That Guy On Buchanan Street
It felt like he had the hands and fingers of multiple feathers that drummed against the surface of his guitar. But the way he compensated for percussion spoke of a striking force of a thousand strong men in those lapsing thumps and thrums. He was surrounded by a few individuals who had their phones out, taking a video of him as he ran through the frets and in between the strings to the awe of the rest of us. His bowler hat rested casually on the roof of his jet-black hair, complimenting the rest of his easy ensemble that made the gentle cuts on his biceps noticeable. I shifted my look onto the way the lights around him delicately bounced off the glossy finish of his guitar and his blushing porcelain-white skin. The rhythms he produced shunned out the rest of the noise that issued from passing vehicles, distant conversations and the faint bustling of people from the mall nearby. There were a lot of distractions as his soft but striking cadence pirouetted in the air. I didn’t know who he was, but everything to be known and should be known was in that moment; he was set free in time with his melodies, elegiacally beautiful in his mesmerizing muteness.
Love doesn’t kill itself, but the people it chooses as it victims. It’s like promising the best drug for a price, but it’s only second-best. The side-effects of it haunt you in sleep and wakefulness. Love is like the glass of whiskey you weren’t ready for. It burns your throat and sets your body on fire. Love is the purest form of heaven and hell, but it is a clever magister. Its tricks and booby traps are what we perceive as fate and destiny. We are its child’s play, and it our desperation. Love is something you don’t look for, but what you see even when your eyes are closed. It makes you see clearer, before it takes away your vision completely. It is the realest form of feeling, right before the moment you enter a world of numbness. Love is wishing upon a falling star, and getting a sugar-coated present of monstrosity that comes along with song. Love shoots you right in between the heart and mind, even if the choice of dodging it was always there.
It was a night of bones shaking and ratting to the sounds of the evening. The racket from the speakers hopped into the air and danced among the skins that glittered under the moonlight. Breaths were exchanged, saliva dripped from lip to neck and the spirit of alcohol lived strongly amongst everyone. It started to drizzle and the cold crept through my jacket and vest. Everybody else jumped liked beasts when the dj fist-pumped the air, signaling everyone to get their feet off the ground. The place where I stood shook for a while and it left me dizzy. I was under a tree, the farthest area from the concert stage, yet there were couples all around me who had their mouths glued to each other. Each person that passed by reeked of booze. The people I came here with were nowhere to be seen. I found myself creeping into the small of the tree’s space until I can move no more. Even if the sounds from the stage raged all of a sudden, it gathered the crowd once again and I was left in solitude with my tree. My ears were starting to get numb. I can hear the sound of my blood rush through my head as I squinted, trying to focus on the blur of luminosity before me. The violet lights drowned everyone. It was close to impossible to see the night sky as everything was lit, and it was starting to hurt my eyes. I sat on the ground and adjusted my jacket as the drizzle started to double its pace and content. A shadow sat next to me and he didn’t smell like booze. I knew it was a he when it cleared its throat. He did so because he accidentally breathed in the exhaled smoke from a topless man who walked past by him. A quarter of the male crowd had their tops off. The images that flashed in my head were tattoos, violet lights, the moon and glinting beer bottles. I was starting to doze off when the stranger next to me patted my shoulder and asked if I was okay. I told him I was in between fine and not fine, which was just about right. I didn’t know how I was feeling and how I ended up there. I wasn’t into EDM or being around crowds, but I needed to get out of the eerie silence that took over my house. I needed sound. Any sound, but silence. The stranger handed me an unopened bottle of water and told me to drink. It felt cool on my lips as the water passed through my tongue and throat. It had been several hours since I last drank. I was starting to see clearer, even if the concert grounds were starting to become a liability. I couldn’t remember how the stranger looked, or if he said anything else after he gave me that bottle of water. All I know was that we sat next to each other, shoulders touching, watching the rest of the world drown themselves in the noise and clouds of light.
