When two stars collide

So you recall everything that happened that night?

I do. The memory has never left me. And each time I see you, and we smile at each other, I am always reminded of that night where we were both perched on the balustrade, commenting about the pictures on my phone.

I remember with fondness the hearty manner in which you laughed that night. It all felt to me like a dream. I should have told you then, should I not have? What a difference it might have made to both our lives. Things wouldn’t have to be so hard on you right now.

But do you suppose it’s the right thing to do? People will obviously say that it’s very cruel of me to do such a thing; but if I don’t do it, we both will remain forever unhappy. And perhaps, at a later time, I might just have enough of all the pretend, and break it apart anyway. Might as well snip it at the bud while the plant has not yet developed.

Well, I suppose it would be a really nasty thing to do. And I feel even more guilty for having instigated you into this conversation and re-igniting a withering flame…

Don’t say that. Like I said, those feelings which I developed for you had never left me. They were always somewhere in me, just kept behind the present thoughts. But on some nights, after I’d seen you in the day, even though we don’t exchange any words, I deliberately revive that memory just to feel its pleasantness again. I too wished that that night had gone on forever. Perhaps I should’ve said a word as well. I don’t know what it was that kept me from doing so.

Neither do I. But let’s not regret the past. It’s no use trying to bring back lost time. You know, till now, I have never figured out what it is about you, that mysterious hidden charm, that keeps drawing me in. I was attracted to you from the beginning and I am still attracted to you now, if not more deeply than before. Even those times where I had gone months without a thought of you, somehow you’d show up in my dreams. Just like yesterday, where all of sudden you appeared before me. And when you were going to leave, I felt a deep sense of longing for your company. I suppose it was a reminder of how much I still like you.

I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll tell him tomorrow – I’ll tell him that things aren’t working out and we’ll just have to part and –

But wouldn’t that be too abrupt. Surely, he’ll suspect something amiss, and he’ll go looking for those reasons; all the while being disgruntled and upset. I know this because something similar happened to me before. There was a girl I loved dearly and one day she just came to tell me that she wanted to focus on other parts of her life and so needed some space of her own. I pleaded of course, for I loved her very much. But, alas, to no use. A month later, I learnt that she was with a new man. What was so confounding a month ago immediately came to light.

That’s terrible. I would nev-

I’d gladly die for you, my love?

If you loved someone so very much, and that someone loved you equally, would you give up your life for that person? I don’t think I will. And it’s not because I’m being selfish, but because I think it’s the right thing to do. If you died so that your loved one could live, what would become of her? Would she not moan for days and days and drown herself in the tears of sleepless nights, where the cushion beside her grows cold in the silent winds? There is nothing magnanimous in dying for someone you love, and who loves you. You do not experience your death; for upon it, there is no more you. It is those other people around you, whom have become intimately acquainted with your life, that experience your death, and suffer your absence. Dying for someone who loves you, regardless of whether you have saved her life, is the most selfish thing anyone can do. Do you understand now? So stop saying that you will die for someone you love, because it simply makes no sense. Say instead, that you would rather they pass on first, so that you can bear the pain, and they would have gone peacefully away.

A reminiscence

After all, it is the best time of one’s life; those rosy days of vernal love, where every conversation, every meeting, every glance, gives you something to rejoice over.

Thus I recall, wistfully, how I was already smiling at 9:32 in the morning. You had sent a text to greet my sleepy eyes. I sank into the sofa, full of glee, and left my cereal to soften in the sluggish milk. I did not return to it until much later.

I also recall how at the close of midnight, after switching the lights off and sliding into the soft ,comfortable cocoon, I would not sleep, but deliberately keep awake, for I knew that you would soon reply to my message; and how could I have denied myself that almost imperceptible pleasure?

Do not think this a vestige of my affection. Be sure, and by it be comforted, that it is not you whom I miss, but only that enrapturing privilege afforded to blossoming lovers; of being able to wait with child-like eagerness for a message to come, or of being gladdened by the secret bond which you share with you love, and which no one else shall similarly possess.

I suppose then that it’s not unnatural to feel slightly upset in times like these, when such memories make their way to the surface, like a suddenly dislodged relic, a mother-of-pearl treasure which the heart had quietly stored in its dark depths.

