He throws down the controller in disgust. She giggles softly, her eyes still glued to the screen.They were parked in their usual places in front of the television set, passing their regular weekend afternoon playing the new game he had bought. She was kicking his ass in it, as usual.
"Why are you better at this game? I've been playing this for three days, and you got out of that level in thirty minutes," he says exasperatedly, crossing his arms over his chest and pouting.
"Because I had more sleep? Honestly, your eyebags have eyebags," she points out, her fingers a flurry of movement as she expertly moves through the game. He watches with begrudging respect at how she seemed to advance so easily. She was good at doing a lot of things.
Like making him fall for her. She was so good at it, she didn't even know she was doing it.
"It's summer vacation. I'm allowed," he says defensively. She reaches out to pat him on the head and ruffle his hair before singlehandedly gunning a zombie down.
"This really doesn't suit the image you usually show," he muses, hugging a pillow to himself. Imagining how she would fit in the circle of his arms--
Stop it, he scolds himself. You're just friends. Playing games. That's it.
"You're so in love with the idea of being seen as normal," she says, the amusement evident in her voice.
"You know that's not what I meant..." he says.
"I know, I'm just leading you to the point where you really say what you mean," she says.
He sighs and rubs the back of his neck, a sign that he was feeling shy.
"I'm glad there's a face you have that only I get to see," he says simply.
"It's easier being un-normal with you," she says thoughtfully, pressing out combinations of moves to kill a horde of zombies that suddenly appeared on screen.
"Thanks for indirectly implying that I'm weird," he mutters jokingly. To his surprise, she paused the game and turned to him with wide eyes.
"That's not what I meant!" she insists, as if it was really important that he understands this.
"...What did you mean then?" he asks, at a loss in the way things are turning out.
"I..." she starts, but instead looks down at the controller. She was at a loss too. As the silence stretched from okay to awkward, he retrieves the controller from her hands and resumed the game. The room was once again filled with the sounds of gunshots and groaning zombies as they meet death, and that sound of silence that was pushing the both of them to say something.
"You have to go into that building to find that last hidden item, not past it..." she says quietly, extending her hand towards him for the controller. "Here, let me try..."
"Fine, you try," he says, pitching the controller at her direction. She picks it up silently and started off from where he paused the game. He watched the screen for a while before realizing he was staring at her profile, illuminated by the glowing screen.
"You aren't weird... I'm just better at fictional worlds than in real life," she suddenly says. He focuses on the way the light shifted across her features and getting his suddenly dry mouth to reply.
"...But I'm real... and I'm here," he replies.
that's what makes this world okay. After the game over, there's still this to come back to."
She was making it really hard for him to string words together to form a coherent reply.
Sweat. Blood. Tears. Rain. Worn-out shoes. New shoes.
Pushing yourself against so many walls. Crashing against so many barriers.
Endless bottles of energy drinks. Perspiration, smelling like undoing baths and friendship and locker room secrets. In your minds it is sweet; it all smells like the best scent in the world (your fans won't tell you otherwise anyway).
There are a lot of moments. Moments a lot of people don't get to see. All the laps you run just to get closer for just one second faster. All the rings you miss shooting to get in that buzzer beater just on time. The moments when you walk away when a bold enough schoolmate approaches you and asks to take a picture with you. The you outside the court. The you just being you.
And water. A lot of it. There was bottled water, poured over tired heads and poured into parched waiting throats before standing up and going back to the grind. There was the water from the showers, blocking out expectations and fame and everything public and leaving you with your thoughts and your own expectations the very core of who you are and why you're doing all of this in the first place.
For the school? For the game?
And then there were the tears.
The happy kind. The sad kind. The "we probably look stupid but oh who cares" kind. The bittersweet kind. The victorious kind.
And amidst a sea of yellow, over the chaos of beating drums and screaming people, you gathered into a circle and raised your fists to the air. Index finger extended, you moved it in a circle around your head in one move of adrenaline-pumped oneness. The crowds cheered your names, your university.
You were one.
You were one more step away.
You shout along with the crowd, to the rhythm of the drums, to the cheers you hear every game, the cheers you know by heart.
You can never get enough of them. And you'll never get tired of hearing them.