I’ve passed this very road on the way to work a thousand times, yet it feels different today. The sun shines beautifully, the wind is in my hair and smiles come my way. It’s a good day generally, but not for me. I feel as if I’m trying to balance an apple on my head and in any moment, an arrow would zing towards me, missing the part between my eyes with just a breath. The confusion buzzing in my ears turn into a song. I find myself humming to its tune, chuckling at how I’ve found rhythm in the discomfort.
I asked a friend if there was something wrong with me. He crossed his arms, bowed his head towards his drink and took a long sip from his straw. "There is always something wrong with people. Which is just about right. We love, we hurt, we thrive in hope; it’s how we’re meant to function. I guess where you are is that place in between change and sticking to what’s familiar to you. You may feel different, but you’re really still the same. Just this time around, you’re being careful."
I can still remember that night quite well. It was an unfamiliar bottle of booze that I drank like water. The next thing I know, my vision was blurry and I was on the floor. Tears rolled down my face. I tried to shake off the hands and arms that were trying to wrap themselves around me. I heard whispers of it’s going to be okay, everything is going to be okay, we’re here for you and the occasional let him go. I looked down, allowing the loose strands of my hair to cover my face. I was ashamed, but I didn’t do anything about my breakdown. My tears clouded my glasses. All I could see were moving silhouettes. There was laughter in the air. Some were already drunk. A few continued to hover around me to make sure I was okay. I was sniffing and weeping in silence. I demanded for someone to light me a stick. Someone hid the box away from my sight, pretending that we were out. But I knew we weren’t out. I just didn’t have the energy to go over and grab the box. I continued to sit where I was, head bowed and still, holding the hand that was upon my shoulder. I was whimpering. The voices started to comfort me again. I patted the back of whomever’s hand was trying to reach over. I nodded my head; a poor execution of okay-ness during my murky, drunk moment. Sweet and Low echoed in my head again. I started to pull at my hair. I excused myself from everyone and entered the unlit room. I sat on the edge of the bed and started crying. I sang to myself, unaware that I was, until someone told me I did. I felt weight next to me. Someone put an arm over my shoulder and extended a small towel. I wiped my eyes with it and continued sobbing. My chest felt tight. I couldn’t breathe right. The light-headedness took over all possible control I had over my actions. I didn’t scream or throw things about. I wish I just did that. Instead, I sat still in my place. I allowed the pain I’ve endured for months to leak through my tired eyes. It was a tough night. I was fortunate to have the murmuring voices and comforting shadows to look after me. I was lost and terribly broken. I got drunk and shattered my walls. After several months of denial, I was finally honest with myself.
You were a bully back in elementary school, yet we were friends. Three of us were punished for being too noisy in class but we made the most of it. It was all fun and laughter until your best friend, at the time, ended up crying because of my victory over a race between him and I. Despite being one of the lanky lot, your authoritative self took over in a form of a fist that placed itself between my chest and pelvis. It hurt and I cried. I remember vowing to myself that I will never be friends with you. Yet the next day, I offered to draw some Archie comics characters on a loose page found in the classroom, because you liked how I drew. You bullied me about my right arm, saying that I was an alien and the green veins all over my skin made me less of a girl. I remember going home and placing my right arm over the air-conditioning system, because you said that my arm probably lacked cold air which made it the way it was. I stood by the air-conditioner for 30 minutes and cried when my veins didn’t go away. I sometimes liked to think that the reason why you gave me such a hard time when we were kids was because at some point, maybe you did like me. Despite my weird arm and rough ways, maybe something about me made you smile. I always wondered about it, but I never wanted to ask you about it. You were still very mean and brutally frank as a child, and I will never understand why I chose to be friends with you. But some moments probably don’t require any explanation. You told me once before that I should eat lemon slices, to help shrink my right arm. You never really stopped talking about my arm. It made me upset one time that I wanted to rip it of its socket just to hit you on the face with it. But then you and some other oaf in class started doing an awkward dance that it made me forget how angry I was. In all your meanness and weird-lookingness, I still found you cute. We’ve gone our separate ways for more than a decade now and if you somehow get to stumble upon this little confession, I hope you’re in a better place and that your dreams are coming true. Last thing I knew about you was that you were into script-writing and still enthusiastic about that absurd obsession over japanese sword-fighting. I miss you. In case you’re wondering, my right arm is still the way it is. And I sort of miss the way you’d tease me about it.
