What Follows

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11.2: Poets and White Coats

'it's been lovely. . . but you're draining my will to live'


I never thought the concept of a birthday through.

I mean besides the balloons and the overly enthusiastic smiles, it never really got to me how every birthday celebrated is a year closer to my deathday. It never got to me that all of that happiness and all those presents are basically very carefully taken note of.

To me, the idea of death is always linked to birth.

And so I wonder if the sadness we feel when someone dies is equivalent to the happiness we felt when they were born, to the glee we felt watching them blow their candles away, and I wonder if they get as many roses on their funerals as presents on their birthdays.

Because isn't that the point of death? To erase what has been created? To take what has been given? Equilibrium? Physics?

And I wonder if people like Tobias and I are abnormalities, something that terribly disturbs the balance. Because maybe the world wasn't ready to compensate for our loss.

And as I silently watch Tobias curled up in a fetal position in the corner of the room his mother just died in, I secretly hope to myself that he hasn't attended much of his mother's birthdays. I secretly hope he hasn't gotten too happy so that he wouldn't get too sad.

I secretly hope he's okay as I sit on the now-empty bed with Benji on my laps. What happened after the announcement of his mother's death was quite a blurry. People rushed in and about, phone calls to the 'family' members were made while Tobias took the time of his life staring at his dead mother with absolutely no facial expression.

And when his mother was taken away, Tobias didn't do anything but step away and curl into the corner with his thoughts.

And I let him be.

I never thought the concept of a birthday through.

I mean besides the balloons and the overly enthusiastic smiles, it never really got to me how every birthday celebrated is a year closer to my deathday. It never got to me that all of that happiness and all those presents are basically very carefully 'taken note of'.

To me, the idea of death is always linked to birth.

And so I wonder if the sadness we feel when someone dies is equivalent to the happiness we felt when they were born, to the glee we felt watching them blow their candles away, and I wonder if they get as many roses on their funerals as presents on their birthdays.

Because isn't that the point of death? To erase what has been created? To take what has been given? Equilibrium? Physics?

And I wonder if people like Tobias and I are abnormalities, something that terribly disturbs this balance. Because maybe the world wasn't ready yet to compensate for our loss.

And as I silently watch Tobias curled up in a fetal position in the corner of the room his mother just died in, I secretly hope to myself that he hasn't attended much of his mother's birthdays. I secretly hope he hasn't gotten too happy so that he wouldn't get too sad. I secretly hope he's okay as I sit on the now-empty bed with Benji on my laps.

What happened after the announcement of his mother's death was quite a blurry. People rushed in and about and phone calls to the 'family' members were made, while Tobias took the time of his life staring at his dead mother with absolutely no facial expressions.

And when his mother was taken away, Tobias didn't do anything but step away and curl into the corner with his thoughts.

And I let him be.

I let him be because as much as I know that people are supposed to be there for each other, I also know that pain is a private thing. That it needs to be dealt with alone. Alone until he's ready to share it.

So I do nothing and look at everything, especially the bed I'm seated on, the bed that wasn't only the witness of Tobias' mother last breaths, but maybe a couple hundreds' more before her. And that really does for some reason terrify me.

"You know-" Tobias' voice comes from the corner of the room and I do a double-take because I'm not sure I heard right. Is he really going to talk about it? Isn't it too soon?

"I tried figuring out the whole point of this-" His head is dropped between his knees and cradled in his hands, and his long, slender fingers infiltrate his bright red hair strands. "And you know, it's mainly pain-"

I stare at him, not sure of what to say, not sure if I should say anything at all.

He continues anyway. "I suppose the only mercy in pain is that one can feel his own pain and not that of the people closest to their hearts-" His voice catches and I try slowing down my suddenly quickened breaths. "But here?" He pauses. "I'm feeling everything. I'm feeling everyone's pain-" He sniffs. "I-I watched her die. For days. I watched her writhe in pain. I watched her in her worst moments. Alone. And maybe, I hoped I was there to make it easier for her.

