I think the bus I was about to board into had already passed. I know I am thirty minutes late. Still I had to push my luck. I have to go.
What happened was, I dozed off on the couch. There was a National Geographic documentary on TV and I was reading a really boring book. I was thinking of going out to 7-Eleven to buy a carton of milk. (I always plan to get milk after work, but I also always forget.)
And I thought maybe I should also get new pens. It’s been weeks now since the last time I wrote an entry in my journal. Then I feel asleep, before I even got to what I would be writing anyhow.
Now I wait here alone in the dark. There was a hurricane two days ago. The lamppost which is supposed to light up the street was down on the ground like a dead knight’s sword. The street’s still damp and muddy. I should have stayed at home on my couch and read my fucking book instead.
I felt as useless and lifeless as this fallen lamppost. An arbitrary prop in an aimless story.
I figure I can walk to 7-Eleven. It’s quite a short distance from where I am. And I could use a little exercise, that’s for sure. Then comes a least delightful realization: I forgot to bring my wallet.
A speeding car passed by, the wheels rolled onto a puddle which, you guessed it, splashed all over me. So much for not taking a shower, thank you very much.
They say it’s the little things in life that make you happy.
But they didn’t mention, same way it’s the little things in life that could make you sad.
I struggled to stay awake. It was the only day of the month when we get to be together. My job is taking all of my time at the moment. I get home from work exhausted and uninterested to communicate with anyone.
\We were at the cinema. We went there straight after going to church, in which I inevitably dozed off in the middle of a priest’s rambling about some unpopular Bible character’s committal of sins and how it reflects immoral behavior of kids in today’s society.
The film, however, was good, I think. At least that’s what the poster suggests. I cannot tell for myself since I had my eyes closed the entire movie. I only caught the music, snippets of dialogue and the sudden theatrical sound effects. Whatever’s happening on the screen, I had to supply with my imagination. My eyes felt too heavy. I wanted to go home, jump right into bed, and descend into the inevitable pool of darkness boiling in me.
She held my hand tight.
Still, exhaustion prevailed.
When I opened my eyes, she was no longer there. Names of many actors were coming and going on the large projector across the equally large room. My mind was in a blur, I think I even saw my name there. Huh.
I was thinking of dialing her number. I would ask, “Where are you?”
But then who would I be kidding? I didn’t really care. I just wanted to leave.
And that I did.
For some reason, I was not worried of her leaving at all.
I am unable to tell when exactly was the time I began to lose feelings for her, but that I also did. Somehow. It was like watching myself fall off a cliff in slow motion. One moment, my feet were planted solidly on the grass, the next, there was only air.
It’s been six months now and I still haven’t heard from her.
Every Sunday, I go to church alone. And then to the cinema. At first I thought I was doing it to see if she would ever come back. “Sorry, love, took me a long time to find the way back from the powder room.” Bullshit.
I realized later on, once it all became a weekend routine, that I was not really waiting for her to return, no. I was making sure that she wouldn’t.
Hopefully only temporary
This is not the first time she has disappeared. Actually, if my counting is right, this is the seventh. Might as well be the last, if I may hope so.
I am not that much surprised anymore. Still, the mystery of her sudden departures; the reason why she leaves and the places she goes to, bothers me to death. It had never been a cause of argument for us, though. One day she will just come back, to my house, out of the blue. As unanticipated as her disappearance. Sometimes she’s gone for two whole months, sometimes only for a week. To be honest, I don’t worry too much when this happens. I’m just – mystified.
This is definitely the weirdest relationship I’ve been involved in. But don’t get me wrong, I never regret it. It would be unfair to say I am not happy or dissatisfied. We all have different opinions about what should be considered as “love”. And if you ask me, “Do you love her, though?” On the spot I would say “Yes, I do love her.” I mean besides her habit of leaving, she’s a perfectly decent girl. She is now a graduating student, who works part-time in a diner, and has a good number of friends (girls from the university she’s in). She behaves normally, maybe not the brightest girl around, but she’s smart enough for her own good. Everything is good. Except this vanishing act she performs from time to time, rather very successfully.
It’s always as if she simply evaporates, into thin air, to turn into a cloud. All her stuff are left neatly in her apartment. Nothing is packed or disarranged. I ask every tenant in the building if they’ve seen her around. None of them do. I even visit the security to check their surveillance camera records. Nothing in there either. Maybe she comes out by the window? From the sixth floor, where she lives in?
I enter her apartment, knowing that I wouldn’t find her there. The telephone lies dead on the kitchen floor, like a person stabbed on the back. I hold it against my ear and pick up muffled sounds of breathing from the other end. Just my imagination.
I look around and see a glass on the table. I move closer and see a thin layer of moisture all over it, as if it was left filled with cold water and then emptied only a couple of minutes ago. Weird. This glass is now an object lost in time, ever cool and moist, regardless of the passing hours.
I get my key from the knob and close the door, leaving it unlocked. Part of her is still in there, faint remainders of her absent self. Hopefully only temporary.
I travel back to my own home. On my way, I try to make sense of her call the night before. She was crying. Didn’t utter a single word. I wanted to know why. I wanted to ask. But I never did. As always, I just let her be.
When she returns, I will pretend I didn’t notice her gone. As if I never tried to find her and everything was alright.
On my way home, I gaze at the scenery passing by. Pictures appear and disappear, at a glance. Cars, trees, houses, people. Life. None of it means anything without you.
