“Well, do you ever still think about us? About what we shared?” Her tone is somewhat insouciant, but a subtle curiosity clings to the back of everything she says. Her words settle for a few moments while I put a Marlboro Gold in my mouth and light it. My heart thumps against my chest slowly but powerfully. Not a combination I recall experiencing before. Each beat surges through my torso.
I let out smoke through my nostrils.
“Do you?” I eventually respond with my eyes on the potted areca palm in front of me.
She crosses one stretched leg over the other, swirling the water around her. I’m sat on the edge of the bathtub. We’re in complete darkness save for the candles she lit.
“I used to all the time,” she begins after a thought. “It’s because you left a deep, deep impression on me. Kind of like how an owner of cattle might press a branding iron onto the flesh of his livestock. You were the one who gave me my first taste of love. Or at least what I thought love was. How perfect was that summer we first met. When was it now?…”
“It was 2003.”
“Yes, that was it. Doesn’t feel like four years ago, does it?”
She raises her arms to the sides of the tub. Then she extends her right leg, drips of water and bubbles slithering down from her foot to her thigh, back into the water. She then bends the leg, bringing it close to herself.
“Anyway. Remind me again how we met exactly. I know you must have replayed that moment in your head over and over after I’d left you.”
I blow out smoke and say nothing. Without looking, I can feel her glaring powerfully at me. It’s difficult to tell whether she’s being playful with the remark, or if she’s being slyly devious. Despite her sustained nonchalance, though, I still feel those echoes of curiosity around the room.
“I ran into Adriana, and you were with her. It was a quick hi-bye but even within that small space of time, I was slightly awestruck by the look you gave me… your smile, your eyes, I thought you looked amazing.” I stop here, contemplating motionlessly. “So the same day, I insisted that she gave me your number.”
I toss the end of the Marlboro Gold out through the small window.
“It didn’t take two days for me to receive a call from you. What immediately interested me is that you saw what you wanted, and pursued it. You and I then met three days later. From the first day, everything was so natural. I felt I could open myself and not worry about what pours out in front of you. You gave me that kind of space. A space which I could share with you and be entirely myself, a space where I didn’t feel as though I needed to suppress parts of myself. And as much as I offered you the same space, you were hesitant, never wanted to pour yourself out. Though I hadn’t realised this at the start.”
I mull over her words. She’s right. Simply put, she was willing to give me all of her when, on the other hand, I gave her hardly anything. She continues.
“Our first months were as bliss as that first summer we spent together. Then problems between us started to arise, mostly due to your passiveness and lack of effort. We were so young. We could have grown together.”
She pulls in her other leg and submerses her body in the water, arms are crossed over the stomach I used to lay my head on.
Casually she asks me if I remember our first kiss. Amidst the dimness of the room, I know her eyes are low and her face bares a faint smile of pleasant reminiscence. She made me wait so long for that kiss. We saw each other almost daily through the summer, and it wasn’t until one mid-autumn evening that she eventually allowed me to kiss her. We’d gone to a restaurant. She wore a crimson red dress which made her stand out like a rose beneath the brightly moonlit sky. We were having so much that we’d lost track of time and her mother called.
Reaching the corner from where she stayed, we stood under the gleaming moon clutching onto one another, sharing a few last words and smiles. We both didn’t want the night to end. I could feel it in her embrace. We looked each other in the eyes and said nothing for a short while. She then drew closer to me slightly with narrowed eyes. I also drew close, and gently laid my lips against hers. It was all euphoria. My hands caressed her amorously as we kissed with flaming passion. We didn’t want to pull away. But she had to go.
Yes. Flaming passion, she says after a long silence. I sigh and reach for a cigarette, and she asks me for one.
“You don’t smoke.”
“I do, actually.”
“That’s a shame. You hated that I was a smoker and said you’d never become one.”
“That was a whole four years ago. I’m not the same young girl anymore. Times change, people change.”
I edge closer to her, she sits up and sticks her neck forward. Then, struggling to make out any details of her face, I put a cigarette to her lips, and light it saying,
“I guess the real shame is the fragility of human consistency.”
