#the things that help you sleep

To my unknown lover and our little joke. I will forever remember you with the not-so-authentic phrase, Je suis mermaid.

After a while, you don’t even know what is helping you sleep.

Be it a woman’s embrace or a man’s embrace –

is there any difference?

You sit on your chair and wear your tin-foil hat,

singing about the fairies and the flat-earth believers.

Perhaps you had wanted to believe that the earth was flat

so that you can reach the other side faster.

After a while, you don’t know if you’re reading a book

or drinking a cup of warm tea –

you just know that you did something,

but what is that something? You’ll never know.

As you lay on the soft mattress of sorrow, staring at the ceiling.

The fan seems like it is moving, but is it?

The light seems like it is burning, but is it?

And you seems like you are living –

but are you really living?

After a while, you know that sleeping includes closing your eyes,

but you don’t know what happens after that.

Is it dreaming? Have you ever gotten as far as dreaming?

Is it darkness? Have you ever gotten as close as darkness?

Wait, have you taken the pills?

Or have the pills taken you?

After a while, you don’t sleep.

You just get up, and get on with it.

No matter what it is, you get on with it.

#last night, I dreamed of whales

Becky leads us to the dark shade of a cherry blossom tree. The petals are flying in the air, twirling and whirling in circles. A few petals fall on Becky’s soft, hairy head. She shakes it off with annoyance and sneeze.

I’m always allergic to flowers, she says.

It’s strange. I thought only people are capable of being allergic to flowers, I say.

Then it’s your fault for stereotyping humans and stereotyping cats, she snarls.

Yes, so can you stop being so sassy?

Can’t help it. It comes with me as a full package deal.

The Lover holds my hand in his cold palm, shakes it lightly to make me focus on him. He places a finger on his lips, Hush, he says, and then laughs like a child. The usual laugh that rings in my ears like the cathedral’s silver bell’s singing every evening. We would sit on our tiny apartment’s balcony, guessing which cathedrals’ bells are making a round. It’s the one on the West, he would always say, and I would just laugh at his child-like enthusiasm with every little game we play. I know it’s my turn to counter him. No matter which direction I say, or whether there was actually a cathedral in that direction or not, he wouldn’t care.

All we wanted to do at that innocent time was making small arguments. Then the arguments grew out of reach. And later on, they were no longer arguments. They turned to ugly throwing of dishes and loud crashes of TV sets.

It’s strange, I often wondered then, how we are surrounded by all these cathedrals, Christ and whatnot, and yet we can’t find peace. Either the peace within or the peace without, we can’t find none at all.

And I still wonder about it now. But his laughter is everything, and in the moment the sound of his laugh reaches my ears, I know all is well.

You seem to be quite easy to appease, as always, Becky says as she sneezes and vigorously shakes her fluffy head to get rid of the cherry blossom petals.

I turn around. The mist of pastel pink flowers are everywhere with a dash of the sad strings of wisteria and the calming lavender bushes. On the trail ahead, there’s nothing but a carpet of green hope and bluebells.

Yes, I am very easy to appease, I smile.

There are places that make you want to leave and there are places that make you want to stay. But I wonder if the choice is up to us.

The Lover squats down beside Becky and brushes the petals off her round head. She returns the favor with a loud, unlady-like purrs, eyes closing, completely indulging herself in the unconditional love that The Lover is bestowing on her instead of me.

The soft morning light shines on his black hair. The strands reflect back a gentle color of platinum gold. His face lights up with a gentle smile. His eyes are black as black can go – the color of the nights where it was too dark that the drunken man can’t help but get lost on the familiar routes. His bony fingers lovingly scratches Becky’s head and cheeks; the soft tips quickly appear and disappear in the black spot on the cat’s hair.

Becky, you know what, you make me want to be a cat, I say, dropping myself down next to The Lover and ruffles the cat’s head in a ridiculous fit of jealousy.

It’s not me who make you want to be a cat, she snarls at me again, It’s him.

I turn to look at The Lover. He looks back at me with softness and love. It’s alright, he says, All is forgiven and forgotten. And I smile back, hopelessly and stupidly.

