Stars And A Shadow
It would have been better if I told you that Cyrus and I had our backs to the grass and were staring up the night sky in a competition to see who could spot constellations that formed shapes. But we weren’t. We were peering out the window of my old apartment, covering our noses as the neighboring building’s roof top was covered with garbage and filth. Thankfully, the garbage truck finally arrived and the watchman took the massive black, trash bags and swung them into the back of the truck.
"Stars are beautiful aren’t they?" Cyrus asked as he looked up at the evening sky. He was still in the suit that he got into for an interview just this morning. He had a clean-cut hairdo done just the previous night, but I always preferred it long. His dark brown hair rested upon his head like an oversized crown. After scrutinizing it for a while, the clean-cut doesn’t look so bad. I loved how tall Cyrus was. It didn’t make me feel puny but rather made me embrace the reality that someone’s shadow made me feel safe.
"Well," I replied as I tapped my nose for a while, "I for one do not like stars."
"That’s a first," he chuckled. “Ladies would usually swoon over these type of things. They make movies and songs out of this. Suddenly, I am very aware that something doesn’t add up here.” He chuckled again. As he skimmed the skies above us, the moon’s light appeared at the corner of his eyes. He had dark green eyes, Cyrus. But tonight they seemed like dark waters and the stars were spilling from the sky, eager to swim in them.
I shoved him playfully. “I don’t like stars, not because they suck or anything. It’s just that one moment, they’re like a child’s mobile pen right above you, and the next thing you know, the sun has eaten them.” I laughed at my own reason and tried to redeem myself. "Well, maybe not eat them. It’s just that, after a long day, people look up at the stars and induce a comfort that nothing else can you know? For something to have that much power over someone… Well, I’d like to think that it wouldn’t be asking so much for something as good as that to stick around a while longer."
Cyrus looked at me and smiled. "You have a point." He placed an arm around me. I laid my head on his chest.
His kind smiles always remained a mystery. It was Friday night and I had to report to the office the next day to accompany my boss at a meeting. I was told to prepare several documents yet my laptop remained opened and untouched. I spent almost everyday with Cyrus but everyday would never be enough if you relied so much on warmth that is the only security people could get these days. The world would never run out of reasons to be cold, but somebody’s shadow could be the sole hearth that could keep you warm in perpetuity.
It was past 11 in the evening and we were still looking up at the skies. Time almost never moved whenever Cyrus was around. I liked it that way. Watches and clocks seemed insignificant, as opposed to how I feel everyday when I am at work or at home. I feel as if time spent on work is too less, and time spent being idle is time wasted away. Thoughts pile up in my head that it gives me a migraine. But Cyrus is the tranquility in this self-inflicted chaos I call my life.
"It’s getting late. I gotta go alright? I’ll see you tomorrow?" Cyrus kissed my forehead and left the apartment. I slept sound that night, even if I was wide awake ‘til 1 in the morning.
I got off work at 7 in the evening. I felt exhausted as I parked my car outside my apartment. Cyrus and I were supposed to meet by the pub, but I took a rain check. It took forever for me to find my house keys inside my bag. After finally finding them, I unlocked the door and went in.
I was surprised to see that my mundane room was suddenly lit up by lights. It was July, but my walls had Christmas lights on them. This is the downside to giving Cyrus a spare key to my apartment. This was a ridiculous gesture but the sudden pain in my heart told me that it was actually smiling with so much joy.
Approaching the night stand, I saw that there was a note under the lamp. It read:
"At least these stars would always find you.
"I never understood why there are benches in parks. The purpose of a park is for you to walk in it and to witness all that surrounds it. Is taking a stroll that strenuous? People spend 40 hours every week sitting inside a cubicle. Isn’t that enough time made for sitting? Parks are beautiful. It’s the only oasis in this myriad section of the planet that’s crowded with mundane edifices and machinery. This is the human equivalent of the forest that is our home. This is the habitat we should enjoy for at least the only measly hour we get to put aside when we leave our artificial homes."
I finished my hotdog sandwich and wiped the ketchup off the bottom of my lip. Lyna pointed, signaling that there was more. I asked the vendor for more tissue and then addressed her sudden rambling.
"Park benches are there so that when people are tired, they’d sit and still take in the wonderfulness that is this park. People don’t come here to sit. Malls have seats. Libraries have couches and chairs. Why would they come here to sit?" I eyed her and knew that her response was already ready, even before I finished mine.