Hours later when the ringing fades away from your eardrums, the crowds have thinned, and you're sitting in your university bus on the way back you remember.
You remember the crowds, the screaming, the cheering. The sound of the ball as it goes from the ball to your hand. Back and forth. Back, and it leaves your hand again as you shoot towards another game well fought, another game well played.
There were no boundaries left when it came down to her. All the layers were just clothes and more clothes and raw skin and bare bones and then there was her.
Fragile, so small, and yet so strong and so her. She was quiet, and he thought that as long as her image stayed in his heart he could keep her safe, but he was wrong.
No matter how delicate she was, she was beautiful. More beautiful than he thought he realized. It was a type of beauty he couldn't keep to himself, a type of beauty everyone noticed but her.
And he never realized he could feel fear until then. Never did he realize before that he would be afraid that he'd lose her. Never did he realize before that he couldn't keep her to himself.
So he attempted to stay away. He attempted to remove himself from her presence. He attempted to pretend he didn't exist. He attempted to pretend he didn't care.
But there is only so much you can pretend you don't feel.
There is only so much he can attempt to do. If what he feels is different from what he is trying to say; from what he is trying to show. There is only so much he can attempt to hide.
It took him several attempts to tell her the truth--his truth; his version, if that even mattered. Three words, probably the most cliche group of words in the history of forever. All his attempts to pull away, to remove himself from her life. All his reasons--the one reason, really--why he attempted to not feel the feelings he was showing her, telling her now.
She attempted to talk over him but he wouldn't let her talk until he felt he was over. Then he sat there, spent from pouring out everything in his heart to this one girl.
The one girl that he felt would care. The one girl that really mattered.
Then there was silence. The uncomfortable kind (for him anyway). He was about to fill the silence by talking about the weather or something else neutral. Then she leaned forward.
She had attempted to kiss him on the lips but she got his nose. There were three seconds of embarrassed warm laughter.
Some attempts, when failed, are meant to be tried again.
You are a dust cloud blowing across my empty mind. The reason why I try to make my poems rhyme. The way I try to look nice, or cook fancy stuff even though I don't know a thing about thyme. And oh by the way, this poem kinda sucks, like the fact that at the park we can't feed the ducks.
But it was you. You, with your warm sunshine smiles and scalding hot chocolate mugs, feverish eyes bright when our lips meet and we introduce ourselves to each other repeatedly, through corny songs (but not as corny as this poem-rant) and that way you smile with the corner of your lips, or shouting at each other as we beat the high scores we set at Halo. The way your hair fans out when you lie down on a blanket in that park where we can't feed the ducks, using my stomach or my thigh as your pillow while you lose yourself in those books you love so much.
You are a firecracker, a burst of light against an expanse of black, black sky. I don't know why, but when I'm with you I just can't help but sigh.
Sigh, because I'm happy. Sigh, because I'm sad. Sigh, because I'm scared.
Sigh, because I don't know how long this will last.
The spine of your book pokes me out of my thoughts. You were sitting up, a patch of sunlight on your book and your exposed thigh (those shorts were a really good idea) as you grinned at me, and I felt warm inside out.
"Still with me?" you ask with a grin. I nod.
I will be as long as you let me, I add in my head, as I lay back down and opened my own book. The bright sky was the perfect backdrop to the next words that I read.
You have something... no, someone important. You're a lucky oaf.
A cloud of ravens swarmed around the roof, surrounding the abandoned house with a faint halo of dark feathers and the stench of death, of time slowly eating it up from its foundations. It was beauty left to rot. Slowly, desperately, it looks at you from across the field, silently pleading with broken window-frame eyes and gaping door-off-hinges mouths.
Am I not good enough, it seems to ask, gazing at us sadly.
We once lived there, in that house.
Those were happy times.
Now, the floors where we learned to take our first steps are giving under our feet. The places where we used to run around in, the space were we threw our first party and the spot where we first threw up from drinking too much in said party... they were barely recognizable. The stairs are missing whole steps, now not taking us anywhere but the past. Rooms that were the beginnings of our worlds, and the attic where we kept our old stuff... now, the whole house has become the attic, left behind under a dust cloth and never opened once again.
