~listen to a person when they look at you, not just when they’re talking to you~
I am not in the ‘Darkoom’. No, not this time.
And funnily I don’t even know where I am. All I know is that I am ‘standing’ in a small, yellow-lit ‘room’. More of an attic made into a room, really. And it’s apparently a stereotypical teenager boy’s room with Marvel posters everywhere and some smart-looking, historical shit stuck on the walls (maps, things about the development of the first telescope, and vomit-inducing thingies about the solar system).
The messy bed next to huge, sticker-covered windows is messy with a few open books scattered on it. Beneath the windows stands a table, heaved down by a ton of books and a switched-on desk lamp.
I step back and notice a telescope and a clock shoved beneath his bed. It really looks like I’ve landed in some genius’ room, and maybe it’s some kind of miscalculation from God, cause all the people I knew were dumb as fuck.
I cross my arms across my chest and roll my eyes. Now, what? Spending alone time in a crappy, stinky room is my sort of punishment? Yes, it stinks like food and sweat, and I wonder if its occupant is even human to survive such stuffiness.
And then out of nowhere, the attic’s ladder is pulled down right where I stand, but somehow I don’t fall and just remain ‘floating’ on spot and this realization doesn’t freak me out. Nothing freaks me out anymore. I move (or wade?) away and look down curiously at the inhabitant that needs to understand the definition of hygiene.
I am met by huge, green eyes in black-framed glasses. I am almost intrigued until I remember his room’s stench. He climbs up, two steps at a time, and I raise my eyebrows at his dark, messy hair.
Once he’s in the attic, his nose crinkles, and he shakes his head.
Oh, a functioning nose? Thank God.
I have to gasp at how tall this guy is. He even has to stoop in his pyjamas that he immediately strips off to his boxers, oblivious to my ‘spiritual’ presence or whatever. He then approaches his window and yanks it open, exposing a starless night sky.
I am left his untoned back to watch as I await my ‘suffering’ that I am so looking forward to because I’ve no idea how a guy I don’t even know can hurt me. I scoff as he turns around, sighs, takes off his huge glasses and throws them on his bed. He rubs his eyes, and when he drops his hands away, I’m impressed by how handsome this guy is without the glasses that really ate most of his facial features away.
He unknowingly gets closer to me, and I am almost creeped out by how close we are and how small this attic is. He then drops on the bed with a loud creak. I glance at the clock that he kept crammed beneath is bed and purse my lips when I realize it’s midnight.
So I can exist in many places at the same time? Or no, I can be sent to different places at the same time? I don’t even know how this shit works anymore because it was also just midnight when I arrived at Sierra’s.
I stare at this stranger on the bed who now has his nose tucked into a book that I squint to read its title. History of the Peloponnesian War.
“Who the hell reads about war?” I whisper distastefully under my breath as I watch him focus on the text. His thick eyebrows furrowed and his lips turned down in focus.
Hm. A nerd, of course. His phone chimes a notification, but he continues reading, utterly unaffected by it.
Well, a nerd gotta be a nerd.
After almost half an hour of watching him read- a well-thought-of punishment, cause I almost re-died from eternal boredom- he snaps the book shut with a sigh and a small smile. He then stretches his long arm across the bed to reach for his phone that rested on his cluttery desk.
He uses his other hand to push back his hair that obscured his eyes and switches on the phone. A minute later, his hand doesn’t leave his hair as it normally should’ve and his facial expression is fixed to emptiness.
I shift uneasily in my spot as his eyes widen when he promptly sits up, leaving his phone unlocked on the bed. He looks down, a hand on his bare chest, his breaths fastening and deepening. I watch him curiously, closely.
His lips part open, and he looks up. The grief his face carries shocks me to breathlessness. He quickly darts up and shuffles to his desk, now breathing loudly and disorientedly. I numbly watch him shake his mob of dark hair before he swipes everything off his desk, the books falling down with one loud thud after the other
I flinch, and he turns to me, eyes red-brimmed and teary. He walks right through me, and I gasp, quickly turning to find him rummaging through his impossibly tiny, broken closet. He’s gasping for breaths and turning to me, red-faced and helpless when the attic ladder is forcefully pulled down.
I shriek, startled as the guy drops to his knees in front of the opening in the ground.
“William?" A woman’s concerned voice comes from down, and I watch on my toes.
