“Do you believe me?”
He asks. His desperate face isn’t blurred even in the hot steam of the train.
You look at him. He hadn’t changed. Or had he? The time swept away his figure of his face from you. Yet you remember his eyes. You remember the bright twinkle.
“Do you believe me?”
He asks you once again, his eyes twinkling as it did before. But you can’t say anything. You stand still, staring at his eyes.
He shakes his head and bids you goodbye. His body vanishes in the swarm of people.
Why couldn’t you answer him? You are an ‘mad’ believer. You believe on crazy, unrealistic things. You always take a risk. Why couldn’t you confess that believe him? Your mind travels back to past to find the answer.
Your first encounter with him was in your father’s library. You were reading the book which your mother used to love. Every night when you read aloud to your father, he would lean back with his eyes closed to collect the fragments of memories about your mother. Then you would clutch to his hand and continue reading. You feared that Papa would leave you and depart to heaven to meet your mother someday.
Then you saw him, hiding beside the wall. He was your gardener’s son, and one of the cleaners in your house. He had been sweeping the hall, but now he was leaning against the door. He had jet black hair and dirty face. His nose was hooked and his messy eyebrows looked wild and harsh. But you noticed the brilliant, passionate twinkle in his eyes. He was listening.
Your crazy belief #1:
The most brilliant stars are always hidden in the curtains of darkness.
You read louder and clearer that he can listen better. He stood there until your father say goodnight and go back to bed. You went straight to him. He flinched nervously as you came near, but you smile calmly and simply suggested:
“Would you like to learn how to read?”
Every night after your father go asleep, you read books to him. In return, he told you funny stories about the world “out there.” You experienced the imagery world and he knew the real world, so it was a good bargain after all. He turned out to be an eager reader and learner. He especially liked the plays of Shakespeare. He would like to be in one of them.
“Why,” you teased, “would you like to stand in the balcony like Romeo?”
“Why yes,” he said pretty seriously. “I will kneel down and take out the ring-“he knelt down and took a white, shiny bead from his pocket.
“Wait!” You interrupted. “That’s my lost button! You overheard me months ago and now you’re thieving?”
You stretched out to take it but he would not give you back. He grinned teasingly and put it back to his pocket.
“Believe me,” he urged. “I would really do that someday.”
“I believe you,” you growled, rolling your eyes. “You’re stupid enough to do so.”
4 years passed. You were 13 heading fast to 14. He grew taller and stouter, and your short pigtails have grown to beautiful blond curls. You and he were now partners in crime. When your father wasn’t around you slipped out of your house and he stuffed some books in his pocket and followed you. You sat in the forest that belonged to your father and he read to you. That afternoon he read a book entitled Dream Collector. He could read nicely and fluently now. You sketched the trees and the stream as you listened to him. His voice flowed and bubbled with the stream.
“You know what, Esther,” he stopped reading and turned to you, “we’ll go to LA someday and reach for our dreams.”
He was a future ‘2nd Shakespeare’ according to him. You were the future ‘2nd De Vinci’.
“Do you think we’ll still remain as friends by then, Mr. Ryan Shakespeare?” you rejoined, “why, I think you’ll leave me and fly out to the ‘outer world’ as soon as you grow up.” You said it with jest but you felt pretty anxious inside.
“No, I won’t, dear Ms. Esther De Vinci. Believe me,” he rounded his shoulders back and looked straight at you to show that he was confident.
Years ago he had insisted you to believe that he will do and now he wanted you to believe that he won’t do.
You assured him that you believed him. You did believe him and it was nice to do so. He gave you a satisfied smile and rolled the white bead in his hand. He still would not give it back to you.
“How does my plan sound like?” he asked proudly.
You gazed at the sky. Evening stars lined up one by one and peeked out behind the velvety clouds.
Your crazy belief #2:
Your dream is a song which the stars sing you as a lullaby.
“Fantastic,” you admitted, wondering what LA would look like.
He grinned at you. His white teeth flashed brightly below the darkening sky.
His smile suddenly faded. He gasped and trembled with shock. You jerked your head to observe what was the matter.
It wasn’t a matter. It was your father.
He seized your arm and dragged you back to house. He was mad at you. It was a disgrace that his daughter associated with a vulgar servant boy. He didn’t listen when you tried to explain that he wasn’t vulgar but he was William Shakespeare Junior and her best friend. He and his father were sent out of the mansion next day. Your father was mad but you were livid. You had the first quarrel ever with your father that day.
That night, you crept into your father’s library. No book reading that night. Your daddy did not utter a syllable that afternoon. You were angry and miserable. So everyone would leave you as you feared. Would believing be something helpful or wise as you thought?
You startled as you noticed Dream Collector on your desk. You grabbed it. A paper fell out from the book.
