When watching tears cascade down your cheeks, the map of harm I have caused stretches out before me. There in your sniffles are the hopes for a history of love that could have played out between us. There in your cracked lips are a story of failure and regret. It wasn’t the tale we imaged in the beginning of all this. We used to be close but here, at your side, I have never felt more distant.
As you continue to drive, I try to pick each piece of the map from your tears. They are wet and slippery, but maybe if I can put them back together, all this could change. If so, then maybe I can find a way back into your heart. I ask for your help. You’re silent. I join in. I let the silence take over because this silence isn’t an absence of words. It is a silence where the words are just barking out so loud that they transcend sound itself. One word hoots above them all. Fuck. You don’t like to swear, but it’s alright now because I’m just afraid as you are.
Sitting in the passenger seat as we drive on to some destination we wish we didn’t have to, you turn on the radio. What is love plays back mockingly. If there ever were a soundtrack to a heartache, it certainly wouldn’t be this. You turn it off. I sit still waiting for something else to come my way. Maybe I’m waiting for you to look me in the eyes again. Maybe I’m waiting for you to say “it’s okay.” Maybe I’m just waiting.
I remember before when we just sat in the sand as the sun beat down onto us. We always sprawled out on towels and carved our dreams into the canvas of sand. Every time we went to the beach, I chose to be logical. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then I would always choose a stick and scribble your name into the sand. The waves of indomitable water rolled on indifferent to the act of vandalism on its shores. I wrote your name again. Still, the waves brushed themselves back and forth nonchalantly. Did I expect otherwise? Did I hope that by writing your name in the Earth, we’d blossom and the world would take notice?
As if an answer to my question, the letters of your name faded away in the wind. I broke the stick in frustration. During those moments, I wish I could have given you more. Sand is just broken down rock, and I didn’t want to see us break down. I never wanted to write this. So as if to transfer the dream scribbled in the sand, I murmured, “Sand may not be everlasting, but one day, I promise you that when I see wet cement that wants to be something more than a sidewalk, I will etch our names into Forever.” All of a sudden, as if my vocal vibrations set off a mechanism to awake you, you would turn around. You’d smile. You’d scrunch your face like a sponge absorbing happiness and sunlight.
Back to now, back to forever, you keep your eyes on the road. It’s all relative, you used to say. Frames of reference make life an optical illusion. Change the scenario, change the speed, and stare at something long enough, and nothing is ever the same. Twins can become years apart. Cats can die or they can’t. Sometimes we don’t know which it is. So goes the trove of physics. But one physical phenomena stands more prominent than anything else: when one becomes two. The double-slit experiment, you told me one day. The miracle when an electron becomes two by the act of observation.
Unfortunately, despite the simplicity of your explanation, all I thought about was that somewhere underneath those clothes of yours, you had a slit I’d like to double. Sure it was immature, but it didn’t take a physicist to realize how much of a child I remained. So in my childhood immaturity, I continued to carve into the sand again and again, hoping that it would keep you and I together as if by a dream. You tried it too. You wanted to stay together for a while at least. Or at least you did because somehow on a cold December night in my bed, we became “us”.
Us. The word rings around my head. It’s hard to think about it now. Two letters, when put together in a magical formula, become one. I try to think beyond the letters but all that happens is that I feel as if oxygen is somehow drowning my lungs from saying the right words. So instead I wonder whether when we used to say “us”, did two really become one or was it all just an optical illusion – some trick of physics. If was a trick of physics, then I must be at the edge of the Universe because I constantly separate farther and farther away from you. You’d remind me though, even the Universe had a Big Bang it remembers; one that it is tied to. I think back to our first Big Bang. We were so close. We shared a sleeping bag. I was drunk. There was nothing but darkness, just like the beginning of time. That should have been the only physics we learnt.