"That’s the thing. You just spoon-feed everything to people. You come to the park by walking. Yet there are benches everywhere incase you get tired. Why? Why do you have to spoil people too much? It’s the park. If people don’t come here to sit, they might as well dismiss with the benches. And look," Lyna pointed to one, "This is where humanity dies; bubble gum and vandalism on this beautifully crafted bench. This wooden bench must have been carved by an old man who gets below minimum wage, barely enough to feed his three children and sick wife."
I rolled my eyes, "Lyna. It’s from Pottery Barn. They mass-produce these things."
"Even so." She lifted her hand up as if to swat a fly. A fly that was my statement.
I chuckled to myself and twisted my arm around hers. She then told me stories about her new neighbor who played the trumpet every 8pm, that his music got her in the mood to start sketching again.
His mother came home, hair all over her face, mouth reeking of alcohol. Riley picked her up and made her lay on the couch. Hopping three stairs at a time, he went up to her room, grabbed a blanket and tucked her in it. Mrs. Samson was a plump woman. The couch cushions were instantly dented. She was sound asleep. He told me this over the phone. I could hear gentle murmuring and snoring in the background.
"You might want to hit the sack," he told me.
"Nah, I’m all good. I’ve got nothing better to do. Already finished a book this morning," I replied, "A book by Mitch Albom. Good read. The one I’ve in my hand right now is by Peter Stamm. A compilation of his works. Got over a few stories. Too lazy to read on."
"Mitch Albom. I’ve heard about the author. What’s The Time Keeper about? Is it about a photographer discovering epiphanies or something?"
"No. It isn’t," I said in a dismissive tone. I don’t know why I had such a tone all of a sudden. I carried on, “Long story short, it’s about living in the moment. Three words: here and now. I can’t give you any more clues than that or it will spoil the book. You should read it.”
His mom made a loud snore and she ground her teeth that made me wince a bit.
"Sorry about that." I could hear him wince over the phone too. But I didn’t mind. I liked talking to Riley. It was closing in on 3am. My part-time job starts in 4 hours. But he doesn’t know this. He doesn’t need to anyway.
"It’s alright," I said, shifting the phone to my other ear. My left ear was red and I could feel it burn a bit. But I wanted to talk more. "Aren’t you sleepy?"
"No. I want beer."
"At this time? It’s past 3 in the morning."
"So? I actually have some in the garage. Want to come over and have some? Bring that Albom book. I want to read it while you read Stamm."
"Alright. I’ll just grab my work clothes and head on there. You left my bike by our porch this morning right?" Riley and I shared bikes. He took it to the park for exercise. I used it to go to and from work.
"Yep. Hey. You didn’t tell me you had work later. You can nap at the couch in the garage if you want to. See you in a bit? I’ll wait for you outside."
"Sure." I ended the call. After four hours, I finally placed the phone back on the receiver.
I took a look out of my window. It was dark. I could hear an owl or two hooting while the street remained quiet. There was the gentle rustling of leaves on the curb, like a rhythmless lullaby. I liked autumn, but falling leaves and the clump they made at the corners of houses and the road irked me. I had no particular reason behind it but it just didn’t amuse me. Maybe because I always liked everything neat and tidy. If leaves were to fall from their branches, they might as well do it in a prim fashion. Of course, that was impossible. But I liked wishing for impossible things. It both amused and angered me. It showed how far I’d go to get what I want and realize what it really is that I need.
I grabbed my bag and stuffed my work clothes in it. Both my parents were out of town so leaving at this hour won’t be a problem. But my older brother just got back from the army. You can tell that he wasn’t exactly laidback. I love my brother, but he’s too overprotective. I placed an ear on his door and heard his snores. I fist-pumped the air. I scribbled on a Post-It, stuck it to the fridge and got out the door. I pedaled through the deserted street and after 9 blocks, a scruffy-haired boy greeted me with a grin.
"Neil didn’t catch you?"
"Nope! His snores could have sucked in our fridge and he wouldn’t even have noticed," I replied, almost triumphantly. I got off my bike, leaned it against his porch and gave him a hug.
