How come smiles give way for dreams?
How come laughter turns to tears?
How can you close your eyes and still see?
How can you hear a voice’s melody?
How can you lose something you never had?
How can you miss someone you never knew?
How can someone love so much?
But what if it’s not for you?
A slam on the front door followed by heavy steps on the stairs woke me up in the middle of the night. I opened my eyes and I noticed Marie’s face close to mine with her arms wrapped around me. My gaze shifted from her hands to her nose, her lips and her eyelids; I imagined they were Mama’s. I covered my ears with both hands, closed my eyes and tucked myself closer to Marie. Doing this somehow made me feel safe for as long as I can remember.
“Get out,” a low, dark voice echoed in the room. I tried to figure out who it was from but a bright beam of light blocked my sight.
“Papa!” Marie’s short and weak scream startled me.
Realizing it was my father and not some alien from Ben10 calmed the mouse inside my chest. I got up from our bed and hugged him. But he was drenched in sweat and smelled like urine and I didn’t like the stench so I let go.
“Get out and shut the door will ya?” Papa’s authoritative voice told me something was wrong for he only used that tone whenever Marie and I did something wrong. I glanced at Marie and she was hugging herself in the corner of the bed. Something is definitely not right.
I headed outside with my eyes half-opened. Before closing the door, Papa’s belt buckle dropped on the floor. I opened my right eye to see what’s going on.
“CAN’T YOU FOLLOW SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS, BOY?”
I know better than to make him mad.
After a few minutes, the door shrieked opened and I quickly went inside while Papa wobbled out from the room. I ran straight to Marie.
“What did Papa say?” I whispered.
Instead of answering back, Marie pulled me closer and fixed my hair. Then she ran her hands through my face and kissed me on the cheek and then on my forehead. Drops of tears fell from her eyes to her cheek.
She has always been so emotional. She was crying and I didn’t understand why.
A magnetic force draws the bouquet of red and white roses as it land between my palms. Pastel gowns stitched to screaming ladies encircle me. I force a weak smile.
Looking over my shoulder I catch a sight of the happy couple with the woman sitting comfortably next to a man in the middle of the room. They look like royalties straight from your favourite fairy tale. She is wearing the most beautiful white dress I have ever seen in my life. The man, on the other hand, undoubtedly looks handsome in his cream tuxedo. I always thought neutral colours look good on him.
He looks at the woman so mesmerized. He wraps his arms around her;He smiles at her so sweetly; He holds her closer when she tries to let go. Soon, they are holding hands, glaring at each other’s eyes, humming to each other’s ears.
Warm water starts to form under my eyes, my vision becoming hazy. I begin to sense a big lump at the back of my throat. There is growing tension on my fingers while I continue to stare. My heart is beating faster and it gets harder to breathe. The thorns squeeze to my skin, piercing through every vein. But my fingers grip it tighter, refusing to let go of the pain.
All of a sudden, my legs slowly step backwards. It starts with a few hesitant movement, then it caught a pace…striding away from the crowd, running…fast.
I demand for my legs to quit fooling around and turn back before I do something even more embarrassing. I want to stop! But my limbs and muscles are not cooperating as they continue to humiliate me. My eyes are not listening either – leaving tracks of tears along the pathway.
This celebration is a stab on the back. It is a culmination of the things we were supposed to be, planned to be and meant to be.
A ceremony with flowers, white veils, rings and vows is supposed to be magical. But not this time. Not for me.
I can’t get the scene out of my head.
He looks at the woman so mesmerized. He used to glare at me the same. He wraps his arms around her. He protected me under the same might. He smiles at her so sweetly. He used to kiss me tenderly. He holds her closer when she tries to let go. His biggest fear used to be losing me.
‘What makes her so much better than me? What makes her just everything that I can never be? What makes her his every dream and fantasy? Because I can remember when it was me.’
A large crowd of umbrellas and rain coats gathered around the Miller’s old cabin house when he arrived. Sirens, cries and screams enveloped the entire place. Policemen were all over, keeping curious neighbours away from the crime scene. He overheared the locals’ speculation when the corpses were brought out. Murmurs slipped from the lips of old maidens as the men carrying the dead couple passed by.
John ignored the spectators. He made his way through and went inside the living room where he saw a pool of relatives convene. They looked at him with questioning eyes. He gave his respects, quickly went upstairs and searched the rooms entirely. Not finding what he was looking for, he shook his head and went back outside.
His pursuit continued to the main town with the rain still pouring. A few cars honked on the once busy street. Stores started to close. Lights were already out. He continued pacing, looking from left to right with a thorough search. The heavy downpour was not making it any easier.
John grasped for air as he finally found him – Henry.
Henry was sitting outside a liquor store, clothed in dirt and dripping mud. A half-empty wine bottle sat beside him and a cigarette rested on his hand. The smoke danced and faded in the air as he finished yet another stick; eyes fixed on the movement in front of him.
John moseyed and crouched next to him.
The sweet grin Henry used to always carry has been replaced with a displeased curve on the lips. His bright aura has been reduced to nothing more of an aching gloom. His eyes lost their brightness and what remained was an expression of emotional distress. He put down the bottle, freed his hands and clasped an old family portrait. Henry lowered his head and covered his face, refusing to let go of the picture, now damped with rain water.
John wanted to say something. The silence between them started to make him uneasy.
He wanted to speak words of comfort and encouragement. Surely there was something he could come up with to make Henry feel better.
But who is he to say “everything happens for a reason” when he didn’t even understand why they did? Who is he to assure that “everything’s gonna be ok” when he didn’t even know where to start? Who is he to promise “I’ll be here for you” when right at that moment he could not utter a single word of sympathy?
There was nothing he can say and do to make Henry feel better. Nothing he could say or do to bring everything back, give life to the dead or make them forget what happened. Nothing.
So they just sat there.
Not saying anything.
Not looking at each other.
Not even moving.
Finally, for the first time in hours, Henry glanced at John. Pain and despair were written all over his face. John met Henry’s eyes with tears he could suppress no more. He leaned forward and grabbed Henry.
Hard, loud cries of breaking hearts echoed under the dark night sky of that deserted alley.
No words were exchanged; there was only an embrace, only silence, only tears shed when meaning and reason evaded reality.
*Story also featured at Yeah Writers!