Catatonia

“How long has she been in that state?”

He glanced nervously at the clock on the wall, while inside his head his brain was working to figure out what day is it. He has lost track of date and time ever since what happened to his sister.

“She… she has been that way since April 11.”

Long, uneasy silence.

“Sir, today is July 28. It’s been three months.”

He had to take a few minutes to process what the voice in his phone just told him. He barely slept nor eat anything since then, but it didn’t feel like it’s taken months at all. In a way, it took only days; but in another way, seeing how much she is suffering, it felt like forever has passed already.

He shifted his attention to his sister worriedly; a woman in her early 20s, lying down in bed looking nearly lifeless, her skin pallid and her hair disheveled. By the way that her limbs were sprawled across the bed, it almost seemed like she was pinned down by invisible ropes. Her eyes were wide open, staring blankly at the stained ceiling above the bed. They have been open exactly since April 11, when he realized that his sister Carol hasn’t gone out of bed all day, and he found her in that position. He realized that something was wrong when she wouldn’t respond to anything he said.

He thought it would go away eventually, but after a few days of no change at all, he decided to call 911. And then, the dispatcher on the phone told him that it has been 3 months, not 3 days like he originally thought.

He sat on the chair he has put near her bed, almost as lifeless as she is. “Please send someone over here,” he continued, nearly inaudibly. “My sister needs help. She might be dehydrated and exhausted, she…”

He stopped talking and put his phone down, when he realized that the phone call has ended abruptly. Lifting the phone up, he was ready to dial 911 again when something else caught his attention.

“Frank,” a voice pleaded. His eyes quickly darted back to her. “Carol?”

She could finally shift her eyes to him, fear and dread were written all over them. “I don’t know what to do, Frank,” she whispered in a hushed voice. “I’m sorry.”

And as soon as she spoke her last sentence, black strings appeared from her bed sheet, pulling her underneath.

 

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Riz’s Pointless Observation: Airports

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I love being at airports.

I haven’t traveled so much, only once to another country; and often to other provinces before my father moved to the company he’s working in now. Traveling by plane is still a novelty to me; especially lately, since I have to spend more and more time devoting myself to my study in college and less time I have for leisure. But with an uncle working abroad who brought his whole family there with him when he moved out, there are moments in vacation months where they come to visit, and I have to go to the airport, either to pick them up when they arrive or to say goodbye before they board the plane home.

While not as a traveler, I still get the wonderful opportunity to observe.

There is a lot you can learn from looking at how people dress, for example; you’d get to guess which places they’re going to. There are always short flights to nearby countries like Singapore or Malaysia, of course. But there are also long flights, like my uncle’s, to Doha; a transit flight to another country even further away. My last visit to the airport was in early January, and I busied myself watching other people passing by. I noticed that some people were all dressed and covered up from head to toe, preparing themselves for the cold weather in wherever their destination might be. Some other wore less, and either they have traveled often that it’s no longer a fuss for them, or they’re traveling a short distance, where the weather won’t be much different from the one over here.

But as someone who writes fiction so often, I love guessing about their lives just as much. Their stories, the destination they might head to, whether they have families and friends waiting over there and other families or friends they have to leave here, whether they will return to this country or not.

And sometimes when I look at someone, all dressed up for a cold weather complete with a scarf and boots, carting along a large suitcase in a hurried manner, I try to put myself in their shoes.

What would I do before a long flight to a place far away from here, while the return flight is days, weeks, months, or maybe not a chance until a year from now? This applies especially to people who have moved away from this country, of course; where they might not return in another year or perhaps more. I might have a farewell dinner with my closest friends, and forgetting how the traffic here works, I ended up getting caught in a jam and arrived at the airport nearly late, noting to myself that I should have my farewell dinner in a cafe at the airport instead next time. Or maybe I have long walks alone through the streets in the place I’m staying, and ended up forgetting the time of the flight. Or maybe I had a long Skype call with a friend waiting for me over there, in my home country. Or maybe I just overslept or caught in a really good book.

And since flights like that are still a novelty to me, there will always be a certain dreamy atmosphere hanging over airports. They are always alive and packed, day and night, with flights that arrive and go at early hours in the morning and late hours at night; they never sleep.