It was 3:30 in the morning and the air was still cold. Riley held me in his arms for a little while longer and I let him. Albom and Stamm were waiting inside my backpack but I remained where I stood, on tip toe with my body resting upon his.
excitement like showgirls in my head
parading umbrellas seem like years ago
I’ve hung my coat upon the moon’s nose
prepare to be clothed with my kisses darling
dance with me until the hands of the clock
drop to the floor to be our swinging canes
The world is a strange place, even if the reasons why souls fail root from the same crime. Hope is a painful feeling to nurture. It is like dreaming of the summer sun when all there ever is winter inside your chest. The constant struggle to freeze the sly impressions of the past is like trying to capture the breath of a star that was never there. Lights of the night can be treacherous. They symbolize rebirth and stagnancy. Stars are beautiful, but they are mere watchers. They are the audience that keeps their applause to themselves. Our world is their stage and our pains are their entertainment. When they’ve had their fill, the sun takes over and a brand new timetable sets forth broken-winged sparrows to nest upon wheezing trees. The world is a strange place. We are put here on earth with the most vulnerable thing one could ever possess, our strength and weakness rooting from the same fragility that makes us human. We will always be doomed with this eternal winter in our hearts. But it’s an elegiac beauty isn’t it?
I cannot put this into words. Thoughts do not accomplish fruition. My left shoe taps at the floor, in hopes of inscribing something worth the read. My palm is pressed upon the paper, which I later on scrunch inside my fist. I embraced my flaws, miseries and the void that came along with it. But I found pleasure in mourning and celebrating the deaths of past dreams. It was like having a beautiful beast in captive. I held it by the throat, its chain stained of dried blood and tears. I tied it to my bed post. It remains there to remind me of the reason why I am the shadow that lurks this misty room. My hair is upon my face yet I breathed freely. Sudden clarity hit me; being alive was no longer difficult. My chest was devoid of its pains. I think I know why I couldn’t write anymore. I’ve finally stopped wanting to talk about my pain, which was all about you. This strange state of confusion was a celebratory homecoming from the abyss. In the fullness of time, I’m okay again. A good kind of different, finally.
I Once Knew Three Friends
I once knew three friends. Sadness, Angst and Acceptance.
We all lived next door to each other. You can say we’re neighbors, but we’ve never engaged ourselves in conversation. The walls of our apartments were thin so it didn’t take much effort to hear what we were all thinking. For most parts of the day, I ate cereal and read a book. My apartment isn’t big but I got all the space I need: a bed, a bookcase, a small coffee table, a fridge and a desk for my laptop, files and boxes of cereal. I moved in just a couple of weeks ago. Sadness gave me a half-smile when I parked my car at the lot this morning. I passed by Angst while I was on my way to throw the trash. Acceptance left a small plant in a mustard-yellow pot on my door-step when I got home from work. It read, "From Acceptance, to you".
Sadness intrigued me because even though she didn’t say much, her paintings spoke for her. I think she does pieces and sells them in galleries. I once passed by her apartment and her door was open. Her place was a mess but it was beautiful to me. There were blots and splotches of paints on the walls. Her bed sheets were prints of paint, so you can’t tell where the messy floor ends and where the walls began. Her paintings spoke of melancholic stories. But what made them different were that they all had hope in them. Angst mostly kept to herself on weekends. Weekdays, she’s always out. A friend of hers once brought her home. He carried her to her apartment and left. I could hear Angst weep as she hit her pillow until she eventually passed out. Moments later, there were clinking of beer bottles and the sound of a lighter pressed repeatedly until she had flung it across the room. I heard it through my wall. She didn’t yell or scream, but after that, her silence was sharp like daggers. You could feel the walls bleed because of it. There were times when we’d cross paths on the way to the parking lot. She would look at me and force a smile. But her eyes held so much pain. Acceptance on the other hand always had an eye out for the two. She worked at the library, just six blocks away. She once left a book on oil painting at Sadness’ doorstep. When Angst left her door open after a drunken night, Acceptance cleared her room and tended after her. She cooked, left the food on her table and placed several tea bags next to it.
The four of us still haven’t spoken to each other. But I consider them as my friends. Something tells me that the stolen glances and subtle smiles were all the saving we would need. I always wanted to invite them for coffee but something tells me I shouldn’t. It’s better to keep everything as it is. After all, it’s just like the emotions that we feel: some happen to stay for always, some come to pass and most turn into memories. And I guess that’s alright.