She licked her wounds and a sparkle in her eye suggested that they may have tasted like candy. She could barely feel her legs as she remained cross-legged for several hours. The canvas was half-done but something told her it was already complete. It reminded her of the ancient japanese art of repairing cracked pottery with powdered gold, called Kintsugi. Her hands had blotches of dried paint, but it complimented her olive skin. Biting her nails, she was hesitant to leave the white space above the wilting flower she just painted. There was already a fingerprint of fading paint on it that was done by accident. But she remembered Kintsugi. As the sun’s rays turned to shadow, she finally stood up and assessed her work. There were pins and needles on her calves which made her wince. But her attention shifted towards how her painting turned out. The Tao of Watercolour took a while to get used to, but she loved the peace she found while on its pursuit. It’s true that some things are beautiful when they are most fragile, even if it’s broken or unfinished.
She told me, "Let go of comparing." I contemplated for a while as the reflection of the sun on the glossy wall hurt my eyes. I felt the bumps on my wrist. It’s been over a year since I played with the blade, but I meant to keep it that way. It was long gone. Everyone has moved forward. But my scars, these cuts, will always remind me that there’s someone out there better. What do you think?
She told me, "Let go of competing." It gets under my skin seeing other people have at things they want so easily. I am part of the percentage who gets the realest piece of how the world works. Loss. Loss is inevitable and getting back up is not really a choice. What is your “level best” if there’s always someone stepping on you to get to the peak?
She told me, "Let go of judgements." I’ve gotten into many fights, even as I was a child. As I grew up, I either kept my emotions in and curled into a ball in my room or flood the room with sheer sarcasm until it repels everyone. It’s easier to speak your mind than to pretend that you’re thinking of something pleasant. The world is not ugly, but the people in it are. Wouldn’t you agree?
She told me, "Let go of anger." He left me for a reason. A reason I never got to know. Maybe it was a story that was about endings, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was left in a room, with the key to it stolen and running amok. I was left to craft my own key to get myself out of the room that swallowed every bit of light through the window into the shadows. My mind was clouded with rage. But rage only happens when the sadness is too much to take, right?
She told me, "Let go of regrets and worrying." Back in 4th grade, I regretted being nice to these two girls whom I wanted to befriend. They only wanted my sticker collection which I came to know several weeks later. After being bereft of my collection, I cried in a corner. People say I don’t care much about people. but I do. And that’s what worries me. Despite my pains and scars, I still care. Do you think I do?
She told me, "Let go of blame." There is a point in time when we suddenly keep hitting a brick wall. The determination cannot change the existence of a boulder. And sometimes, that boulder exists because we believe it is there. As I held my wrist upon my lap, the scars hurt no more but are very visible. The vulnerability and weaknesses come to me when I try to be happy. To give is to lose. To love is to hurt. To become is to wilt away. The constant conflict I have within between being safe and giving it all keeps me up at night. Is that how I’m supposed to feel?
She told me, "Let go of fear." They say fear is a good motivator. You can control anyone once you instill fear inside them. I think that’s true. I’m kept up at night because of my fears. Fears that I have given to myself and are now my puppet-masters. But I slowly try to drain it from me. I need to take control. But a little dose of fear isn’t so bad. I need to remind myself why I am who I am. After all, the heart does what it has to do to protect itself, right?