They also tell stories of hundreds of long and wistful goodbyes, lingering hugs and kisses, hand waves that took such a short time but also an eternity at the same time, sometimes not knowing when their next hello might be.

To some people who travel often, airports might seem normal, nothing more than a routine, a place for transit; but not to me. They carry emotions and tells stories of the many lives passing through them every day.

Airports will never cease to fascinate me.

Silence

(Originally written two months ago)

The television still blared endlessly, a movie played in the background that none of them paid attention to.

Perfectly still, they lounged next to each other on the couch; enjoying each other’s presence and warmth in companionable silence. She yawned and stretched out her arms; the sleeves of the oversized sweater she was wearing slid down, exposing her small wrists. In a glance she seemed perfectly calm, but a storm was brewing in her mind, a hurricane she could not stop.

It showed in her tired eyes.

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright?” the man sitting next to her asked.

Her hand tugged at her own sleeve. She glanced up at him, slight hurt flashed in her eyes that was only visible in seconds. “It’s not something I can stop, isn’t it?”

“I’m just enjoying it while it lasts.”

Gently she rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. Yet another small moment that she wished would last all eternity.

As the night grew darker, the light from the television was the only bright thing in the room; too bright for their liking. She took the remote lying next to her and switched it off.

And so all that was left were only each other, in the pitch darkness, and peaceful silence.

“I’m sorry that I had to put you in this situation,” he sighed, his arm was around her waist.

She wasn’t sure what to answer.

“It’s alright,” she finally spoke, her eyes were still closed. “This is more than I could ask for.”

Too quietly she whispered an “I love you”, that she wasn’t sure he could hear.

He didn’t answer. He never answered in all the many times she said so. He has his own reason, one that she found quite unreasonable and ridiculous; but she completely understood why.

But she knew he heard, and listened; because his arm wrapped around her waist a little tighter.

Unrequited

Bare skin against clean white sheets,
yours against mine.
Wide, hopeful eyes met each other,
with trembling hands
holding one another.
Your chest rising and falling
gently, calmly, slowly,
with the sound of the rain
pouring relentlessly and thunder,
a lullaby for me; slowly going under
with a heavy burden on my chest,
and a realization, never leaving me
to rest,

I can never make you mine, my dear.
Never,
never,
never.

Melankolia

The soft rumble of thunder from far away crept through her bedroom window, reaching her ears; along with the sound of the rain tapping gently. The arrow on the clock next to her desk reached the number 2, reaching past her usual bedtime. The text book, or the “reading material” that she promised to herself will finish that night, the original cause of her inability to sleep; has since been long forgotten on the floor, lying face down.

Saudade, saudade.

A part of her has been missing for five years. Ever since, all the events she has participated in, all the hard work she has poured in everything she does, all she did for one purpose she was never brave enough to admit: to fill an empty spot that has been long gone.

And still, in lonely hours like this, she realized that his smile will forever be something that she cannot erase off her mind, like a persistent stain on her clothes that will never go away as much as she tried. Like a bitter aftertaste in her mouth.

Saudade, saudade.

She stared blankly at the wall ahead of her, her fingers twirling her pen absentmindedly.

Dreams

I had a strange dream last night.

In that dream, I have been drowning for 22 years.

I could still hear the silent whirring of an invisible clock ringing in my ears. It feels like I was floating endlessly, somewhere between the state of living and nonexistence. I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know for sure when it happened. All I could feel was the stillness of the dark water around me, and the small bubbles of air escaping my mouth, and a gentle hum echoing in my ears.

I wasn’t afraid; it didn’t hurt at all.

I only felt peace.

Then slowly, I could remember what happened. He took me to the sea. The man with grey streaks on his hair, the man who wore a suit to all occasions, who always smiled to me. He took me walking to a beach, then we walked all the way to the middle of the sea. We held hands, but somewhere in the middle of it; he vanished into thin air.

The water opened up beneath my feet and swallowed me whole. When I was completely submerged in the water, I could hear a hum in my ears, like the ticking of a clock.

So I counted every second, until they add up into minutes; all the way to hours, then days, to weeks, to months, to years.

At that moment, I have been drowning for 22 years, 5 months, 13 days, 9 hours and 32 seconds.

Then I woke up.