I set my library identification card and keys on the table and headed to bed. There were wet paint drippings on the floor. I dodged them and dived into my pillows. There were empty beer bottles and cigarette boxes at the foot of my bed. I placed them inside the bin. Sighing to myself, I knew that there’s always hope in things that hurt. After glancing at the little plant that glowed silently on my bedside table, I bid the paintings on my wall good night and drifted off to sleep.
Here’s To You
It was the first time I got to walk around my area at past six in the morning. The streets were clear apart from the casual passing-by of cabs painted in dull gray. I couldn’t look up at the skies for it was far too bright. But my peripheral vision tells me the azure was clear and the birds enjoyed swooping through lamp posts and vacant parking lots. We got home at three in the morning. I only stole few hours of sleep after crashing at Hannah’s apartment, and was alright with that. A pinch of lightheadedness was present and the stale trace of tobacco still existed on my tongue. I took a sniff of my fingers and made a face. I reeked of last night. Badly. It was a blur for most parts, but what I do remember were eight empty bottles on the table, a delicious platter of crispy-fried somethings, sitting on the bathroom floor with mascara-stained tissues and lighting my first cigarette. I had seven of those coffin nails and surprisingly, my asthma didn’t trigger any shortness of breath or the usual heart palpitations I got. There was an unsettling feeling in my chest but I know it isn’t anything serious. I asked Hannah to teach me how to smoke last night. At age twenty-six, you’d think someone like me would have gone past the stage between curiosity over the white stick and ditching it altogether. I can’t say it was curiosity that won. I have been planning to have direct contact with the thievery that broke what was once significant to me. And I finally did. It wasn’t all that grand. But with every cigarette that rested gently in between my lips, I dedicated each breath I exhaled and lost forever, to you.
He wasn’t grand or ostentatious about his achievements. Medals and trophies paraded the shelves of his home, its walls ornamented with certificates he cultivated through the years. Wearing the same red shoes whenever we met, his stride was not overbearing but a certain vibe appealed particularly towards people of the same sexual orientation. He found this both amusing and appalling He considers himself straight, but I like to tease him otherwise. From black to burgundy, he would dye his hair and I in turn would not let this go. He reads W as “Wi”, SW as “eswi”, 5 as B, and B as 5. For someone who has the body mass of a 10-year-old, he consumes food that’s excessive enough for two persons. He bullies me a lot more than I can take. Sometimes it makes me want to kiss him on the cheek with my fist. But our odd friendship is like a reassuring cloud that loiters above my head, fending away possible showers. Most first impressions of him would be shy, snob and snotty. The three SWORDS as we call it, S-words, for we’ve heard it far too often. But despite the constant barn animal comparisons he throws my way, I beg to differ. He is sweet, subtle and painfully smart. The subtlety does not apply towards his descriptions of me, but otherwise, he mostly keeps to himself. He’s a good friend and a wonderful person to have around. I like how the world still has people like him.
I have nothing fancy to tell. Meeting Julie went just like how usual couples would; either through common friends, were already friends for a long while or an opportunity presented itself at a coffee shop. Ours was the latter, with a slight twist. When I met her though, I knew she was a keeper.
Our paths crossed at a coffee shop near our university. I was busy painting something on a small canvas, when a book unexpectedly hit my shoulder from behind. It fell on my lap. Thankfully enough, it wasn’t hard-bound. But its edge hit my clavicle. I rubbed the spot before picking up the book. Twenty Love Poems And A Song Of Despair by Pablo Neruda, I mouthed silently. Good choice.
"Eep! Sorry!" I spun around to follow the voice. A short-haired girl held several books supported by her right arm and hip while holding a hot beverage on the other. She extended a hand. I placed her book on it.
"Let’s just say I’m lucky that your books were what leaned towards me, and not your drink." I chuckled. There were three empty seats on my table. I wanted her to take one but I didn’t know how to express that. She was a nervous girl who constantly adjusted the black-rimmed spectacles that rested on her gentle slope of a nose. There were a few freckles on her cheeks, like tiny peach-colored stars. I wanted to compliment her on this. But it was too soon. As it is, I was ahead of myself again.
"I’m so sorry. Did it hurt? After all… Well, it is about love and a song of despair. Haha!" She laughed at her retort for a couple of seconds before pulling an awkward expression. "The book, I mean," she added. Something told me back then that she ran monologues in her head a lot. She looked away for a while and muttered to herself. I heard the word "doltish." I made a mental note to myself during that moment to look into what it meant.
