When I'm Gone

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The ribbon clang on the carnation as if it held its life. As I watched it, I felt everything around me change. I couldn’t understand what was happening, but it seems as though the earth, the wind, the sky, and everything spoke to me and tried to explain the events that surrounded me. I was no longer holding my sister’s hand. In fact, I realized I saw everything and everyone at once. I saw all the people gathered at Beatrice’s funeral as if I was looking at them through a camera. I was floating in the air. I didn’t know I could do that. I didn’t know I was capable of doing such an extraordinary thing. But as I listened to my sister sob, I thought I understood why I could.

She was crying out my name and she was crying out Beatrice’s name. I called to her, but she couldn’t hear me. I realized no one was noticing me. I was soaring in the air and nobody can see me. I remembered auntie’s speech. I truly must have been an apparition, because as I continued to watch the scene that lay beneath me, I was flooded with a torrent of memories in my mind. They moved so fast, it was hard to catch one. But I can see images: the city, a hospital, a girl, a ribbon, a car, the sky, stars, flowers, carnations, a girl… They moved into my head as if I was a vacuum sucking in dust left behind by the past. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I noticed everything around me turned white. I was still floating, but I couldn’t see anything anymore.

I moved around and around until I saw patches of blue, and gray, and green, and before I knew it I was hovering above a city. It was a familiar place. Below, I could see people playing in the park, vendors handing out cotton candies to kids, men and women talking on their phones. My eyes scanned the crowd and it got stuck on the figure of a girl. She was young and her eyes looked like it had been sore for crying, or maybe she was rubbing on it too much. Beside her was a boy older than her, talking on the phone with the same look on his eyes. The little girl was clutching something in her hands, playing on it with her fingers. Like it was rehearsed, the wind blew and took the object the girl was holding along with it. The little girl didn’t think twice and tried to follow it, but she saw that it landed on the hands of a little boy across the street. For a moment, the two of them looked at each other. The little girl was about to move when the boy raised his hand forward. He was telling her, with his hands and his eyes, not to cross the street. Instead, the boy moved forward after seeing that the road was clear. When he reached the girl, he smiled and gave her the object: a red ribbon. The little girl said her thanks before walking away with his brother. She kept looking back at the little boy as they walked away. The boy looked at his parents on the other side and started crossing the street again. But he wasn’t successful this time. A car sped by without the boy noticing. I can hear the crash clearly as if it was stuck somewhere in the back of my mind. Later, his parents would scream at the sight of their son lying on the ground. The driver who hit the child would be arrested for drunk driving, and the little girl who looked back would see death for the second time around.

The next few instances were a blur. It was as if I was being teleported to another place. The color of the sky shifted, the clouds moved faster than they usually do, and the next thing I saw was a little boy lying on the ground. It was the same boy who just died. He was lying in a field of flowers. He looked at the scene around him. He didn’t know where he was. He noticed the white carnations surrounding him and he picked one. A few seconds later, a girl appeared and asked him for his name. But he doesn’t remember anything. The girl took her into her home and that was when I realized I had imagined this scene in my head before. This was the story my sister didn’t get to finish. After much thinking, I’d realize that this little boy would grow up to be me.

Like the memories, many forms of thoughts fit together in my head. It was as if I was looking at an imaginary jigsaw puzzle slowly forming a picture. For every second, I felt more and more aware of what truly has become of me. I realized the reason why my sister couldn’t finish her story was because she couldn’t bear to say that she knows someday I will be leaving them because I wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place, that the reason why she cried so hard when I was seven and Arthur brought me to her was because she was scared I had already left her then. I realized why I love the wind, the sky, the stars, the night, and all the natural forces so much: I have been one of them. They have carried me to places and brought me back from the doors of death. I realized why Beatrice would say that she could hear the earth speak to her, telling her that they’d take her one day. I realized the other time Beatrice stood dangerously close to death was of my accident. I realized now why she looked at me for quite a long time when we first saw each other. It must have been because she thought she recognized me. She must have had a lot of questions, she must have been scared. Oh, Beatrice must have been scared, thinking she’s being haunted by how the image of her friend was similar to that of a boy who died because he delivered her ribbon to her. That was probably why she didn’t wear it again on the following days.

There were still some more questions, however, that seemed to bubble up. Before I knew it, I was holding a mail in my hand. Inside it was a photograph and a letter. It was from Jonathan. The picture was of a plane: the plane we created together before I left for Christmas! Another detail was added to it, though. Jonathan had added a name for the plane and painted it in white letters across its surface. In the letter, Jonathan says:

“You know. You never once asked and so I didn’t feel the need to tell you. But amazingly, you had the same name as my little brother.”

The plane was called “Adam’s Airship”. Adam. My name was on the plane, and I loved the sound of it. I didn’t notice I was crying so much. I cried so much because the stories Jonathan had spoken about his brother was about me. I cried of how it must have been painful for him to see me and be reminded of his loss because when he called my name, he was thinking it should have been his brother instead. I was crying because we both didn’t know we are truly family. I was crying because I remembered how much he spoke about his brother and I get to know how much he truly loves me. I was crying because he kept the picture I didn’t know I drew a long time ago. I was crying because I realized he’s been cut off with mom and dad because of my death. When I think about the times I spent as I grew up with my second family, I feel sad because he must have been so lonely, and I was laughing because I was so loved.

In the midst of it all, I see Beatrice’s funeral once more. Below me, most of the people had already left. Only a few were left standing there. They were my second family, Arthur, and Auntie. Jonathan must have left already, which was sad because I wanted to see him together with everyone I loved. But first, there were things I have to do.