“Mom-Mom-!” He gasps out throatily, as he curls his right hand’s fingers and moves his thumb down as if he’s pressing on something.
“Your inhaler?!” His mother gasps back, and William nods, now using his right hand to press on his chest.
By the rapid succession of footsteps, I know that his mom has left to fetch it for him. William remains on the ground, fighting for his breaths as tears leave his eyes in abundance. I watch his dark, messy hair stick to his sweaty forehead and bite down on my lip.
I feel sorry for him.
In a minute or two, his mom has climbed up the ladder and is sitting, sprawled next to her son, a hand on his shoulder and the other forcing the inhaler up his mouth. William’s whole body shudders as he takes the inhaler with both of his hands, presses it, and breathes in very, very deeply.
His mother, a thin, tall lady in her mid-forties, looks really concerned as she watches her son’s breathing calm as his tears continue to stream down his red face. She looks behind her, assessing the damage her son has done before she sighs heavily.
William’s shoulders relax as he drops the inhaler next to him with a final deep breath.
“Baby, what happened?” His mother looks at him with her wide hazel eyes, and he looks back at her with frowning, quivering lips.
“Roseline-” He breathes out, shaking her head. “You know, Roseline?”
His mother looks as taken aback as I must look too right now. “What about her, love? What have- at such a time-?”
How does he know me?
William takes a deep breath and shakes his head, clasping his shaky hands. He then gulps and looks at his mom. And then very calmly and collectedly, he says, “I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“You were not breathing right-”
“I’m sorry-” He presses, pushing himself off the ground. “It’s -uh- ridiculous-”
I raise my eyebrows.
“I don’t think anything that would cause you this is ridiculous, Will.”
William averts his gaze and sighs. “She’s -uh- she’s got a new boyfriend-”
William’s mom tsks, and I almost chuckle humorlessly. So apparently in William’s dimension, I’m alive and quite a go-getter. Interesting. But why did he lie? I’m sure that text he got was about my suicide.
"Well-" His mom sighs. “We’ve had this discussion before, Will. If it’s meant to be-”
“It’ll be, I know-” He says. “I was- I overreacted-”
William’s mom looks at him curiously, and I know that she knows that he’s lying, but she doesn’t press.
“Will-” She locks his eyes. “You know that you can always talk to me about anything, right?”
“And William, how many times have I told you not to forget taking your inhaler wherever you go? How many times, Will?”
“I don’t know-” William replies absently as he gulps down more air.
“Of course you don’t. But I can count how many heart attacks you keep giving me-”
William smiles down at her sheepishly but fails to conceal his watering eyes. “I apologize-”
“I’m gonna leave you now-” She says while glancing around the room. “You better clean this up-” She tells him. “And talk to Sam. Try to forget about Roseline. Don’t let her consume your thoughts... and your lungs-” She points at his chest with a weary smile.
William smiles brittly at her, ruffling his hair.
“And switch on the fan-” She scrunches her nose, pointing at the fan that he hid next to his desk. “Your room smells like rat’s ass-”
“Take a shower-” She commands, and he purses his lips, looking down.
“I don’t stink-”
“A cold shower to freshen you up and help you get over her-” His mom smirks.
“Thank you, Mom-”
“Keep your inhaler under your pillow, so you wouldn’t misplace it.”
“Okay, son-” She smiles at him. “Go to sleep. It’s a school’s night-”
“Goodnight, honey-” She then tells him, pecking his forehead, and he nods, wiping the kiss away.
His mom then climbs down before he helps her pull up the ladder. When he’s all alone, with the inhaler lying carelessly next to him, he gets up with a heavy sigh and reaches for his school bag that I immediately recognize.
It’s the bag I’d usually find in a garbage can at school. It’s the ‘asthmatic kid’s bag’ as everyone would refer to it as. I gasp loudly. He’s the one person everyone talks about. He’s the constantly bullied one.
I tilt my head and curiously watch him retrieve a leather notebook from it. I’ve never seen him before, and that’s perhaps because he attends different classes. He’s a history geek while I was a science-lover.
He sits on the ground, resting his back against his bedpost, stretching his long legs in front of him and pushing some of the fallen books out of the way. He flips the notebook open, and with a pen, much smaller than his hand and fingers, he starts writing.