You make my insides crawl, as if a thousand caterpillars are itching to grow their wings for flight. I feel like I glow from the inside each time you cast your black pearl for eyes upon my ordinary being. I’m scared to look at your face and realize how beautifully crafted you are and that the world can save you for themselves. I wish to keep you in my sleeve’s pocket, so you’re only close to my heart, or perhaps inside a jar so I could always see you. I wish to do these things, but I won’t. The selfishness I feel towards possession is overridden by your mere but fierce presence. I feel both strong and weak at the same time every time your shadow overlaps mine. I want to hold your hand but I might melt. I want to kiss the part where your upper lip meets the bottom, but I’m afraid I might die from the exhilaration. Seeing you from where I stand is like owning the moon but never getting to touch it. But I guess it’s alright. I can see you reaching out for me. Maybe it is true; maybe you can see me now. As I close my eyes and descend into your being, I am being sucked in into a world of both pain and joy. The soles of my feet feel like I’ve stepped on a thousand stars. I am you, and you are me. Forget infinity, let’s disintegrate ‘til they can no longer find us.
Be the sunset I’d paint on my walls; a mural that is constant, quiet and in fluid motion. We drum our fingers to the heartbeats of subtle, hued rhythm.
Linda isn’t high maintenance, but she is one of those people who wants their tea cup facing a certain way when placed on the table. She isn’t very particular about things but there are times when she would do things in a peculiar manner.
Linda Marie is her name but she goes by her pet-name Danny. When she was a little girl, a lot of her relatives commented that her semblance with her father was uncanny. The short nose and wide forehead were and still are the prominent features that made her look like Daniel. Since then, they all joked about how maybe Linda was meant to be a boy, Daniel Jr. That was when Danny became a staple name-calling towards Linda, who eventually turned her focus onto weighing the pros and cons of napkins and tampons.
She calls it her “emancipation”, but moving out of her parents’ house at age 19 and into her own flat that were cities away proved that she was out to get her dreams as if it were a long-lost kite. Danny has a wonderful relationship with her parents even after their divorce. Her mother started dating the family doctor, while her father pursued to build his own brewery. Being the only daughter, it was inevitable that all the attention was showered towards Danny, for fear of ruining their daughter’s life. But Danny was brought up well, and she loved her parents no matter what their decisions was. There was still a family somewhere. She didn’t find it odd that her parents were separated.
Danny is now in her early twenties. She started dating someone from her office just recently. She works at a recording company as the head of the accounting department. The numbers weren’t much but she liked calling herself the head since it focused less on the fact that she may be the only person in accounting. Everyone had and knew their place in the office. There’s the Late Guy who always came in an hour late, the Soup Guy who always spills soup on his tie during lunch, the Hoot guy who always made the “hoot” sound for just about any statement and the Funny Guy who always proves that being Some Guy in the office isn’t always a sad thing. That Funny Guy is Daryl, and Danny couldn’t be more proud.
When asked about Danny, Daryl would look down as he tries to hide his grin. Daryl had a comment for just about everything but Danny always left him speechless. Maybe it’s the way she lights up a room when she enters it, he said. Being with her… feels like Christmas. I feel like I’ve gotten the best present, ever.
Danny feels like life’s like a beach and sometimes, the waves don’t really caress your feet. It seems like it’s coming but it dissolves right before it touches your toes. There are times when she’d prefer to camp outside her garage than to lay on her bed. There was the comfort in not conforming to the usual norm. She loves her bed. But she wanted to know if sleep felt the same if she was in a different place of her home. Needless to say, the sleeping bag and cushion didn’t save her from the cold of the garage, but she’s glad she tried anyway. She’s been feeling very detached to the world and to herself, that she took a two-week break from work and flew to New Zealand. It was an abrupt decision and the feuds over the cottage rental couldn’t be helped, but she finally had the place to herself.
Daryl kept checking in on her and insisted on following her there, but Danny refused. She loved Daryl, but this was some me-time for her. This was probably the wrong time to fly to NZ, with the cold settling in as early as 2pm, but she liked being cooped up in a strange bed with extremely comfortable blankets. She made herself some coffee and french toast before taking another nap. When she woke up, she made herself some tea, and placed her cup in the usual spot on the table, which was on her left side, with the handle facing East. Danny is right-handed, but she never knew how the mannerism stuck. Placing her phone on the hollow surface of a bowl that was in its side, she played The Walker Brothers and started swaying in time with the crackling of the fire from the fireplace.
