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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Day I Died

I died that day. I can tell you every vivid details of what had happened, and why I ended up being among the dead like I am right now. You don't want to hear about it? Well I really don't care. I would tell you all about it anyway and you will listen. That's what bartenders are for, goddamn. You got other customers, you say? Well honey, this is no bedtime stories. Feel free to do whatever you want, but just pretend to listen. Now pour me another glass, will you?

How old were you when you first saw the sea? Too young to remember, eh? You lucky dawg. I first saw the sea almost a year ago, and I still feel like crying. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my whole life. The blue water with the streak of white wave. The cool sea breeze with the scent of salt and foreign lands. The warm sand that massages my feet. The sunshine that warms you to the soul. My god,  James; it is the most beautiful thing ever. I pity you for being robbed of that first impression, really. There is nothing like seeing the sea for the first time and fell in love with it. What? Your name is Jonathan and not James? Well, same difference.

I have lived all my life in the arid mountain. You get to see a whole lot of cactus and ocatillo and pebbles and sands, and lots and lots of dust. I remember the song we used to sing when we were a kid: “In the shade, in the shade of a saguaro, you and I can't find relief”. That's exactly how it feels like. All the little things thrive there in the mountain: the scorpions, the spiders, the mice, the rattle snake; yet we people have to deal with it the hard way. The dry weather would parched our lips and skin, and water is scarce to say the least. There is nothing to see or do there, not that there is anything we would want to do after a tiring day in the sun. I worked as an office clerk, and after work and dinner all I wanted to do was to retire to my bed with the fervent hope that the swamp cooler would actually work for once. I can't believe I lived that life for so many years. Then it all began. 

My husband's friend invited us for a week vacation in his beach house here at Mission Bay. I don't know much about him because he had already moved to California by the time I met my husband, but apparently they were really good friends at that time. I had my doubts, mind you. I was reluctant to drive eight hours to an unknown land and have to share a house for a whole week with a complete stranger. Despite the hardness, I was so used with my hometown and the comfort of my own house. My Ma is from the mountain too, and my husband is from the nearby city. We would go to Tucson now and then to visit my husband's dad, and that's about as far as I have been in my whole life. I wanted to tell my husband to decline the invitation, but I felt selfish for even thinking about that. In retrospect I think I wanted to go as well, thus the silence. I should have said no.

On the designated day we started our road trip to California. It was a pretty sunny day, and I could feel his excitement rubbing off on me. The bags were safely stowed in the trunk, we have a little soft cooler filled with cold drinks and snacks, and our MP3 player was stocked with at least 100 songs to accompanied us in the road trip. We were all prepared and all set to go. The road trip itself was amazing, I've had never seen such vast land and such long long road. The windmill farm took my breath away, they were so huge and majestic! And the rocky mountains that looked like it's made by a giant who decided to play with a bunch of pebbles, it was just gorgeous. It felt like we were in an old episode of Star Trek. And after the mountains came the lush greeneries of San Diego County, such greens that I have never seen in my whole life. The shops and the cars and the people, all looked so noisy and crowded and interesting. I was scared, I really do. I felt so out of place with my jeans and boots among these people who barely cover themselves, and I wanted to ask my husband to return immediately. I didn't though, and we continued our trip.

I couldn't tell you how it feel to be there at that time, when I finally subdue my fear and discomfort and just give in to the stimulation. All of my five senses were awoken, and they were wildly enjoying themselves. The pastrami sandwich we had for lunch cost us $15, which was roughly the amount of money I spent on grocery shopping for two days in our hometown, but it was such a treat! I have never eaten anything as delicious in my whole life, and the difficult name and explanation like stone ground mustard or Russian slaw, for me, justify the whole experience. The vacation house was decorated in white and had all these pretty ornamental sea shells and bleached white starfish, a balcony for each level of the house (total three levels), and was located only a short walk to the beach and an even shorter walk to the bay. The bay was beautiful and looked like the lake we visited one time in Arizona, even though this one had more sailboats and paddle-boarders and the water was definitely colder. But the sea, ah the sea. It was surely love at first sight. The water was colder than I imagined it would be, even colder than the bay. The seaweeds and kelp were no beauty as well, and the seagulls were intimidating. Yet the sea was beautiful and magnificent. I fell in love with her.

In the house, my husband's friend Mark greeted us and gave us a room for ourselves in the second floor. To my relief there were two other women and another couple joining us for the vacation, they were all Mark's friends. All of them chatted easily, even my husband, but I was too shy to say anything. Such a meek little mouse! I could only smile shyly and nervously holding the glass of wine they have given me, while everyone was already on their third glass or more and looking more lively than ever. My husband was appointed as the chef of the day, and even though we have made barbecue for so many times before, it felt really different to be among those lively beauties. We, I mean they laughed and joked around and were so joyful and merry, so confident with themselves and loving the hell out of their life. After dinner we all walked to the bay to see the fireworks, huddling and playing tags on the sandy beach which we all ended up in some sort of a pile just before the fireworks, too sloshed out to untangle ourselves and just laughing uncontrollably.