Man, you are a lost cause, Becky snickers, which distorts her cat face into an even uglier version, if that was possible.

I push Becky aside and lay my head on The Lover’s laps, trying to relive some sad memories that had been gone a long time ago.

You know the story about the whales, Becky?

Yeah, you’re gonna talk about that after pushing this lady aside?

The story goes something like this, I say, ignoring her sarcastic remark.

You know the story about the whales? The Lover asked me one night as we lay bare skin on our soft mattress, getting ready to sleep.

What about the whales? I turned to face him. He always had this addictive sadness on his face – these gentle eyes, these pale pink lips, which turned soft and darkish red whenever he bites them, everything – that get me jump down the abyss of faint hopes and love.

Truth was, I don’t really care much for the whales and their story. But he looked at me, and what else can I do but ask him about them?

Last night, I dreamed of them.

Another weird dream of yours?

Don’t say that, he commanded, his eyes squinted in disapproval, You know I hate it when you say that.

Of course I want to say that. I want to say that everytime. Just to see his frown, the curve of his pout, and the long lashes when he squints his eyes. And I will always stop right at the moment he drop the command.

You’re right, Becky, I am a lost cause, I laugh as I tweak The Lover’s hair strands. They are on his forehead and everywhere. Each time I pick on a strand, he would return the favor with a gentle smile.

I –

I want to kiss you.

You don’t want to hear about the whales? He frowned again. I knew that with one wrong choice, there would be a high chance that I have to sleep alone. And no living being would like that.

Kiss me then. Give me a kiss and I will hear your whale stories.

I will sleep in the guest room then.

The Lover got up and –

I want to kiss you, I say, warmed with memories and dried-up tears.

The Lover bends down and ever so lightly gives me a peck on my lips. They are cold and wet, and they are nothing like the pout he had bestowed on me when we were on that balcony, surrounded by cathedrals and poverty.

Wait, I want to hear that story. Really, I want to hear it. Tell me your whale story.

I put my arms around his tiny waist and pushed him down. I always marvel at how he was so willing to let me take command, despite knowing who was in charge of our relationship.

What now, he said, but his eyes said, Fine, you are allowed to kiss me.

Tell me about the whales, I leaned in. His warm breath touched my thin lips. Some of the dead skin on my lips got in the way, but it was quickly casted aside as we drown in the ecstasy of a life-long kiss.

He dreamed of whales, I say, my hands reach out to catch the petal flowers falling down from his hair.

Yeah, the whales who turn into humans.

Yes, I stop to swallow the biles that are rising up in my throat, about the whales who turn into humans.

In that whale story, there was a prince who always went to the seashore, watching the whales dancing in the ocean. He fell in love with the tiniest whale among the herd, but he couldn’t swim out there. He prayed to the moon goddess to turn him into a whale. The moon goddess said, What is done can’t be undone, and turned his wish into reality.

As the prince, now being a whale, swam out to the distant ocean, the tiniest whale was nowhere to be found. Unbeknownst to him, the tiniest whale had fallen in love with him since he was still a little boy. And unbeknownst to him, under the full moon when she turned 16, she prayed to the moon goddess to turn her into a human. The moon goddess said, What is done can’t be undone.

And the moment the whale can walk on the seashore was also the moment the prince reached the bottom of the ocean. Standing on the sliding sand, the girl stared of the prince whale on the distant horizon. Forever and ever, the prince can never step on the shore. Forever and ever, the girl can’t swim back to the ocean.

Why are your dreams always so sad? I said, holding his head closer to my chest and resting my chin on his dark felt carpet of hair. I don’t know what I want to achieve then. Perhaps I wanted to console him. Perhaps I wanted to go another round with him.

Or perhaps at that moment when we were on the verge of being fully awake and nearly sleeping, I only wanted the moon goddess to let us be human, forever and ever.

Because what is done cannot be undone.

Are you crying again? How many times have you cried since the start of this trip already? Becky comes over and as a way of fluffy consolation, she steps on my chest and lies across my throat, purring.

