After reading this story, those of you who have read “The Scientist” will think: “This has a pretty similar plot!” Yes, I agree, but NO – I don’t agree. This story is more focused on emotions and the perspective of the heart, and is more of a surrealism/emotional-ism piece of art rather than the usual once-upon-a-time-heroes-and-whatnot-the-end kind of story I usually write. I don’t think it’s the best story I’ve ever written, but I think it’s pretty damn good…or not. Well, it depends on what the readers think.
So read, think and see you!
Somewhere Only We Know
(This song is inspired from the song of the same name by Keane.)
I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreamin of?
Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old, and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin
And if you have a minute, why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?
* * *
The park is the most beautiful place in town during summer days. It’s such a shame that most people would be gone for their summer holiday out of town, leaving just a few who are willing to withstand the glaring heat – but really, it’s never that bad. Lynn and I usually go to the park to feed the pigeons or just hang around, doing kids stuff. Today, we are just sitting on out usual bench, relaxing after yesterday’s test; today is the first day of the summer holiday, and our reports will be out in a week from now.
Lynn has her legs stretched out in front of her, wriggling her toes while she hums a song we usually hear from the radio. Something about walking on an empty land, growing up and moving on – it was lovely, but sad. I’m just sitting beside her, listening as she hums contently. Lynn then says “Have you thought about where you’ll go?”
I shake my head, “We still have years to go, Lynn.”
“But it won’t hurt to start planning now, right?” Lynn counters, “A few years will come in a blur before we know it and when the time comes, we’ll be unprepared.”
I think about that for a second. Then, I know where I’ll be years from now. “I’ll be with you,” I simply say.
Lynn blushes and laughs lightly. “That’s stupid! I’m planning to go overseas!”
“Then I’ll go with you.”
Lynn stays quiet. She gets up and walks a few paces away from the bench. “You can’t…go with me.”
I’m confused. “Why? I can just study hard enough and hopefully I’ll get in.” Lynn is not responding. “Lynn? What’s wrong?”
Lynn only stands there, her back to me. The summer breeze feels colder and clouds begin to crowd over the sun. Birds stop singing and the trees cackle silently. Lynn turns around just a slight bit, enough for me to see her face draped over with her hair. “John, there’s something I need to tell you –”
There’s a storm. It’s in the middle of summer, but there’s a storm. Lighting strikes something far away from me but right now, I don’t really mind if it were to hit me. No one’s passing by the park, not at this time or weather. I wonder if they’re spending their time in their homes with their loved ones, warming up by the fire with mugs of hot chocolate, watching TV shows and laughing at cheesy jokes. And after that, they would retreat to bed, bid good dreams to each other and then when morning comes, they would wake up to bid them a good morning and then a good day.
As time passes, he can hear people nearby him. A couple are fighting in the rain, screaming at each other’s faces and spitting venom whenever there’s chance. People seems to gather out of nowhere, surrounding the couple, and me.
The couple’s argument gets louder and louder and louder, and the words they lash out get more horrible every second. It goes on forever, no side forfeiting or showing signs of defeat. The people start to murmur, gossiping and commenting. Some were scathing remarks. Some were piteous words. Some were just comments from blind men.
“They’re fighting for no reason.”
“But someone is at fault.”
“Who is it?”
“Is it the man?”
“Or is it the woman?”
“The woman is. She didn’t tell him the bad news, not until it is way past mending.”
“The man is. He’s not being understanding enough, and all he can do is blame her.”
“Both are. They’re just being children, refusing to solve the problem with level heads.”
“They’re weak. Oh, so weak.”
“They need time.”
“Some time alone, to sort out their heads.”
“But what will happen in their time?”
“The woman will perish. The man will move on.”
“They don’t want that.”
“They deserve sympathy.”
“Do they really deserve sympathy?”
“It’s just a fool’s play.”
The couple’s voices lowers down. There are words of bitter agreement, and they part ways. The man walks towards the direction he came from. Lynn walks past me, raindrops and tears marring her face.