The sun was setting and she remembered how her mother preferred evenings to mornings. She said the tranquility was a beauty everyone took for granted. Danny misses her mom, and her dad too. The antique bottles loaded on the abandoned wooden cart made her wonder about his brewery and if it was doing okay. The clicking of the crickets reminded her of Daryl. It was an odd analogy but she had a reason. Darly was and is ever-present, like he has always been. For a moment there, she wished she was with him. She could imagine him cuddling her from her behind and smelling the hair behind her ears. Fruity, he says. He loved smelling her hair, and Danny loved it when he does.
Just like all things, there was a time and place for everything and every person. It may be intertwined with the other, overlapping, paralleled or a junction at some point, but it would always lead to something. There was a reason why she was a girl and not Daniel Jr. as her relatives joked about. There was a reason why she was called Danny and not Lindy, as her mom wanted. The free spirit of her father lives in her too. She was never broken up about her parents’ split because she always felt loved and whole.
Danny preferred sweater weather over summer heat, while Daryl had a close relationship with the sea. Even if Daryl and her could be too different on things, they complemented each other that nobody else could be a better fit. If they were to be married and have kids, they would exist to be proof that soul-mates do exist and can have a happy ending.
I designed the jersey for this company’s basketball team and even though the colour requirements that were white and gray didn’t seem that appealing to me, he stood out in the court with the number 15 on his back.
He wasn’t much of a talker or had the stunning of looks, but his silent and timid nature left me blushing. Hank kept nudging my ribs with his elbow whenever Kian held the ball and made a three-point shot. The nudging hurt, but I was too busy clapping furiously as Kian sped to the other side of the court as if nothing happened, even if the crowd cheered louder.
Kian was almost always inside the court and not a hint of exhaustion rippled across his face. If there was a foul or fault while in the game, he simply gave a half close-lipped shrug and signaled towards the referee. There were times when a couple of the opposing team would purposely bump into him with full force, but he remained calm and focused. A couple of his team-mates were short-tempered. And from the looks of the way their lips moved, you can tell they were saying nasty things towards the opposing team. Kian scored over 10 points during the game. I’m not a basketball junkie so I don’t know if scoring 10 on your own was worth rejoicing about. After all, I’m only seated here because my cousin Hank works for this company and he wanted me to check it out since I did design the jersey anyway. This was the second time I saw Kian and I could feel my spirits soar when he scored the last three-pointer shot that made them win. There was a gentle grin resting on his soft lips and he broke into full cheer as his team-mates playfully tackled him. He was the youngest in the team, and one of the best.
As the game concluded, Hank and I stood up from the bleachers and headed towards the parking lot. At the corner of my eye, I could see Kian being attended to by Clara, his long-time girlfriend. She was preoccupied too with recalling the game with his other team-mates as she wiped Kian’s forehead. She offered him his favorite Gatorade, the pink one. Out of the two times I’ve witness Kian playing for the team, he often consumed 3 pink Gatorades at a time. I could hear Clara’s shrill voice in conversation with his team-mates, right from the other side of the court. She was the complete opposite of Kian, being the reserved and quite soul that he was. But I guess that’s why they were a perfect fit.
She cleared her throat, "Maybe, just maybe, the reason why you’re treating people you love the most like utter crap is because you want to know who’s willing to keep you despite that. Maybe, just maybe, getting the feeling that someone is afraid of losing you is something you hold on to dearly, no matter how selfish it may seem."
"Maybe, just maybe, you’re talking crap. So you can shut up now or just shove it up your butt. Come on, let’s go get some ice-cream." He held her hand and walked next to her in silence.
I had my knees up to my chest, clutching them tightly until my hands turned white. I couldn’t pick a place farther from the office and found myself instead in a slightly secluded area in the parking lot. I wanted to throw up, my eyes were swollen from crying and I didn’t care about the cold. As I was about to sink into my personal bubble devoid of happy things, Michael sat next to me.