Becky, I can’t breathe.

Should I step down then?

No, stay there, I say, feeling The Lover’s now stone-cold hand cover my tear-filled eyes, It’s not your fault. It’s never your fault.

Then whose fault is it?

The whales, I say, holding The Lover’s bony hand in mine, gently stroking each bony finger and feeling their non-existence, It’s the fucking whales’ faults.

And also, because the moon goddess said, What is done cannot be undone.

#i can’t do this anymore

I can’t do this anymore, I say,

as I hold onto her hand and lie there,

breathing,

convulsing,

living.

I can’t do this anymore, I say,

as she squeezes my hands, whispering,

I am here, darling, I am here.

I can’t do this anymore, I think,

I can’t continue to be a burden

that you can’t share with anyone,

or even just to be released from the lifetime jail

that this disgusting, monstrous disease puts you in.

Mother, I can’t do this anymore, I can’t do this anymore.

And I can’t also bear the thought that

as I lie there, thinking of giving up,

you have to force yourself to push me through.

You smile at me and say, I’m here, darling, I’m here –

Your eyes are glistening with tears

but you don’t let it drop.

You’re strong, I must admit, bearing on your shoulders

a husband who abused you,

a daughter who floats,

and a daughter who stays but barely passing through.

I’m here, darling, I’m here, you say,

but that’s not what I need mother.

I’m here, hush, darling, hush, you say,

but will that ever help your burden grow lighter?

I’m here, come on, it’s your mother, you say,

as you stroke my face while my breath

and my will to live are leaving me.

My soul tries to hold onto your rough, callous hand;

but my body refuses to do anything

other than hurting you.

I can’t do this anymore, mother, because

all I ever wanted to do was to make you happy.

I can’t do this anymore, but mother,

your callous hands,

your tired eyes,

your gray hair and

your weakening legs –

keep me pushing hard and passing through.

#15. the fourth song

Becky and I sits by a little campfire that I (mainly) built with the (little) help from her. Are you getting fatter? I ask. She glances dagger at me and for a moment, I finally know how a look could kill.

The White Misty Thingy curls his smoky arm around me. My eyes can’t distinguish between his foggy form and the smoke of the campfire. But somehow, my heart can feel his hands in mine.

It’s strange how the eyes only see the big picture while the heart always prefers the little details.

Hey, sing a song, I ask him, aren’t you always singing when we take a rest?

He smiles brightly. His eyes squinted into the half-moon shape. The glistening dark irises disappear, replaced by the eyelashes that fans out in the shape of butterfly wings.

I went out in the dark night,

as you went back from your job.

Your coat was soaked with the rain

and there was a faint smell of cigarette smoke.

I choked on the thought that you had to live out there in the dark

while I was safe here, sheltered by your excessive love

and grudges.

They prefer me being pretty, I said. And you asked,

Who?

The neighbors.

Who?

The shopkeepers.

Who?

The cashiers at our usual supermarket.

Who?

Your serious eyes – filled with anger – stopped my listing. Then you smiled,

The only person you should listen to

is me.

Then do you prefer me being healthy or pretty?

I prefer you, you answered curtly.

Of course you would be annoyed. I asked you this very same questions,

day by day,

month by month.

And if you were on your deathbed right then,

I would gladly ask you that very same question, too.

I prefer you, you repeated in a gentler tone,

then you turned towards me and ruffled my hair.

Whether fat or thin,

crazy or healthy,

pretty or ugly,

whatever you are, I will always prefer you;

and if given the choice – of choosing between you and being rich:

I would choose you again and again.

We settled the score with your simple words and your rough hands.

I never had the chance to say,

Me too. If I were given the choice of choosing between you and being rich,

I would choose you, too.

Is it still the same now? Becky asks.

What?

Is it still true? That you would prefer him over everything else?

Oh, that.

I look at the White Misty Thingy. The truth is I hated how I had to cater to his every whims, even when I was on my bad days. The truth is it’s hard to keep the love burning to keep him warm enough on the cold winter days. The truth is –

The truth is I still prefer him. Over the neighbors. Over the shopkeepers. Over the cashiers at our usual supermarket. I still prefer him over everything else, I say.

