People. Each one of them took away a piece of me, and replaced it with one of their own. I know I might never see them again; I know they might just be around the corner, whose eyes I catch for that ephemeral moment; I know.
All I could think of were those six-letter phrases when I looked at you. Love me, I whispered. Save me, I added, almost as an afterthought. After all, Salvation is a provision excessively handed out by religion and well doers who try to reclaim themselves while saving others, but never do. For all their help, they merely end up with extra baggages of lost souls awaiting redirection. You turned back, and I looked away. I was afraid of seeing myself in you.
I sat diagonally opposite you. I watched you watched me; random pieces of paper forgotten in your lap, pink highlighter hovering over the words “come home to me,” The Carpenters sang “I Need To Be In Love” from my earphones. Your eyes asked me what I was waiting for. And I simply smiled. You could guess, I was sure.
I alighted before you, not at our usual destination. I stood in my train and saw you leaned forward, searching. Circumstances challenged us to defy the silence strangers are so accustomed to. But we were no more than cowards, who were incapable of punching Fate in the face, yelling a stream of curses, while running off with our stolen destinies.
My disappointment filled up my absence in your presence.
As I walked down the aisle, I saw you kneeling in one of the pews. Your conviction in Christianity inspired me. I envisaged how backs turned and pillars of support now formed the debris of a past when you were fulfilled even by mal-contentment. When you gazed so fondly at Mother Mary, my dear sister, did you imagined tears of scarlet running down her cheeks, weeping not for humanity’s sake, but rather, for your own selfish plight? You were
not there when they crucified her son. You only knew the fleeting ache of separation, of your loss. What could you tell me, which I did not already know myself?
“Why are you here today?” you asked.
“Not for repentance, confession or solace. I come here for the last time because I am going away.”
I couldn't join hands with you as followers of Christ; sin still tugged on my other arm like a pestering child requiring my attention here and now. You see, don’t you, how I cannot get away, at least, not for long? I left you still on bended knees, clutching the rosary like a continuous lifeline. You forgot that it too, could break.
I walked out to the echo of falling beads.
We were dying, and feeling more alive than ever. Who cares about time, darling, when we haven’t got anymore of it to waste? I thought, perhaps we can stay alive gasping for breath just above the surface, submerged in our partial oblivion. You foretell your life, and others’, in the residues of cup after cup of Kopi-O. But you must already know, black in any arrangement always brews death.
“How much for the coffee?” I asked you, my fingers pressed against the glass, separating myself from black.
“A lifetime of regrets,” you replied. Your eyes tore through my adopted nonchalance, and I felt the compelling need to leave you.
But you came round instead, clearing tables, stacking plates and wiping away the remnants of the last meal. You pushed a cart overflowing with leftovers of someone else’s burdens, intentionally left behind in an attempt at forgetfulness. You helped me to start out on a clean slate too. I felt humbled in your presence, my gratitude displayed in downcast eyes, while others sidestepped your path, afraid of accumulating pain.
And there you were again, stationed in your chair with wheels. Before a practised look of pathos could be thrown in my direction, I turned away. The thankless heart selfishly holds back sympathy for a phenomenon commonly seen and cited everyday. My patronizing eyes settle upon the outreached palms stragetically positioned in a begging gesture; the packets of tissues sold at outrageous prices; and the scruffy look of a liability to society. I was shallow, and chose only what I wanted to see as I condemn, as I see.
Knowingly, I missed out on the earnest look in her soulful eyes; his unfaltering spirit; the pride played down by circumstances and the stigma he was subjected to.
The accidental rain pelted down on us and we quickly moved away to stand side by side on the covered walkway, separated by perceived normality. Is that how it is like, passerby blur into a nature indefinable?
I noticed your gaze on me. A trifle annoyed, I turned to meet the sight of your smiling face, a packet tissue in her hand.
"No, I will not buy the packet of tissue. And no, I will not spare a little change," I was rude, but I didn't care. After all, what respect did you command by shamelessly jumping at every opportunity to solicit business out of someone else's pity?
But your smile did not pale.
With a slurred speech, you replied, "No, Miss, I see that you are wet from the rain, thought you would like to have something to wipe yourself with before you catch a cold. No charge."
For the lack of a better word, I silently accepted the packet of tissue as my arrogance was silently cast aside as well.
You bestowed me with a final grin and looked elsewhere. And that was when I saw you for the very first time, with a gaze fixated at a distant future that mingled with the rain that will fall on us all.
You reminded me of someone I met for a long time, but never knew.
When I angled my head skywards in a particular direction, I could almost see you in the cockpit, piloting your life, trailing your dreams to far-off destinations before landing at a runway on the other end of my own. Could you now see, what you never could before, when you looked at me, as if through me - the long aerobridge to a different flight?
I recalled how I could once extend my hand and touch you beneath inhibition and kiss away my own fears that you now drew away from.
I missed you. But time could pale even that.
“Where are you going?” I thought you would never ask.
“I think I might just be going back to you,” I said.
You dangled your legs over the bus stop seat, too high for you to reach the ground. And with nowhere to go, your ezlink card became the only ticket to somewhere else other than here. Your world ended as far as the bus service could take you. What is the point, I asked. You will return, you will always return in the end. You looked at me with disregard, thinking I did not understand the desire to ride against the traffic. I was once you. With a few articles of clothing, my journal and ten bucks in my wallet, I thought I could survive the world. That was why I was back here with you. I needed another shot at escape. Sounds familiar?
“What are you looking at?” you demanded to know, glaring hard, daring me to avert my eyes.
“My reflection,” I answered, leaving you to ponder.
All of you constitute a singular you. We are not exclusively different, are we? You, me, us, are really just synonyms. I never learn names, never stopped long enough to do so. I am afraid what labels will do to me. I haven’t got any more room to spare. Get a bigger house you say? Maybe in another life, I will.
I am your patchwork design, but the artist’s name is my own.
A journey can be written in five pages, or five thousand, yet never be able to reach the endpoint. Where am I now, on my own plotline?
Take aim, and miss.