After standing for long minutes, Brielle and Arthur and the others decided to leave. I followed my sister as she and mom and dad walked towards our home. I decided to go first. When my sister opened the door to our house, silence greeted her. Mom and dad followed close behind. The three of them sat on the couch and looked at each other. It was mom who spoke first. She told the people in the room that the time has come and that they shouldn’t be crying about it because I would hate it to see them cry. She was right, I didn’t like to see them this sad. She sat next to my sister. Father did, too. They huddled together and thanked the stars for granting them there wish. They cried some more. I huddled together with them, but they can’t see me. I could only give them warmth.

When my sister went inside her room, I gave her a final present. As she slid open the door, the paper airplanes and the sailboats that hang on her ceiling was brought to life. They moved on their own and flew around the room. My sister was surprised at first, but I saw in her eyes that she knew I was there somewhere. She knew I was making it all happen, and as I have witnessed when I was a kid, she stood on her bed and she took it as center stage, twirling around as folded paper planes and boats floated around her. She lies back on the bed, laughing. A single paper plane landed on her hand. She unfolded it and she finds my letter for her. I have written it when she couldn’t see me anymore. I thanked her for her endless love and support. I told her to take care of mom and dad since I won’t be around anymore. I told her I was with them when they huddled in the couch. I told her she should thank me for bringing her and Arthur together. She laughed at that. I loved making her laugh. Outside, my parents also found a paper plane on the kitchen table. They unfold it and read the letter I wrote for them together. I see them smile and I see them hold back tears. I thanked them for being great parents and I thanked them for showing me the world.

A few miles away, Jonathan was already in his workplace. He stood there, looking at the final masterpiece we both made together. I watched him as he slowly sat on the miniature plane. I smiled when I saw that he was sitting on the back. He’d said I was the pilot, after all. He stayed there for a few minutes. He closed his eyes and when he opens them, he realized he was flying. He was flying with the plane we created! He saw me seated in front and he almost fell from both awe and from crying too much. He patted me on my head and I thank him for building my dream plane. He smiled at me and said he couldn’t have done it without me. For a while we just floated in the air. My brother didn’t care if it was real or not. He must have been thinking he was just dreaming. We didn’t speak. We had exchanged enough words when we worked together. That was probably why I loved hearing his stories. That was definitely why he felt like home. He was family and that was that. I decided to land on a particular place. My brother had his eye closed most of the time, feeling the cold air surround him. When he opened his eyes, I was already gone. In his hands was a paper plane. He unfolded it and he read my words. I told him he should not be alone anymore. I told him he should not blame mom and dad anymore. I told him that family is comfort. He clutched the letter in his hand. He took a deep breath and started moving forward. He knocks on the door and finds mom and dad waiting for him inside. All of them had tears in their eyes and they all huddled up together in one big hug. I join them and my brother hugs tighter.

I’ve noticed now there was something special about Jonathan. I was thinking at which point did I actually disappear? It was definitely when I fell into the sea, when auntie saw me. I was practically invisible at the moments after that. But he saw me when I was alone in the house. We even talked. I realized he have known by then. Brielle had probably already told him at the hospital when they were seeing Beatrice about the strangeness of how I came to this world. He must have pieced the strangeness together in his head. The suit he inserted under my pillow was probably his, and the suit he wore was given by Arthur, after lying to him that he didn’t bring any. I wouldn’t be fooled at that. I know Jonathan always carries a suit with him in his bag. He was aware nobody could see me in my final moments before I was completely conscious of my situation. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t search for answers. I was happy just as it is.

After everything, I found myself sailing in my own boat. Overhead, I saw the vastness of the sky, the majestic clouds surrounding me like cotton, the color of the sun painting the scene with a warm glow. I took a peek below and I saw two fourteen-year old kids in a cave. I saw the waves splashing against the rock and I saw how the girl fell into the water. I saw how the boy followed the girl and dove straight down. I maneuvered my sailboat and in a moment I was going down. Down, down until the hull reached the surface of the water. In that instant, the sea was brought to life. The waters were brimming with excitement. The sea floor was bursting with colors. I dove down, like the boy did, and swam towards the two figures. The young me didn’t know how to swim yet. Beatrice and I didn’t learn back then. I grabbed the boy and whispered into his ear. I told him he should not disappear yet and he should not take her with him yet, because the purpose of this grand mechanism would be lost if he could not see her performance. That performance of a lifetime came by years later. In a dream, or perhaps it was real. I realized now everything was possible for me, from teleporting to being in two places at once. I brought the two of them safely to shore and I sailed away before they grew conscious.

I sailed the sky for what seemed like forever. I was replaying the things that I have been through all the years, how I died and was brought back to pursue a mission. On the far shore, I saw Beatrice. There, in full beauty, she stood on the sand, watching the waves come to her and looking at me the way you look at someone you’ve been waiting your whole life for. I reached out my hand to her, and she took it without hesitation. I pulled her up and in that moment both of us stood face to face. She tied her hair with a red ribbon, the same ribbon that tied both of our lives together. She stood closer towards me and planted a kiss on my lips. Even after death, I could feel the love that coursed through my body. We both sailed away, towards the stars in the twilight sky.

My sister once told me there are ships that sail in the sky and that they only appear at the most magical of times. She’d said that they carry those who are lost, those who are gone. By the time the stars witness a man put a ring around a girl’s finger and the clouds hold back their tears as the lovers share a kiss, Beatrice and I are long gone, but the world is right in its place.

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