Becky licks her front paw. I don’t understand you human, she says and yawns, isn’t it better to sit down and talk it out?

Of course you wouldn’t understand, I laugh, holding the foggy hand tightly in mine physical one, we human were raised on the principle that dictates, Do not trust other humans.

What a ridiculous principle, Becky places her soft head on my laps, Us cats were not raised on that. And look at us: We are still fine.

I suppose, I stroke her pointy ears, I guess it is better if we were raised the way kittens were raised.

But you are humans though.

Yes, I say, and that’s the saddest part.

*******

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#14. do you prefer me being pretty or healthy?

Say, Becky, has anyone told you that you’re ugly? Straight to your face?

I lie down on the green moss carpet that the forest so generously gifts to me. Becky rests her whole fat body on my chest and purrs happily as I stroke her tiny pointy ears.

Oh, plenty, my good sir, she yawns and lifts up her chin, which commands me to stroke the fur under it, Most of it come from you.

Becky is growing really fat, I said, stroking The Lover’s hair as he lied on top of me in the same way Becky would normally do after I fed her, She’s growing ugly.

So? Do you prefer her being pretty or healthy?

I prefer her being pretty.

That so? The Lover said, his shoulders tensed up in an attempt to rouse up from his current position.

Yes. But stop with that nonsense. What does it even matter?

It does, The Lover laughed, it does. Becky will feel hurt, you know, when she knows that there is someone out there favor her beauty instead of her being healthy and happy.

I said that? I stop stroking Becky’s ears. She gently pushes her soft head against my stopping hand, purring nonstop.

Yes, you said that, and many other hurtful things.

Should I say sorry for that? I turn to the White Misty Thingy. The foggy hand places on top of mine. A small space separates him from being loved and me from being forgiven.

I wonder what it means, Becky says, resting her fluffy head on her paws.

What?

Saying sorry. I often see it. A human saying sorry to another human. But what does it really mean? That they regret their action? Or that they hope the other person will accept their action because they won’t change? What does the word “sorry” really mean?

I tighten my grip on the cold foggy hand. It quickly disperses on the green moss carpet and concentrates into the shape of a hand, once again, laying on top of mine.

I don’t know, I look at the White Misty Thingy, thoughts after thoughts running in the brain that is half dead and half alive, I guess it means neither of those.

Then what’s the point in saying sorry?

What’s the point of you saying sorry when you would just repeat the same action over and over again?

I said I’m sorry, isn’t that enough? I yell at The Lover and as an intelligent response of a person who has survived higher education, he throws a vase at me. I dodge the fatal attack in the blink of an eye because any second later than that, I would be half dead.

So that’s it? The Lover asks.

You already throws a fucking vase at me. What more do you want?

What more do I want? He repeats my question and proceeds to laugh wryly. He crouches down on the floor and the laugh continues on and on, What more do I want?

He lifts his head up. His dark glistening irises look like crystal will fall out of his eyes anytime at his own command. But they do not. His dry lips curl up into a smile fulled of bitterness. I often wonder whether the bitterness in his smiles aim at me, or at another person. A third person in this relationship that grows more and more toxic as days go by. A shadow of something that looks like pains and sufferings and regrets. A smile that says we wishes to be more than what we already are.

Honey, I don’t want your sorry, he proceeds to say as he lies down on the wooden floor that is too bright for his mood and too dark for his hopes and dreams, I don’t want your sorry.

I crouch down beside his living corpse, my hand laying on top of his. The warmth of human skin and the pulsing purple veins on his thin wrist convey everything that is unspeakable between us. I lie down, facing him, eyes to eyes. My Lord, I think to myself, those eyes will be the death of me. And as I realize that fact, I stroke his tangled hair gently and whisper to his ears, dropping tender kisses in between each breath I take:

Honey, I know. I know.