"But that's not it. In fact, I hated-" He says. "I hated her." My jaw drops. He looks up, glances sideways in my direction, looks back down. "Don't look so surprised-" He says suddenly softly. "I only started liking her as a ghost. And it's the most ironic occurrence ever, I know.

"I killed myself because-" He starts and stops to inhale. He looks up at me, his teary, wide eyes lingering a bit on my unassuming figure. He then clicks his tongue. "Never mind actually, I'm sorry, I'm blathering, excuse me-"

"No, no-" I put out my hands suddenly causing Benji to jump off of my laps and onto the floor. "Please continue. Tobias."

Tobias throws back his head and looks at me sideways, his throat bobbing. His lips are shaped into what pain would look like. I almost scurry beneath the bed from the intensity of the waves of grief that are crashing toward me and filling the room with its bitter froth.

"It's the most ridiculous reason. I'm truly ashamed of it-" He says, stretching his left leg in front of him.

I blink at him and do nothing else because isn't this the whole point? To show you that whatever reason you'd kill yourself for is ridiculous, no matter how insurmountable it felt to carry it around when your heart knew blood and your lungs knew air?

"I loved my friends-" He says. "But- but I hated them. Mom and Dad-" He says slowly, in controlled breaths. "Yet, if I were to blame all of this on someone?" He pauses to squeeze his eyes shut and gulp. "I'd blame it on my impatient self-"

I narrow my eyes at him in confusion.

"Well, here's the thing about poets-" He says quickly with a sharp intake of breath, resting his elbow on his right knee. "We're a little impatient, a little too reckless, way too eager to experience, to feel way too deeply, to learn, even if it meant pain. We want- we want all the flavours life provides. We want to live it by our own rules-" He pauses for a while. "We above all-" He says. "We crave the freedom to do all of that. Freedom-" He sniffs, pinches his nose, attempts a smile at nothing in particular, fails.

"Well, it wasn't '2019'-" He says using air quotes. "Freedom meant a lot less-" He says slowly. "I had a... hard life. I was in a private high school, and unlike all my friends who enrolled because they had the money to, I got in with a scholarship. And my parents-" He shakes his head, sighs. "They were too hopeful. They expected me to keep up to the dreams that they failed to achieve. They wanted me to be so academically successful that I get another scholarship to Harvard. To become a doctor.

"I mean, I could've been a doctor if I wanted to, but my heart beats mad in wisps of poetry and hums of words. My heart wasn't made for anything else. It was my passion. English literature was the subject I looked forward to in my day. I didn't have the steady hands surgeons have and couldn't possibly imagine myself doing anything else but it.

"I've been dealing with strict parents all my life. This-this wasn't any different. This wasn't supposed to be any different-" He corrects himself. "My parents- Dad mainly, influenced by Mum, made it a point several times that I wasn't allowed to do poetry. That I should focus and focus only on that damned white coat-" He sniffs. "He would harass me every time by going on and on about all the sacrifices they made for me. Sacrifices I never asked for.

"And I suppose, at one point, I realized that I wasn't living for myself anymore-" He pauses. "I was just a mean to achieve their dreams. Not mine. And I refused to live a life that'd steal my heartthrob, I refused to settle. And you know, I never thought of suicide before. I never ever tried...hurting myself. I didn't really understand what could drive a person to such fate.

"Until one day, without any planning or second thoughts, I find myself in front of that bridge. It was the last time I felt anything, you know, and I pride myself that I still remember half of it. I remember how hot and sticky it was and how jumping into the water seemed quite appealing. How ironically cold it was to touch the bridge's rusty start and how tight my shoes were. I remember how it felt to sweat thoroughly through my shirt and past my eyebrows. I remember it all. And I remember that I was mostly... alone-" He shifts and rests his head on the wall.