"Would you..?" I motioned her over to one of the vacant seats at my table. The coffee shop was full. Taking a wild guess from her lingering uneasiness, she meant to stay and finish her drink there. It took her a couple of seconds to react but she eventually nodded nervously and sat across me. She placed her books on the other chair next to her and took a sip from her cup.
I looked at her. “I want to do with you,” I said, "what spring does to the cherry trees."
"It’s by Neruda," I said. I dwelled on what I quoted for a while. I then realized that what I said seemed perverted. I deserved her reaction. There was no chance for a smooth escape on that one. I didn’t bother trying.
"Oh, haha! Alright. Good poet huh?" she replied. "A friend referred Neruda to me. So far, I’m loving him. But the line that you just said did sound corrupt though haha!" She laughed a lot in between her sentences. I found it both odd and endearing. And yes, darn it, what I said did sound corrupt.
I bowed and shook my head apologetically. She said it was alright.
"So you paint huh?" she asked. I nodded. I leaned the canvas toward her direction so she could take a good look at it. I told her it was inspired by a painter called Albert Bierstadt. "I could tell. Kinda," she said. "I read about him once. Hints of romanticism in his paintings could be found with the way he played with light and all." She plucked a tissue from the dispenser and wiped a coffee stain from the side of her lips.
"Oh. I didn’t know that," I said, slightly embarrassed. I was merely on Google earlier that day, searching for a piece I could imitate for my oil painting class. All I knew was that it was made in 1860. She was very chatty for someone who just met another in a short span of time. But it was this conversation that led to many more.
Being the only son and child to my parents, my choice in taking Painting didn’t please them as much as it did me. But thanks to my generous uncle, he encouraged me to go after what I wanted. Julie on the other hand took up Journalism, so she was busier than I was. After that incident in the coffee shop, we met up several times. Hanging-out led to dates, until the dates led to a beautiful commitment.
She was my first relationship and yes, this was odd since I was a guy and university was usually the place where everyone could get away with anything. But I wasn’t like that. I was infatuated with this girl called Nancy back in high school. I courted her for 2 years and she ended up dating a college guy who wore his polos with the collars up. After breaking my heart and seeing the disgusting sight with the collar, I decided to turn asexual and focus my attention on romanticizing over canvases and paint. It was a good decision. Simply because it led me to meeting Julie eventually.
I wanted to emphasize on the moment when Julie and I met for the first time because it was what really struck me the most. I could still remember the scent of her hair, even if she was right across me. It was coconut-y. I didn’t like coconuts in particular, but after making an awkward remark about how her hair smelled like the meadow, she laughed and said she used coconut-flavored shampoo. She didn’t get to finish her drink because her father came and picked her up fifteen minutes after we met. But a lot happened within those minutes. It was a beautiful fifteen-minute moment that introduced me to my best friend and my soul-mate. A few years later, we still did everything together. Like two kids at a park, we ran across vast spaces and felt the wind rush between our arms and legs.
Julie loved writing letters to me. When we were apart during vacation with our families and relatives, she would send posts and I would be giddy every time. Whenever I sent my reply, I always enclosed a drawing or two of her favorite Calvin And Hobbes comic. We also met each others’ families during Christmas one time. They seemed to have received each other well. My mom’s cupcakes and her dad’s unique lasagna recipe seemed to have put everybody in a great mood that we were able to sneak into the backyard for a few minutes to exchange kisses. It wasn’t a very dangerous move but hiding gave us both the immature rush of wanting to stay young. The little things such as her epistles, the way she clucked her tongue whenever she was upset, the way her hair fell on her face and spectacles and the lone dimple that rested on her right cheek, remain etched in my mind. I bring her wherever I go. Even if it isn’t the same way for her anymore.
There’s nothing else fancy to tell. Meeting Julie went just like how usual couples would; either through common friends, were already friends for a long while or an opportunity presented itself at a coffee shop. Ours was the latter, with a slight twist. But just like some relationships, we were unfortunate enough to not make it to the end. I don’t want to focus on what went wrong. I’d rather recall the moments that will always remain beautiful to me. How I met her will always remain as it was: innocent and genuine. Julie will always be a part of me. Our promises and dreams have been long interspersed into the wind, like poppy seeds and strewed dandelions. But I know they’ve landed in good places. I still keep her letters. It reminds me of how good and great something was, even if that something isn’t what she believes to be true anymore. But in one point in time she did, and that’s what matters. In the dust and haze, she’ll remain to be the brightest star in the titanic, inky sky that lays before me. My nervously-blinking, peach-colored star - always.
