“It doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat.” The room smells like the incense our family lit when my brother died, old flames licking the frostbitten air. Ling stares at me, her hazel eyes boring into my own as we sit uncomfortably across one another, her words stinging the incense ridden air.
The night is cold, just like that night, I will be missing in his memory tonight. For a minute, I want to run back to the warmth of home, but the soft glaze of the moon shines on my path ahead. It doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat. After a couple miles of walking, I sit underneath the blanket of stars and get out a pillow and a picture of Ling. I know.
Dear Celine. Tonight is the first night, and I know that somehow, this letter will find you because friends never leave. Why I don’t understand. That note in our forest, that night in my room? Your parents called last night and I know you are really gone for good, so I just wanted to leave you a reminder of home. I know I told you not to give up on yourself, but I can’t just sit here and wait for you. I can’t be left here to pick up the broken and put it back together. I’m coming, Celine. From Ling.
Eventually, if you keep on walking, the road will catch up to you. Packing enough isn’t a concern, but folks hear the things going ‘round other towns, and before you know it, you're caught. I put my hoodie up as soon as a shop came into view, the shelter of the forest disappearing in my wake.
Ling never approved of my drastic approaches to situations, but she wasn’t here anymore. Suddenly, the weight of my decisions seemed to pile on top of my chest like a hammer weighing me down, and I couldn’t breathe. In front of the whole town, I collapsed against a bed of rock, not getting up until a man approached me, checking to see if I was okay.
“Quite a scene you made up there child. So where are you running from?”
Celine, I like writing to you because you’re the only person who understands me. Each letter I write I feel I am getting closer to you, though you might never read these letters at all. Pieces of paper are all around me, written notes that never made it past the page, like a trail. Remember when we got lost at the ferry last year? I didn’t know back then that you were feeling a whole different kind of lost. Maybe I could’ve helped, but it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow I will cut through the forest to the subway and I’ll find you. I’ve always been more than able to take care of myself, including you. I don’t know if it is anger or pain that judges me for my false actions. Take care, and don’t kill yourself. From Ling.
“It’s more of a matter of what than where.” I act fierce, slinging my pack over my shoulder like I was about to get on my way, but the man put his arm across my chest, blocking the way.
“I run a fine traveling circus by Dale. We travel a lot an’ someone like you might want in, escaping and all.”
I debated my options, but the man didn’t seem like someone who took no for an answer. He led me back to his massive trailer, “Dale’s Moving Circus” written across the side. As we clambered inside, clowns, gymnasts, and animals all stood on the opposite side, facing me with curiosity. The man clapped me on the shoulder and looked out the window wearily.
“When we all want more, we gotta make choices lass. Choices.”
When I came to town, I just knew you weren’t going to be there. I felt like it was too late, watching the tranquil moon reflect off of the grimy walls of a nearby shop. Birds squawked loudly, but the rest of the town was dead silent. Before I turned back, a woman saw me from her shop and kindly offered me a place to stay for the night. Celine, if you were here, you would’ve felt right at home.
There were maps everywhere, from all over the world; and the trinkets inside were marvelous. Suspended butterflies, fish, and so much more dangled from the walls. I asked the woman about you Celine, but she said all that left town was a traveling circus. I wanted to run to that place, wherever that trailer went, and find you, but I was tired and hungry and alone. Instead, I asked the woman another question.
“What kind of shop is this?” The woman delicately fingered a china elephant and smiled.
“Let’s just say it is full of odds and ends.” Odds and ends. I would have it no other way. Be well, my friend. From Ling.
Choices. I know quite a lot about choices, like the day I ran away from home for a better life, or the first day I joined a traveling circus, and now, choosing between pancakes and waffles.
Mitch hollered at me to come on stage, but I still had some time to prepare. Inside my makeshift trailer home, I touched each performance picture pinned on my wall for good luck, ending with the first performance I had done two years ago. Mitch had promised me earlier that we would hit the beach after the main event, but I couldn’t wait to ferociously slam into those waves! Lastly, I caught a picture that went flying into the wall. It fluttered graciously into my open palm, and I saw my old friend Ling’s face appear into view.
"Celine! The curtains are going up now!" A member of the set called out to me.
Hastily, I stuffed my once prized possession into my bag and ran out the door to catch Mitch before the best show of a lifetime.
Two years? Is that really how long it took me to find you? All those kind people, the taxicab driver, the woman’s store, and those baby mice being born in the busy city streets of New York City were so far away now. I don’t think you would’ve believed some of the odd jobs I’d had to work. After I’d seen your trailer whizz by during breakfast, I nearly leaped out of my seat. Hank, my friend from New York told me to go and I did, leaving my newly created life, again. When I walked into the open-air tent, I gasped as I saw your name everywhere. Celine. Celine the Great. You were beautiful and taller and different.
I rubbed my calloused hands nervously as I watched your swift movements, graceful flips, and gymnastics like it was a whole new world before my eyes. And it was too much, too much that I escaped to the beach where I pulled out these notebooks which I wrote all these letters to you in. From New York to Florida, and now Dale Virginia, I’ve left life to find you, but you never really wanted to be found. Gingerly, I placed the notebook on the sandy ground, not angry enough to fling it into the ocean’s hungry jaws. In fact, I never really wanted to be angry at you for leaving. So, I picked up my phone and dialed Hank to come and pick me up. Letting go would be hard, but I wanted to settle, get a job, and have a life. Not giving up, no it wasn’t that at all. I stared out into the ocean, a wide grin pasted on my face. I was resting.
At the beach, I grew bored with surfing and decided to collect seashells by the shore. Suddenly, my foot struck a hard object, and I knelt down to pick it up, surprised that it wasn’t a shell or anything from the sea for that matter. It was a small leather notebook with curvy handwriting stuffed onto every blank page. I began my walk back to the trailer, reading silently. Dear Celine. The first note inscribed. For the first time in 2 years, I remembered my friend, Ling, trying to picture what she looked like. Ling’s face, her wavy hair, and pointy shoulder blades weren’t clear to me anymore, like a hole was in the place where she should’ve been. I rubbed my temples and stared at the ground, trying to grasp what I had found. Ling would’ve told me to start somewhere, but where that somewhere was I couldn’t be sure of.
Fingering the leather spine, I flipped to the first page. Tonight is the first night, and somehow, I know this letter will find you.