Lynn drops down next to me, silent and distant. Flower buds were frozen on the ground, refusing to blossom even though it was way past the beginning of spring. I match Lynn’s silence, watching the pigeons feed on things from the ground from afar. A pigeon lifts its head and looks at me with its calculating, beady eyes, judging my posture and attitude. I refrain myself from squirming under its scrutiny and it seems like the bird will not mind to stare at me until I die from paranoia, but something in its gaze tells me that it wants me to do something, make a move. Talk to Lynn.
I take a deep breath and glance at Lynn. Her face is a perfect sculpture representing a mix of disappointment, anger, sadness, desperation, and submission. I lift my hand so I can put it atop of hers, but I pull it back, thinking about how it may be (and it is) the wrong move to make. Instead, I lace my fingers together and lean just a tiny bit forward, staring at the ground between my feet.
“We can work this out,” I begin.
Lynn breaths in slowly and exhales through her mouth. “You could, but we can’t.”
I twiddle my thumbs from nervousness. “Lynn, really, we can change things if we try – isn’t that what you always say?”
“Things change, John. I’m not the same person you have known since you were five, and neither are you. Besides, I only have a week left before I need to go –”
“Before you’re gone forever,” I finish. Lynn doesn’t have anything to add. She slinks back further in her seat and looks up at the sky. She opens her pale lips and say “Do you know why I hate spring even though it’s beautiful?”
I shake my head.
“Because since it’s the beginning of a new life, everything looks pale. Sometimes, I think spring’s worse than winter, because nature looks like she only half-heartedly coloured the world and by the time summer comes, she would go on full blast in her painting, making everything vibrant. Spring has no personality, like an indecisive newborn baby, not knowing whether it should linger in the cold or move on to warmer days.” Lynn pauses, resting for a minute before she continues. “I don’t like helplessness. I don’t like it when I can’t decide things for myself. When summer comes, it means that I’ve decided to move on rather than stay hung up on the past, and that’s good because I can let go of the old pain and whatnot. Even though the price is to forget about old happiness.”
I get up and kneel in front of her, my eyes searching hers. “Don’t go,” I plead, “Don’t forget. Don’t move on. I – I can make you happy. We will be alright. Even though the time is short, w-we can make it together, and we’ll be happy in the end! Think about it, Lynn; I don’t want to lose you. What will happen if it won’t work out? It’s better if you’re here than when you’re not here when the time comes.” Lynn is not moving. She’s not saying anything. “Lynn? Please, answer me!”
I clutch at the empty seat in front of me, spilling frozen tears on the icy bench. Though it’s only a light drizzle of snowflakes, it feels like I’m pelted with million shards of ice. My face feels numb and it’s hard to open my eyes, what with the ice around my eyes. Or maybe I don’t want to open my eyes, afraid to see what’s not there.
I can hear people around me, talking about all sorts of things. Happiness. Sadness. Turmoil. Annoyance. Nothing in particular. Some people would stop and murmur about me, thinking I’m mad, or just extremely troubled. Extremely depressed. I don’t have the energy to shout or scream or deny anymore. I don’t have the energy to blame anyone anymore. Maybe they’re right – maybe there’s nothing to live for anymore.
Footsteps are approaching. They stop.
“What are you doing here?”
I didn’t move from my kneeling position, nor did I acknowledge the voice.
“You’ll freeze to death if you stay.”
The sweetness in the voice is still the same as ever. But I didn’t care.
I shakily take a long drag of cool air and croak out “I’ve lost something.”
“Then why don’t you try to find it?”
I hear myself say “Someone took it from me; I can’t have it back.”
“Who took it?”
“Death,” I say.
“What is this thing you lost? What does it mean to you?”
I’m afraid to answer. I don’t want to answer.
“What does it mean to you?”
I don’t think I have any other choices. So I say “She’s my friend…no, she’s more than that. We’ve known each other since, like, forever. I’d do anything for her, and I know she’d do the same. So when she’s gone…” I laugh bitterly, sniffling and coughing after that. I try again. “So when she’s gone…it feels like everyday’s winter. Summer air feels colder; spring looks duller than before; autumn feels unbearably lonely and depressing. You know, watching the leaves fall remind me that things we love will eventually perish and then turn to dust, just like the leaves. But I think spending the last moments with her before she dies is better than not getting to hear her last breath.”