I remembered that I was invited by some people from out of town for a couple of drinks. My car being broken down was one of the reasons why I said I couldn’t go, even though the train station was just right around the corner. And I had no car. Their invitation still stands and the shindig’s taking place the day after. After brushing my teeth this morning and looking upon my reflection in the mirror, someone strange and still stared back at me. Sometimes, I feel as I’m disappearing into my thoughts that one day, I think I won’t be able to see myself in the mirror anymore. Brushing away the thought, I realized that a part of me actually wanted to go. It wasn’t because I was elated at the thought of seeing familiar faces. What good would that do when the attachment and significance was long-gone? I knew their request for my company was merely for "old times sake" and nothing but. I saw no purpose and implication for proceeding with a bond that’s now non-existent. And I didn’t mind that. My arrythmic heart knows this well in its quarters: The several of us wear masks, simply because the realness of our being is then exposed to us with sheer clarity. At least that’s how I saw it. I think I was ready to wear my mask and confront old companions. It would be good for me. It might take my mind off things, away from a particular someone. It was then and there when I finally found the sympathy to understand you. I often wondered and wandered with unanswered questions and the disclosure of the rationale of these events. How were you able to move past the soul that you once tethered yourself to, just because one night of inebriation and vapor stole you of your pledge? How were you able to sequester yourself in corners with the company of those who are lesser than humans, hyenas to be exact? And then it hit me: There was a pseudo-birth in being surrounded by those who are oblivious and nonchalant towards your undisclosed agonies. There was a sense of fulfillment when escape is made successful by being in the presence of shallow personages; a hazy camaraderie for the borrowed night made victorious. In that moment, I felt a speck of sympathy dampen my coarse spirits. In that moment, I understood the beast that trampled and destroyed the truths that I once held close to my chest each night. I understood how you’ve felt, but I’m afraid that it’s still not your vindication. I stared at my reflection again. This time I saw a deep, quiet sea in my eyes and there floated a lone boat, gently rocking in its surface. There’s always been the desire to leave this place and venture waters and lands that I’ve never set foot on. But these were chapters that I had to go through, even if the pain was too much to be gauged. I might as well get a move-along by bumping glasses with familiar strangers. Maybe in that moment of pseudo-birth, I’d find my own path to forgiveness and vindication.
Almost Of A Happy Ending
I was often scared to picture how the two of us would be like in the next few years. I still am. Of course, I’m way over here. 4,000 miles away from where you are. The chances of bumping into you would be impossible. That is, if I don’t take a trip back home for the holidays or something like that. I might see you at the next counter at a supermarket. Or maybe you’d be crossing the street while holding the hand of someone next to you. Visions as simple as this would be enough to spread gray clouds on what was once a clear, morning sky. I’m scared to picture how your smile would be like next to her. Would it be the same like what you’ve given me? Or did she bring out a glow out of you that I could never have unlocked? It leaves me defenseless towards the many possibilities that may happen, now that we took opposite paths in the fork of this road. I think you’ve greeted warmer and brighter sunshines from your side. I on the other hand have been immune to the frequent showers and visitation of the dark heavens. Crying doesn’t happen as often as it did, months ago. I think I’m slowly closing the wounds on my own. Some are still open and fresh. But I allow it to hurt, so that I could move past it. Sometimes, I’d like to think that you still think about me. How we used to sit by the couch and watch MTV, even if we were talking about a book. I’d like to think that you still found it cute with the way I requested for iced-tea while I ate my cold burger at 11 in the evening. But of course, this is just my end. Something tells me that you’ve found better moments to cherish. If it were a picture frame, you were all smiles in the photograph and I was nowhere in sight. Maybe you are better off without me. For now, I’m just pulling off a “I’ll be okay” smile. But then again, that’s what I tell myself everyday. I pretend that it’s working, hoping that it eventually will. But it’s alright. Maybe beautiful things are the way they are because they have an ending. Which gives you a story to tell your friends, or even strangers. After breaking up over the summer and having not seen you since then, I found ways to get by. But memories of you are clever. I still got you under my skin. Maybe I will run in to you, at the train station or on the streets. I’ll probably hide or run away when that happens. But when you’ve turned the corner, I’ll lean on a wall and sigh to myself: the memories were beautiful and yeah, I choose to keep the scars. I guess, I’d rather have and keep my almost of a happy-ending than nothing.
