When I'm Gone

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Tennis Elbow

That was the last time Beatrice and I went to the cave together. The news of our accident didn’t let my parents permit the exploration again. Something else had changed since then, too. After that, we didn’t see each other as often as we did before. It wasn’t as if the elders didn’t let us, but the world had grown by then and there were things we were supposed to do. I, for example, had been the one who’d go to the town and buy the supplies we’d need. I was capable of doing it by then, and it didn’t feel nice to still let my parents do all the work. Beatrice had stayed back with her aunt, too. It didn’t bother her at all how she was always alone at weekdays. She had some stuff to do herself. She’d watch over their house and she’d even started planting on their backyard. She’d come to our house still, and I’d go to theirs because she’d practice alone in her bedroom. I’d bring some scripts my sister had brought home on films and plays she’d appeared in.

It was great news for me. I had never expected she’d tread on the path I suggested her back when we were younger. She’d told me once how I’d helped much in changing her. She’d gained a lot more confidence and she’d become quite talkative. We’ve grown much closer than the closeness we’d had since we’ve met, but I have to admit that was also the time the world was slowly pulling us apart. We were seventeen when we made a promise that we’d not let distance diminish our friendship by even the slightest inch. That promise came with the consequence that we’d have to let the world do its part on our lives first and wait until we’d be old enough to tell the world to stop.

My sister rarely comes home by then. She practically has a place of her own in the big city. It was a different city from the one where we’ve seen her first live acting. We had to go through long bus rides and switch vehicles twice to get there. That city had a different name and it was much bigger than the last one I’ve been to. Arthur would come home when she’s away. And my sister would be around when Arthur has gone. There rarely is a time when all of us could stay in a single place at the same time. I was about to live in that same place my sister is in, too. At that point in my age, I had to think about what I’m going to do in the future. Beatrice had decided she’d follow my sister’s path, while I was still a bit confused. Unlike any other kids, Beatrice and I have not gone to school. We’ve been taught to read and count and do basic mathematics by our siblings in our homes. Finding a job would be hard. But my sister knows how much I loved airplanes, and I was lucky to know that she’d met a friend in that place who’s as obsessed as flying as I was.

He was an aircraft designer under a private company which makes planes. He was also an engineer, though I didn’t know why he stayed on the design team. His name is Jonathan. I couldn’t forget the first time he showed me his workplace. There were sketches and diagrams of planes and helicopters and jets that filled up his walls. Wooden figures hang on the ceiling. The amount of detail on every single one of it was astounding. He had books on his shelves which contained pictures of all the planes done in history and lots and lots of information about flying. On times he’s not at work, Jonathan would stay at his little workshop and build miniature planes. He happily accepted me as his assistant. I didn’t know what I’m exactly supposed to at that moment, but there was this kind of satisfaction on his face when I pulled out the papers of my own designs.

His work requires a lot of travelling. My job would be to stay in his shop and to keep his work safe. He’d also ask me to draw some designs while he’s gone. He’d take me with him sometimes, though. Because of that, I rode on my first plane. My first time soaring in the air was with him. My face was stuck on the window the whole time. It was a marvelous experience. I would have loved it more if I could actually touch the clouds outside. I felt embarrassed then because I was so excited. But Jonathan just smiled without telling me to stop. He’d told me instead he was like me the first time he rode a plane, too. He’d said he wanted to reach his hand out. The people from his company doesn’t really approve of this habit of taking me. He introduces me as his little brother, and that there should be no problem anyway because he was paying for me. I knew then that those people don’t have any assistants and that they have no use of one at all. Jonathan didn’t need any assistant at all, too. I questioned my importance then.

They’d go to different countries and meet with a lot of people. Meetings are held everywhere. There are interviews of the sort, a lot of paperwork, contracts, and legalities and etcetera. Although I found his job fascinating, I can’t deny the fact that it is tiring and draining. I have lived in the countryside for too long; the first time I’d been in the city was quite overwhelming for me. My sister had brought me a cellphone and it took me quite some time before I got used to it. It was true. People are always moving there. Even though I stay with my sister in the same apartment, I can’t sleep well because I still wasn’t used to the environment. I still have to climb a lot of stairs If I wanted to get a clear sight of the night sky, and even in the roof of the buildings, the view wasn’t the same as it is back home. I missed the home-cooked meals because sometimes my sister and I are both too busy that we don’t have time to cook. We’d have to buy ourselves food from shops or diners nearby.

