he sounded tired and worn out, almost dead, over the phone. i would've said desperate but it's better to be safe. you know how dead some people sound like over the phone like life has been zapped out of their life? i'm not talking about being boring or jaded; that's pathetic. i mean that's a pathetic state. i call that state 'pathetic', as if they're dying for attention by being dead so that other people will inject life into them. that's predatory and i resent predators of such kind. why are they alive and living around us anyway? they should be dead, buried, or not even given life. that way they won't sap the life out of us and/or bore us with such nonsense. my friend here is dead, a different kind of dead.
his voice was high strung, panicked. i could almost see him before my eyes, like an apparition, being white like a ghost. maybe he's terrified. maybe it's terror that's plaguing, the most extreme kind because only such thing would drive a man to such a state. what else could it be? someone who is simply afraid will not call for help. it's a small matter and he can take care of it, and of himself. but someone who's is more afraid, like my friend, will be whiten by the fear. the fear, so great, it becomes tangible and it can be more than just felt. it seeps into the person's life and gets hold of what's within. it runs through the same blood as its host and breathes the same air. it starts to become part of you and you start to lose you. that is when the mind, your mind, starts to lose itself and you feel divorce from your soul. the separation is meant to tear you apart from within. that is how fear wins.
that was what happened to him. he's almost gone now, he's almost lost. he is soon not to be himself and if he hadn't make the call i would've lose my friend, my dear friend, forever. we know how painful that is. we will not forget about it after it is done. we will carry on the pain, the guilt, for as long as we can before alzheimer's come to the rescue, assuming it comes to save us from the pain, or we would carry it with us till we die and then leave it there with the underground creatures. these are sacred beings that's been trusted to keep our secrets. they keep the stories of those who've gone up or down for judgement. they're the filters, filtering out the unnecessary bulks and debris of what we've brought onto our lives leaving the soul pure and simple for easy judging. my friend has a story. he's storing it to me. i will take his story to history.
the rain clouds are gathering in fast, even the ominous weather is telling me something; this is not going to be good. all i can do now is pray he's got time to meet me and tell me what he wanted to. i will wait no matter how late he's going to be. a cab stopped a few metres in front of the park entrance. my thoughts began to swirl in a frenzy. i wanted to run over but something was holding me back. i don't know what it was but it was strong, very strong. was it me, my own doing, or something else was doing it for me? i tried to get up but i couldn't. that's weird. i tried again, this time with more strength and courage. i don't know why i needed that much effort to stand up but strangely, it did. someone stepped out. could that be him? i peered forward to get a better look but his back was facing me. he's wearing a black coat and a black hat. why did he dress like that? he doesn't usually dress so bleak. still, i didn't let it bother me. it was more important for me to talk to him, or him to speak to me. it is him whom i'm meeting. he's the attention here, not me. 'please come'.
lightning flashed a few times which caught my attention momentarily and i looked up. damn, i got distracted. when i regain my attention i saw the taxi driving off but he was no where to be seen. he's gone! no one else was seen in the park! was that him whom i saw or someone else? was my mind playing games and coming up with images that weren't real? did i really see him or was i imagining things? it can't be! i don't imagine things. i do get distracted but i don't hallucinate. i never hallucinate! 'nate!' i called out. 'nate! nate! i'm here!' no one responded. i could hear my voice echo through the park but the reply i wanted didn't come. maybe it was someone else that i had mistaken. i mean, people do make mistakes. but how could it be when he - the man - looked exactly like nate? was i thinking too much about him that i accidentally pasted his image on someone else? was i? it can't be. 'nate! nate!' but all i could hear was my own echo.
silence weighs down heavy on me. i started to think that he didn't make it. that he got into an accident while trying to meet me! oh dear! i killed nate! i killed my own friend! if i hadn't asked him to meet me he would've still be alive. i killed him. i caused his death and he doesn't know about it. i killed him before his cancer (presumably) got a chance to get to him first. what's going to happen now? the police must know the truth. his death must be justifiably told. the autopsy must speak of the truth, the real and entire truth, of his death; that it is not just an accident and he just happen to die because of the accident. it has to speak of the truth. the truth must be told, it cannot be concealed. no, not for cases like this. i must admit to my causing my friend's death. he died because of me.
oh my, he died because of me. he died because of me! he took his own life because he didn't want me to suffer. he didn't want me to take on his story. he didn't want me to carry on with what he's got. he didn't want me to know about his pain, and hurt, and languor. his story was his to keep and passed over to the underground creature for only they could take it. they're mute and stupid. so it was ok for them to keep it because they can handle it, it won't affect them any bit. they won't feel anything because they can't. they won't think about it because they've got no brains or sensory system to deliver 'feelings'. and that makes them sacred and trustworthy. of course, it hurts me a little bit that he'd rather let something else keep his story and not me but he must have his reason. and i trust him. i have faith in what he's going to do because he's always known what to do and how to do it. i don't know how but he just does. that is the magic about him.