We had stopped exploring the old house, stood in front of it and allowing its shadow to loom over us. You ran your hands over the prickly bushes and sorry stumps of what was once a beautifully tended flower garden, now reduced to weeds and creeping vines of more weeds. The ravens were coming back in small flocks, and they squawked over the two us irritably. It was annoying how they made us feel as if we were trespassing over a place that was rightfully ours.
But now, what was once our home was less than a mere skeleton of a house. The warmth, the memories, everything seemed to have fled the place. Like the owners, the occupants. Us.
You had unconsciously dug a little hole in the ground with the toe of your sneaker. I stared at it, and with a finality I dropped the little piece of metal I had held in my hand.
We both stared at the key for a moment before you kicked the dirt back into the hole, stamping your foot firmly to flatten the gap you had made in the ground.
Bye house, we whispered in our heads, and turned our backs for the final time. The ravens called out their goodbyes. One swooped down and began pecking at the ground where the key was buried.
The sun was setting, and the shadow of the house stretched, following our steps until it faded into the surrounding darkness. The sun was gone, and so was the warmth.
We wrap our arms around each other's shoulders as the house looked on sadly.
There were nights when I just couldn't fall asleep, then I think of you and feel calmer. There was a little room in my head that I will go to, and in there, even in total darkness, I felt that you were there beside me. Telling that everything was going to be alright. Holding me safe within the protection of your arms. And then real life comes in the form of a light, bringing me closer to the fact that I was alone in that room and I was probably close to clinically crazy.
I loathed light because it was bright, and it doesn't have the safety of night, and darkness, and the secret of your embrace and and gentle touches and soft whispers. In that little room in my head I was the happiest I can be, but then there was a whole house left full of you that made me want to lock the room's door and throw away the key.
For the rest of the house was silent, cold, untouched.
Because you weren't there, not anymore.
You only lived int the little room in my head, and when morning light comes you fade away. You disappear, and I force myself to stay awake. I forced the panic to a faint fluttering in my chest before it consumes me, as I wait for morning to be over.
I wait for the night to return, so I can close my eyes in bittersweet relief and retreat to that little room in my head.
He wonders if he just wanted to protect her because she was a dreamer. With a faraway look in her eyes she would stare off to places he cannot see, or say things he doesn't really understand. Or maybe he doesn't just want to be alone. Even if they were both in the present, she was way ahead of him. In her he saw something he thought he lost a long time ago.
"You're just a child," she would say dreamily. He would protest, but she would be off to another idea of freedom he couldn't grasp.
He wonders if this was love, or some alternate-dimension version of it.
Silence, except from the tapping sounds at the keyboard, her fingers moving gracefully over the keys as he talked to her stiff back.
It was twenty minutes past midnight, but the two were far from being sleepy. They had a deadline in less than eight hours, and in a brilliant stroke of genius he had managed to mess up their presentation. Big time. She was redoing the paper they had to submit. He had tried to convince her to go back to talking to him to no avail.
"Please don't be mad. I rewrote the part you needed, we'll finish with plenty of time to spare."
Her hands stilled. Now, there was total silence.
"I'm not angry about that," she quietly said.
He knits his eyebrows together in confusion, frowning. "...what do you mean? Why are you angry then?"
She sighed, saved her document, then gently closed her laptop before turning to him. Her shoulders were hunched, and there was a frown on her pretty face.
"You forgot, didn't you?" she asked quietly.
"Forgot what?" He thought for a moment. "Your birthday isn't for another three months, and we just celebrated our anniversary..."
She sighed, but smiled a little. "Do you remember what date today is?"
He frowned in concentration, then cast his eyes to the calendar. She watched amusingly as his jaw dropped in realization.
"Of all the things to forget," she said, watching as he mentally counted the days, mouthing the numbers to himself and bringing a hand to his forehead as he glanced back to her.
"...so, you're not angry...?"he clarified. She shakes her head, nudging her shoulder to his as she handed him a small wrapped box.
"Happy birthday, silly," she said with a small smile.
You go places, lengths that people normally won't go.
You look so sure, like there was a checklist of awesome that you had with you, loving life the way you did.
Keep moving forward, you almost said with the way you act, like you were certain that the future has something good in store for you, and that it was only a matter of time before you get to each one.
You weren't wrong.
"What do you think you are?"
"...a guy riding a horse?"