We lied there for a while. His hand in my tight grip. His bony fingers intertwine with my thicker ones. The human warmth in between and everywhere. The soft light of the bedroom illuminated his face, and in his ephemeral eyes, I see where love is found and where it will die.

Remember the other day when you ask me whether I prefer Becky to be pretty or healthy?

Yes. What of it?

This is my answer, I kiss each of his fingers, I prefer this. I prefer this over everything else.

He smiles at me. I don’t know what is reflected in his glistening irises, but it calms me down. It looks a lot like love, but the me at the time finds it hard to stare at it eyes to eyes.

I know, darling, I know, The Lover whispers. In a flickering moment, it feels as if the world outside is declaring war on the both of us, and inside this small apartment, we are the last of our kinds: the only two people being in love and believing that love can heal everything.

I guess the point in saying sorry is, I push Becky of my chest. She grumbles a little while before setting four paws on the green moss carpet, to ask for a permanent forgivenness.

Permanent?

Yes. Something like, Oh, I know my action hurts you but I can’t change who I am so please forgive me, I turn to the White Misty Thingy, picturing the same bitter smile in my memory on the foggy canvas, Darling, please forgive me permanently.

That’s quite a lot to ask for in one setting, Becky licks her front paws and wipes them across her face. I wonder if she ever realizes how dirty that action is.

I know. That’s the point, Becky. And because that’s a lot to ask for in one setting, we live our whole life keep on thanking and apologizing to each other. But a simple “sorry” is not enough.

The White Misty Thingy wraps his foggy hand-or-tail-or-whatever-it-is around my wrist and urges me on the grassy road ahead. I feel the same warmth of the human skin and the pulsing purple veins from the lost memory of a long time ago.

You have to put your heart out there. Because it’s a gamble: you place your heart down as a bet and if you are lucky, the other person, whoever they are, will continue to love you. Permanently.

***********

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#what are you thinking?

So, how are you feeling today?

The counselor in the white blouse asks. I find it hard to concentrate on an appropriate answer as his cheap, toned-down blue T-shirt creates an immense border. The border between trusting him and trusting me. The border between being saved and wallowing in the same sort of routines until the routines can’t save me anymore.

I’m fine, I replies.

It seems like you are thinking of something else. So, what are you thinking?

Yeah, he’s right. At the moment the reply comes out of my lips, I was thinking of how ridiculously thin and long his fingers are. Like a spider’s leg. Each joint on his fingers was protruding out. I imagined those long fingers wrapping around his lover’s waist, holding it, embracing it, loving it.

I guess I’m fine, I say.

Has there been anything unusual lately with your mood swings?

No. I’m fine. Totally cruising it.

He sighs heavily with the weariness of too many emotional baggages that his patients pour on him. And on top of that is me – the most complicated case, the most stubborn villain, the worst of the worst.

Why are you always fine? He takes off his glasses and massages his temple with his thumb and forefinger. He shouldn’t put my appointment at the end of the day. The schedule puts a heavy toll on him and an uncomfortable awkwardness on me.

Why? What else can I be beside “fine?” Should I be in another state? A not-so-fine state?

You know that’s not what I meant.

Then what do you mean?

He sits there, staring intently at the blank paper in front of him. I guess like me, he is wondering whether he should just close my case for good or whether he should refer me to another counselor. After all, that always happens after – how many? – about 10 or so meetings.

This is the 11th meeting, and I’m still here. Of all the counselor I’ve met, he is the most stubborn one. Perhaps those long, spider-like fingers help him carry more baggages – more weight – than a normal person could.

I mean for you to be happy, he says as he lift his head up and stares at me. He has these large dark circle around his eyes, but those eyes are still shining. A bit too bright for me, perhaps. I keep thinking about the connection between those dark circles and his long list of patients. Do they just transfer their sleeplessness onto him like a sort of direct deposit or wire transfer?

I am happy as I am now.

But you won’t be happy if we take you off the pills, for the first time since the first meeting, his long fingers wrap around my shorter, thicker ones. The joints feel weird against my knuckles, And I want you to be happy without the pills.