She called Harry without expecting him to answer. After all, it was the middle of the night; the whole world was a sunken ship in a sea of deep sleep.
A few minutes ago, she woke up, sweating and exhausted, from a dream she couldn’t flesh out a single detail of. She walked slowly to the kitchen to drink one full glass of water. For an extensive moment, she just stood there, staring at the colorless, odorless liquid reflecting a faint silhouette of her tired face. This water, she thought, in a glass in my hand, at this time of the night, is different.
Then she drank it. Without pause. It slid smoothly across her tongue, straight to her throat, washing away the inexplicable thirst along with the remains of her forgotten dream. A great tide of inviting cold swathed her. She felt like a newborn baby thrown into the ocean. Diving into a pool devoid of emotions. Absolute nothingness drowned her for seconds.
That was when the guilt came in. She recognized it instantly, it was singular and intricate. Guilt. About what? For whom? And why? She doesn’t know. But she can feel it, the guilt was there, like a huge capsule of medicine she had swallowed. First it was just a tiny seed gliding fluidly in her throat, but it grew inside her tummy, until all her veins and organs screamed by suffocation. It was a vine growing in fast forward motion, choking everything within reach, until there’s no more space to breathe. No space for anything but the guilt in itself.
Time stood still, or as it felt more to her; time disappeared entirely. There was only the darkness, inside and around her. Enveloping her whole. She was sealed in the womb of her conscience. The core of her soul, if she ever had one. One more second here, in this oblivion, and I would never be able to come back.
So she moved her feet. It was such a struggle. She moved backwards, feeling the coldness of the floor and the stagnant air, she knew she’s regaining her senses. A slow sigh of relief escaped her lips.
She had to call somebody. Someone. Anyone. She needed to know that she’s back to her world. She had to make sure she’s not alone.
She took the phone, held it by her sweaty hand, and dialled a number. It was Harry’s, before she even realized it. It could only be him anyway. She couldn’t call anybody else. To her, he is her only friend. He understands. Or at least, he doesn’t judge. He is a good listener. That’s the kind of person he is. His mind is always as open as the night sky.
He didn’t have to answer. She was okay with it. The sound of a waiting call. Somewhere tonight, a phone is silently ringing. And I am the one making it ring. And even if he is sleeping, somehow, he hears me. He is reaching me out through his dreams.
She is calm now. The guilt is gone. It was momentary as a hurricane that has come and passed, leaving chaos behind. The ringing sound took her out of the dark, like a helping hand.
She is not expecting an answer. But there it is. Just when she was finally about to hung up.
“Hello?” said a voice.
If it’s not as crazy as it is, I would have laughed at my situation right now. But I can’t. Can’t even move, for god’s sake.
Here I am. Some petty adult scared like a kid. Funny. I am standing almost diagonally, trembling with fear.
Look at my left hand, seems normal like usual, eh? Look closer. It’s vibrating. Twitch-twitch. Flinch-flinch. My right hand is raised a little upwards; leaning on the wall, pointer finger on the light switch.
About to go to bed, I turned off the light. And that’s when I saw him (or her?) out the window. He (or she) was far off, five meters away or so. I thought it was just a shadow of a tree. But trees don’t have shoulders, do they? And they don’t have a neck. And the silhouette of an oval face. So it has to be human. It has the shape of a human.
I turned on the light, to see it better. But it disappeared. An illusion, I thought. But when I switched off the light again, he (or she) was there. Ha. And closer this time. Behind him (or her) were droplets of rain, falling reluctantly, illuminated by a lamppost. I guess I also have to mention that I live in an apartment’s third floor. I turned on the light. No more plans to submerge myself into total darkness, no. ‘Cause hey, I’m not that stupid. My mystery visitor out there is definitely not a friend. I was about to jump into my bed when (yes, you guessed it right. This is a horror story indeed) the lights shut down by itself. And he (I confirm it now. It’s a male, everyone) has come closer. With his faceless head against the glass, his hands leaning forward, he tries to get in. I keep on switching the light. It’s not working.
Then there’s a furious knocking on my door. Thud-thud-thud. I try to ignore it. I can’t.
I hear the window’s lower edges twist open. I hear the lock make a clicking sound. I hear the sound of air from of his mouth.
He’s coming in.
There’s just been too much going on. And I want to get away from it all. But I can’t. I’m tied up here with all my problems, like a fucking dog. I try to fix one, but another comes up immediately. I stop to take a breath. It doesn’t work too well. They never leave me alone. It hurts my eyes to see them. My mind is enclosed in a lightless cramped space.
Matters of consequence. Pains of the heart. Insecurities, doubts, regrets, horrid maladies. Utter bullshit. Dwelling inside me. Eating up what’s left of my soul.
This house is a prison. I need to get out. Not that it will make me feel better. But nonetheless, I have to.
On my way to the door, mom asks where I am to go. “I don’t know,” I say. Fortunately unfortunately, I really don’t.
She walks to the graveyard every night, regardless of the weather. She never forgets to bring her umbrella anyway. Sometimes she also brings a flashlight, when it’s one of those nights for reading epitaphs.
She always feels closer to the dead than the living. Those quiet decaying bodies were attractive to her. She believes she knows what it’s like to be there, inside a coffin. And she definitely does. Her mother used to lock her up in a tiny closet back then.
People think of death as “something on the other side”, but for some reason, she is well aware that there is no other side. Death is always here, within the proximities of life. Or it could be the other way around; life within death.
She kneels down and feels the carvings on a particular tomb. The one that belongs to her.