I laughed. "All you need is a cape and a costume and a sword. You'd be a funny prince."
He pouted. "I wasn't trying to be one..."
I shake my head as I cross my arms over my chest, surveying him.
"Besides, a prince needs a damsel in distress. Or a dragon to slay or something," he mumbles.
"Sorry I ran out of dragons. Where do you suggest we find your damsel in distress then?"
Then he looks at me, straight in the eye. Sitting on top of the horse made him taller than he already was.
"You don't need saving, but I'll take the damsel if she lets me."
He gallops away before I could breathe past the choking sound that came from my throat or think of a fitting reply.
"That was really cheesy you know!" I shouted out at him as he galloped farther away.
I could hear him laugh though.
I could also almost swear the horse neighed in this weird laughing sound.
You are so, so crazy.
You could have hurt yourself.
Broken a leg or an arm or a rib or cracked your head or smashed your face--
There you stand, stupid handsome smile on your face.
There was a broken bouquet of flowers in your hand, and you hide behind them insisting they looked alive enough before you squashed them into your backpack.
I took them anyway, so I could see your stupid face again.
Stupid, attractive smile.
They were there, draped over the back of the couch. Like a second skin, hiding sin and salvation in so many beautifully mysterious ways.
I don't know if I love them more on you or hanging over the back of the couch or bunched up on the floor or freshly laundered or slowly slipping off with the belt buckle hanging open.
I really love those jeans.
He immediately lets go of the (itchy) cravat at his neck and frowns (it's almost a pout, but he insists that he is already an adult, so other people call it his "frowning cutely" face behind his back. It doesn't have the desired effect, but it is effective in so many other ways.)
"If they call it dressy clothes, they should feel less like a straightjacket," he complains, thinking longingly of long ratty shirts and baggy sweatpants.
"No pain, no gain." his friend had said with a laugh, clapping him in the back. He stretches his shoulders restlessly, a ball of energy underneath all the fancy fabric. A child in the cusp of adulthood, almost there but not really quite... there.
"Why are you doing this?" he asks, but he knows perfectly well.
"Because I love the woman that would be walking down the aisle towards me and I couldn't imagine my life without her?" his friend has answered. It sounded like a question, but the tone suggested that his friend was never more sure about anything in his life than this.
He wished he had that.
He grumbles a little as he feels the starch on his shirt cling to each sweatdrop his body produces. "I don't understand the fuss of everything. Just elope or something. Do you enjoy torturing your friends?"
The groom laughed in response.
"Yes, I'm marrying the love of my life to have your uncomfortable faces in my wedding album."
"I am making you my best man in my wedding so I can do the same thing to you."
"You have to have a partner first; I think there are laws that don't allow you to marry yourself--"
"Oh shut up. We'll meet. And I can make you wear a stupid, itchy cravat too."
"Just. Please don't fidget too much later. Or worse, drop the rings."
He loved weddings, really. He just didn't like overstarched shirts.
Later they had to explain to him why he couldn't catch the bouquet with the rest. He pulled his "frowning cutely" face.
It changes to "blushing so brightly he looked like a tomato" face later though, when the garter was all but flung at his direction.
You were so brave, offering those little pieces of future cavities to kids you barely knew.
But it wasn't the trips to the dentist that the other kids they saw.
It was the promise of good stories and people to share them with.
A promise of friendship.
He was the magical fairy kid with the bag of candies.
They were more than candies.
He was scared of vampires.
Maybe there was some really weird comic books when he was a kid, but somehow he thought that when people wore braces it was to keep the bloodsucking fangs from the ordinary humans.
But there was this girl that made him believe that behind the mass of rubber and metal and patience and lovingly cooked meals was a smile worth keeping.
I stared at him in disbelief, his hands in his pockets as he hung around near the insect cages.
"You prefer beetles to a perfectly cute bunny?"
"It has large ears!" he said lamely, still standing a safe distance away from me as I cradled the baby rabbit in my arms.
"You act like this one," I remark, watching it stretch and bury its furry face in its paws.
"What, do I piss a lot and smell bad?"
"No, but you both eat a lot of vegetables."