Of that in the heart

I seem to wish to speak about nothing but on the subject of her and of the passion that swirls within my breast. Nothing else interests me, and so my wit devotes itself to nothing else. I can may still be able to speak seriously on certain other subjects, mostly those of a dialectical nature – for when does reason not desire a challenge? – but I will not be able to take it further; to enhance it or remark upon it with a twist of witticism. In short, my manner will reveal my disinterest. The conversation withers. And when it does, when the soil turns bare and fertile, I will always attempt to plant the seeds of my passion; I will wish for the seeds to grow into a tree on whose branches hang the sweet fruits of her persona. Then I shall be able to speak all about her, breathe life into the mannequin which I hold quietly in my imagination. There is such an incomprehensible joy in being able to speak of her and of the longing in my heart. It is as if to grant myself a little taste of what it would be like should I earn her affection and thus be able to speak of her as freely and frequently as any enthralled lover might. I don’t suppose she will vacate my mind any time soon. She continues to hold the throne and so the reins to all my thought. So forgive me if I come to write only of such selfish and frivolous affairs.

I suspect you are wondering right now, why I am choosing to reveal all these veritably private information. And I’ll tell you: because I can no longer bear the torment of imprisoning so wild a passion. It claws and pounds at the walls of my heart. And those walls have worn and grown thin. From a crack, the passion bursts forth, full of life and hope. It roars mightily, for it has no other motive than to announce its presence.

Ascertaining the heart

Passions can easily tide over rationale when it comes to affairs of the heart. How then to know if you are truly attracted to someone; and not, as is often realized further on, merely entranced by a singular, short-lasting surge of affection?

I remember very vividly my teacher once telling the class: if you’re thinking of chasing a girl, think first of whether you would want to marry her. This peculiar wisdom has remained in me ever since.

So the best way, it would seem, to know if a girl is ‘right’, is to imagine yourself with her some thirty years down the road. If you can imagine yourself walking with her in a quiet, rain-dampened park, both your hands intertwined, and you looking at her as endearingly as when you first met her; if you can imagine her having lost her vernal beauty but kept that lovely character which you have always treasured most; if you can imagine the evening sun setting indolently before the both of you, and be so contented that it was with her whom you chose to spend an entire life; then you’ll know that your attraction comes not from some cheap lust, but from the highest eyrie of your heart.

An affair of numbers // short story

The room is dark and slightly musty, the pipes in the toilet are leaking, the bed sheet stained at the corners and shriveled to a state beyond saving, the view of the beach is obscured by some villainous vines, the balustrade threatens to let its user fall into the mouth of thorns below, the wallpaper strays from the wall and droops as it pleases, the floorboard creaks at lightest touch, the door-lock deals dubiously with thieves, the curtains unroll clouds of dust, and all about the room shifts and shivers an eerie air.

“Could it be Casper?” You ask.

“I don’t think so. He’s imaginary.”

Perhaps it really is a spirit of some sort, eager for escape or, worse still, for our attention. The latter seems more right. It is often the recreation of spirits to disturb and frighten us unknowing humans. I have never considered that thought. Well, it’s ludicrous at the least. I shouldn’t bother.

“But last night, I heard taps on the table. Are you sure those things are imaginary?”

“Yes, my dear. I’m quite certain.”

And that sets you all at ease. I watch as you slump back against the cushioned headboard of the bed and return to alongside the wild characters of your book. Don Quixote. You tell me all the time how funny you find him; his outrageous chivalry. And in your recitals of the lines, you would always feign a deep voice and try as hard as you can to suppress a hysterical laughter. But no more than five sentences in and that laughter would creep out from the sides of your mouth and there pry open a great yawning cavity. I smile. Who could resist smiling?

Outside, a little nightingale perches itself on the balustrade. Its neck is cuffed in blue rings. I count four. Before I can point it out to you, you exclaim: “Look there! Isn’t that the bird we saw yesterday by the beach house? Oh, what an adorable thing!”

You said the same of it last night. The beach house had been a much needed respite from the room. It rests about a mile from the resort. And we would never have discovered it had not we tailed a chubby porcupine to its owner, spoke to him about how he manages such a pet, and then have him recommend a place to recuperate from the chase.

“It looks amazing! I think we should live here.” You exclaimed gleefully upon seeing the place.

It was a house on its own: single-storied and small, but not stiflingly small, and complete with a tropical thatched roof and strings of Balinese lights entwining every naked pole and railing. The sun had already begun its descent into the far end of the sea by the time we got there and the restaurant was crowded with people. We feared that we wouldn’t be able to find a table. But a man standing at the entrance waved to us. He raised his fingers, smiled amiably, and beckoned for us to enter.

The menu unfortunately was in a foreign language. At first we tried to decipher the headings. There were six sections. The first section must be the appetizers, you said, and the last the drinks – or could it be the desserts? In the end, having succumbed to the puzzle, we ordered our food by pointing to those on the other tables. You loved the grilled Barramundi; told me that maybe it was their salsa sauce that gave it its flavor. “We should’ve ordered more,” you lamented. “One is quite enough,” I laughed. You have always had a habit of ordering more than either of us could finish. And I would always have to rope you in.