He keeps his eyes fixed on mine. He looks more like a person without his glasses. My mind jumps down a dark abyss, where I am a cat who immediately curls up to a little bit of light and a little bit of warmth.

What are you thinking? He asks again.

Nothing. Just that how much nicer it would be if I am a cat.

Cats have their worries, too.

That’s too bad. I laugh, but he doesn’t.

We all have to suffer, he says, cats or human.

Then Doctor, why must we suffer? I stop laughing and look at him. What do I hope for, really? A be-all and end-all answer? A universal truth? What if there’s no universal truth?

There’s no universal truth, he says. Turns out I had spoken my mind out loud without knowing, There is only my version of the truth and your version of the truth. And though they do not collide – they don’t need to – sometimes, they mingle, and we should take some comfort in that.

He puts on his glasses and smiles. For a moment, I think I see my version of the truth flashes in his eyes, And being comfortable is nice enough.

Really, now?

Yes. So, what are you thinking?

We sit still in the small clinic for what seems like an eternity. It’s like time has stopped inside the clinic. I went in for my appointment in the morning. Now, if my watch is any trustworthy, it’s half-past one in the afternoon. And we maintain the same position: he sitting opposite me, staring at the blank notepad, me sitting in the hard plastic chair, staring at his fingers.

Let’s give it another try, he finally breaks the unbearable silence, When do you want your next appointment to be?

You mean you won’t refer me to another counselor? I ask, somewhat startled.

Why should I? He smiles, Would you prefer that?

I watch his face as his lips form a light upward curve. I think that curve is where my universal truth collides with his universal truth. Would I prefer what? And what does it matter?

I would prefer not to, I says.

I know, he leads me to the clinic’s door, Because cats or humans, they all want to be saved, you know.

I stop his hand on the doorknob, Then who will save you?

He pushes me through the clinic door with the gentlest force. Those long, spider-like fingers wrap around my wrist, You know, sometimes, I don’t mind being saved by a cat.

The door closes after me. And by that simple action, me and him – we go back to the start.

******************

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#how are you?

A tribute to my mother in free verse. Hope it will be worthy of all her sacrifices.

You lie awake at night,

as I lie next to you,

convulsing,

trembling,

wandering

in the land of the Death.

If I must be honest,

I was on the border when you turn around

holding me down

and ask me,

How are you?

Your “how are you” means a lot of things –

and what a coincidence, they are all sad things,

bad things,

mournful things.

How I wish to turn your “how are you” into something else.

I can’t bear to see the years gone by on your face –

the years of being abused by your mother,

the years of being abused by your husband, and later on,

the years of sacrificing your freedom for the two children

who could barely support you now.

I’m fine, I wanted to say in my delirium,

but the convulsion and the deafening hallucination

is stopping my sanity to reach you.

I’m fine, mother, I really am fine.

I never wanted to be a lunatic, mother, I never wanted it.

It was just right there on the border, and I happened to carry it with me

when I stared Death straight in the face and gave him the middle finger.

And mother, though you are still smiling,

your smiles grow wearier and wearier each year –

and I am scared of the day – the final moment.

All parties have to end, and I’m not allowed any regrets –

But if I am, mother, my biggest regret is

growing up to be nothing more than an idiot

who is both deaf and blind.

I’m a lunatic, mother, I have always been

since the day I was still inside your womb.

But you see me dying and you pull me through –

Mother, you have become my sanity – whatever sanity that is left within me,

and I’m sorry, mother,

I can never grow to be whatever you want me to be.

******

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#11. pinky promise?

I say, why is this forest so dark and gloomy? Are you trying to lead me down to Hell?

Becky turns her head slightly and gives me a sharp glance as if I have offended Her Majesty in a very nasty way, and there is no chance for me to gain back her trust.

A look that says, How dare you. A look that says, You’re a special kind of idiot.

Of course this forest would be dark and gloomy, Becky says, moving on steadily, shaking her fat round hip and waving her tail, After all, the spring is not here yet.

Then when will the spring be here?

