cdtswa said: Prompt: just a smile
Kyle has always been a ruffian. Not knowing when to stay, heel or roll over, every possible command thrown his way would be responded to by being tackled to the ground. Kyle’s a handsome boy. His eyes were deep brown and gentle, contrary to his massive, white body that could pass as a mini-sofa. His fur felt like a blanket around my neck whenever he’d approach me to play. Holding his furry face close to mine packaged a saliva bath with it that reeked of dog biscuits. Others called him a wonderful dog. I called him a beautiful soul.
As I held him close last night, my vision was impaired from the tears. I embraced him and asked him about who would finish my cereals with me. He blinked, not being able to muster his signature puppy whines. Instead he placed his snowy, white paw on my hand. I kept rambling and talking to him. Kyle’s eyes were closing and every interval was getting longer.
Dr. Hugh said it was time. Kyle attempted to lick my face but only made it halfway. I lowered my cheek and he slowly stuck out his tongue, delicately planting his last kiss.
As I kissed my little boy on the forehead, I held his paw with both hands. I turned my back to Dr. Hugh. Kyle’s breaths were getting shorter. With a final look my way, Kyle stuck out his tongue and broke into a smile. My beautiful boy finally closed his eyes. After being in so much pain, Kyle mustered all his strength to smile my way, his own gentle way of telling me that it was okay for me to let go.
I held his limp body tighter, holding on a little longer.
Trouble came in in the form of an empty wallet today. I browse through newspapers, magazine clippings and online content for a living. only to find out that almost everyone is out in the world on a boat, airplane or on a bicycle, away from the cities they were used to. At least away from office desks and such. Here rests before mine is a bag of chips that is today’s lunch. I stood shakily on a train to work this morning, a routine that stole hours of everyday. Even weekends seemed like it wheezed its way to say hello through my thick curtains. It knew there was no point in visiting. I was also tormented with work even when I was nestled in between my sheets. Eventually breathing too became a chore. I swear I could almost see exhaled dust. Even my lungs are tired of the same air I breathe. The tireless clicking of keyboards and fingertips making love, shuffling of magazine and newspapers at the reception and the distant laughter of colleagues made me crave to be alone. Silence was music to my ears. While others found peace in the dancing of the waves, hearing my own heartbeat was mine. Everything is slowly turning to gray, like Midas Touch in reverse. I’m waiting for the hours to slip away like rain through the drain until I can feel him again. He is the ever-present warmth for my cold bones. Until then, let’s get to it, real world. Have at thee.
It never bothered me that I liked her for who she was. Despite always wearing her hair short, she was often referred to as my twin for resembling each other a lot. She had the brightest eyes for miles and her smile spoke of bite-sized philosophies that eventually became my official guide to life. I have always known that I loved her. I have always known that she loved me.
I love to cook. I’m led by the inspiration of her and my love for all things with flavor that when we do see each other, I gift her with pasta or lasagna. She shamelessly gobbles it all up the moment she gets her hands on them even when we’re seated at the food court, prying eyes giving her an odd look.
She often told me that I looked beautiful and that my eyes resembled the cerulean sea. I smiled and thought of how hers reminded me of lighthouses, calm and my sole candle in the dark. She brushed my hair away from my face, her thumb caressing the peak of my cheek. She offered to drop me home tonight. I nodded, even if my heart knew it was best not to.
We parked the car outside my house. I refused to go in for a while. She kept a hand on my nape, her fingers running through my hair. My vision started to fool me. Everything started to swim. She cupped my face closer to hers and kissed my salty lips. I remembered her apologizing and wishing things were different. Words barely left my quivering lips, knowing that I won’t be seeing her for long.
Her phone started to vibrate. It was Kelly calling. She looked at me sadly and said she needed to go. As she answered the phone call, her voice changed. It sounded sweeter, affectionate and she mentioned something about cooking dinner and meeting her at home. I got out of the car and went straight for my door. I slammed it shut and wept. After a few minutes, I took a peek through the curtains, wishing she was still outside. Maybe, she still was. After wiping my eyes dry, I focused on the space where her car once was. My heart sunk.
Months passed and I haven’t heard from her since. I have posed questions upon myself that I soon grew tired fabricating answers for. Whenever I walked, I took tiny steps and felt lighter, as if the wind could whisk me off my feet and trap me in a tree. I wished someone could make me smile during those moments of mourning, anything at all, even if it was the saddest joke on earth. But it took more than willpower to overcome the death of a hoping heart. It was about summoning a different kind of strength that only came the next time I saw her.
I sat behind my cubicle at the office, working away with the numbers. An accountant’s life isn’t the best but it pays for my house and funds my yearly visit to Holland to visit my mother. With a desk spilling with piles of papers, used coffee mugs and large binders, it wasn’t enough to block my view of her. I had to rub my eyes and make sure it was her. She was talking to one of my colleagues whom I’m not close to. They seemed to be engrossed in a business conversation, pointing at the statistics and newsletters that were pinned on the office board. My colleague excused himself for a while and she was left alone. She knew someone was watching her that she looked up and met my gaze.
There was a look of surprise on her face but got distracted by a figure that appeared behind her. Kelly too was dressed in business casual clothing. I saw them looking over to see if my colleague was on his way back to converse with them. Thinking nobody was in sight, Kelly quickly planted a kiss on her lips. I resumed doing my work in peace as their footsteps left the office.
