I am counting seconds, an exercise passed on by my friends purportedly because of its dozing effect. They said it calms down the muscles, makes the body relax, until the mind drifts away. Conversely, the reverse always happens to me. The more I loosen up, the more I become aware of my senses.
After lying wide awake for a couple of tedious hours, I grew restless and anxious. The long stares at the dark ceiling above me had already produced a raucous stage of various animations moving frantically about. A dozen or so sleeping positions I had been struggling at did not provide much help, other than body sores from all over. It must have been the cappuccino that did me in. I grope under the shadows as I reach out for the alarm clock on the table just beside me. The neon green light registers the time at 11:55 p.m.
I know there is something unusual. It keeps nagging inside me. I just do not know what and why. For the life of me, wild thoughts boggling me during sleep time are not totally out of the ordinary. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night, chasing my breath, with no clear reason whatsoever, and then rot away the remaining hours on end. In between those moments the most outlandish of questions, even queer ideas, would come walloping from all fronts, asking me for urgent answers I wish I knew. Proof of such long nights is forever imprinted right under my eyes, constantly reminding me, so that day after day, I develop a strong aversion for mirrors. On the lighter side, I am quite proud of it actually. To me, they bear the marks of a thinking mind. I relish it. At least, I have something to stick up for in case somebody cares asking. And they always do. Lately, I have been receiving a lot of traffic about such comment.
And always with a quizzical eyebrow.
Oddly enough, esoteric images, darting shadows and strange sounds make up my night. I can see the vibrancy of my indoor nightlife that I cannot see at any other hour of the day. That makes me therefore a hopeless case. Rehabilitation is out of the question. Medication, too, will surely be, of little, if not of help because it can only address the short-term rather than its enduring effect. The glaring fact is thus unavoidable: I was born to live with it, struggling to live with it now and will have to die through it soon. It becomes then acceptable to me that while the downsides are physically draining, the upsides, however, are mentally stimulating. And with that, I am with Plato’s view that too much attention to health is a hindrance to success.
Bloody right the great sage was.
Still on my back, I stretch out my muscles and curse myself for being such a pathetic nocturnal. I have always been on a graveyard shift, and there is simply not much that I can do to jump shifts.
After easing myself at the edge of the bed, I collect myself, my thoughts, and the hours ahead about to welcome me with a contemptuous smile. A squeak from the other bed behind jerks me. I turn around and see the silhouette of my brother reflected by the porch light of the house beside. For almost a year, sharing the same room had been the object of our endless domestic commotion until I resigned to the thought that maybe I should contend myself with it. At least other than boredom, I have someone around to watch over me in case I relapse into insanity. It will also put off any indication of me falling into a nervous breakdown. Papa and Mama knew better than I. With him snoring and dead to the world, screaming for nothing just to spoil his deep slumber seems appealing. Then again, that will definitely lead to a nasty bloodletting. I push aside the idea.
Tick… tack… tick… tack…
Then comes the thought dashing inwards from nowhere.
Whatever has come to me, I just find myself sliding through my faded jeans and white cotton shirt, and wiggling through my black leather jacket as though an invisible hand is taking the steering wheel. I tiptoe towards the door, take a silent exit and tersely shut the door behind me before it can creak. Just like a phantom in the night, I can pass for any member of akyat-bahay gang with which I effortlessly took my careful exodus. I inch forward from where I stand. The lights in my parent’s bedroom serve me right as I tread cautiously to the front door. No one is supposed to know what I am up to, not so much of the perceived need to keep my night flight a secret than the necessity to avoid a useless stream of lectures – all manner of invectives that I practically grew up with memorizing. Quite remarkably, the words never escape my memory. At fingertips, I can perfectly recite them all.
But what’s the fuss? It’s not like I still need supervision because I appear inept to tend for myself, despite my 26 years of worldly existence. Minor blunders aside, I am certainly most capable of weighing my decisions, independent enough to know my limitations and absolutely entitled to freedom of travel, for whatever it’s worth.
