“Dream could be the most wonderful thing. An escape. A door to another world. Taking you away from all realities.”
Author’s Note: There’s a resemblance of this story to another story titled Riverbanks, Kenasis (if you noticed). It’s because both were originally from the ‘same’ story which I then separated to two different stories.
A new year’s eve. In less than ten minutes, the sky will be filled with exploding fireworks and all their pretty colors. In less than ten minutes, somewhere people will be toasting their drinks, clinking glasses, to the sound of cheers and claps. In less than ten minutes, another year will be gone forever.
Sitting on the windowsill of my small and dusty four-walls studio apartment, I get a clear view of the sky. Also, a clear view of the treetops, the park in the north side, and the street lights that accompany the long line of the narrow road leading up to this apartment building. Yet I only have the faintest recollection of memories of them. These past years have been like a long, tiring dream that I have yet to wake up from.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember the time when everything was vivid; every smile (her smiles), every word spoken (“Joseph, you’re daydreaming again”), every sunset (we could see the sunset clearly if we sat at Thomas Road’s pedestrian bridge facing west, the dazzling yellow lights would sometimes hurt our eyes), every sound (the honking sometimes sounded too loud in the night when I was lying quietly in the dark).
The world has gotten unbelievably quiet these past years. I wonder if she was really the only one who left. Or has the rest of the human race too disappeared, leaving me with no one to talk to? This question, is followed by the pale sound of fireworks bursting in the sky faraway in the north west, where the center of the city is, informing me that another year is gone, another starts. Yet another burst of fireworks filling up the sky faraway. Four years ago, at this moment, my phone rang.
“Is this Joseph?”. The voice, even before she told me, I knew.
“So you’re still using this number,” she said when I answered her. She gave a chuckle, the one that had a sign of relief in it. I thought the sound that she made when she chuckled sounded like someone who had just cried. It was two years since I last talked to her. She left the city after she graduated. I graduated only a year after. I didn’t hear anything from her after that, only that she moved to the North with Eddie, her boyfriend.
“I’m in the city right now, visiting a friend. I knew you worked here so I thought I’d try my luck and give you a call,” she said, almost cheerfully. To me, it came off as suppressed and forceful.
“Have you.. been okay?” I asked doubtfully. She dropped to silence when I asked her this.
“Come to Thomas Road, Joseph, do you know where that is?” she said suddenly. It was now her real voice; the one that concealed nothing. It was calm and hopeful. I said I do.
“The footbridge. I’ll wait for you there,” she added.
It took me forty five minutes to reach Thomas Road by taxi. Another ten to reach the pedestrian bridge by foot. The road was still busy, people everywhere. ‘Please use footbridge’, I read the sign and climbed the stairs. There were a few young couples along the rails of the bridge; lost in their own world. I tried to look for her.
“Joseph!” I heard. I looked around and she was waving at me from another end of the bridge.
“Happy new year,” she said when I was standing in front of her. Her hair was much longer than I had remembered it. She used to wear it short. She had it down to her shoulders now, it was pulled back behind her ears. A few stubborn ones put a mere curtain on her forehead. She had colored it blonde, and because of that she looked different than how I had always remembered her.
“It’s been a long time, isn’t it?” she said, stepping away and leaned against the rail. She rested her elbows on it, making herself feel comfortable as she observed our surrounding. I moved to her side, and by being very close at her side, her dimple became clearly visible on her cheek when she occasionally moved her lips. On her earlobe an earring with the shape of a heart glistened when the lights were reflected on it. There was a familiar feeling when I saw all this.
“You came here alone?” I asked. She nodded. “We broke up not long after we moved to the North,” she said when I asked her about Eddie. I thought about it for a moment and remembered something.
“You said you’re visiting a friend in the city?” I asked. To this her expression changed. She bit her lip, making that dimple on her cheek become visible again.
“I live here,” she said, and added, “With someone”. A man, I thought. She was in a new relationship. Suddenly I remembered the sound she made when she called on my phone earlier. She didn’t have it now. At least not that I could hear. We dropped to silence, and in the silence I began to analyze her again. Her face was oblong shaped. Her looks was probably average, but the way she wore her hair made her look attractive. Some people might even pass her off as pretty.
“I didn’t miss this city when I wasn’t here,” she said, slow, almost regretfully. I looked at her face and saw something else in there.
“Do you miss being in the North?” I asked. She shook her head.
“I miss the old days,” she said, looking back over her shoulder to the road below us. That came to me as quite a surprise. “You do?” I asked before I could think. She didn’t answer me. She probably didn’t need to. Deep down, we both knew the answer.
We sat quietly on that footbridge, in the night of the new year’s eve, looking down to Thomas Road below us, listening to the noises around us without making a sound, until the lights died one by one, the road almost empty again. We were used to that. In the quietness I thought of how funny I might look to her now.
At home, afterward, I looked at myself in the mirror for a long time and thought of what she said before we parted ways. “I’ll be here, if you need me,” she said, writing down something on a piece of paper she took out from her pocket. “Here,” she said, holding that piece of paper and showing it to me so I could read it. It was an address. “That’s where I work,” she said, putting the pen she used to write that address back in her pocket. We were at a taxi stand.
I came to the place in the address a few times after that until the end of the year. And the year after that. Even after the place had been closed down.
“Why are you all gloomy? Come on, cheer up,” she said in a cheery tone, patting me on my back. We were standing at the rooftop of an abandoned building in the city, a building that was once an office building. This time she had her hair parted to the side and pulled back into a loose bun. leaving some curtain down on one side of her face. The root was already dark brown again.
“Don’t you want to say something?” I said quite solemnly. This made her silence for a moment. The silence was followed by a sigh. “I’ve said enough, Joseph,” she said. Now it was her turn to look gloomy. I hated to see her that way.
“You’ll be fine. We’re always going to be fine,” she said finally. Those are the words that I would remember forever.
From the rooftop, we could see a magnificent view of the setting sun. Much better than if we sat at Thomas Road’s footbridge. That particular day, the sun was quick to reach down below the horizon. I wanted to watch it a little longer. “Come on, Joseph,” she said, taking out her flashlight. It was starting to get really dark in the building, with all electricity out.
I was hesitant. My feet were heavy. “Krista,” I said, touching her in the arm before she went any further. She looked quite surprised when she turned to look at me. I did not often call her by name; especially not like this. There were so many things I wanted to say to her. I looked at her for a very long time and realized how lonely my world would be without her again. How quiet, how somber. I looked at her as I thought of all this. I wanted to pull her very close to me, to caress her hair and feel her heartbeat on mine. Nothing came out, I froze. It was always like this.
In a kind of desperation, I forced myself to say it, “Thank you for—”
I couldn’t finish it. Her body was against me. Her face was now on my shoulder. I could smell the floral scent of her hair strongly now. Slowly I raised my arms and wrapped them around her. I shut my eyes and in the dark I realized how close she was to me now.
“Thank you for just being there with me,” she said with her head still on my shoulder. The words were unclear with her lips on my shirt. But I couldn’t have mistaken them. I was meant to say the same.
When she let go of me, she looked calm. “Do you really need to go?” I asked her, to which she shook her head and replied, “Not anymore.”
“Let’s get out of this building. It’s getting dark in here,” I said. And we took out our flashlights and climbed down the narrow stairs as the day turned darker outside.
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