The footsteps approach slowly. I hear a thump on the empty space next to me. A warm hand caresses my stiff hair, entangling icicles from between the strands.
“Did you know why I didn’t tell you?”
I bring my head up and prop my chin on the bench, sitting cross legged on the earthy ground littered with orange leaves. Occasional leaves would flutter down from blinding heights, landing with frail grace upon the ground. A leaf latches itself on my nest of a hair. I shrug. “I don’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Lynn smiles and places her hand on her lap, palms up. “You were always happy. If I were to tell you, I’ll break you.”
I glance at her. She’s in a plain white dress – her summer dress – and her hair is done in two plaits that hung on either side of her shoulders. Just like the first time we met. I lift myself up and sit on the spot she usually sits, because she already took mine. We spend most of the time watching red fairy flutter around in the wind. Sometimes, squirrels would climb down from their homes and gather nuts to store for winter. I can hear children playing on my right, the sound of crushing leaves crisp and clear in my ears. I take a look at Lynn again; she’s smiling at two squirrels on the tree in front of us.
“You know,” I say, “I think I’ll manage somehow.”
Lynn turns and looks at me, a sad but relieved smile gracing her face. “I’d like you to do that,” she says gently.
I give her a lopsided smile. “Don’t be like that! You’re the one who has been nagging me about this. I won’t forget you; I still have lots of pictures of us around my house, and I still keep the old board games and Game Boy slots. Do you remember the drawing of that winged giraffe?” Lynn laughs at that, her eyes glassy. She nods. “I have that hung on top of my desk, where I can always see it from every side of my bedroom. Even my mum still has that teddy bear you made for Jessie in our living room – Jessie wouldn’t stop hugging it whenever we watch a movie.”
Lynn looks at me with more happiness this time, her tears wiped with her hand. I take that said hand and hold it as tightly as I can, but as gentle as I would when handling a baby. “I won’t forget you,” I repeat.
Lynn nods. “Thank you, John. For everything.”
The leaves from the ground rustles and one by one, they twirl around in the wind, flying up towards the clear blue sky. My hand is still on Lynn’s and I enjoy the warmth of it. All I can hear now is the whistling of the wind, the song of the red leaves, my heart beat slowing down in peace. The leaves on the trees morph from red to yellow, and then to a brilliant shade of viridian, symbolising joy and freedom. The air in the park warms up to a comfortable heat, and the sky brightens up, making all things around glitter mesmerizingly.
I lightly caress the spot next to me, remembering Lynn’s presence like she is still there. I can hear her laughs, mingling in the summer breeze, her grace dancing around with the birds. Children and adults come and go, enjoying the summer heat or cooling down under shades or by relishing in a cool beverage. I can handle the heat just fine, since I’ve been to this park in the middle of summer for ever since I was little.
I see the time on my watch – half past twelve noon. My shift at the orphanage is at one, but it won’t hurt to leave early. Charity works had kept my head below the clouds, especially ones that involves raising awareness of deadly diseases. I don’t want people to experience the loss I’ve experienced but if they are experiencing it, I won’t let a thought get in my way of helping them. That’s what Lynn would do, and she still does it.
Two sets of footsteps race each other towards me – they were Billy and Joe’s. They leap at me with big eyes, telling me of their day’s conquest without taking a breath. Behind them is Anna, her hair tied in a ponytail, her yellow sundress billowing in the wind. She’s reminding me about our picnic after my work, and I nod and thank her for reminding me, else I would endure hours of insufferable lecture. She says that she had asked Mrs. Dobson to look after the kids while we celebrate our anniversary together – perfect! Now we will have all of our time together – no pranks, no screams, no pests! I’ll make it up to Billy and Joe for their birthdays in three months.
Anna and the kids head over to the playground, the boys’ excitement evident in their youthful voices. I pat the empty space and with a lingering glace, I stand up, gathering my belongings, and depart for my work. The wind accompanies me towards the park entrance, where I stop to turn around and say “I won’t be long, Lynn.”