“Have you ever read the constitution? It’s all in there,” my ready answer, of course, more of a mental retort. I just cannot afford to act rudely under my parent’s nose. Otherwise, I will be risking an early Armageddon.
Once outside, the cold night greets me with a somewhat irritating serenity, a sort of despair one usually experiences when losing or leaving someone. Which is which, that I can hardly identify. A gentle chilly air hovers around as though it is trying to pose a question, prickling my tiny little brain to beat the answer out of me. Nature is in total conspiracy, I reckon. The collusion will soon follow my course. Not that I don’t know what it is, but because why it had to be on such hour of the day. I can’t even believe myself for seeing a universal collusion in an otherwise normal evening. For the first time in my life, I am utterly clueless of my actions. Odd as it seems to be, it has been the usual menu of the day for the most part of my waking life.
Which reminds me of the proverbial boat without a sail.
The neighborhood is so calm under the sullen night sky. It is eerily silent. The howls of the dog echo from wall to wall, almost evoking a picture of Dracula’s Transylvania. I force a deep long breath and inhale as much oxygen as possible. A gust of wind or two hit me from nowhere, obviously portending a bad night ahead. A premonition has just been laid out in the picture. I barely make a couple of steps away when the door flings open. I almost trip as I turn instantly to see who it is. Then a familiar figure materializes from the darkness, all in wide disdainful grin.
“Don’t you think you forgot something, Sherlock?” the voice said with a suspecting low tone as he leveled the scooter keys to his eyes.
“Something fishy going on here, big bro?”
“Nice one, but it’s none of your business. Give me the keys or I’ll tell Mama you busted all your subjects!” I muffled with an even less volume, sounding a bit of a warning but more irritated that my brother outsmarted me in what I thought was a clean and clever get away.
I am overly confident that he is not yet ready for an awful confrontation with Mama and Papa about his latest mess, thus the threat. It worked. Happens all the time, though.
“Whoah, go easy. You’re way too defensive,” my brother said obviously taken aback.
No time for small chatter, I immediately snap the keys which are hanging on his fingertips and move away.
“Sherlock certainly needs Watson. What do you think?” he said in a scornful tone.
“I can fill him in for you.”
“Get lost!” I snapped back and headed to the parked machine, oblivious now of the chaos my voice would bring.
The front door closes, thank God. I shove forward the scooter towards the end of the driveway, far enough not to make a stir inside the house once the scooter roars away. I straddle my weight on it as I look down to check the date on my wrist watch.
“AUGUST 3, 2002.”
I need to see her before the first drop of August rains.
“Can’t it wait for tomorrow?” a voice zipped through and froze me for a second or two.
Reasons always fail me. Maybe because mortals are inherently egocentric that the sense of reason endowed to them becomes blurry when set against the backdrop of personal happiness. And it is in this sense that men risk crossing forbidden grounds, whatever it takes, all in the name of individual bliss. More often than not, the acts, widely accepted as beyond norms, are taken out of context and are interpreted always most strictly against.
Or so I think.
One year is not so long a time for me to get used to being alone. It is something not new. I have since become a career solitary drifter. And there was never a day since which recognized my existential purpose. The days seemed like eternity, as they unraveled little of value to me. Everything else mattered no more. The infinite days were like a penal term in hell. I was locked up with no possibility of getting out anytime soon. Where a prisoner has his cell, I had the entire universe as my prison grounds. Bit by bit, the isolation I felt has gone from bad to worse as the days dragged on. Someone, somewhere, was certainly needed to do the filling. And all I wanted was a good escape. Maybe not for long, but at least a short respite will do.
I got what I wanted. The seclusion eventually unlocked the gate that runs a path leading to the woman who could have changed the course my history. There I took refuge, there I sought comfort, and there I found a reaffirmation. There was no invitation, no feelers, and no announcements. Neither was it purely coincidental. We didn’t just barge in either party and waltz in unwittingly.
Time and place found us.
Perhaps it was more than that.
Something larger than life.
The scheme of things has always its way of making things fall into some place, right or wrong. It has been that way ever since. To me, the spontaneous encounter was quite a life-saver – a bail out from the abyss of despair.
