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.
Let us borrow a bird’s point of view for this particular occasion. A little canary perched upon an electric wire, thirty-two feet above ground. We watch as a fat football player kick a skinny boy hard on the chest. The latter cries in pain and his thin body trembles, like city streets during an earthquake. The fat teenager roars a crunchy laugh, followed by a spit to the skinny one’s face. The thick sole of his left shoe steps on small fingers. The boy wails loud as he could, nobody hears.
We watch as a red cloud of smoke form behind the fat boy. The smoke, bubbling and wheezing, shapes itself into an inconsistent oval, like a large woman’s lips opening. The smoke creates a hole, a passage to the eternal void. In which the devil comes out from.
The skinny boy manages to scramble away, his eyes wide open while staring at the slick, gangly figure smiling ominously at him. Fear made his broken leg bones run as far from the rubicund creature as he could.
The fat boy’s face twitches with wonder. He looks behind him, and sees – nothing.
In our perception, courtesy of the little canary, we witness how the devil moves slowly towards the boy. How his mouth opens, larger than anything could, and maliciously sucks on the boy’s head, making him a human lollipop.
Its pair of nasty yellow eyes looks at nowhere in particular. Perhaps, it is scanning the area for other victims. Or maybe not. He came here for the fat boy only, we assume. After shoving the whole of his throat onto the clueless prey and spewing it out, it climbs back to its portal, leaving the boy standing still, dumb as ever, as though nothing had happened. Well if we ask him, he would say nothing really happened. But up here we know better.
The fat boy does not see nor feel the thick wads of green saliva wrapped all over his body. We can’t tell if it’s really saliva, though. It could be phlegm or acid. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter.
Tomorrow, the same thing shall happen.
There is something about the rain that makes him feel good inside. When everything out there is cold and damp, in meteoric contrast to his warm-blooded, hot-headed self. He wears a jacket to keep him dry, or at least, on certain areas that would be uncomfortable if wet. There is no point in using an umbrella, all the things he brought this morning are sealed carefully inside his backpack. What’s the problem with hair getting watered down just about the same way a shower does? No big deal. He watches people search through their bags for protection, from something that in his opinion, should not be avoided but embraced. He would later have to get on a bus, and the driver would frown, seeing this new passenger look for a seat, wet as a sponge on a sink. But he doesn’t care what they would think.
Once seated, he would watch the tiny droplets descending in slow motion to nowhere, forming odd shapes, but always moving quietly by the flows, like us. People.
Perhaps, the most probable theory about his sentiments for the rain is how the waters link together the ground and the skies. Two faraway divided by infinite space. Linked only by the rain.