"I care for my health and nutrition, sorry if that bothers you," he says stiffly. I reply by dumping the baby rabbit into his arms and watch him panic yet holding the baby with gentle arms. He was hopping around the pet shop like the metaphorical rabbit that he was chasing after me, whispering bloody murder at me under his breath for fear the rabbit might wake up and... do rabbit stuff.
Yeah, he's going to be a great father.
"YOU'RE A MODEL--"
She is immediately silenced by his hand over her mouth, shooting her a silent, meaningful look.
"Either you pipe down calmly or bite my hand off before I remove it. I personally prefer the first option."
She answers with a dirty look and nods, sighing against his palm before he took his hand away. He wiped it against his jeans.
"Save the drooling for when you see me on the magazine," he says lightly, and was rewarded with a hard punch at his arm.
"OW! What was that for?!"
"I didn't drool on your hand!" she said indignantly. "And I won't drool on you, I see you everyday and I'd rather barf."
"Hey!" he protested, looking injured. She ignored his kicked puppy face and looked down at the magazine. She saw it open on the magazine stand and happened to see his picture.
Not that she would instantly recognize who it was, she didn't have his face memorized that well yet--
"You're a model. Wow." she said, letting a little of the amazement and pride (and maybe a little bit of something else that shall remain unnamed) creep into her voice.
"I know... I can finally look cool," he said, sounding clearly embarrassed.
"You look pretty good on a normal basis... you'll be fine, I'm sure of it," she said, and looks up to find him staring at her.
No she hasn't really memorized his face yet.
She adds one more detail into her file: the way his face slowly flushes red when he blushes.
He looks through the lens, putting to perspective the world around him. People often shake their heads at him when they see him with his camera.
"He's so pitiful."
"He looks so sad."
"He must be so lonely."
He raises his camera to his eye again silently. Framing the picture, adjusting the lens, looking through his viewfinder. Taking a piece of the world as he sees it, then making it his own.
A laughing baby as she takes her first steps through the park.
A crying boy that accidentally dumps his ice cream cone to the ground.
A balloon without an owner, floating away.
A paper airplane landing on a bird bath, thankfully dry.
Holding hands tucked into coat pockets.
He sees the pictures he takes and laughs to himself. Sure he looks sad and stupid sometimes (a lot), but that was okay.
He was never lonely. Just alone. Sometimes, that was okay too.
He looks on under the developing fluid as another piece of the world shows into focus. Falling leaves of a tree, blown by a gentle breeze.
There were more pictures than he can take, yet more photographs to be taken. Another day, another life, another existence.
He looks around and smiles. Anyone who said he cannot see the world as something to make money off from would be very wrong.
He was there, collecting memories. Fragments of the world. For taking pictures is like collecting little pieces of the universe for yourself, as you see it, for the others to see it the way you do too.
To collect photographs is to collect the world.
Look at you, with your headphones on, an almost permanent feature that if anyone painted your portrait they'd put it in, with you wearing it over your ears or around your neck. You said you love looking for new tunes, beats that would make you nod your head and tap your hands on your thighs (or on anything like you usually do) and hum the tune to yourself.
You said that recently you started paying more attention to the lyrics, pullling out the lyrics booklets when you buy CDs and having a quiet moment by yourself as you listen. You tried writing your own songs as well, and you loved it.
Some songs, you find. Some songs, they find you.
There are a million perfect lines that you have yet to hear. Some, you will probably never hear. But know this: you'll find quite a few that would mean the world to you someday.
A plate was pushed to his chest.
"Eat." the girl ordered. Her voice was shaking.
A smirk. A step closer.
"What if I didn't want to?"
She pushes him away, turning to leave.
He knows she will come back soon.
"At least wear a shirt," she said darkly, stalking off into the big house, empty but for him and her.
He follows her a few minutes later, murmuring apologies. She forgives him (she can't stay angry at him for long) and buries her face in his chest, her forehead resting on his collarbone. His body has different planes and angles, places she had explored in content.
The both of them had places they'd like to be. But for now, in each other's arms, they were where they wanted to be.
"Ice cream!" he pointed out excitedly, running towards the kiosk. He pulled out his wallet, face falling when he realizes he didn't have enough.
"Here, I'll get it for you," she said, moving forward and paying for two cones.
