Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

There are people who can walk away unscathed from catastrophes of the heart. They let the daily ebb and flow of life wash away all the debris. They insist you should just walk on by so that you can live to tell many, many years after it happened. When the time comes, they retrace the steps without expecting a second chance; regard it as a cautionary tale for the young, eager and clueless. If you are going to give your heart away, they would tell you to give it instead to a medical school to benefit mankind. They are practical and sensible. They are role models.

And then, there are those who can never, never give up. It is inexplicable. It left an indelible mark, like a rust stain on your white shirt. Sometimes, that familiar ring tone or heady perfume scent can make you feel intensely, childishly excited and hopeful in a train station at rush hour or on a busy sidewalk on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes, you religiously visit places both of you used to frequent, hoping for the miracle that happened in so many movies to actually happen to you. Songs played on the radio make it so much harder to move on. You stubbornly cling on, defiant like the last remaining leaves on a dying tree.

Which category do you belong to?

Agony Aunts in dailies and magazines assure victims that with experience, wisdom and a defense mechanism will develop. Once you got over it, you will relegate everything into that dusty, musty box room in the mind along with those long forgotten high school Chemistry formulae or Algebra equations. Your first crush. Your first love. Your love at first sight. No big deal. It is just a rite of passage.

On the streets people may be pleasant, charming and sometimes quirky. But you feel nothing could cheer you up. In fact, almost each person you meet reminds you of someone even more and more. Once a while you may come across a look-alike, it feels like a surreal moment in a Wong Kar Wai movie or maybe a verse in a Carpenters song. You ask yourself, again and again, “Why we couldn’t be together?”

I’m moving from general to specific now. I’ll be honest. I am using the first person pronoun now. Welcome to my life – although you have seen glimpses of it many, many times before.

Hey, did you know that once I scribbled my phone number in a book you had lent me? Do you recall that afternoon in June when we watched Out of Africa for the Film Studies assignment? Remember how we fell in love with the opening score? Remember the aquarium scene in Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet? After watching Forrest Gump, you said if life were a box of chocolates, you would want yours to be Belgian dark, bitter yet exquisite – an acquired taste.

It is tragic that we come into contact painfully close every day. We talked. We keep on talking. We are only interested in facts, facts about the world – increased life expectancy, improved quality of life, increasing threat of terrorist attacks and natural disasters, the rising cost of living and dying, the increasing popularity of Valentine’s Day, the absurdity of politicians and their policies, the likelihood of the moon in becoming a honeymoon destination etc. etc.

People learn to live with defeat, or acceptance, depending on how you see it. They realise life is not a Hollywood romantic comedy. They settle down – maybe settle for less, further away from perfection and still thinking on that not-so-perfect special day of white lace and promises rained gentle, gentle confetti of granted wishes. We console our hearts, singing we’ve only just begun.

I wondered and I still do many things about you and me. What are your deathbed regrets? What could be mine? You are enjoying life – and I am happy for you. One day, after I’ve figured out how, I’ll gather what’s left to tell you what I cannot now. So for now, just to be close to you, I’ll appear nonchalant and we’ll keep talking about facts – facts about this fleeting world trampling the only fact that I want you to know.

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SHORT STORY | Help by Vernon Daim

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