A short story of attachment.
|It is the end of another day. The sun sinks slowly into the horizon, casting its last few rays against the city. For a while the gloomy landscape of skyscrapers, darkened by storm clouds in the sky, turns blood red. Another day is ending, just another day to the world. But not to Thomas. To him this day is different.
From atop the roof deck of a banking tower, he stares down at his hometown. He enjoys the view here. Windows of the neighboring buildings begin to come alive as lights are turned on, flocks of pigeons take flight from the surrounding rooftops in anticipation of the coming night, and the sun, blazing fierce orange, dips into the horizon, leaving behind a grey city.
Down below, employees and salary men fill the sidewalks. With darkness coming, they make haste toward their respective homes. On the streets, cars flood the streets, horns honking and red lights blazing. Rush hour is hell in this city. Cars are packed in close order, bumper-to-bumper, barely moving as time flies by. Out here, it will take each motorist an average of five minutes to move a couple of meters; and each of them lives an average of twenty kilometers away. Staring down at the infernal sea of motorist traffic, a smile crosses Thomas’ lips. Life is too short to spend in traffic. Way too short.
Tearing his gaze from the cars below, he looks to the horizon instead. He finds no solace there. In fact, the faded glow of the fallen sun and the bleak storm clouds it left behind only serve to remind him. Again he looks around. The buildings look dead, no longer glowing red and gold, and the clouds now look more like palls of smoke in the twilight sky.
Taking a deep breath, Thomas steps onto the ledge. He whispers something, his words lost in the wind. He sighs and closes his eyes.
* * *
The sun was shining just two days ago. It was mid-afternoon and the day was beautiful. Birds were chirping incessantly, the sky was deep blue with serene white clouds floating idly by, and the wind was fresh and cool.
“Happy 11th monthsary, Sophie”, Thomas said, handing over a small box wrapped in pink and tied off with red ribbons. They were sitting inside a small café, with cozy orange walls and wide glass windows. Thomas watched as Sophia opened the present. She untied the ribbons and gently peeled off the tape holding the gift wrapper together, careful not to tear it. She pulled out the gift box, neatly folding the wrapper before placing it aside. Thomas saw with satisfaction the surprise that flashed on Sophia’s face as she opened the gift box, revealing only a small envelope surrounded by crumpled balls of newspaper. Sophia paused suddenly, coughing a little. Then she continued, holding Thomas’ hand as she saw the concern on his face. She opened the envelope, took out the piece of paper inside, and started to read. Thomas saw her smile, her eyes scanning the lines he had written her. When she finished reading, Sophia returned the letter to the envelope and, placing it to one side, leaned over and kissed Thomas on the cheek.
“Thank you. It’s such a sweet gift, Tom,” she said.
“Who says that’s the gift?” Thomas replied, grinning.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small, undecorated black box. He held it up and opened it. Inside were two bracelets made up of small violet beads, small crosses dangling at the center of each.
“They’re Rosaries,” Thomas said. “One for you, one for me.”
Sophia embraced him then, her hold firm, yet gentle as well. Time stopped. In the eternity they spent in each other’s arms, Thomas forgot everything else. When Sophia finally let go, he found himself feeling suddenly empty.
“That felt good,” he said.
“It always feels good. It’s because we love each other.”
Thomas smiled, staring at his girlfriend’s face. She wore no makeup, the sun illuminating her features. She had soft, round cheeks and a gently curved nose. Her hair was brown, with natural streaks of blonde, her lips pink and prominent. And then there were her eyes. God, how here eyes sparkled!
Thomas and Sophia spent the rest of the afternoon holding hands and chatting, hardly noticing the passage of time. When night came, they left the café and headed home, holding each other’s waist. Neither of them spoke. It was 7:30 when they finally reached Sophia’s apartment. As they approached her doorway, Sophia began coughing again.
“Sophie, are you okay?” Thomas asked.
Sophia looked into his eyes. Smiling, she said, “After the perfect day we had, how can I not be? Don’t worry, Tom. It’s just the weather.”