"Thank you," he said, feeling embarrassed. She looked up at him and blushed, stumbling backward and almost tripping if he didn't catch her on time. She winced when she tried to put weight on her foot but stumbled, her face paling.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, leading her to a bench and helping her sit down.
"These heels hurt my feet," she muttered.
"Why did you wear them anyway? They look painful," he said.
"I wanted to look pretty for you..." she said
The next thing she knew, she held her her heels in one hand and wore his sneakers on her feet. He walked through the streets on his socks, his hand holding his ice cream cone and her hand on the other.
Too large sneakers, blistered feet and an ice cream cone.
Sounds like a good start.
I know words wouldn't be enough, but your mere existence makes the world a little brighter.
You're like a personal sun to some people, a star they can carry in their pockets and in their hearts. A smile, a laugh, a funny dance, an innocent comment, that sly look--
No wonder a lot of people fall in love with the idea of you.
I'm glad I met you, however weird or strange it might be.
I'm still really grateful I did.
"What does a kiss taste like?"
"...Oh. It must taste sour then?
You remember having this conversation when you were a child, and how from then on you learned that you had a lot to learn.
Like how sometimes kisses taste like first times and strawberry-flavored gum, stolen behind the rafters of the school gym.
Or how it can taste totally icky, with pieces of sushi caught in between the metals of braces but you couldn't care less, too caught up in the moment.
Or of bitersweet goodbyes, of the cold coffee left sitting at the bottom of your coffee cup, long after the cafe door swung shut and leaving you alone.
Of "hello" and "nice to see you again", the lingering smell of last in-flight meals lingering in their hair with the scent that was hers alone as they stood frozen in the middle of bustling crowds in the airport. Frozen in the middle of people calling for their relatives and friends, looking for their loved ones.
They didn't need to do that anymore.
Tap tap goes his hands on his thighs, on the table, on every flat surface within reach. He was lost in his own world, the music in his head. Sometimes people would give him strange looks, but he never cared much if he looked strange to other people.
Tap tap goes her hand on his shoulder, a smile on her lips from watching him from afar before going closer. He stops and smiles up at her, his gaze a little unsteady as she tilts her head. Let's go, her actions said, and he nods.
Tap tap goes her heels on the pavement as she pretends to be impatient as she waits for him to gather his things. He looks up at her and pouts, and she stops and smiles as she tugs at his arm and they began to walk through the stalls of trinkets. There was a carnival in town.
Tap tap goes her finger on his arm as she points towards a stall and she pulls him towards it, buying identical bracelets for the both of them. It was a thin band of braided leather with a musical note charm hanging from it. She sings for him often, and he would listen with a soft smile on his lips, the gentlest expression on his face.
Tap tap goes their feet on the streets as they walk hand in hand, hears beating out a steady rhythm that they go by.
Tap tap goes them.
Says their hearts.
Over and over again. Without words. Yet they shout out, speak the truth that words cannot even begin to say.
Of love and the perfect song.
He watched his brother grow, a little curious and a little scared at first ("What if he takes all my toys?" "What if mommy and daddy don't love me anymore?").
One day he looked over his baby brother's crib and held his hand over the tiny bundle of clothes and warm skin, waving hesitantly. He watched as his brother opened his eyes, grabbed his finger, and gurgled out the cutest baby laugh he ever heard.
He never had to be scared again. From that laugh (and years later, over lego blocks and Jenga and asking love advice with a blush), he promised to be the best older brother he could be.
He had a lot of inside jokes, little things that made him laugh. When he was told to do his best, he would nod his head earnestly. When he laughs he does it with his whole body, shaking with obvious glee that anyone who sees him can't help but feel happy as well. With the zest of life that was definitely his, he takes his challenges head-on.
No one can stop him.
Once, he asked himself what he wanted to do. Moving on or stopping, either can be considered freedom. Once, he pushed himself too hard, then he realized that broken wings can't fly. So he stuffed his pockets with his hopes and went on against the headwind, flying earnestly towards his goals.
He didn't have to be afraid of falling and failing. Rising to the challenge, with his playful smile and hopes and dreams, he reaches for the stars.
He has a whirlwind romance with the world, yet he keeps himself grounded. Never forgetting where he came from, always looking forward and reaching for what he wanted to be.
