“Then and Now”

You used to laugh at the most stupid jokes. Your eyes used to light up at the thought of food. Your smile used to stretch from ear to ear. You used to describe your dreams in absolute details. You used to put your arm around people’s shoulders when they’re obviously down. You used to eat and drink with such vigor. You used to tell the most absurd stories. You used to laugh until your sides hurt. You used to stay up all night just to keep a friend company, even over the phone. You used to be the sunshine.

But now, we have to bump your shoulder to get you to listen to our jokes. The light from your eyes has dimmed, nothing excited you anymore. Your smile is painfully forced. You refuse to talk about your dreams, content to just listen to others in silence. Your shoulders are in a constant slump and you claim you don’t have any strength to put your arm around another person’s. You forego any kind of celebration. People coax you to tell more stories but you remain tight-lipped. A short bark of laugh is all we get from you and it is as rare as your genuine smiles. You hang up first during every phone call. The sunshine is no more.

23:59 – 2

2

She ignores the overwhelming pain that grips her heart as soon as she hears the news. He’s dead. The man behind the counter, always ready to greet her with a smile when she orders the usual (a cup of coffee with two teaspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of cream, extra hot), is gone.

She nods and turns to leave. The atmosphere inside the shop is unbearable, the weight of the news boring down on every single person who decided to visit and pay their respects for the old man. She’s in no way related to him. He just serves her coffee, the way she likes it.

It’s hard to imagine him gone, she thinks. He may not play a prominent role in her life but he’s always lingering in the background, a comforting extra holding her up with a cup of coffee. She tries to imagine a life without him but in her mind, his pudgy and sweaty face blurs behind her, a distant ghost, but somehow closer than the guy sitting next to her.

It may be because his smiles were familiar. Even his little mannerisms are familiar: the slight twitches of his right eye, his constant taps on his knee whenever a song plays in the background, his amused hoots when he’s teasing his younger colleagues, and the way he curls a finger around the longest piece of hair near his nape. He’s there.

He disappears in a blink of an eye, when yesterday he’s doing his thing behind his counter, staying in the present and not worrying about the next few hours.

She’s at the shop last night. In her hands was the last cup of coffee he’ll ever serve her.

They tell her he died of heart attack. She runs a hand through her face. The pain on the left side of her chest continues to grow, continues to pester her, as she trudges out into the cold, damp night.

23:59 – 1

1

Sometimes, he likes to smile for no reason. Other people notice and may opt to suspect him as a bit kooky in the head but he doesn’t mind. He just smiles, peacefully, calmly, like he’s letting go of the world that’s supposed to be on his shoulders. He smiles.

She notices it every single time. He’s five tables away but she will always sneak a glance his way to see if he’s doing it again. She never fails because he always does.

She’s rattled, to say the least. Never before has she seen such person. Smiling like that, as if he doesn’t have a paper to finish by tomorrow, an exam to pass on Monday and a meeting to attend before the day ends. She knows him and she knows that precious time must be held between careful hands. He must not let it go to waste. He doesn’t. But still he smiles.

She decides to amble towards his seat. She pulls up a chair and sits across him. She tilts her head and asks, “Why are you smiling?”

He doesn’t answer but he opens his eyes. You see, his eyes also droop close whenever he smiles in that weird way of his. She has always deemed his mind must have a loose screw somewhere.

His dreamy smile melts into nothingness. His eyes drift past her. He clears his throat in order to avoid the potential awkwardness. He slips on his mask. The smiling man is no more.

This is a common occurrence. She has done this so many times before. But she fails to catch him off guard.

He smiles whenever he thinks no one is looking. It’s like he’s letting go of his grip on his life. It’s like he’s letting any high deity to take over for him. It’s like he’s content with whatever the natural course of his life is.

But she notices. So he slips back to his old self. The slight summer is a false comfort for the coming winter.

“A Lonely Christmas Sonnet”

Festive cheer enveloped me in a warm embrace
but within the embrace, I could only feel coldness.
I tried to put on a convincing smile on my face,
yet the smile I conjured portrayed a hint of sadness.
The smell of food kept my belly warm at the thought.
So I closed my eyes and savored the scent.
The hope for a happy Christmas was all for naught.
It was not midnight yet and I already feel spent.
I dragged my feet around the place, laughing,
pretending that I was having the best night.
But all I could think about was sleeping,
with my blanket over my head, my eyes shut tight.
I truly hope Christmas passes just like any other day,
because in the midst of the colorful holiday, I was the only one grey.

Not really a piece that screams festive cheer, but hey, it fits the holidays. MERRY CHRISTMAS! (Oh, the contradiction.)

“I Can’t Breathe”

I hope his words will forever echo
in the minds of the people
whose hands gripped him tight.
I can’t breathe
I can’t breathe
I can’t breathe
a constant hum
that should haunt them
as they fall asleep,
as they go about their lives,
as they continue to live
with the life that he should have had.

#BlackLivesMatter My deepest condolences to the family of the late Eric Garner. Seeing this story all over Tumblr made me so mad. No one’s life is superior.