But we learned more. As we aged, it must have been the philosopher in our hearts who kept saying that it was gravity that was getting us down. So we threw rocks off cliffs to see if gravity could last. Yours always hit a tree. Mine always hit the ground. Then we’d run around at the very edge, attempting to see over the cliff because you’d always tell me how the edge was different from the inside. On the edge, you’d see things differently, things that you could never imagine seeing on the inside. Once we got so close to the edge that just with one wrong breath, we’d both come tumbling down to our death. And we thought we saw it: our death, but just before we could, I’d almost push you off as a joke. You’d laugh. Waterfalls fell down below, somewhere. They seemed to match your laugh. We found them to check. Dipping our feet into the water, our reflections congealed and we became one mirror; together. We jumped in the water and swam with our clothes on. We were mermaids lost in this aquarium of a world covered by ozone instead of glass, oxygen instead of water.
The car rumbles on. The gas is nowhere near empty, but I am sure that I hear a few coughs in the muffler. Or maybe it was just me. I mean, it is I who is empty. I was the one who lied. Why did I do it? Why did I keep doing it? What did I ever gain? Was each little thorn of a lie an attempt to save you from getting hurt or maybe to save you from some fate unbeknownst to you? Unlikely. Your tears say otherwise. They always do. You don’t even wipe your face. I don’t wipe it either. So the tears fall in between us and I swear I could dive into them and never reach the surface.
One day your dad stared down at me. You had gone upstairs, crying. His unseeing eyes saw enough to know that this – us – wasn’t working. He told me something I’ve never told you. He said, “The sun tells a majestic tale of persistence. Every day it rises. Every day it sets. But in the marginal time in between, where darkness gives way to light and light gives way to darkness, it feels as though the light could go on forever. The question pronounces itself then, ‘Can it?’ And we are left to wonder why a plant bends towards the light and what moves faster: the speed of darkness or the speed of light?”
The same night, I wondered about the answers. I stayed up searching in the darkness but nothing helped. So I waited for the sun to rise and yet, it too provided none. As it rose in the morning, it did so unconditionally. Each and ever ray was a reflection of the sun’s plentiful generosity. The world revolved around it. Plants grew because of it. Life needed it. But then darkness fell some time later that night. Then the sun rose again, and the two continued their ancient battle until time itself would end.
A few days later as I was basking in the sun, I figured out what your dad meant: the sun lies. Every day it does. For just when you believe that it is light that will prevail, darkness enshrouds you. Darkness and light must both exist in order to live, in order for the plant to give way to the animal, in order for the animal to give way to us. Without darkness, the world would be nothing but a crucible burning from the sun. So I guess what he told me was lying was necessary; the sun couldn’t shine on forever. I wish he didn’t because I slept with my light on that night.
The air-condition whips my face in a fury of cold, unforgiving slashes. Each one whispers sweet nothings in my ear of what the car would do to have wings. The car tells me it would love any other car completely and honestly. Whatever the other car would say, it would do. So I ask it back. Would you drive to Las Vegas? “Simple.” Pick up 30 clowns? “Piece of cake.” Fly to the moon? “Well, a car can’t do that,” it says. “Even cars have their limitations. A car is just a car, you know?”
But it did tell me that it would do anything to have wings. Oh how it would change. It would tear off its tires just to know what it means to fly and get off the ground it trudges on every day. I try to get your attention to this talking car but you keep driving oblivious to the car’s lament. I don’t blame you though. You don’t even know my name. A human is just a human, you know? The human you know – or should I say knew – left, I guess. You, however, wonder where he went. So that human – he – thinks long and hard, and he remembers he left you on the street twice before. You saw his back fading away until nothingness was all you knew. I think that’s what he became. Nothing. From us to nothing.
I would say I’m sorry for it, but I have misused those words so many times. They come out like a serpents tongue now: instinctive, harsh, and forever ssss-orry. So my tongue slithers a different chant, “You don’t deserve me. My lies. Every single one a production of the emptiness between us…” And as my tongue continues to slither in order cut the pieces of big silence between us into small talk, I am greeted only by tears flowing like a crack in a dam that has already been patched up too many times, by trembling hands that shake enough to make a hummingbird jealous, and by a distance where two parallel lines need to get to in order to finally meet.
It is then where I finally understand why a flower must bend towards the light. Sometimes, we must go our own way in search for a brighter day. Soon, we reach the breathless infinity of where we want to be and where we are. I bend to get out of my seat. You drive off. You never look back. It is sunny.