he is smart and caring. and very intelligent. he cares about what he says and how he says them, careful not to offend anyone. he knows how powerful words are and he doesn't wish to misuse them and abuse others, like some people. he understands the extend of his actions and words and thus wishes to use them for good. a historian by academic training he also has got a wealth of knowledge inside that brain of his. unlike me, the language major, he gets to visit excavation sites and many other fieldtrips anywhere in the world to sudty and truly comprehend the subject. i love hearing him telling his stories when he gets back. you can see how much he loves the subject; his eyes would beamed brightly, and his intonation varies and his arms will move around cutting the air and he would smile - that sweet charming smile - always. he makes me feel alive.
and he doesn't want me to die along with him, with the truth of his last few stories. he didn't want me to know about the truth, his truth, from his story, because then it'll be too much for me to bear. he didn't want to let on his burden to me; a burden presumably. why would he ever think it's such? i'll not call it a burden. nothing about him is a burden, especially his stories. his stories give me life. i live by his stories everyday. they're uplifting and insipiring. and when you hear him pepper a few words of wisdom occasionally you too will adore and admire him. stupid nate, why would you think that? anyway, then it means that his decision to meet me and die on the way - by killing himself - was his way of saying goodbye, i love you! yes! of course, he's always been the romantic and caring kind capable of doing something unorthodox like this. this then mean his death should be celebrated! and not mourned or regretted. he doesn't like these passe kind of thing, he's never approve of such behaviour and decision anyway. of course, why didn't i think of that earlier.
isn't that ironic? that you don't tell things to those whom you care about? why is that? they say it's because you hurt most the one whom you truly love. but without saying anything, isn't that betrayal? do real friends betray one another? i guess in certain circumstances that's necessary. i won't blame him. we've known each other for years; i don't remember how long because it felt like yesterday. i know him. and he is like that: secretive at times. i only got to know of those that he didn't tell when i accidentally stumbled upon clues from other people. i think god wants us to play fair. and my dear nate wants to play a game. even if he didn't tell, i'm bound to find out somehow. that's the beauty of our relationship; it doesn't need to be said to be known. i don't care if others find out because that doesn't matter. it doesn't mean anything. so long as we have this, i feel safe. and i think i may have an idea of what he's thinking and about to do.
last year when the world trade centre collapse nate told me he's going to america. he didn't tell me the reason then but i knew it will surface eventually. the day after he left i went over to his place. he asked me to help him keep an eye on it while he's gone. i decided to stay there for a few days, or at least till he comes back. i did his laundry, clean his house and of course, went through his closet and drawers and wardrobe. he doesn't need to know and he will not know because i will put them back just as i how i found them; destroy the evidence, destroy the suspicion. i found nothing unusual. he came back a week later while i was sleeping on his couch.
just a week ago, nate called to arrange for a lunch meeting. this wasn't unusual. what was unusual was what happened during lunch. first he invited me over le carre's (a very posh restaurant where only the rich and famous dine, i don't know how he got seats). then he asked me to order anything i wanted. and throughout the conversation he kept talking about the good old times. i tried to tactfully ask him what's the occasion but he simply ignored and carry on. i tried again, this time he cut me in and asked about my estranged brother. i was getting irritated but i said nothing to spoil the day. we sat at the restaurant till evening and he drove me home.
i thought about our bizarre lunch meeting and speculated many things. was he going away or did he find out he's going to die or he met up with my brother or was i going to die and someone wanted to kill me? but why me, i'm not famous or dangerous. the last person i offended was my brother and that was months ago. whatever it was nate didn't want to tell, and it was soon before i could find out. i stayed up that night. i went online to read up on 9/11. i was trying to figure out if there's any connection between nate - who's residing in singapore - and america. was he an activist of some sort? or an undercover assassin and it's his time to be killed? what had the collapse of the wto got to do with him? was he involved in the conspiracy? i saw pictures of the terrorist training and videos of their plans but not one of them looks chinese. in the end i switch off the computer and tried to sleep. at the back of my mind i am convinced nate has got nothing to do with the attack, or the supposed one coming up this weekend at one of the mrt station.
it's been half an hour and still no sign of him. i wanted to go home but part of me insisted that i stay. 'maybe he is coming and got caught in traffic jam.' or maybe he forgets.
just then i saw another taxi stopping front of the garden entrance but no one came out. i waited for a few more seconds and still no one came out. maybe the taxi was waiting for someone. i didn't want to think much of it so i directed my attention to something else - the leaves. have you looked at the leaves before? i'm not talking about seeing them on trees, i'm talking about looking at them; observing and studying them. most poeple won't care about the leaves. i don't. but today, when i saw those leaves fluttering in the wind i began to realise how sad it must have been for the trees. they're trying so hard to hold onto their leaves but because of the strong wind those leaves were stolen away. sure they'll grow new ones but they can never replace those that they've lost. there is no substitute for those whom we care about. we can have a replacement but that won't replace the thing that we lost. imagine how the trees must be feeling when they have to keep replacing those that they've grown fonder for. only the memory of it is left, attached to the skin of its being. my phone rang.hello.
are you there yet?
wait for me.
and he hung up.
i was relieved to hear his voice. at least i know he's still there. yet i had a feeling that might be the last time i would hear his voice.
i let the engage tone play on over the phone. for some strange reason, it gives me a form of comfort.