The next day we all went out to the beach, this time I was in my first two-piece ever, courtesy of Mark's friend Miranda. She was a beach wear designer and insist on giving me one of her work so I can get a 'healthy glow'. I was embarrassed at first, but the look on my husband's face was priceless, and so did the intense gaze from Mark. I felt powerful and in control. I loved it. The women, delighted with their new toy A.K.A. me, taught me everything they know about their life. They taught me about their gluten-free diet and vegan lifestyle, they taught me about matching accessories and shoes and dresses, they taught me how to flirt and win attentions. As the days went by, my skin became darker and my confident grew stronger. The little meek desert mouse have transformed into a genuine So-Cal girl. Another drink please, if you have time, so I can finish the story.

Don't get me wrong, I resisted the changes at first. I was uncomfortable with the amount of money they spent, or their wasteful habits. They insisted on the healthiest food possible, but a whole bunch of those went to the drain or stored for an eternity in the leftover boxes inside the refrigerator. They insisted on keeping the earth 'green', but they kept on buying these purified water in the bottle instead of reusing their old water bottle with tap water. They talked confidently about themselves and boasted their adventures and lifestyle, but they get super insecure when they saw somebody dressed a tad nicer than they are and would end up bitching about that person while buying another 'bling' to comfort themselves. It was all a facade, a rat race to ensure that they were better than others. Oh I could see that all right, I could see that as clear as day. Yet even though the logical me hated all of those things, even though the sensible me kept on reminding me of the comforting life I have back home, I still wanted to be a part of them. I wanted to be a part of these beauties, these attractive creatures-by-the-sea that were everything that I was not. Here, fill my glass. It won't be long now.

On our last day, Mark threw a party for us all. Miranda dressed me up in her sexy red dress, and Kerry – Miranda's partner – did my hair and makeup. I felt like Cinderella. We danced and laughed and had a good time, and then Mark suggested that we hit the club. Everyone agreed except my husband, who said he'd rather stay home and rest for our long drive tomorrow. Miranda cheekily asked if I would be driving tomorrow, and when my husband said no, she announced that she would 'kidnap' me for the night to everyone's laughter. I should have stayed home with him, but I wanted the night to last a little bit longer. There would be no more crazy dancing and joyous laughter in our desolate little home in the mountain, I told myself. I wanted to live the dazzling life just a little bit more before I return to my dreary old existence. Before we all went out my husband hugged me a little bit longer than usual, which should already be a premonition. I hugged him back and kissed him and told him I'll be back before midnight. We both knew it was a lie.

We went to so many clubs that I couldn't remember how and why we ended up losing the remainder of the group, and it was just me and Mark in his car. Mark was driving us through a beach side parking lot  when Miranda messaged him, saying that she and the others were already at home. I nervously smiled at Mark and told him we should be heading home, I didn't want my husband to be worried. He said OK, but asked that I should allow him a few minutes enjoying the quiet beach at night. So I did, and we walked to the edge of the water and sat there in silence. My phone rang soon after, it was from my husband. Mark pulled the phone away from my hand before I could answer it, and pushed it into my purse before he gently kissed me. The split second felt like an eternity for me. I should have slapped him and demanded to be brought home immediately. I should have cried for being violated in such a way. I should have cussed myself for allowing myself to be violated from the first place. But instead I kissed him back. Our kisses became stronger and more passionate as we hungrily devour each other in the reek of champagne and expensive cigar and in the comfort of warm sand, all while my phone rang. And that is when I die. 

It was already past two when we returned home. I took off my dress and went to bed, but my husband didn't even flinch, either he was deep asleep or pretending that he was asleep. When the dawn broke I saw him sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at me and caressing my hair. His bags were already packed, but mine had not. He already knew what will happen. He kissed me over and over again, and between his tears and silent sobs he said “I love you sweet angel, I love you so much”. I cried with him, but I have made up my mind, and he knew it. He left shortly after while everyone was still asleep. Silent tears were streaming down my cheeks as I heard his car engine down in the garage, and how it faded as he drove away. Mark came in while I was still sitting there, crying and grieving. He hugged me close and wipe my tears away, and soon we were making love on the bed that still has my husband's scent and warmth. 

This one's on you, you say? Thank you but don't pity me honey, I did what I have to do and I have no regret. When I said I die, I really die inside. Mark and Miranda helped me to established myself here, and I flourished quite well. Yet day after day I could feel myself eroding, and my existence is now measured on how other people looked at me. I am a walking empty shell, albeit an attractive one. This life I chose is an empty life indeed, and often times I missed the simplicity of my old life, but I can't go back. We tried to reconcile, my husband and I, but I could only stay with him for a little over three months before returning back here. I have glitter in my eyes, and that's all I wanted to see. I have no regret.

JONATHAN: The lady had walked herself out when I saw her coat at the bar stool. I ran outside to give it to her when I saw her standing still at the sidewalk, looking intently at the live band across the road. “Kiss me, out on the bearded barley/nightly, beside the green green grass,” she sang softly along with the band, hugging herself tightly and swaying to the music. I stood next to her till the end, as she whispered the last part of the song with tears on her cheek, “So kiss me...” I wrapped her in her coat and she cried for a long time in my arms.

Note: This short story won the Commendation from Society of Southwestern Arizona on their annual writing competition. The judge's comment is as below, but feel free to add your own in the comment section below!

Great description at the beginning. Who is James/ Nice, good character, at the top of page 3. Great description throughout. Character is strong. Needs tightening, but has potential. Enjoyed the format. 

1 comment:

  1. Selamat ya Dayu. Ini keren tulisannya, susunan kalimatnya dan pemilihan katanya elo banget.


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