He looks so focused, his eyebrows drawn and his shoulders tensed. I wonder what is it that he’s writing that’s taking him so long. But I watch him. I watch him shake his head and nod randomly while he writes. I watch him, shift, and clear his throat occasionally. And I watch him once pull his inhaler close to him as if he’s contemplating using it again. Next thing I know is that he drops the pen when it’s two in the morning.
He then pushes his head back and closes his eyes.
I ignore his tear-stained cheeks and stare at the book, resting on his laps. When his arms slide off his little belly and onto the floor, I know he has slept. I shake my head, not knowing what’s the point of this whole time waste.
But I know that as long as I haven’t disappeared back to the ‘Darkoom’ (I can’t believe I’m sparingly using this word), my purpose isn’t over here yet.
I glance at the book on his laps and know what I have to do. I stare at his pale countenance and parted lips, and know that he’s a goner. I get on my knees and crawl toward him.
Very carefully, I lift the book from his lap and place it on mine. I sit cross-legged next to him, and with a deep breath (I honestly don’t know how it works cause how can I have lungs without a heart? I sometimes think that I really don’t have lungs and that air is the only way my brain releases its anxiety. And, oh? Do I even have a brain?), I flip open the first page.
‘William’s Journal’ is the only thing written cursively in the blank, off-white page. There isn’t anything that says to ‘stop reading’ or ‘private’ or shit like that, and I know that I’m holding something really serious.
I flip the journal open where the tiny pen was kept and simply read. His handwriting, convoluted yet quite beautiful even with its smudges, fills a whole, tear-stained page.
’Sometimes I wonder if the ocean is a being. Like a human. I wonder today if it can feel pain like I do. I wonder when our powerful brains manage to rip its floor apart by the machines we’ve created, does it feel the pain? Does it get ‘broken’?
I wonder if it feels suffocated when something it holds grows way bigger than it should’ve. Like a shark. I wonder if this shark leaves it breathless and anoxic. Yet I marvel at how the ocean is still so forgiving and giving.
I wonder if the ocean’s like me.
I wonder if Roseline knows what she’s doing to me. Does she know that she’s my shark? Does she know I exist? Did she know I was getting breathless? But hey, I’m nothing like the ocean. I’m so much insignificant.
I’m that little fish that can’t breathe good enough to live. I am that fish that’s affected by how much space this shark has taken up. Roseline. Oh, Roseline, you were growing in me, blooming and blooming. And you never, ever noticed. You never knew how much you meant to me. And now? You’re gone.
And unlike any natural law, she keeps growing in me. She doesn’t die away. I don’t, no- I can’t stop loving her. And she wouldn’t, no, she’d never notice me.
I keep telling myself that I’m too young for such love. That it’s pathetic, and I’ll easily overcome it. But how can I, when it fills every inch of me? When it has given me a taste of grief I never thought was possible.
Only the unloved kill themselves. And I loved her. I loved her, so why? Why did she kill herself? Why didn’t fate intervene and let her find me? I was always there watching her, but she was always consumed by the jerks who never appreciated her. Why didn’t she look in my way even once?
I am sure that if she had looked in my eyes, she would’ve felt my love. She wouldn’t have killed herself. I could’ve saved her, and I didn’t. I loved her but she didn’t. And I’m so hurt, but I’ll sleep it off. I can’t afford to be awake to witness such pain.
Roseline is no longer my shark. She disappointed me in impossible ways. She’s the floating plastic that suffocates me now. Dead, floating and pathetic. I hate her for what she’s done.
I’ll never forgive her for being blind to all the love she’s been given.′
I snap the book shut, gasping at how harsh his words are. I glance at a sleeping William and my lips part. I sniff, trying to remember anything, but I can’t remember him. I was always too consumed taking mental notes at how people hate me, to the extent that I’ve forgotten the hope that love still exists.
I never met his beautiful emeralds, I’ve never seen anything but Joshua’s hell of love.
I brush the leather notebook with my fingers and sigh. So this is my punishment, huh? Finding out that someone loves me the way I want to be loved when I’m way too gone to do anything about it?
I sniff and replace the book back on his lap, my non-existent heart, broken for him. For us. I look at his face and know who, no, what I really am. I am that nuisance of a plastic. That’s my worth for everyone.
I get up and stand next to the light switch. Before I switch off the lights, I reach for his blanket and spread it over him. I then switch them off and darkness drenches us.
Only my darkness is moving.