It wasn’t just a toy to her. She scooped it in her arms lovingly as soon as the check-out counter-lady at IKEA handed it to her. She was already in university at the time, and didn’t care if people observed an eighteen-year-old ferociously hugging a toy on the plane back home. The first time she laid her eyes on the the inanimate panda, she knew he guaranteed dandy adventures to share and keep. She loved rubbing her thumb and finger on his feet. His cheeks were snowy and cottony-soft. His eyes drooped in an inviting manner as if slumber, during any part of the day, was an idea well-received. Its small black ears popped out like two gentle slops on its sable, pillowy head that she loved to kiss. She was very fond of him. She decided to name him Punda. He accompanied her through several sleepovers and got his fair share of the rain and harsh, humid rays of the sun while on the commute to places. His once milky-white cloud for an exterior now had spots of gray and mud stains. She tried to bathe him once, but after a few showers and being laundered, Punda started to get thin. This saddened her for a while, recalling the first day she held a plump, rotund stuffed panda in her arms. But she loved him all the more. He’s seen more than what he should have, spending several nights of every year watching her cry over a silly boy or when she missed a friend who was overseas. It was inevitable to feel lonely at times, but Punda made sure the feeling never stuck around for more than an hour or so. Despite being wordless, his presence was enough for her. She would hug him until she fell asleep and he would watch over her until it was daybreak. He made sure he kept her safe and that she only had the sweetest dreams.
It’s been a while since she parted from Punda. She’s 22 now, yet her attachment towards him only grew. She knew that a loved one needed his company so she gave Punda to him. She missed feeling safe around her monochromatic cloud and even though she had a few other stuffed loves lying around her bed, Punda was incomparable. He was not just a toy. He was her friend. She only hoped that the person she gave him to is taking good care of her piece of the skies. She also hoped that Punda is being treated with nothing but love and care.
She misses Punda. Actually, she misses them both.
She sat by the bed. The phone in her palm kept blinking. She dipped her feet into the tub by the floor and ignored her phone. She glanced again as it rang. Russell was calling for the nth time. Clicking a button on the side of her phone, it ceased from playing the ring-tone. She slipped it under the pillow.
With a heavy sigh, she moved farther from the edge of the bed to recline on her back. She shuffled her feet beneath the lukewarm water inside the tub. There were cracks on the ceiling of the resort she was staying in which made her frown. Pressing her small fingers upon her forehead, she whispered to herself, Mind the worry-lines Gen. She wanted to head down to the beach but it was pouring hard. Grabbing a tub from the bathroom, she filled it with lukewarm water and decided to dip her feet into it. A foot spa, but not quite. She wanted to get away as far as possible from the city and found herself staying at the nearest resort after landing at the airport. The ocean was beautiful and serene, with the panoramic views of the sun and its light descending to cast its final luster upon the beach. Unfortunately, all the deluxe rooms were taken and she had to settle for a native space. It’s alright I guess, she thought. The bed was comfortable. The sheets smelled fruity. She liked that. There were also a lot of amenities offered that impressed her. She merely despised cracked ceilings. It somehow symbolized something more to her than just a chipped part of a wall.
She rested her arm on her forehead and closed her eyes. The hubbub of the heavy rains hitting things outside her room were audible. But she didn’t mind it. Nobody liked noise. She, for one, didn’t. But she preferred hearing sounds than total silence. There was something hypocritical and dishonest about the complete absence of sound. It was simply not possible to fulfill such an eerie condition. Silence held secrets. She wasn’t fond of secrets. She believed that it wasn’t a requirement to disclose everything, just as long as there was no intention for concealment. She respected privacy and space. But if you invaded hers, you had to disclose the right amount of thoughts that would expose your fragility too.
Something wet dropped on her arm. The cracked ceiling formed a tiny hole, allowing miniature raindrops to enter her room. She sighed. She hated getting parts of her body wet when it wasn’t intended to. But she was too lazy to lift her feet from her tub. Reaching for a pillow, she placed it on her head. There, she thought, I hope the rain stops soon though. The racket outside was starting to slow down, which indicated the downtempo of the rain. With a pillow to her face, she extended her palm upward to check for raindrops. They were getting smaller. Good, she thought.
