When I'm Gone

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Take Me Somewhere Nice

As I stood there watching Beatrice breathe slowly into the mask on her nose, the only sound that could be heard was the constant beep of the monitor. I didn’t move, I didn’t say anything. For the first time in my life, silence haunted me. Arthur was sitting on the small couch beside the hospital bed. He looked at her sister, eyes made glassy by the thoughts that ran inside his head. I couldn’t look at Arthur for too long because I would have done the crying for him. Beatrice was the only family he had left. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like as she held on to his sister’s hand. If only gripping on someone with all your strength made sure they wouldn’t leave.

I walked closer towards her, hoping the sound of my steps would make her move the slightest inch. Even a little flutter of her eyelids would have sufficed, but I was already beside her, and she was still sleeping. I looked at Arthur and I remembered how he’d told me everything about Beatrice just the night before. He’d said their parents leaving this world wasn’t the only time Beatrice had gone dangerously close to the edge. Perhaps this wasn’t the first time Beatrice was sent to the hospital in this condition. She’d made it through, then. I can only hope that miracles come more than once.

I was about to speak when the door burst open. In came auntie, who was already swelling up with tears. She sat beside her nephew and held him like a mother. Arthur looked at her and she looked back. I could not decipher how much sadness and anxiety hung between both of them. It felt like a private moment, but I didn’t leave. I wouldn’t leave. I can stay there all night and watch over Beatrice with Arthur. I don’t care about never taking a rest at all. I wanted to be there when Beatrice opens her eyes. I want to make sure she can cry as much as she wants, and that she can hold someone how long she wants. I wanted to talk to Beatrice, I really wanted my voice to reach her despite all the walls that’s been building themselves for every second we stayed there in silence.

But it was Arthur who spoke first. He filled the room with sounds of optimism, of subtle banters, telling Beatrice that there are still a ton of plays waiting and wanting to meet her. He spoke to her, trying to laugh or perhaps trying to believe in himself, that he also wants a mural in his room. I tried to smile too, or perhaps I was trying to play with my mind. I wanted to tell her: Yes, Beatrice, and there are still more than just plays who wants to see you act, there are still more than just brushes that want to be held by your gentle hands. There are still more than just your family who would rather wait instead of weep. Beatrice, what could I have done with all those years without you accompanying me? Do you think I wouldn’t have felt powers like materializing out of thin air if it weren’t for your presence? Would the sunset be that marvelous if you weren’t there beside me in that cave? Do you think the stories I read to you made perfect sense for a young kid like me, if you weren’t there to listen? Do you think my sister’s room would have felt it was part of a loving home if you weren’t there to occupy it during the times she was away? Do you think I would have smiled that way, the first time we met, if you hadn’t stared at me for too long? You were a part of me, Beatrice, and you always will be.

Arthur was still speaking, but I couldn’t quite hear him over the sound of my thoughts. Perhaps I could do it once more, converse with her, create dialogues with her, even if she was sleeping still in front of me. Maybe if I try so hard, I can see her just right, there, in a corner of my brain. I’d speak to her, if I could. I’d ask her if she remembers. Yes. I’d ask her: Do you remember, Beatrice? We agreed we’d say “hello”, like old friends who braved all odds, the moment we’d meet again. Do you remember how we let the world pull as apart just because we made sure we’d tell it to stop at the right moment? It was as if both of us believed we can actually speak to the air. Do you remember, how I once told you that I’d take you somewhere nice? And do you remember the words you replied? You told me you’d take me somewhere nice, too – to a place only you could go. You told me that there, I’ll see and I’ll understand everything that still stretches like puzzle pieces to me. Do you remember all that? Because I remember how you laughed, and I remember how I questioned just how much beauty could fit inside a person. I remember the sound of your breath. I remember lying sideways on my bed, clutching on my phone as if I was holding your heart.

I could feel the light slowly dying down outside. The stars are probably warming up their brightness. The shift of all the colors was already taking place, but I haven’t moved from where I sat. Arthur and I spoke, trying to lighten up the mood. It worked, actually. Arthur really was good with words. Perhaps that was how he and my sister kept years and years of writing letters. There was just something with words that screamed life. I slept later on. Occasionally nurses would come in to check. They would talk to Arthur and I would listen, half-awake. Arthur told me I should probably get back home. I can’t remember if I responded. Perhaps I grumbled, trying to sound asleep when in fact I just wouldn’t want to leave Beatrice’s side. I stayed for another half-hour.

Outside the hospital, the city was starting to sleep. A few cars would pass by, about twice in a while, and that’s it. They’d pass by me, their headlights illuminating my figure, slowly walking at the side of the road thinking if I’d made the best choices in my life. My thoughts were like bees, moving from one memory, sucking up whatever nectar I can find just to keep me going. Of course it’s not the end of the world. It’s the middle of the night, I’m alone, a loved one is sleeping beneath the sheets, a brother and an aunt is waiting patiently, as if they’d been practicing it their whole lives, a sister is out there somewhere trying to get back home as soon as she can, a friend is probably out there, too, alone and thinking about his parents, and parents are back home, sitting and living quietly, waiting for someone who is walking his way back home. Of course, the world is not ending, people are just alone and waiting and trying to make sense of things. As I moved through the streets and the fields, I never once tried to look up. I was afraid the brightness of the stars would make me hate them for smiling down on a sad night like this.

