Scars, by Rudy Francisco
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.
Sunday afternoons are air and water and grass at the same time. They are happiness and emptiness and they fill you up and they leave you with nothing. It’s like that feeling when I sit on the couch and read a book while the whole house is napping, except for my mom who’s cooking in the kitchen. She asks me to help her with the food right when the book gets good, but I don’t mind because there’s no noise on Sunday afternoons and there’s no one to talk at me or talk about me or talk for me. The worst is when they talk for me. When there’s no noise, I just see my mom cooking while the house sleeps. She works and she takes care of my family and, somehow, she takes care of me too, even after I moved two cities and three towns away. It’s amazing, and it makes me feel happy and empty at the same time.
It’s like that feeling when I’m reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and most of the time Charlie just talks. But sometimes he says something so honest that it makes everything okay, because for a moment I can believe that people still tell the truth. And sometimes he says something so beautifully simple that I want to hang onto that sentence forever because I can’t understand why it makes me feel so empty.
The same way watching the movie made me feel empty. Yes, I admit I watched the movie before I read the book. But I only watched it first because Stan had the movie, and he doesn’t know this but sometimes I just want to watch a movie on his bed and almost fall asleep before the end because it’s 3 in the morning. (I try to fall asleep before the emptiness comes back.) I think my problem is endings, whether they’re weekends or movies or beautifully simple sentences. I think I’ll always feel happy and empty at the same time because as hard as I try, nothing is infinite.
I just want to say that I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I was angry, you understand, right? Now that it’s out there, I feel much better. I’ve stopped listening to that song because I’ve made up my mind.
Anyway, I’ll make it up to you. We can go for passionfruit gelato.
Paint me a mystery. Tell me why I can’t remember the last time I cried or laughed. Tell me why I keep trying to explain this, but I just end up going in circles saying I love you. I don’t love you. Maybe I do love you. I used to think I would only write about things that I love and never things that I hate, because I don’t want the things that I hate to exist in words or in any other form. But you turned out to be the exception, or something boring like that. Sitting in this room reminds me of you. Everything reminds me of you, and the cliche is boring, it’s so, so boring. I’m angry and happy and sad at the same time, that’s not quite it. I keep trying to explain how I feel, but I just end up going in circles saying I love you. It’s not that simple, so here it is.
There’s this song that changes its melody abruptly in the middle, like it changed its mind about what it wants to be. Hearing it makes everything clear, it’s everything I feel but can’t put into words, it’s everything I’m trying to explain. I don’t believe that anyone could write a song like that without feeling the way it makes me feel, and listening to it makes me feel okay because I know that someone else feels the same way. I’m just trying to feel okay.
I know you’re waiting for me to explain. I’m waiting too, but I just end up going in circles saying I love you. It’s like when the cold wakes me up in the middle of the night and I just want to take a hammer to your soul. I want to break it apart and see what’s inside, because I’m hoping to find some semblance of a promise that you cared about me. I just need to stop pretending but I can’t do that until I see for myself that there’s nothing left of me in your smile. And when I’m done, I’ll sew every piece of your soul back together, just the way it was, like I was never there.
I’m going to take all my memories of you and wrap them into a bundle, tie it to a stone. I’m going to throw it out the window so that it crashes through the panes and splinters on the gravel. Somewhere in there is going to be a small glass box with all of the reasons I ever cared about you. It won’t survive the fall.
I want to hear the sound of amazing breaking. Because that’s what we were, we were amazing. I hope your dreams come to a crashing halt, too. Vengeance was never a good look but you’re gone now, so I can bundle up with all the vengeance I need to face the storm and you can just go to hell. I hope you wait for her for as long as I waited for you. I thought I would never wish that kind of self-inflicted harm on anyone but you turned out to be the exception. Yeah, I may go in circles saying I love you, but I hate you more.
Yesterday, I met you on a train. We went for tea and biscuits as it carried us along its tracks, and I liked knowing that, for a moment, we were continuing down the same tunnel. I told you stories because we don’t get to see each other much, but every time we do it’s always in a new and wonderful and uncharted place. This time we met in a world where sight was not a sense and everything was dark, but I knew you were there.
I told you about things that I’d discovered since I last saw you. Things about life. Things about living. Most of us lead insignificant lives, our actions not affecting history or the grand scheme of the universe in any remarkable way. And in the years after our death, we will be forgotten. Most of us can’t comprehend just how small we are. We are like ants crawling over speckled bathroom tiles, hardly discernible among the multitude of different colours. We do not perceive the world as anything beyond our immediate consciousness.
I want to stand at the centre of a sold-out Madison Square Garden, so that I can lose myself in the thunder of people and be baffled by the overwhelming immensity. I want to see the sky from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so that I can comprehend the vastness of nature. There must be something significant in the trifle of a beetle crawling through the Nevada Desert. There must be something significant in the existence of paradoxes. There must be.
How do we grasp infinity? What’s at the end of a rainbow? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Somehow I believed that you had the answers to all my questions. I wanted to get lost in the city lights with you. I wanted to forget the day of the week and go on new adventures not anchored by time. But we were on a train and time was passing. The tunnel was passing. Light flooded in and we had five senses again, and the first thing I saw was everything fading away as the train rushed toward the morning. Until next time, my dear.
Freedom of Speech
by Phil Jones
We waited on a bench by the side of the road. I sat sideways with my legs crossed, facing you. You lounged lazily, stretching your legs and looking straight ahead with a far-off expression that saw farther than the sidewalk on the other side of the road.
“You know where this is suppose to go,” you said abruptly.
I knew. A lifetime of longing sideways glances and drowsy half-smiles. A lifetime of brushing fingertips and lingering laughter. I knew where this was suppose to go, but a lifetime of Christmases and sharing stories over vanilla lattes couldn’t change us.
“I don’t want to be with you,” you finished.
I said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I thought about the expression on your face at that moment. It was aloof yet familiar, the same look I’d seen in the mornings when you kissed me on the cheek and thanked me for the coffee. I wondered why I never saw it before, the eagerness behind the haze of disregard. It was a eagerness for a different life, a life that you weren’t sure you would get to live. I thought about my expression too. I had a look of empathy and understanding, like I had just experienced a revelation about myself, and about you. I understood because, if it was anyone else, I would’ve done the same thing. I wanted to tell you that I was like you: I wasn’t meant to live a life in someone else’s arms.
I was standing across the street looking at us. We were two noncommittal souls who never learned how to love. If we were beautiful people, this would be our story.