"Maybe it's because technology sucked back then. Text messages weren't something common-" He gestures with his left hand. "And I'd like to think that that's why my friends weren't able to be there when I needed them the most. I'd like to think that people's lack of awareness regarding suicide back then was the reason why no one questioned the presence of a teenager on a bridge amidst the cars. So, yes, I was alone-" He nods exaggeratingly. "With my turbulent thoughts and I didn't know better because really, no one was there to advise me."

I close my eyes. "Tobias-"

"You know, there isn't much to do around here-" He says, cutting me off. "Truly. Except for thinking and thinking of excuses and more excuses to justify your reason. This one reason that really drove you to your end. And I know that what I did was very shortsighted and stupid. Very stupid-" He makes a face and shakes his head. "And truly, when your 47 years old soul is paying for your 17-year-old mistake, it does leave you regretful. Because I spent 30 cycles just thinking of other possible ways I could've solved my problem with."

I gulp. "And did you?"

Tobias turns to me, blinks. "Did I what?"

"Did you find other ways?" I ask cautiously and Tobias takes his time to smile, just to wipe it all away.

"Oh, like how I could've been both a doctor and a poet? Like how I could've just run away from my parents and done what I wanted? Like how I could've done anything, anything but end my life?" Tobias shakes his head. "I mean, I cannot possibly believe how killing myself was any easier than any of the previous options-"

"It's for the weakest-" I find myself saying as my fingers find my lips. "This choice is for the weakest."

"No, listen-" Tobias inhales deeply, coarsely. "For all my poetic flare, this choice was the least poetic. This choice meant completely giving up. I mean if I really did love poetry, if it was really my passion, I would've lived for it. So my choice was very irrelevant. It was pointless. I gave up."

"You did what you had to do-" I say pathetically.

"There should be a limit to the things one can do. Some options shouldn't even be options. There are things we shouldn't interfere with-" He shuts his eyes, taps his feet. "Things like death. Things that are way beyond us. We should know the challenges we're taking up. We should know when to stop and we should understand that there are things that are even worse than the reason you'd want to kill yourself for-"

"Like what?" I ask numbly.

Tobias turns to me, with frowning lips and glowing, hurt hazels. "Like feeling the pain of others."

"It does hurt-" I tell him, remembering Jacob. "It hurts a lot."

"What hurts more is not being able to help them out-" He says. "What hurts more is knowing that you're only given the 'privilege' of being a spectator. That you no longer have no say on anything-"

I sniff. "I hate this-"

"I hate how those people you knew have other sides to themselves that you could've loved them or hated them for-" He says. "I hate that I got to know the depth of my parents' love and care for me after I offed myself. I hate that I could've loved them if they showed me more understanding. I hate that they thought they were doing what was best for me, only to find my dead body floating, you know-"

I nod silently because even though I would like to agree, my scenario was quite different. My parents, in fact, didn't care at all.

"You had any siblings?" I ask instead.

"No-" He says. "Wish I did. Wish there was someone like that there for me."

My heart bruises a little, knowing that I was ungrateful for the blessing of having brothers. Even though we're not biologically related.

"At least we've got us-" I tell him and he stares at me for a while before scoffing.

"For a while, yes-" He says and looks away.

I wipe away at my eyes. "Forever," I say.

Tobias looks at me and inhales deeply. He then shakes his head and his eyes water again. "You know-" He chokes out. "I wish that could be true."

"It will be-" I say determinedly.

"I wish it was our choice, you know-" Tobias says steadily, tears falling down his cheeks.

My heart beats faster. "What do you mean?" I blink at him. "We have a choice. We always do-"

"Really? You think God would give us a choice when we didn't give Him a chance to better our lives?" Tobias says brokenly.

"God's merciful-" I choke out, my mind building up theories I don't want to believe, I don't want to believe, I don't want-

"We didn't believe in it now did we? When we were alive and suffering?" Tobias says.

"You're scaring me-" I say, my lips already quivering.

"Oh, there's nothing to be scared of-" Tobias tries saying indifferently. "In a cycle or two, you'll forget about me and I'll forget you too."

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