While outside, I spend a couple of minutes surveying the neighborhood around and wonder how many of them have lost their luxury of sleeping. Aside from the lighted porches of the houses around, it occurs to me that I have become a speck of ruckus in the stillness of the night. “Lucky earthlings,” I felt envy. And I am one of sheer aberration.
Heck, I can even enlist myself in some organization for the sleep-deprived.
Or maybe for those who sour-grapes about having difficulty getting a good sleep.
I shift my weight and check on the gas. There is more than enough for a rough ride ahead. The night is so tempting I feel like slipping myself under the covers of my bed. Early in the day, I heard from a radio that a signal-no. 2 storm is brewing over the Pacific and would strike later in the night or by early morning the next day. It goes by the name of tropical storm “Berting” as some weather-monitoring agency calls it.
“Dave, you look after the laundry and see to it they’re in by afternoon. Berting will hit tonight!” Mama reminded earlier.
But it is just apt for the moment. Get it done and over with, Dave. And do it quick.
After lingering on for a while, I finally start the engine. As expected, the scooter growls like a lion trapped in a cave as it speeds away, cuts a corner down three blocks and goes straight until its lights disappear in the darkness.
I am breaking free again.
The streets have become as calm as the clock ticks away. On the road, I keep scouring my vision for any sane mortal loitering about. There is no one. No late night crowds on the corners, no drinking sessions under sari-sari stores, no strolling lovers, not even vagrants. No one. Heck, gamblers will not even gamble a dime at this hour while some typhoon is looming in the horizon. And here I am, braving the inevitable storm. After gaining momentum, I begin to feel the terror of the strong winds and the freezing coldness it brings. The airstreams seem to move about in a frantic motion, almost unleashing morbid hums, more like teasing murmurs.
And whispers of disgust.
I can almost hear them mocking in unison, bringing into the fray the guilt factor. Then the seconds stand still under the deafening silence. What have I done? Strangely, a stream of tears flows out from my eyes, passing through the bridge of my nose, down to my mouth.
Leaving a bad, salty taste.
I struggle with my emotion and continue the ride. Needless to say, my body shivers uncontrollably as I make every effort to plow my way ahead. Except for some human-like shadows sneaking their way into the bushes and into the murky parts of the undergrowth, I would have thought I wandered off into a ghost town. Try as I might to deflect my mind from the cruel scene about to happen ahead, at the deep nooks of my brain, my thought is glued only to one thing:
How can I subtly break myself out of this mess?
Part of me says it is never a mess, the other piece considers it as more of a dream. And I am left with a burden too easy to ask but too hard to unload.
If only absconding is as simple as it usually looks.
Some kilometers on my way, I pull over at an all-nighter burger drive-thru and order two burgers, sans soft drinks for a purpose. She does not like it. A bottle of distilled water will do. Minutes later, I am racing past rice and corn fields unmindful of the horror figures flashing at my side visions.
I zoom even more, braving the freezing cold piercing through my neck. It is then that I am reminded of the black-and-white checkered turban I forgot to bring. It was a gift from her. And the matter becomes all the more worse as my mind suffers a recap of how, three days ago, she pleaded the unyielding bus driver to go back to the market in Zamboanga, all because of that turban she had promised me. When it appeared to her that nothing could make the driver stop, she threatened to jump off. The driver went nuts and finally caved in. Her employer sponsored a week’s seminar at the time and chartered some passenger bus for the transportation of the delegates.
For reasons known only to God, she never told me about it until somebody from her circle broke the story to me. When I broached it to her, she downplayed the matter and offered her elusive version at first. After constant prodding, she gave in and we laughed it off thereafter. It certainly bloated my adoration towards her.
I could not remember if I was able to sleep that night. If ever I did, I was certainly smiling when I slept on it.
With that, I cannot think of anything less than good about the woman. She has been my neutralizer, my emotional therapist. She readily assumed the role where someone else bound to do run off. She is like a cove in an enchanted island where distress and lost ships take their cover.
She is atypical. No “ifs”, no “buts”. Despite the odds, she never leaves my side, always and ever reassuring. For all the goodness in her, I see the better side of me.