She exhales and retorts with,
“Humans are bound to change though. It’s something we can’t afford to see as a shame because it’s a human condition. Maybe what the shame is, is the existence we are born into without choice of condition. We grow, and our perceptions widen. As time moves on and as we find ourselves in different situations, we all go through our own personal natural metamorphosis which is likely to contradict or drastically alter from previous natures of ours. Whether its’s our opinions and views, the way we carry ourselves, our character, habits, likes, dislikes, whatever it is, we change.”
A quietness follows. The burning candles flicker. She appears to be brooding over what she said with just as much regard as I am. Raising herself to a standing position, water and bubbles stream down her slender form. She gives her light brown hair a backstroke, then drains the water and steps out of the bathtub. I stare at the areca as she carefully dries herself down next to me with fine grace. Placing the towel back, she loosely wraps herself in a bathrobe.
“Thanks for coming over, by the way. It’s been a pleasure,” she mentions with her back turned to me and her hand on the bathroom door. She opens it and light pierces through the dark of the room. I look up and see her silhouette.
“Wait. Before you head off, tell me what you meant by you used to think about us. When did you stop?” This utterance flows from my mouth half consciously.
“What I meant? Those were your words. Not mine.”
“What?” I have no clue what she means by this. She walks through the door and the beam of light slowly thins until it’s completely gone.
Now the room is pitch black. I can’t see a single thing. For some unknown reason, my shirt feels damp. I sat right on the edge, no water got on me, I say to myself confused. Feeling down my shirt, I realise it’s not just damp but in fact drenched. I begin to smell the distinct odour of blood. At this, my stomach sinks into itself, and my heart restarts its’ violent thumping, only much faster. What could have possibly happened, I’ve been sat right here. Questions hail in my mind as I try to stand up. My head throbs and spins that I can barely balance. My entire body feel weak, and it burns. Loud ringing in my ears. I clutch my stomach with one hand and feel around with the other in the darkness. I can’t see a thing.
“Cheers for blowing out those candles, I forget!” I hear her shout from another room. Candles? I didn’t blow out her candles. My brain throbs with more intensity at my puzzlement. I begin to feel myself slowly slipping into unconsciousness, too much blood is being lost. I fall to the ground with a thud. Then I try to call for her, but my voice and chest are too frail to produce any sound above a mumble. My breathing becomes lighter and more painful. Those were your words. Not mine. What? I think of death, but refuse the notion of it taking me in such an unexplained way. If only I could see, if only I had some light. Immobilised and dying, I give up, putting both of my arms across my stomach. I now feel a chill. I’m cold and wet.
I open my eyes and I am darkness. Turning myself over in my bed, I read the digital clock on the desk next to me. 04:22AM. I drop my head back onto the pillow and let out a sigh. My mouth is dry. And my t-shirt is cold and wet. I remove the covers and head to the bathroom. I’m soaked in sweat, what kind of dream was I having, I think to myself. I place my t-shirt and night shorts inside the washing basket. Then I look at myself in the mirror, then to the bathtub, at which I pause curiously. Those were your words. Not mine. I begin to recall a bathtub having some significance to the dream I just woke from, but I can’t figure out why. The dream is gone from me now.
Unable to sleep I stay up trying to remember my dream. After some forced contemplation I recall very few details, but I at least remember who was in the bathtub. She was sat cosily in the tub, and I sat at its’ edge.
Why did I dream of her though? I haven’t seen her in years. I don’t even think about her anymore. I used to all the time. She left a deep, deep impression me.
I guess though even though times and people change, the subconscious will always store away memories and desires that you once experienced. No matter how much you change, every once in a while, maybe a long while, the subconscious – through dreams or random recollections or whatever – will remind you of what you once were, once had, once lived.
Those were my words, not hers.
Thanks for reading. Criticisms and feedback are very welcome. Some recent works in the drafts that needs editing, I promise I won’t always muse my love loss, haaa