When the spring is here, let’s travel together, The Lover says as he curls up on my laps, with the cat lying at his feet.

Where do you want to go?

I don’t know. Somewhere far?

Yes.

Somewhere warm?

Yes.

Somewhere the darkness can’t reach?

I stroke his hair gently. His hair smells like a forest after the rain. The kind of forest where moss grows uncontrollably and the old, ancient trees give of a warm wooden smell. And I love it I love it I love it.

Let’s go see the forest when you get better.

But the doctor says I will never get better, he laughs, trying to stop my disturbing hands from lifting his shirt up, You see, honey, my life is barely holding onto the pills the doctor prescribes. There will be my better days, there will be my worse days, but I will never get better.

Then let’s go see the forest on your better days.

In Spring?

Yes.

Pinky promise? The Lover waves his pinky finger at me. There’s a hint of cruel childishness in the hazel irises, where my love is reflected back upon me.

Yes, pinky promise. And all other kind of promises.

You know, I feel like the Spring never comes around where I live.

Why’s that.

All I can see is a vast field of snow. Sometimes, the sun shines through the dark, gloomy cloud and blesses us with a little bit of warmth. But that’s it. Spring never comes. And the pinky promise is forever a pinky promise.

You know, you don’t have to wait for the spring to come. You can just act on your pinky promise, Becky rolls her eyes at me, Humans are strange creature. As for me, I will go wherever I like, whenever I like, and do whatever I like.

Because cats are fickle animals, I retort.

No, Becky turns her whole fat body around and stares at me. This is the first time she looks me in the eyes and sees me for who I am. It feels strange when she drops the sarcastic act, We are not fickle animals, she says, it’s just we have more courage than you human.

And curiosity.

Yep. That’s the bigger part of it, she continues down the road, but from a cat’s eyes level, you can’t see much, you know. So be it spring or summer, autumn or winter, we only see one thing.

And what’s that thing?

Becky is in love with you, I says, getting annoyed at the doting attention The Lover spends on the fat, ugly cat I pick up from the shelter. The cat seems to understand the importance of being loved more than me. She is purring at every movement The Lover makes.

And would you mind that?

I would mind that very much.

Becky went out the other night, you know, The Lover says. His unusual mood swing and sudden change of conversation topics never stop to amaze me.

So?

It was cold. The weather says there are 70% of snow. And yet Becky still decided to go out on her tiny adventure. I say tiny because it only took her 5 minutes, and then she’s back home.

Isn’t it a good thing then? You didn’t lose Becky, I say while embracing his fragile figure in my arms and bury my nose on his collarbone. The Lover smells like the forest after a sudden burst of rain.

That’s not the point I am trying to make, he chuckles. His bony hand with the gentle fingers that I love so dearly ruffles my hair, Now don’t do that. I don’t like it when you tickle me.

Then what do you propose to do now? I look at him. Perhaps the desire in me at that moment burns the rational being within me. And when I begin to regret it, there’s nothing left of The Lover’s tenderness but a pile of burnt coal, signaling that once upon a time, there was love inside that coal mine.

Let’s move to the bed, he says, if that’s what you want. Let’s move to the bed. Now don’t do that. I don’t like to see your melancholy.

Say, Becky.

What?

When will the winter snow go away?

Does it even matter?

I promise him I would take him traveling when the snow stops. But the snow never stops, and before I could do something about it, it’s already too late.

Isn’t that what always happen? Before you could do something about it, it will always be too late.

Say, Becky.

What now? She hisses.

Will the spring rain come to this forest?

Becky doesn’t answer. In her place, the White Misty Thingy flows to my side, and puts what I suppose to be his hands on mine. Then slowly and ever so gentle, he uses that hand to ruffle my hair.

Now don’t do that. I don’t want to see your melancholy.

I have an urge to cry right there, at that exact moment, where everything stands still and the hand of a mystical being is trying its best to ruffle the unkempt hair on my head.

Darling, I meant to go out with you in the nights you can’t sleep.

Darling, I also don’t want to see your melancholy.

Darling, darling, darling –

What are you doing? Move it along. We don’t have much time.