He asked me how I was holding up. I told him I wasn’t doing so good, and that I wanted to pierce a can-opener into Yuri’s skull. It was too painful to delve into everything that transpired but Michael patted my shoulder. I’m sure he already knew anyway. I wore my emotions on my face every time. It was difficult for me to pretend what I’m feeling otherwise.
We were quiet for a while, until I broke the silence by my sniffing. My nose was getting runny and Michael was kind enough to offer me his handkerchief. It smelled really good. I knew it was just fabric conditioner but it was as if I breathed in something else that made me feel a bit better. I think sometimes his hair smelled that way a bit. Before I could pull myself together, I started crying again. This time, not so audibly. I wanted to feed Yuri to a rabid animal and have the remnants poured over with acid. I could picture it. Nothing else would make me feel better than for that to happen.
You know, Michael said, when Jane left me, I didn’t know what to do either. That’s why I took all those pending days when I worked during the weekend and went on a vacation. He said that he had to get away from the setting that reminded him everything about Jane. Even if I knew I was at the other side of the world, he said, I couldn’t taste my food. My food didn’t taste like anything. I couldn’t sleep. There was a heavy settling in my chest that I had to carry around. And nobody knew that. I looked over at him as he threw small pebbles at the tires of his car. It was parked just 15 steps away from where we were.
It is painful to get over a broken heart. Some say it’s cliched I know, he added, but it’s true. It’s the type of burden that you can’t explain yet it’s the realest thing you’ve ever felt. I wouldn’t wish for it to happen to any one. Not even my enemy. I looked over at him. He looked okay. It’s been over 6 months since the falling out with Jane happened. But I still felt traces of hurt in that gaze of his.
We became wordless again, the parking lot still empty. I couldn’t control it and found myself sobbing. I tried not to make a sound but stopping it felt impossible. I knew I had to let it all out. Michael held me in his arms and stroked the back of my head. He was whispering things, probably to calm me down. But I couldn’t see or hear anything. I couldn’t mutter anything either. My tears impaired my vision and all I could feel was blinding pain somewhere in my chest.
It was almost sundown and Michael remained by my side. I was finally all cried out and too tired to get up. I knew it was time to go home but his arms remained around me. I was exhausted, too drained to move. As I laid my head on his chest, I finally allowed myself to rest after a long, long while.
I know the things that irked her. The way her nose would twitch and it would remind me of that rabbit from Bambi. Or was it a hare? Anyway, I knew she liked flowers but only if they were made out of paper. She didn’t exactly conduct funerals each time they died but she did hide away the petals whenever their colour visibly changed. I once caught her cradling a wilted rose. It was give to her by her closest aunt who just passed away. She tells me that flowers don’t signify life but its slow decay. I didn’t know how to respond to that but I embraced how her mind wrapped itself around things like that. I gave her roses made of paper once just because. She kept some inside a vase. She framed two pieces of them. It’s still up on her wall. I know the things she liked, like taking a bike ride when the park’s dark and empty. She said there wasn’t anything to be scared of in the dark. It’s the secluded corners from within that emerge and can be a bit startling. They usually come out when you’re alone and in a quiet place, she said. It was unusual to see a girl biking around a park at 11 in the evening, but I always accompanied her whenever I could. She would start talking about the stars and how they were left-over powders of ashes from people who were cremated. She said that a lot of her relatives were cremated. She believes that the stars on the far right end of the sky were her parents watching over her. It might seem weird for the lot of you, but I felt warm when she told me that. It wasn’t common for her to divulge personal things such as that. She was very quiet but definitely the smartest person I’ve ever met. I really don’t know what to tell her about how I feel, but all that matters is to me is that I take care of her. She was just like an ordinary rose but the life that thrived in her was stronger and brighter than the rest. I intend to keep it that way, even if she doesn’t know how much she really glows.