What was written on the paper, and your belief #3:
Dear Ms. De Vinci, stars have voyages but they eventually come back to where they had shone the brightest.
You chuckled, wiping the tears on your face. Stars rushed by your window, winking.
You were eighteen, and you were standing beside your father’s grave. You recalled about the day which you saw the note written by your old friend in your library. You made up with your father that night. You obeyed your father even after he failed you greatly. You chose to be wise in after your lesson of sore sorrow.
A year later, he suffered a strong headache. His business was going downhill and his workers was impatient to get their wages. Your father was suffering unknown disease. You called different doctors and medicals but they had no idea what the disease was. You spent day and night beside his bed. You could not have been able to withstand the sleepless nights if you did not keep your beliefs alive.
Your crazy but desperate belief #4:
When your beloved ones die, they will be the stars to guide you in your hardest sails.
You did not blame him for leaving you, but you only lamented quietly. You always dreaded that you would lose everyone you loved and believed, but since you had grown up you could face the parting because you have grown into a stronger believer.
You ran into the forest after your father’s funeral ended, reviewing your beliefs. What was belief number 1? You thought hard, trying to keep your father’s death out of your mind.
“Believe, Esther,” you commanded yourself, “be a better believer and everything will turn out right.”
You flinched as a man approached you. As he drew nearer, you realized that he was your old friend.
He sat down beside you. You sat speechlessly with him as though you have sat there with him for ages. He was not the stupid boy you had known. He had grown, and his face was in the figure of man. But something had other than that has changed.
He said he was sorry. You said you were alright. Heavy silence followed. He looked grave and gloomy. You did not prefer this much. You tried to feel as you felt in the old days.
“So,” you began cheerfully (or as cheerfully as possible), “you haven’t gone to LA, haven’t you?”
He lifted up his head and gazed at you gravely.
“Esther, I’m too old to believe dreams.”
You didn’t say anything. You never thought he would be ‘too old’ to do something.
“I’ll get a job at the factory, and hopefully I’ll stay alive this winter.”
You stayed silent. He sounded totally different, and the change in his voice wasn’t the only reason.
“Do you believe on stars, then?”
“Esther, I’m a man.”
“And I’m a woman, excuse me,” you retorted. “Why, I still believe on stars and dreams. I grew up by believing, but I suppose losing your beliefs is the way you grew up.”
He silently bit his lips. He wasn’t angry, but he was painful.
“How about me?” You continued. “Do you still believe me?”
He did not answer. He bit his lip again, fighting against the tears that filled his eyes.
“My father died a year ago,” he confessed.
“So did my father last month. Why, have you quite forgotten me?”
“You don’t believe me then. I believed you whenever you wanted me to.”
He did not answer. He kept biting his lips.
You thought how coward he was. He didn’t use to be. He was a crazier believer than you. He dreamed the biggest dream he dared to dream. He was always brave when you were doubtful. But life has washed away his hopes from him.
You noticed what had changed in him. His twinkles in his eyes had grown dim and melancholy. You did not know whether to blame him or blame his life.
You threw your belief #3 on his knees.
“This note belongs to you, Shakespeare. Give my button back. Oh, sorry, I guess you lost it?” You said calmly but coldly.
You rose up. He stated at you, his gray eyes widened with shock. You marched out of the woods, feeling uneasy in spite of yourself. When you looked back, raindrops were wetting the tree leaves, and sore shadows were wetting his bent shoulders.
You open your eyes. You stare at the empty railroad. People go back home one by one. You step out of the station and head back home. In the place of your father’s big mansion, there is a small, whitewashed house. Your heritage went mostly to your father’s creditors and doctors.
You stop at the red mailbox. Someone has left a letter there.
‘Dear Ms. Esther De Vinci,
I’m heading to LA this tomorrow. I am leaving at 9 in the morning, and my platform number is 5. Just wanted you to know. I came here no more give you my answer and receive mine from you. Esther, I still do not believe on dreams or stars. But I do believe you.
Ryan Shakespeare Junior
So he finally answered you. You decide that you will give your answer much prompter than him.
The next day, you are back in the train station, platform number 5. His twinkling eyes are fixed to yours. He is waiting for answer.
“I believe you.” You whisper, beaming at him. He nods and beams back. He kneels down and takes something out of his pocket.
It was your bead-button, resting in the top of the ring.
You laugh heartily, telling him that he was a craziest goose you have ever seen. He merely shrugs and slipps it in your fingers, informing you that you won’t lose your button that way.
You and he bought the ticket to LA. The train roars and squeals, hurrying the passengers to hop on. You and he step into the train. You clutch your suitcase as the train departs.
You know this is crazy. You know that you and he might not be artist or a script writer. You know this is taking a risk. But who cares? You have always been a ‘mad’ believer. You gently touch your ring (a.k.a. button) as the old world vanishes and new world uncurls before you.