He is all sorts of energy: sugar rush and caffeine overdose on two (very long) legs, he's like a shooting star.
He's serious, but he too has a face that he can only show to the world when the universe conspires to give him what he truly deserves.
Just like the rest of us.
You define love better than any dictionary can ever even begin to attempt.
Their friendship used to be so simple. It was an instant connection, like knowing the answer to the difficult math problem no one seemed to get. Even if there was little in common, everything made perfect sense.
There was a book they both loved, a classic fairy tale everyone knew. They started calling each other prince and princess, just for fun. He always thought she needed saving (from randomly tripping, from studying to the point of exhaustion, from getting too drunk to even care about consequences) so he offered his friendship as protection. Even if the whole idea of their friendship is dangerous. But she calms him, makes him think twice about losing himself to the next bad thing he discovers. She makes him worth saving himself. So even if he doesn't really understand, he is drawn to her. And he isn't willing to let go any time soon. No matter how selfish it might be.
She thought he was her prince because he was the one that made her happy the most. Those little gestures (paying things she buys for herself, the warm hugs and surprise kisses, and that one drunken night she doesn't know if she'd rather forget) that made what she would only admit in her head more real than it should be. What started off as friendship became something deeper, care blurring into something more confusing. But he makes everything better, the usually bland world now tinged with deeper colors from emotions that until recently she did not understand.
But it took them several words, both said and unspoken, to reach this point. She met the fabled knight in shining armor, and she was suddenly scared. No one would easily understand, but she knew his prince more than anyone.
Or so she thought.
She did realize that knowing her prince would be admitting that she was fighting a losing battle. In this war, she was defenseless. The prince cannot offer his protection.
For he was the one hurting her the most.
She knows. He might not admit it to her face, but his face she knew the most. In the map of laugh lines at the corner of his eyes to the crooked half grin he always seemed to have on. To those ears that always listened to her, a secret path to his heart.
The sad part was he didn't really know. You see, during the war, the prince is closest to the ground. He worries about protecting the princess, locked in the tower that was her head and her heart.
In her tower, the princess worries alone. Looking out from a tiny window into a world that doesn't seem like the one she knows. For in her world, it was the prince and the princess. There was no war, and no tower.
Instead, there she was, far away from her prince more than she could ever imagine.
She had won the battle. She had healed him, made him whole. Bit by painful bit. He was her prince, her only prince. Her best friend. The one that makes her cry and yet also the one that makes her so, so happy.
The problem was, he wasn't really looking for a princess.
She watches them dance around each other. Hindered by armor. But slowly, they close in on each other.
She watches as her prince falls for his knight.
But the knight was loyal to his prince and princess. At first he tried to stay away. But you cannot really fight something like this. The princess helps pick up the broken pieces of the prince's heart that she has painstakingly helped fix, and she couldn't help but be angry. She cannot let her prince be hurt again, but she is helpless. She cannot protect the prince like he does to her, all for the simple reason that he doesn't let her. As the knight and the prince fought their wars together, removed their armor and their barriers, the princess closes a curtain over the window of her tower, and retreats to the darkness.
And so was the story of how she lost the war.
The prince understands now. And not. He understands the knight, so careful yet so brave. He loves the princess, but it is to the arms of the steadfast knight that he returns.
And yet, there is still a sense of duty. Responsibility. Affection, attraction, he doesn't really know. Or maybe allow himself to know.
The world was becoming right again, yet there was a piece he can't place.
He doesn't want to let the princess go.
Because deep down he is still scared.
Scared no one will pick him up again. Scared that he'll go back to who he was before her. He liked himself better with the princess, and after her. Now, he can't even remember if there was any before before this.
But he couldn't say it out loud.
He fought so hard for the knight. And the princess. He couldn't bear to lose both.
One day the princess lashes out. Her usually sweet and caring surface cracks, ripples, broken from spending too much time alone in her tower.
"You are hurting me. Why can't you understand?"
He felt his throit go dry, close up. "I don't want anything to change--"
A sigh. "Can't you understand? Things have to change. You know how I feel. But I also know how I feel."
The tower never seemed so tall to the prince until now.
The princess knows telling the prince the truth like this will break him, break her, but this moment has to come sooner or later.