In that brief moment when our eyes met, everything that was once alive has rotted and died. She held the grave of the person whom I once loved. Our dreams together have turned to nothing but dusty, forsaken blueprints. It was then and there that I decided to throw in the remaining flowers I’ve had every time I wept for her.
It felt like the death of someone close to me the when she sped off that night. I’m glad that after so long, I was finally ready and said my goodbye.
Fly Me To The Moon
We sat there in silence, forking my way around the beans on my plate. The steak was delicious but I was trying to watch my weight. Alex smiled at me and said that I looked great in my red dress. I told him he looked great in his suit. As he bowed down to take a bite from his plate, even the slightest movement he makes already made him glow. I know we’re all made of stars. But he was entirely one on his own.
The lights dimmed at the restaurant. With a glance, everyone else around us were dressed simply but fancily. I could spot the sharp glimmer of a ring from a porcelain white hand that belonged to a tall, slender woman with red hair. The other table entertained three sisters who were in their mid-40s, catching up on stories and tales yet still sounding ever so polite. Right across us sat a couple about the same age as Alex and I. Their plates were almost empty except for a fashionably placed salad with sprinkles of cheese and pepper on the side. Despite looking like two models ripped off of a billboard, they looked uncomfortable in each other’s presence. The woman decided to leave after finishing her glass of wine. She was then followed by the man shortly after.
I was about to raise my hand at a table attendant for a refill of water, until a white sleeve with a hand holding a bottle already beckoned my call. I thanked him with a slight bow of my head. It was ridiculous how you can barely spot any of the attendants, only because they’re always just a step behind. The restaurant’s smiling service made me jolly. I finally gave in to the smell of the steak finally and ditched my diet. Alex suppressed his laughter as I finished my plate in merely minutes.
I’m stuffed, Alex whispered as we left the restaurant of dim lighting, sparkling glass and delicate silk. I was still surprised why we went for fine-dining. It was a slight change from the usual takeouts on Friday evenings. The leftovers that greeted us on Saturday left us excited. It was a tough battle with laziness. Getting dressed just to get packed dinner was tedious. It was hitting two birds with one stone. And in our case, two dinners with one visit. Of course, there was always the delivery line. But Alex and I aren’t the smartest people.
He held my hand as we walked to the car. The evening was pleasant. Fall was just around the corner. Summer was getting ready to pack its bag and head on for a holiday. The lights of the city were beautiful from where we stood. Vehicular and edifices blinking always fascinated me. They were like fabricated stars dispersed across the city.
Alex usually opened the door for me but this time, he took my hand and led me to the back of the car where we rested our backs. He seemed extra fascinated with the city lights than usual. He used to tease me for being such an old lady, giving meaning to nothing but artificial lights. Nevertheless, he always made sure to replace the christmas lights that hovered above our bed when several of the bulbs have bid goodnight.
I don’t really know how to say this but um…, Alex whispered. He took out his phone and played the song Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra. Making sure to mould the moment perfectly, he decreased the volume but still making sure it was audible.
He went down on one knee and as the lump in my throat grew bigger, he fished out a tiny box that held a magnificent silver ring with a bright stone on its middle. He said, almost choking, Will you fly me to the moon for ever and always?
I was fighting back tears, also because my feet were hurting from my heels. Honey, I told him softy, you could have done this inside the car you know. Alex stood up and tackled me with his strong arms. Woman, I am bearing my heart and soul to you right now. And you said you liked these silly light things from up here! We were both starting to laugh and cry at the same time that it was getting ridiculous. Okay then, I said, one more time on your knees.
As he knelt down, I knelt down with him, cupping his face in my hands. His beautiful dark eyes were only accented as his hair drooped slightly over his forehead. He was close to crying as I was just. I pressed my lips softly against his as he held me tight and close. Yes baby, I whispered, let’s fly to the moon together and always. With snot ruining our attempt to look red-carpet classy, he wore the ring around my finger.
He broke into a large cry of “whoo” into the distance that I had to tackle him from the back to shut up. An hour was spent outside the car with the city as our witness to a new chapter of our lives that was about to unfold. I held his hand tight in mine, caressing the ring with the other. With those countless dinner takeouts, sloppy living and playing Playstation games after work, we both probably knew all this time that the ring was always meant to be there.
I could remember the way the empty, flavored tea bottles glistened under the last sun’s ray before it completely settled in the West. Packs of chinese leftovers littering the patio always left the neighbours disgruntled. The stain on the wide, porch chair was when Igo knocked over some soy sauce, which Jim tried to remove. I remember it splatting all over Hem’s new purse as well. The evening would consist of talking about plans after college and traveling to Taiwan, where the lush trees and hued flowers made you feel like jumping right into a storybook. Gary was able to make everyone envious with his four-day trip to Taipei. Most of all, the food was enticing that we had to order another round of packed chinese dinner that evening.
I haven’t heard from Igo, Hem and Gary in years. Even Jim misses the spritely bunch. We miss the way the skies laughed with us. Sometimes, I could hear the echoes of Hem’s gentle laughter, Gary’s snoring and Igo’s ridiculous hiccuping. Maybe the stars that night were able to pocket a fraction of those beautiful moments. For which I’m heavily thankful for.
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.