I turn around, and in front of me, the first flower in the forest is blooming. Then come the ones next to it. The forest wakes up and stretches itself out with a carpet of tiny flowers of white and red and blue and all other colors. Above our head, the sun is struggling to shine through the thick mass of tree branches and leaves. I stands there, dumbstruck. Have forests always been beautiful? Or is it because –

You never see the beauty of it.

Of what?

The forest after the rain. The spring flowers after the winter snow. And even –

Even?

The beauty of human. After all, humanity is beautiful. Weird, but beautiful. The Lover chuckles. He buries his head into my flat, firm chest as if trying to find a shelter there, Say, when I am on my better days, would you go with me to the park?

Yes.

Pinky promise?

Yes. Pinky promise.

The spring is here, Becky glances at me through her half-moon eyes, And it will always be here. Just like the winter, the autumn, the summer, and everything in between. They will outlive us all, but you don’t see the beauty of them.

I look at the White Misty Thingy. I can see the form of his hand better now. The same thin wrists. The same bony fingers. The same pulsing veins on the back of his hands, except that they are no longer pulsing since that day. I try to hold it, but my attempts are in vain. The misty hands disappear the moment I touch it.

Let me do it all again, I cries, let me do it all again. A pinky promise. Please just give me a pinky promise.

But the White Misty Thingy doesn’t response. Not in verse or in any spoken words. I crouch down on the moss carpet of the forest. His scent’s in between and everywhere. And although there’s no longer a snowy, dark, and cold winter – although the Spring is finally here and the flowers are all blooming – why can’t I get back to the start?

See? Do you get it now? That is the topic that The Lover wants to talk about.

*********

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#i can’t sleep

He throws the pillow at me to wake me up. It’s five in the morning.

I can’t sleep, he says nonchalantly as if that is enough of a reason to wake me up.

My eyes are trying to figure out

whether it’s my beloved that I see, or just a cruel shadow

of someone who used to be my beloved.

I can’t sleep, he repeats and I start to wonder –

Since when does this love grows a garden of poison ivy

in my heart.

Honey, I whisper, half awake, half trying to find who I am in the darkness of night

and of loveless desire,

Come here, come over here,

and let us start the battle all over again.

***********

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#rain

I thought we would go out today, you say,

but instead, we are staying home and watching the boring TV show,

and listening to the sound of the pouring rain outside –

Are you out of your mind?

He curls into a ball on my laps, spilling his complains

the same way a bartender spills his liquor:

without reservation, and without a care whether the customer

will be able to tolerate the high from the strong spirit.

I would prefer staying home, I say.

Like how you prefer to leave the curtains down, he says,

when the sun is out,

or like that other time: you would prefer to stay by my side

in the emergency room,

listening to my delirious talk and crying over my bleeding wrist.

Yes, my darling, yes.

Do you prefer to suffer?

No, my darling, no.

I just simply prefer having you by my side

than being alone on my own.

And when being drowned is the only option for you,

I would prefer to drown with you, too.

He looks at me, laughing, You are weird,

then he hides his face into my bosom,

It’s strange. It’s not soft. It’s not like my mother’s.

He buries his head deeper into the hard muscles on my stomach,

and by so doing, his tears form a wet circle on my T-shirt.

I stroke his silky black hair. It’s comforting to think that I will see his black hair

Turns white.

You know what, darling, I say,

What?

I would prefer staying home on rainy day,

like I would prefer skipping my breakfast,

or like how I would prefer putting my shoes at the exact same place

I put them the previous day,

or like –

Like what? He mumbles in his drowsy sleep.

I wait to hear his shallow breathing,

and as his hands lose their grips on my shirt, I whisper:

Like I would prefer having you. More than anything.

I would prefer having you. Loving you. Living with you.

It’s all you, you, you.

Darling, you smell like the rain,

and though I can choose to be out in the sun,

I would always prefer the rain

when you curl up on my lap.

There’s no argument. No insult. No tantrum.

There’s only the me who is holding on,

and the you who is letting go.

*****************

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