When I reached home, mother and father was already asleep. I didn’t blame them. I wanted to sleep, too. I wanted to take a rest. Perhaps there’s a method out there in shifting worlds. Maybe this whole thing has been a dream, and if I’d sleep, I’d be able to escape this dream and see the reality I would have preferred. Things would have been way easier. My mom was sleeping on the couch, and my dad was sitting, eyes closed with the remote still clutched in his hands. We agreed we’d visit Beatrice in the morning. In my case, it felt like I was visiting home, because for days after that I stayed beside Beatrice for hours. I sat on the floor, looking carefully at each of my parents. I noticed the gray on their hairs, and I remembered the times when it still wasn’t there. I have lived apart with them much longer that I thought I would. I almost cried because by then, I figured just how fast things could change. I went home with the feeling of nostalgia welling up within the joys I’ve felt. Now, I even find it hard to smile. I thought about accidents, of what if I’d never arrived home safely? Even the most beautiful things could crash. What if that plane I rode did? I kissed my mom and my dad on their foreheads. I’ve felt a sense of safety, and warmth, and love as I did. I remembered the times when they were the ones who did it to me before I fell asleep. Those days are one of the nice places I would like to go. Back then, it was a different quiet when the night gets later. That kind of quiet was of peace.

My mother woke up just after I kissed her. She smiled at me, and I realized father had woken up, too. They asked me how it went, how it was back there in the hospital. I told them it was my first time in a hospital, but they knew that of course. I told them I don’t like it there, I told them about Beatrice and her condition, and then without even realizing it, I was crying. They both hugged me and I could not explain just how glad I felt at that moment. As if I was still seven, they watched me go to bed and turned off the lights. I heard their footstep just outside my room, even when their door shut as they went to their own beds. I lay on my bed, looking up. I noticed the phone on the table beside my bed. As I was back in my old home, I almost forgot about that piece of technology. I reached out for it, thinking I should call my sister, but then I figured she was probably boarding on the plane at the moment. She probably had her phone turned off.

I couldn’t quite sleep yet, so I thought about people and places instead. I thought about my sister and I thought about Arthur. I thought about how Arthur said he was thankful for me for leading him into my sister’s life. Perhaps, even if I haven’t anticipated it, I’ve helped putting them to their places in each other’s lives. I thought about my parents and the places I have went with them. They were the first to show me just how wide this world is, and they let me play around our house, and they might not know it, but I’ve been to a lot of places, visible and invisible, when I ran as a kid. I remember a young child, pulling at his parents sleeve to play with him and sit with him on the floor, navigating through an imaginary force of wind and strapping on invisible helmets, landing on places I could never reach by foot even if I ran. I remember them telling me that the moment I was born, I had already brought them to a place that distanced itself from despair. I thought about Jonathan and I thought about Beatrice. I thought about the places Jonathan had brought me when I went with him in his work. I thought about Beatrice telling me it was I who gave her affinity to center stage. I also realized by then that I’d had a sort of an exchange with the people I took with me. My sister brought Jonathan to a place in my world, and it was Arthur who brought Beatrice into my life. I realized that we’ll always find each other in places only we created for ourselves. Even when we are not all together by now, I found a reason to smile.

When morning came, I saw my sister in the living room talking to my parents. I hugged her and she hugged me back. It was a warm embrace, the feeling of having my family together. We ate breakfast together and I told them everything I could. I shared about my work, about Jonathan, and everything I’ve come across while I was living the life of a grown-up. My sister talked lots, too. She talked about the wonderful things her fame had given her. She said it can never replace the amount of happiness her loved ones provide her, though. I watched my parents listen, and I can see it in their eyes that they are glad to have raised such wonderful people. I think I wasn’t that great, to be honest. I don’t even think my work was important, or if I was really needed at all. But I know, in my parent’s eyes, I was much more than that. My sister never strayed, too. She said she’d always go back to her roots. There was no hint of arrogance on her mouth everytime she spoke of the amount of success she had achieved. I know it because I’ve seen stars living in lavish homes with big pools on their yards and a grand party with all the most important people in the industry. Yet here she was, stuffing on omelets in a small house on a hill.

After a few more minutes, we decided to leave for the hospital. My sister and I washed the dishes while my parents were sitting on the couch, watching the photos my sister, and I (very few), have on our phones. We got dressed and left the house. As we walked down the hill, I saw the lone mailbox standing like a child waiting to be fed. My sister checked its contents and found three letters. Two of them were of the same material, and I could easily tell from the handwriting that it was, as usual, from Arthur. The other one though was more formal. I snooped in and noticed my sister haven’t received a letter like that before. The letter was from Jonathan, but we didn’t have time to check the contents of the letters. Our parents were already hailing a taxicab. My sister and I both looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. Whatever Jonathan wanted to tell my sister surely peaked my curiosity, but it didn’t matter, I was going to see Beatrice again.

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