And the bad part scampers away like a rat eager to find a hole.
“Life was a mess until you came. You put meaning in everything I do.”
“That I think was the best reason I suffered hard and fought off my fears.”
“How can I ever say thank you?”
My memory never crashes down when things become a bit poignant. As clear in the light of day, I can still remember my soothing words while she would twist her lips in a somewhat pretty fashion. With a soft touch of her palms on my cheek, she would sweetly whisper, “Promise?” A gentle kiss would then seal her lips from trying me to hint my answer.
The memories leave me smiling, always. At least they are better off than the ones that preceded them. But soon, one by one, fate will cloud them off.
If I could only postpone the inevitable.
Human as I am, I can be way too candid when I have to. It is just a matter of putting words into action.
Talk the walk.
Walk the talk.
It is the second that I usually screw up.
Were it not for the strong winds, the deluge would have started by the time I got out of the house. Still, seeing the sky flickering from gray to black to white and the way the thunder let itself heard from all over, I can sense that it is not amenable to delaying the onslaught. So I notch my speed to 120 kph. A sure ticket to hell, they say. My almost frozen body becomes numb to more freezing. The jacket I have on is useless.
My mouth quivers.
Then a rush of fierce wind meets me head-on, sending vibrations off the scooter and making it swerve wobbly into my right. I am quick to maneuver it back and manage to keep my grasp on the scooter as it gains its speed again. I slow down a few notches.
That was close.
What could she be up to in the dead of night?
Without emphasizing the obvious, the drive to her place was not planned ahead. No call, no text message, no whatever beforehand. Given the risks, it will only take a tad of intelligence to know the hazards of night driving. And with Berting around the corner, I already primed myself for a grave oral lashing, a surge of outbursts from her, not the least. I concede she has good reasons to.
It is actually my intention. It will be madness to her. But the timing is perfect, I reckon.
For a moment, I find an alliance with nature.
Not for long though.
I am about to switch to another yet pathetic thought when a swift flash of powerful light almost rips the heavens over me. I jolt in horror at the powerful thud which follows it, nearly shaking the earth underneath.
The scooter loses steer and crashes onto an electric post.
A strong downpour finally gives in.
And all hell breaks loose.
I am not totally unconscious. For once, I feel that time is moving slowly, almost crawling, allowing me to witness the handiwork of my madness. I can see the movements of my body as it spirals out towards nothingness. It is like my body passes through a vacuum where time and space are mutually unknown to each other. Soundless. Totally at peace.
I land on the scrubs beside the street some ten feet away from the scooter. I defy pain. I allow my body to cringe in pain only because it has to, not so much of the actual pain the accident calls for than the anguish of giving pain to somebody. I hear myself groan as I collect myself back. I savor the moment.
God, please no broken bones.
After realizing I have no more than minor bruises in my arms, I face the rain as bravely as I can. The storm’s coming proves potent as it used to be, enough to bring out the coward in me.
I force a smile before a heavy torrent of water gushing over me. And that is enough to muster all my courage. Men cannot yield to the whims of nature. Fight back. Even if it is pointless.
Here I am!
Hurt me more now!
I curl myself on one side and scream at the top of my lungs which gets muted somehow before it can come out from within me. One way or another, I have to complete the trip and get on with my distressing life again, without necessarily bringing someone into the fray. The struggle is for me and certainly not for somebody else to do it for me. Whatever comes ahead, the future can surely handle it.
I struggle to stand up under shaking knees. I search for the burgers; it did not leave the handles of the scooter. I scan myself and wipe off the flakes of mud on my face. I look like garbage. A mighty mess.
With a hard downpour down the road, I will have been fresh again by the time I reach her place.
I am in fact tempted to reroute and head back home. But no, not until this far. Not now when everything is at stake. If only some complex things are that easy to let pass.
Time is of the essence. It is now or never.
