I remember bumping into a friend one day and the first thing he said to me was, “All our friends are dying.”
Sometimes I pause and think, “Am I blessed to be living this long?”
Indeed, as I have grown older, friends have left this earth for the afterlife. Then there are friends who still remain, but you want to avoid, for they have become grumpy and critical in their old age.
So the friends that you want to see and spend time with are those who will talk about most things under the sun without judgment but with laughter and good-naturedness. At the end of the day you feel relaxed and thankful for friends.
For one who lives alone, I often wonder if I’ll live too long that there will be no friends to mourn me when I go.
“Find a wife,” my friends would advice. As if that’s as easy as picking flowers from a garden.
“Don’t be romantic; just find someone who can take care of you,” they add. That’s even worse. I don’t think any woman would want to be proposed to with, “Will you marry me to take care of me?”
I have well-meaning friends, but they can be ridiculous at times. So I just smile and shake my head. As I am in my twilight years, looking for a wife becomes more difficult.
So I will just have to be content with seeing my close friends once in a while and hope that I will not one day find an empty table at the cafe where we always meet.
Her words felt like burning stabs in his inner being.
“I’m sorry. You’re a good and decent man, but you’re … well … crippled. I can’t be seen walking and holding hands with you. I can’t even imagine going to bed with you. Thank you for the money you lent me. But I won’t be able to pay you back. I’m so sorry.”
With that she stood and left the restaurant.
He looked down at his coffee realizing that he was mindlessly stirring it as she spoke. “She was just using me,” he thought. “How could I be so foolish?”
Suddenly he heard tires screeching followed by a loud crash. He stood and walked out. He then saw a few feet away her crumpled body lying on the pavement and nearby a car that slammed into a post. He walked to her as a crowd was quickly gathering. She was alive but seemingly with a broken leg. Their eyes met.
He turned away to look at the car. The driver was getting out dazed. He limped to the driver.
He looked at her across the table. She smiled. She lifted her wine glass in a playful toast as he did the same. She laughed with that lilting laughter, one of the things that enamored her to him. Then she mouthed the words, “I love you.”
He looked down at his empty plate as tears threatened to well up in his eyes. He looked back up.
She was no longer there as she passed on many years ago.
All he had were memories as he sat alone at the Christmas dinner table.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw her undo the tie around her ponytail and shake free her long soft hair. It was the most beautiful gesture he had seen. But his heart was stabbed when he overheard her tell her friend that she has a boyfriend.
He knew he couldn’t have her anyway. He was a cripple and his body deformed. He had no outward beauty whatsoever. She couldn’t possibly fall in love with him. Yet it pained him that someone else could have her.
Thus, as he walked —hobbled actually— to his rented room, he tried to fill his mind with pleasant thoughts of what might but could never be. As he lay down on his bed, he prayed that his pleasant thoughts would invade his dreams.
The silence was more deafening after the door slammed. He stared at the door a few moments and then made his way up the stairs.
The climb was slow as if the burdens of life were weighing him down. Reaching the bedroom he sat on the bed. He felt tired, tired of the mistreatment, tired of the misunderstandings, tired of the striving, tired of being tired.
He opened the drawer and took out his pistol and lay on the bed. He toyed with the firearm a few moments and pointed it at the wall.
He fired. The bullet hit dead center of her portrait.
The silence that ensued was more deafening than the gunshot.
He jumped off the bus as it slowed. He almost slammed into her when he hit the curb. Their eyes met and a sad recognition came as a slew of memories passed between them: the beach strolls, the mountain treks, the cooking fun, the bed cuddles…
Then the betrayal. The pain.
She gave him a half smile and turned away to walk towards the bus.
He headed towards his destination.
Only when he heard the bus leave did he look behind him.
At the back of the bus was an advertisement. It read, “Let the past roll away.”
The bells were ringing as people filed into the church. Then he saw her. She was dressed in an all-pink dress and she looked lovelier than the last time.
He wanted to approach her, to say how lovely she looked. He had loved her since the day he first set eyes on her. But she never noticed him, not even a fleeting glance.
He was a cripple who walked with a pronounced limp. There was no beauty at all about him. He felt like a Quasimodo to an Esmeralda.
Yet, he wanted to get to know her, to watch her smile more closely, to hear her voice, to hold her hand. But he was afraid. He was afraid of unrequited love, for he experienced too much of it in the past.
He wanted her to get to know him, his kindness, his wit, his pondering heart; to read his poems, his prose.
But he was afraid. So he looked away and walked out of the church.