“The fairy lights!” You spring full of startling urgency from the bed. “I think we should get them!”

Of course, the fairy lights. It was the name you gave that standing light whose slim steel column branched outwards like a tree and bore at the end of every branch a glistening star. The whole time, you stood there admiring it, contemplating whether to buy it or not. Occasionally, you lifted your finger to your lip then frowned slightly and turned to me: “how about we get two?” I left it up to you and stood purposely still as you deliberated in your usual dainty, shifty demeanor. Could I not help myself from chuckling?

Eventually, we left without any fairy lights. We figured that they were too pricey. It was to be a cheap holiday- the cheapest we could plan. We left and you pouted. And again, I laughed. You are always so endearing.

“Never mind, it’ll be such a hassle bringing them home,” you speak heartily, staunchly, resolutely, as if to yourself. “Yep, zero chance!”

I acquiesce silently, delightedly.

You draw the curtains and slide open the door to the balcony. The room is lit and the muskiness is flushed out. The leaking pipe in the toilet has ceased its childish dripping of droplets. The bed sheet is still crumpled but at least it is soft and comfortable. We climb onto the mattress in a fit of playfulness and watch the waves march towards the shore in uniform lines. The balustrade threatens only a feathery thing that flies. The torn wallpaper makes for good art. The floorboard cannot permit a creak since no one is standing on it. The door is open and its lock can perform no mischief. The curtains – well, we’ve already dealt with the curtains. And the air: has there ever been merrier one?

A problem of trust // short story

“Neola left me the other day, you know.”

“I heard from Pete. Did she give a reason?”

“She wouldn’t. Just kept apologizing, kept saying that things weren’t right, that she wasn’t good enough for me, that if we stuck together, it would only end in a mess. I pleaded of course, crying. Not much of the man you supposed I was, eh?” He chuckled for a moment, then sank back into gloom.

“Things were going so well, you know. I mean, heck, they weren’t perfect – she wasn’t perfect, but I could really see a future with her. The loving housewife, scurrying kids, nice pretty house with a huge yard, the occasional trekking trips. She loves trekking. We were down at the orchards just by Eschacia Lane last week. Sat beneath an apple tree and waited till the sun set. I don’t know what -”

He fell quiet, tipped his head forward and sank it into his hands. I rested mine lightly on his back. A slight quivering was gaining momentum; I could feel it. What could I say – what should I? What if my words betrayed me and made the situation even worse?

Thankfully, he sniffed and shifted himself in the way a person does when he wishes to speak.

“There must’ve been something, right? I mean, people don’t just leave all of a sudden. Something must have happened; triggered something in her, I don’t know. We had years of memories behind us for goodness sake! Some trifle couldn’t have the strength to heave it all up and dump them into a vacuum. What was it then – what was it? And she keeps telling me this and that and this, but never the bloody truth.”

Just then, something struck me. “Look, if she would leave you now, and without a damn reason, then who’s to say she wouldn’t leave you in the future? She isn’t a good girl, Jimmy. Let her go. Let her mess up somewhere else and then regret that she ever left you. She’s a skipper – it’s pointless trying to get her to settle.”

I was strangely convinced was of those harsh words even though I had known Neola for almost as long as Jimmy did, and known her always as that sweet, charming girl whom everyone knew would eventually settle in a nice family portrait. But how wrong I was, how wrong we all were; deceived by daintiness and an innocence of demeanor, and made the sorry fools of her great escapade.

I faked a glance at my watch and began inching up slowly.

“I have to go now, alright? That old geezer’s chasing my tail again; wouldn’t rest till I’ve finished the piece on Regine Olsen. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It wasn’t your fault. But let out the steam if you have to. Just remember that you deserve better. Take care, Jimmy.”

Swiftly, I collected my bag, patted him once more on the back, then hurried out of the bar and onto the bustling tarmac beyond.

Traffic swallowed the next thirty minutes, and in the next moment, I removed myself from the tarmac. Reviewers have been raving about this restaurant – the “finest Mediterranean cuisine”. I had intended to try their baked lobsters – if only my appetite were not punctured.

“Reservation for two, under the name, Young.”

The sharp-suited receptionist guided his pen gracefully down the list, then finally exclaimed: “Ah yes, Mr Young, a lady is already waiting for you. If you would,” gesturing towards the paradise of aroma. I thought to tell him that ‘Young’ didn’t belong to me, but then felt too languorous to engage in such trivial corrections.