Beatrice was also starting with her jobs. She’d apply for many auditions and wait before the call comes in. It wasn’t as easy for her to get a job instantly, because unlike me, her brother was away and knows no one from the big city to refer her to some kind of a Broadway Agency. I’ve never seen her again once we’ve both stepped along the grown-up life. I miss her so much. I miss my home so much. I miss my parents and I miss Arthur too. I’d talk to my sister about it and we’d both share this hollow feeling inside. In those times, we’d buy a pad of paper and make planes and boats out of them and we’d let them fly over our heads and land into the concrete floor. We’d play like we used to, even if we weren’t small then as we were before. That was the only thing that made us feel truly home.

Things are doing fine in my job, at least. I’d grown much closer to Jonathan over the years. One time, he showed me a piece of paper he’d kept in a box. The paper was clearly old and I was afraid it’d tear by the slightest touch. He unfolded it gently and drawn on it was a simple model of a plane. I didn’t know why he kept it so securely and dearly when I’d seen thousands of models he created that were a lot better than the one on the paper. But at that night, he shared to me his past. He told me the answer to a question I’ve always wanted to ask, of how despite all the success he has gained, there was this kind of sadness that always seemed to reside in his eyes.

He had a brother once. Years ago, he’d lost him when the little boy got hit by a car. He wasn’t there when it happened, only his parents. He was still back at school after receiving a scholarship to study at a prestigious school. But he didn’t even have time to get too excited. He’d received a call that his brother was in the hospital afterwards. When he arrived there, the little boy only had a few seconds left to live. He said he couldn’t forget his brother’s smile when he came to the room. He couldn’t forget his last words either: “Build my plane for me”, said right before he closed his eyes. The little boy had wanted to see his brother one last time before finally leaving life with his request. Jonathan cried so much then. He’d never been so sad. I felt sad myself, for I had remembered the time when I saw my sister sitting on our porch after reading two letters. I can’t help but think about how similar their situations were. But Jonathan’s was worse. He’d lost his brother forever.

The sketch on the old paper was the plane his little brother was talking about. It was something they both designed just a few months before the little boy’s departure. The plane should’ve been easy to make. It didn’t have all the complex parts in it. But Jonathan wanted to make sure he’d build it perfectly. Slowly, but with all the details his little brother had told him about. Jonathan showed me a secret room in his workplace, and there I saw his unfinished masterpiece. There were still lots to do about it. It wasn’t a very big plane, just enough where two kids could fit inside. It was made only of wood, too. After all, it wasn’t made to fly. It was supposed to be some sort of a toy Jonathan’s little brother would play with in his imaginations.

Jonathan asked me to help him with it. I felt very privileged about it because it seemed to me that the things he told me about his brother was a secret he doesn’t let anyone know, and the things he’d do in fulfilling his brother’s wish was something that I should not be a part about. We’d talk as we worked. I asked him about his parents and he’d answer. Ever since he started working, he had never seen them again. He’d been mad at his parents, after all. They were supposed to look after his little brother then. Two of them, yet they still couldn’t even keep their child safe.

He said his parents were the kind of ones who couldn’t spend a lot of time with their children because of their work. That was why Jonathan loved his brother very much. Jonathan was the only company the little boy had whenever their parents were away. He’d said that until then, his parents still call him all the time, asking him how he is or what he’d been doing lately. He’d answer the calls, at least, but he wouldn’t accept the invitations of coming home. He was determined not to see their faces because of anger and disappointment. That was the case on the earlier years, but as time passed, he’d also felt ashamed of himself for being such a selfish son. That just pushed him to avoid going home, for he did not know what to tell his parents when he’d meet them again.

I liked to listen to him talk, even though his story would always bring me sadness. Well, sometimes he’d tell stories of happiness. He’d make jokes that never fail to make me laugh. It felt good to have found a friend in that big, live city – someone who wasn’t drowned out in all the latest trends, who’d found solitude amidst all the movement. Whenever he spoke, at least, I forget that there are cars honking outside. I forget that there are people smoking and drinking at clubs nearby. I forget that I’ve grown quite old. And most of all, I don’t even think for once that I am far away from home.

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