Thomas embraced her.
“Good night, my Love,” Thomas said, kissing Sophia’s hand.
“Good night, Thomas.”
* * *
The next day, Thomas woke up late. The sun was already high in the sky. Storm clouds were gathering, and from the distance came the sounds of thunder. It was surprisingly dark, considering it was around midday. Thomas yawned, stretched his arms, and stood up. He reached for his phone and dialed Sophia’s number, his fingers moving automatically. It started ringing. Through the open window of his small condominium, Thomas could hear the sounds of the city: the constant whistle blowing of the traffic officer, the horns of the cars, the shouts of the magazine vendors. Sophia’s phone was still ringing, but she wasn’t picking up. In the distance, Thomas heard a bell tolling. Shrugging his shoulders, he put the phone down.
Thomas went to his tiny kitchen and grabbed two bread buns from a paper bag. He also took some orange juice and sat eating his breakfast at the dining table. He took that time thinking again of the previous day’s events. He remembered the almost unnoticeable way Sophia’s eyes widened when she opened the gift box. He remembered the way her lips curled, causing her dimples to show, as she read his letter. And he remembered their embrace. Smiling, he got out of his chair and moved to his living room, if a space with a bunch of chairs facing a television can really be called a living room. He spent most of the afternoon watching TV, waiting for Sophia to text or call. If she didn’t pick up, that meant she was busy; she would always call him after she finished whatever she had been doing. And so he waited.
At 3:30, Thomas’ phone rang. He jumped out of his chair and rushed to it.
“Sophie, is that you?”
On the other line, Thomas could hear sobbing. It was Sophia’s mom.
“Thomas…” she began, her voice barely understandable. Thomas’s stomach felt like a pit had taken its place. His heart was hammering against his chest. Outside, it was dark, the sun completely covered by clouds. When Sophia’s mom finally spoke again, her voice – and Thomas’ heart – broke.
* * *
Standing on the ledge of that roof deck now, his eyes closed, his heart stumbling, tears run down Thomas’ face. He can’t even remember her face as it was. Whenever he tried, he saw only the grey skin, the cold expression. He had visited Sophia’s house that fateful night. She was lying on her bed, her arms lying by her side. Her face was a mask: Her sweet lips dull, her soft cheeks hollow, and her ever-lively eyes closed. She was in all white, and the only color on her was the purple Rosary wrapped around her right wrist. He had stared at her then, for how long he did not know. Don’t worry, Tom. It’s just the weather. He had left without saying a word.
“Goodbye, Sophia,” he says now, holding his own Rosary tightly. And he steps off.
Instantly, his body tenses as he is pulled down. The wind whips against his face, tossing his hair around, blowing the tears off his cheeks. His stomach bursts with sudden sensation, the tingling feeling so intense it hurt. His heart, numb and dead only moments before, now throbs aggressively. His vision is a blur. The windows of the buildings whiz by him with such speed that they seem to blend together. Dizzied by their strange melding of colors, Thomas shuts his eyes. Thunder booms in the distance and rain falls.
Now, his body wet all over, Thomas finally sees Sophia’s bright face again. He sees her as she was two days before, on their monthsary: the sun shining on her face, turning her skin and hair gold, as she leans in and kisses his cheek. Through the din of thunder and rain, Thomas hears a distant screaming. It surprises him to discover that it is his own voice he is hearing, his cry coming from the very core of his heart.
Thomas peels his eyes open. He feels not the rain pelting his body. He feels neither the cramp in his stomach nor the beat of his heart. He hears nothing either. There is nothing. Sophie’s gone.
Thomas sees the fast-approaching sidewalk. Totally numb now, he knows the end is here. Thomas’ last thoughts are of his last moments with Sophia.
“Good night, my Love,” he had said.
“Good night, Thomas,” she had replied.
I Love You, he thinks in his head. I didn’t say I Love You.
With just a few moments left, and still holding his Rosary, Thomas asks himself if he had said I Love You to Sophia before she left him. He had not.
The realization hit him harder than the pavement.