Following closely behind, I passed a table whose occupants were gaily lifting artichokes to their mouths, and immediately I recalled the time when I first tasted artichokes. It was with a friend. The artichokes had come grilled, with a special green olive sauce, and upon tasting them, we both thought it was the most delicious thing ever. Naturally, naively, insouciantly, we devoured plate-fulls of them. On the next day, however, I learnt that my friend had been beset by a hearty fever and some really stubborn rashes, and had to convalesce for a day in the hospital. I never dared eat artichokes again. Quickly, I made a mental note to not order them later, that is, if I had any appetite at all.

Upon arriving at the table, I was immediately received by an eclectic embrace. I inhaled deeply – the usual, redolent Chypre. She has always been fond of that. And so, recently, have I.

“How is he?”

“Not good.”

Her gaze languished and fell to the floor, as if the optimism that held it up had too lost its will.

“Let’s leave that aside now. I’ve only just placed an order for some of those lobsters you were so excited about. Shall we?” She beckoned me to the cushioned seat opposite hers.

I stood still for awhile, contemplating the words I ought to begin with.

“Neola, I don’t think this can go on any longer. I don’t think it should.”

“What – What are you saying? We’ve been through this before. And you said it yourself that – ”

“I’m sorry, Neola. It just has to be.”

I left before she could say another word.

The escritoire

Twice a week he would pass by the escritoire, and twice a week he would deliberate taking it home. It had almost all that could be wished for in one; a polished mahogany frame, perfectly-curved legs, five drawers, two on each side and one leading to its heart, and a thread of beautiful wooden weave running along its contours. Could one see for oneself the escritoire, one would surely wonder why the man would ever refuse it.

So it was that the man passed it by as the weeks passed him by. But each time, no matter how desperate a haste he was in, he would always stop to admire it – it never ceased to enchant him. Even as it stood shyly behind the display window, there was a certain familiarity about it, an intimacy whose origins the man could not locate; like a thin film of memory that superimposes itself on the present and that quickly vanishes in the instant one tries to recall it. There were days where he felt his resolve clambering its way up towards the immutable peak, only to be pushed back down by some cowardly excuse. Oh, I have to rush off to some place or oh, I have some work that needs urgently to be done and shall return tomorrow. Whatever the case was, he never intended to heed those feelings. He never dared. He thought to himself: what if this were all merely the theatrics of emotion, and there in fact lies ahead a far more suitable escritoire to which I shall feel an even greater sense of intimacy?

A winter passed, and then a spring. And one day when the man was on his way home, expecting to deliberate once again his eternal dilemma, he saw an empty space where once the escritoire stood. His heart fell immediately. He rushed into the shop and in a jittery voice asked the shopkeeper what had happened to the escritoire. By then, it was all too late.

Who could be blamed but himself? For did he not procrastinate at every opportunity, and what is more despicable, sometimes refused it in the hope that he would eventually find a better one. There is no greater fool than one who is willing to partake in only the best.

Twice a week, he would pass by an empty space, and he would be left with nothing to deliberate, nothing to admire, nothing to hold dear in his mind, nothing to accompany his thoughts as they traversed every plane of life.

When the sun sets..

In an instant, the world would’ve been mine. But the wrong words were spoken and she looked away. I tried to steal back her gaze from the vaudevillian leaves, from the raindrops that fleeted across patches of shadow and the amber butterfly perched lightly on a lonely twig, both wings folding to a calm close. It was futile.

I cannot believe now that she might ever change her mind. Words are both a man’s wine and poison. I had sought to serve her the finest wine, but too much I stirred and into poison it became, and she retreated. I doubt she can ever return to that state of unawareness; to then when she received everything in innocent delight and cared little about how the wine might taste or about the character whom proffers the glass.

In an instant, I had lost it all.

Woes of the heart and despair

I have a friend whom recently confided in me his heart’s deepest troubles. It is a classic case of unrequited love. A classic tragedy of adolescence. The only exception to this commonplace tale is that he had once expressed his affection for her, which she didn’t take well and thus began a retreat from the friendship. And now, he despairs. Things, he lamented, are not as rosy as they used to be and there exists such a stark contrast between the present and past that he cannot help from feeling insulted by the vicissitudes of life. And as it is with all cases of unrequited love, the pursuant is persistent. He told me of his plans to mend the friendship and stitch up the yawning rift that time and again swallows his expectations, his dreams of the Elysian fields.

How it all reminded me of the quagmire in which I too had helplessly struggled. From vestiges of the past materialized the pain and I sank myself into it once more. And did I not feel a queer sense of satisfaction from tasting again the bitterness of unrequited love, as if despair, once encountered and acquainted with, becomes a sort of therapeutic drug.