She can't just look out the tower window and shout at him at the bottom. There were ways to reach her.
"Something has to change. I don't want you to leave but we can't be like this anymore..."
She bites her lip as his face crumples.
"Why are you pushing me away?"
His question comes out in a strangled whisper.
She shakes her head in silent denial. "Not pushing you away. I would never do that... but you have to understand."
He looks at her listlessly.
"If you keep doing this... if you keep acting this affectionate knowing how I feel... you're being unfair to the both of us."
He didn't answer, but she saw him ball his hands into angry, stubborn fists.
"I am happy for my prince... but if you don't help me, I can't promise I can control my feelings. Do you want your princess to turn into the witch?" she asks sadly.
He looks up at her.
"So what? I go away, you forget me too?"
He was trying not to cry. He was the brave prince. He always had to protect the princess.
And with dawning realization, he understands.
She needs his protection... from himself. And only he can give it.
Hesitantly he opens his arms.
She shakes her head. A small movement. His shoulders squared.
"You can't stop making me care about you... much more I can't stop you from... feeling the way you do about me."
"But I'll try. For you."
She looks up. Then one, tiny nod. He clears his throat.
"You're right. I can't wish for things to stay the same... but can I ask one thing?"
"If we change... we change for the better."
She steps forward and finally, finally steps into his embrace.
You're still my prince. Nothing will change that."
Something like this
happens. Unexplained silences, the sudden disappearance. Without a word,
without a warning. Existences disappear in this world every day. In the city
where they live, everybody is afraid to sleep. Scared that one day when they
wake up, another loved one would be discovered to have been taken from their
Whenever I close my
eyes I am reminded of that fear. That sickening feeling of being unable to
sleep in peace, to dream about my real dreams instead of vague nightmares of
mist that grab at your ankles with clammy fingers and darkness that grabs your
heart and squeezes it between its sinister hands. I would always wake up
gasping for breath, clutching at my chest to confirm through the frantic
drumming it makes against my rib cage that my heart was still there. Still
fighting for life. Still proving my existence counts.
The people never
knew why it always happened in their sleep. Some say the creatures that come in
the night fear the laughter of children
and the scent of warm sunlight, or maybe it was the sound of blades of grass pushing
through the earth for nourishment. But no one ever died of a sickness or an
accident or a calamity. It always happened at night. In their sleep. Old or
young, sick or perfectly healthy, it would always happen at the dead of night.
There were times when he just sat and stated out into space. He never knew what things meant anymore. Time, space, food, parking tickets, rain, sappy romcoms they used to enjoy.
Facebook status: single. Once upon a time there were the words "in a relationship" with your name right next to it, and yours was the same, only with her name on it.
There were pictures of the two of you. A lot. Kissing and leaning on each other's shoulders and just sitting next to each other laughing and holding hands and standing next to each other. Now they were just images. Figures. A million pixels clearly showing what was clearly the past, colors on your laptop screens what have beens.
Now everything was just memories, a bunch of silvery wisps of nothingness in his mind that now he wasn't so sure if they ever even existed in the first place.
Sometimes he thinks if he was really left behind to let the memories live. Now he doesn't know if it was a good thing or it was just too damn painful. Through him, she lives. But through her, he dies, slowly, wasting away.
His wrists were already too sore from numerous attempts to end his... whatever it is he has right now. Existence, maybe. Or a very pathetic excuse for it. But not life. Life required vitality. The will to wake up for tomorrow. But he didn't even have that anymore. His eyes, too swollen to see anything but darkness. His tunnels have no end, just endless, dank and scary things.
Like the tunnel that they last went in together, then it was flashing headlights of a truck driving too fast and a crash and blood and helmets that crushed from the impact and groping for the other's hand like a lifeline but never finding it, so breaths faded and lungs collapsed and multiple organ failure and sadness and final whispered words that don't mean anything now but a numbing white of hospital sheets and hospital monitors beeping ominously and that one dragging sound of the love of your life's heart finally giving up. One long dragging sound announcing to the world of the impossibility of you ever being whole again. One green flat line drawing a boundary between you and any chance of happiness.
Nothing means anything anymore. Nothing makes perfect sense except one thing.
The rhetorical question of why was he still even here.
He clutches the bottle in his hand with a grim smile.