all, I was getting impatient with time. I wanted to see him already.
Time came and went. Lights were slowly leaving the city square, allowing shadows to emerge until it formed a giant blanket of black on the concrete. Cigarette butts laid on the trays. Traces of ash on the rim were being toyed with by the momentary gush of warm winds. My acquaintances have left. I was left alone with the almost-full moon that resembled a massive uncooked pancake.
He arrived with a smile, eager to hold me in his arms. I wanted to respond a similar reaction but I felt the muscles on my face stay in its place. As we walked to the car, I resumed fanning my face with my hand. The entire ride back home was silent. Every now and then, he would brush his hand across my arm. I could feel him and his hurtful stare scanning my face for a clue of what’s going on.
I wanted to stroke the back of his hair like I always did. I wanted to hold his hand as it rested on the shift knob. I wanted to look him in the eye and melt mid-gaze. But I remained in my seat, expressionless and mute.
Almost every stoplight we approached was on the red. I knew he particularly liked that because it prolonged him from dropping me home. But I didn’t feel anything as we took the several stops by the stoplights. I aimlessly looked outside the window, shifting my focus from blurred buildings to faceless strangers walking at the side of the streets. I felt the cold knot in my chest tightened. I chose to ignore it.
The night came to a close but my quiet longing only got stronger. The icy sadness that rested in between my throat and chest led to making my eyes moist. I got out of his car with my head bowed down, dragging my feet until it reached the doormat. I wished I stayed a little longer. I wished I was strong enough to admit that in all my coldness, all I needed was his warmth.
My dreams taste like sugary snowflakes. They melt upon my excited taste buds, the sensation being a thousand tiny feet skipping on my tongue. But the fear I’ve always had creeps up on me from my ankles to my spine, like determined vines aimed to suffocate me from my breaths. It is like the relationship I have with the waters. I am in love with the sea, but I am afraid of it. Its cold surface entices my body to immerse itself in it, but my toes are always frantic to remain on the ground. The skies are blue, titanic and almost endless. I wish to fly, but I have no wings. Sometimes, I tell myself, it’s okay to have feathers than to have wings. At least I can dip those in ink and write on paper, taking flight through words, soaring to souls who feel the same frustrations as I do. Sometimes, instead of feeling I can do so much more, I feel as if I’m engaged to doing less. It is about perspective, I know this. But I am either overpowered by the weakness in my heart or clouded with skepticism in my mind. Hard work pays off even if sometimes in exchange for thrusting yourself off of a cannon, you get a piece of chocolate in return. Sometimes, even if you sweat blood, tears, or even the steak dinner you had last night off of your exhausted skin, the gratification of achievement makes you feel like you’re King. I rush for progress and success, praying it comes in like a big oversized slushie cup that I will swallow in one go. But life isn’t like that. It hands you a small straw, with its hole smaller than your nostril. It’s just about right; Discipline and thankfulness controls the aggression from within. Even if my impatience gets the better of me at times, I eventually cool off and sit down to enjoy the tiny sips I get from my slushie cup. Turns out that with every sip, I savoured it all the more, knowing that I deserved every bit of it.
His eyes were as calm as unstirred waters, as if it never saw the loud cities. His knuckles that grazed through my knees resembled little, majestic hills full of breaths from the wind. His hair played along with the breeze, skin glowing gently from the sun’s last rays. We were inches apart, but our souls already took flight and danced with the kites. I held the moon’s whisper close to my heart as I searched the skies. I’ve always had a faint one for a heart. My feet would freeze to the ground when fright took over my shoulders. But as warmth encumbered my cold back as it pressed against his body, I saw lighthouses and felt the rhythm of the sea dance on my skin. I turned to face him, his grin planting seeds of gold in between my ears. My temples throb as my body is filled with excitement. I’ve already traveled the world with a single moment of staring into his brown storms for eyes. We were an uneven ocean, taking turns from disappearing into the clouds and floating in thin airs. He is my calm and my storm. I close my eyes. I blink. Even in that brief moment of dark, he is still what I see.
This, My Friend, Is For You
I remember witnessing the same grey sky under your umbrella. We were broken with sadness as we watched the other “special” people with their smiles and happy colors. I twisted my arm with yours, took your scent in and cried as I wept. My sharp edges kept giving me cuts in places I cannot dab with cures. I was told of stories, both whispered from land and sea, that everything will be okay. But the closest I got to “okay” was drifting off to dream. Like a cannon ball shot to the sky, the smoke blurred us from the clarity or cruelty against fragility. I held you close as your flesh shook from the cold. I held you tighter to chase away the wintry feel in your bones. Our eyes were deep-set and darkened from worry. We always slept but when we opened our eyes, they resembled disturbed, contaminated waters. I lived strangely, while you preferred to be buried in halls nobody knew of. I held your hand tightly and kept it against my chest. I knew that one day you will fade like the clear clouds on a Sunday evening. All I could see were patches of black and gray. I wobble, as I stand where both our soles once marked the ground. I’m not the same anymore. My face got back its color. It’s no longer deep-set, but my eyes mirror our days that once was. I close my eyes and beseech to the gods. If there are any, may they defrost the chills that prison his heart. May he be in a happier place with clearer skies. I raise a toast to those dark days for in those moments, having you by my side was the brightest I’ve ever been. I know you are elsewhere and happier too. This meager whisper into the changing winds, my friend, is for you.