I start the engine once more. With thunderstorms, lightning and all, I rev up like a madman. I can barely see the road through my hazy vision, and the long highway ahead seems like infinity. My drenched clothes feel heavy while a stream of wetness zips inside my covers. I just wish that the two burgers are still in edible form. She loves burger and she likes pestering me around with it knowing that the drive-thru is 15 kilometers away. Tonight, they can serve as my last chance of vindication should things get out of hand.
“Don’t forget the burgers,” her sweet voice played in my memory and felt like a slap on my face.
“Coleslaw, ketchup or cheese?” I usually asked, more of a standard response.
It is not meant as a witty question but rather a thoughtful submission of an affection gone mad. I will never know the wisdom behind her fondness for burgers. Nor do I intend to dig deeper into that. After all, they are just burgers and certainly I can still come without them in my hands. I still have to break the routine. No plans though of un-checking it my to-do list. Not now.
The horrible trip takes 30 minutes. I stop off at an isolated corner where her bungalow house is a few blocks away. It provides a perfect cover for whatever drama the meeting will create. Even at that distance I can clearly see the outlines of its inverted cone-shaped roof.
By now, the heavy torrent finally subsides as if it wants to send me a message. And the puzzle of cosmic conspiracy is finally revealed. Nature has plotted against me.
Earlier on, as I made a slow entrance to a narrow street adjoining a long alley that runs another passageway towards her house, I passed a cluster of young men, perhaps rugby boys, who were scattered sporadically beside the sheltered road gutters – a perfect throwback of a long lost scene of the Romans at the sides of the great Colloseum, screaming, bellowing and applauding at the carnage.
“Kill! Kill! Kill!”
They seemed too perceptive enough to see through me as if I was about to face the trial of the century. Or it was just me too chary of the things that only me and her had shared. At any rate, the looks on their faces somewhat shunned a bit of my courage for adventurous meandering from the wild side into forbidden realms.
Paranoia is eating me up alive.
I slip my hand into my pocket and grab my cell phone. Obviously swimming in wetness, I am just grateful it survived the strong torrent a while ago. After a few clicks, I press the send button.
“I’m here. Meet me at the bend”
I know she’s still up because we share the same sleeping pattern. In fact, we had spent more than our share of sleepless nights talking over the phone, chatting, eating, joyriding, and all the crazy stuffs. She will come. I remain seated on my scooter as I wait for her. In an effort to warm myself, I quickly rub my palms, my hands and my cheeks. But my body is too cold to produce any heat. I am shaking again. The dampness of my clothes becomes unbearable, the coldness of the air along with cloudbursts even more insufferable. Judging from the way the lightning and thunders come forcefully, the storm will probably hit at full throttle any minute from now.
Bring it on.
I scan the neighborhood but, aside from the far out chuckles of the tambays I passed minutes past, not one soul has wandered off. Most of the porches are not lighted. Folks have probably gone to bed early to skip the raging tempest the night promises. A dog perches on the porch of a house across, and perhaps after sensing my presence, becomes uneasy while shooting barks towards my direction.
“Easy boy. This will not take much time,” I muttered.
I’m expecting an unpleasant exchange of words with her. With the neighborhood around in the middle of their dreams, I feel assured to let my emotions flow. No holds barred. I just cannot let the world see the first fall of her tears. I have to withstand it so that life can set out a carefree journey. I keep reassuring myself that I am doing her a favor, one she will thank me for in the years to come. Freedom now, happiness in the future. Let’s give them a chance to run their natural course, unrestricted by any niggling guilt.
But where do I start?
How can she find a way to end it?
On my way earlier, I was thinking of mouthing my lines to make my exit subtle although definitive, to make me appear as if I have to make a choice between the devil and the deep sea, to intimate to her that I am grieving at just the thought of it, to show to her that our options are limited and we simply have to admit that destiny has played us fools.
That I cannot take the less-travelled road with her. Not in this lifetime.
How can I be so wicked?