As she placed the pillow next to her, her phone still blinked. 23 messages, and 14 missed calls. She rolled her eyes. Sometimes people don’t understand how you’ve moved on and wouldn’t want them to be a part of the path you’re taking. Russell was someone she thought she could trust. She thought he was someone who defied inconsistency and doubt. But expectations made her take a severe blow to the gut, testifying against the shattering of her own heart. Years later, she found reasons to forgive herself. She was close to repairing who she was, until Russell entered the picture that she thought was burnt and long-gone.
She got up from the bed, wiped her feet with a towel and drained the tub in the bathroom. The rain turned into a gentle drizzle. The cracked ceiling remained as it was, but bereft of droplets. Just moisture. She walked barefoot across the carpeted floor and leaned by the window. She could see distant lights on the beach. Probably the floating bar that carried a few drunk men and women singing and drinking their woes away. The restaurant nearby just called in its local band. There were gentle playing of strings and beats on a percussion. The sound was inviting her to leave her room and greet some new company under the moonlight. She took a glance at her phone. Russell finally stopped calling. She didn’t need anyone, but that doesn’t mean she had to be alone. The city was a hundred miles from where she was, from where her heartaches were rooted. But there was a certain fright and warning in the air that she couldn’t shake off. Maybe it was paranoia, but she was considering staying in for the night instead.
Shifting to the other side of the window, she witnessed the moon in all its glory. A sea gull passed by, the silhouette made crisp and clear in the Stygian, evening sky. The moon followed her everywhere. He is my friend, she thought. She managed to escape the stubborn reminders of the sun for most parts of the day. But the moon cradled her when she was at her weakest. It knew the private pages of her journal, and how she once soaked them with her tears after watching a sad film. The white, bright sphere in the sky wasn’t within her reach, yet it was what knew her the most. She didn’t like hiding things from the moon, but she wanted to prove that there was bravery within her veins. Despite being tired and too tested, the urgency of the night and being at the beach suddenly lit a flame from within.
With a smile towards her friend the moon, she changed into a flowy, sleeveless dress and wore flats that exposed her beautiful toes. Checking the mirror, she found a messy brunette staring right back at her. Her cheeks were flushed with the sudden excitement. Her licks puckered themselves. She couldn’t understand why, but she went with the flow. Leaving her room and walking upon the moist sand by the beach, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the ocean that had been waiting for her all day. She smiled. The moon bounced gently upon her high cheekbones and clavicles. She caught someone’s gaze as he suddenly looked away in sheer embarrassment. He was amazed by her stride and turned his back toward her, hoping she didn’t notice. Oh moon, she chuckled, are you messing with me again? The moon did a subtle wink that surprised a passing seagull.
Back in her room, Russell was calling again. But she was already walking towards the stranger with the kind eyes. After blushing and admitting to his deed, he offered her a drink. The two shadows spoke of new things for hours. There was laughter and a kind tone of inquisitiveness now and then. Nothing persuasive, just a light nudge for conversation. She felt a different feeling rush over her. But she didn’t mind. It was a good kind of different. After so long, finally.
I felt like a caged bird in the very skies I was born into. The wind was keen in my wings but I was trapped and held down by an invisible anchor. It clipped itself to the infirm portions of my pinions. It was impossible to not undulate when sheer weight from nowhere tugged on my already flimsy mien. There was no land in sight in this azure, but the perpetual expanse of a calm ocean. The waves sounded gentle in my ears. Fear rested itself in between my chest, but it was also what kept me afloat. I spotted virescence from a distance. My tired, suspended feet wiggled in excitement. I blinked rapidly to make sure this wasn’t chimera. A fellow, wheezing bird joined me in flight from the opposite direction. It panted and was trying to tell me something. Its feathers were unwashed and mucky, but his eyes were clear as crystal. I felt his excitement quiver through my wings. I was approaching a haven; those who have travelled far and wide were safe here. I landed softly on a rock and scanned my surroundings. Some were impaired; limping on one leg, a broken wing wobbled to the side and several flickering eyes strayed at my direction. I walked towards the shade of a coconut tree and rested. I could barely move my wings, but I was happy to rest upon the white, powdery sand. I was surrounded by fellow caged wing-people that were nowhere near Utopian flawlessness, or the majestic paragon that they’ve spoken of in books. I was tired, breathless and broken. But I think I’ve finally found my nest.