Minutes passed, she emerges on the corner, her face obviously puzzled of either my unannounced coming or my grungy appearance. She flicks glances sideways, ensuring no one is snooping around. We are on the same wavelength. I feel a knot in my stomach. A sudden burst of steaming blood somewhat triggers my pulse beats to shoot up. Many times she had warned me not to come to her at night, let alone venture out and risk my life on such extreme weather conditions so that by the time she gets near me, the furrows on her drowsy face grow heavy. Her stare almost makes me tremble even more. I turn my face away and look down. The marks of a guilt-ridden heart. She stands beside me and rounds her right arm around my waist.
“This had better be good, stranger,” she said silently after giving me a peck.
“You were not answering my calls and my text messages for 2 days now, what’s the matter?”
My face cringes at the words “good” and “stranger” that I want to shrink and be gone forever.
“And what’s this about?
“You could have at least texted me or dropped me a call or something,”
“Just tell me you want yourself killed so I can arrange a funeral service this early,”
“My God, look at yourself, you look gross!”
In a controlled intense voice, her words fall strikingly for the first time in our nascent romance. But I can’t think of any pleasant response but a crooked half-smile.
“What?” she said sounding irritated at my mysterious silence.
“Are you hungry? I brought you burgers,” I was compelled to hand her the spongy burgers.
“No I’m not,” she curtly answered.
She couldn’t care less of the burgers now. I take a deep long breath—one which I usually have been doing unknowingly for some reason. Then an awkward lull pulls us out. I flinch at her once in every while and realize that she has been staring at me with a mystified look.
“Look, you’ve got to tell me something.”
“You just disappeared without a word, then come out 2 days later. Don’t you think I deserve at least a decent explanation for that?”
Without looking at her, I grip her hand, one which I have not done ever since.
“Oh, God,” she said as she moved away from me.
She eases at the end of a log bench nearby, her hands covering her face. And I know she was able to pick me up my message. I want to sit beside her and tell her things are not what she thinks of, that she misinterprets my actions for something else, that I’m just up for a prank joke.
But I know I just can’t.
I grapple with that thought for a minute minding the possibility of me being subdued until I resolve that everything has to pass. I look up and ask all manner of petitions for the gloomy heavens to share its wisdom to her to make it easy for us to accept a separate road trip ahead, so that I may no longer have to speak any more, so that by just the look on my face she would just read it through me—the burden that I am about to unload.
I follow her timidly and take my seat at the other end of the log bench, where she is no more than a one foot away. I keep my silence. I am out of words only because I don’t know exactly the right words to say. Then I hear muffled sobs and it makes me sick, until she throw a glance at me, from head to toe. I try to look as meek as possible although looking at her straight to the eyes is like looking directly to the sun. A steady flow of liquid comes out from her, almost glittering like crystals because of the porch light across.
“I can never be sorry,” I said after gasping a long breath.
“Please, I can’t stand seeing you crying.”
I don’t know if the words I uttered are either just right on the button or enough to soothe her. But I know it provided me a wiggle room to delay the pain, our pain. I inch closer to her side and rounded her with my arms. She never budges and again, we launch into an uncomfortable silence. I suddenly realize that I am so much alone under the dull sky. I press her delicate shoulders as if to hint her to rest her head on my shoulders. She goes along with it and I know I “have” her again.
Another wave of silence seizes us away.
We never say a word—not a sigh, not even a gasp of air. I take advantage of the silence by reflecting on the meekest words before a maze of jumbled statements to break the ice and jump start a leading conversation. I cannot just throw caution to the wind without causing more pain. Still along the way, I need to get down to business, once and for all.
“I’m afraid of something hard to explain,” I finally broke the ice.
With a wheezing breath, I stop so I wouldn’t appear to her as if I’m just bluffing. But the truth is, I feel something clogging in my throat, suffocating me, like I’m going to break down into pieces and then hope to vanish in oblivion.
“I’m tired of you skirting around. Get right to it.” her emphatic words came just as I saw it coming.
“My fears are eating me up alive.”
“And I got tired of watching over our shoulders all the time.”
“It will never work this way.”
“We can’t stay low forever like this and I know you understand.”
Admittedly, I struggle saying every bit of the word, to be spontaneous, afraid to lose my composure. I’m more anxious of what she would say than what our future might be together if we intend to press on. I’m getting the dose of my own medicine. I have never been so mean in my life until tonight.
How can I ever afford to upset the woman who has been there for me at my worst?
How can that ever justify a love that grew on wrong fields and blossomed under mistaken seasons?
In a world where the push-and-pull of strings moves in a strange direction under unknown, and perhaps, divine orders, some things are better left unsaid, or better yet, should remain undone. But this one should take its rest soon, even against the turn of the tides.
“Just like that?”
“As easy as that?”
“Why did it take you so long to realize all our pretensions?”
“You’re a sore loser, and you always are!”
I need not answer more. It is an unnecessary antidote for a wound that has just been ripped. She plunges herself into an endless weep, buries her face into my shoulders and hitting my chest and biceps at liberty. I can’t move. I let her unleash her wrath and accept all manner of painful outbursts. And I drift away. I want to shout and curse the world for all its assumed righteousness, for its undeserved wisdom of what is right and what is wrong, for the imbalance between what is good and what is evil, for promising two young and loving souls a space in eternal perdition because they had wrongfully crossed the lines.
She manages to hug me far more firmly than I can possibly afford myself to reciprocate. My instincts are yanking me out to where I’m headed to. But I’m almost tempted to do just that and will feign my way out later. I can hardly stand ground against my conviction. But for some reason, I treat her piercing rhetorics as just some passing hum. I refuse to empathize with her and to feel her pain. But within me, I am bleeding profusely, hoping it will just be enough to paralyze my merciless body.
“Please don’t make this hard for us. You can’t do anything about it. Neither can I.”
“I’d been unfair to you. Don’t be unfair to yourself, too.”
The sobbing grows harder, her grips even stronger. And that is enough to lend substance to the gist of my statements. It’s like we are talking through our eyes, heartbeats and movements. And I can say it’s far better than a mouthful of words which can be twisted and perverted and downplayed. I’m lost with my emotions while I admire her calculated weep, one made apparently not to make a hullaballoo in the middle of the coming storm.
“Curse me, if that’s what makes you okay.”
“But I can’t afford to see you regret soon because we take the hard road now.”
“You can have a better life without me, a life I can never promise you.”
“Then you can have a nice family, a responsible partner, lots of babies, in a fancy home and a prosperous life.”
“I don’t need all of it, alright!”
The hitting and gripping and cursing continue but the pain vanishes before it reaches to my brains. I need to feel all the pain she can possibly inflict me; I want her to hurt me more. More than I could bear.
“…and then you can sleep at night knowing fully well the hang ups are gone and the skeletons had long been buried.”
“…and you will forever thank me for it.”
Her hug softens as I unclasp her arms subtly off me. I draw in a deep breath and slowly get to my feet. I feel like the world is closing in on me and half of it is loaded on my shoulders. And as though iron weights are fastened to my feet, I find it difficult to make my steps forward, until I reach the handles of the scooter.
I have been trying to contain my remorse and tuck it away from her. For a man to demonstrate strong and final conviction he must be in full control of his emotions and must choose to suffer in silence rather than expose his human side. I know everything has to end. The party is over; the dead end is right here. Painful as it is, I can only put across my devastation through the streaming tears from my eyes as I take the courage to face her for the last and final time.
Her tears are gone now. Still motionless, the face is devoid of any emotion. Just like me, she’s outstanding in concealing emotions in an otherwise heartbreaking scene, only that it comes out late. Deep inside I want her to run to me, to tell me she couldn’t care less of the bleak future, that she will follow me until the edge of the world. It somehow pinches me inside. We are done. Get it over with. I push myself to the walls in trying to appear hard and callous. At the bottom of me, I feel like throwing up for staging a phony show, for living a lie tonight. All these years, I have seemed to master the art of pretending. In most of these times, I have always acted against my will. Tonight is at its best.
Off I leave.
Remorse and guilt are all for me now to soak in.
I regret the day she missed boarding the magical train to catch me up along the way. Maybe, just maybe…she might have boarded the wrong one first and subsequently rode the one I took. Luckily somehow, we both rode the same train on our way.
I just took my ride on it more than 500 days earlier.