Fiction Sad Romance

That's the thing about this city, you've lived in it for two decades and you still get lost. It's not that it ridiculously spans over a million miles. Someone who designed this place just probably thought it was fun to mess with people’s heads.

The buildings scatter like a labyrinth, with the roads leading to a dead-end and the walkways running in circles. Each time someone boldly attempts to draw a map, another person discovers a corner, and they’d have to consolidate all over again. The city just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The fact that the houses look bizarrely the same doesn't help at all.

Do you remember this spot where I’m standing right now, this end of an alley, that is narrowly squeezed between two uneven warehouses?

That Friday afternoon. The pesky smoke fumed out beneath the gutter, the slippery pavements glistened under the setting sun, and the way you danced beside a flickering streetlamp was quite riveting. You closed your small eyes and took a deep breath as if oblivious to the stench of garbage bins right beside you. Like a firework, you glowed beautifully, surrounded by the darkness. And like a firework, you disappeared.

It was some years ago, not that distant into the past, yet somehow it feels like an ancient history. Where did you go? I remember it all too clearly; as though I have woken up and a thick blanket of mist slowly disperses before me.

I was running too fast, panting, and slipped before falling into a blackened puddle, almost tasting the awfully bitter liquid. I didn’t want to think what the hell was even in that. You would have laughed if you saw me. Anyone would have laughed if they saw me.

But nobody did.

Suddenly, everything fell silent. The loud bickering between an old, stout lady and a drunken teenager near us was gone. The pack of stray dogs barking at the curb vanished. I thought you were playing a game of tag or hide-and-seek, so that didn’t bother me at all, at least for some time.

When dusk cleared, and my legs were spent, and you still hadn’t come out, my guts told me something didn't fit. You knew your mom would have killed you if you went home late, so that was pretty strange that you kept playing anyway.

That’s the thing about this city, I guess. Everything is strange. Someone was probably pulling the strings at us, imbued with sick amusement at the fact that we were naive.

Or at the fact that I have kept looking for you, calling out your name like the shameless and pathetic person I am. Maybe it's not really because I want to make sure that you’re still here, probably lurking in abandoned classrooms with broken windows, or sleeping peacefully in some random hospital beds because you questionably love the smell of bleach.

No. Maybe I just want to find you because I want to kick your ass for trying to pull off this prank. Although, deep down, I really wish it's all just a silly game gone too far.

A pair of starlings fly above the gloomy sky and snap me back into reality. I almost forget what I’ve been doing. My grip on the trolley tightens as I begin to walk again, trying not to plummet into those dungeon of memories. Any more hesitation and my resolve would all be for nothing.

Today is the day I plan to leave this forsaken city.

As I reach the main road, a gust of cold wind blew, pricking my face. It doesn't take a second to notice that nobody is guarding the main roads anymore. Nobody’s anywhere.

An outsider would have thought this place is a ruins of defeated wars.

The check point signage, covered in rust, stands in the middle of the roadway. Its shadows crept over my shoes as if trying to stop me.

Do you want me to stay? I’ll wait for another decade, or forever, you know I will. Give me the slightest or most perplexing sign, and I will.

My feet remain planted on the ground for what seems like an hour already. Thoughts spill out like a leaking dam and crash forcefully against my head. The trees sway mockingly. I can feel that the check point sign judges me. If it had a face, it would have been smiling smugly at my helplessness.

I have finally made it here, after a long time of dragging my limbs against the asphalt cracks, only to freeze right before the border.

If you were here, you’d have gotten mad at me. You would have sniggered, saying I’m a lousy chicken, and all.

Maybe I really am.

One step is all it takes to a step away from this city. A step between change and halt. Between hope and materiality.

Suddenly, a voice breaks into the air. By now I can’t distinguish if it comes from the back of my mind or from miles away, behind those skewed apartments and unfinished bridges.

It's a voice that stresses the end syllable of my name, a way that only one person knows.

The sound gets louder by the second and a hot breath brushes on the side of my nape, causing a shiver down my spine. Slowly, I turn around, expecting to see you. I wonder what you look like by now. Would you have gotten taller? They say boys grow taller quickly after childhood, and I probably won’t be able to tease you anymore.

But as I turn around, nothing faces me. Nothing behind but walls within walls of hollow bricks.

The thing about this city, it always changes. The scenery is never steady and if you're not cautious, you'll forget how you even end up somewhere. That’s why it's so easy to get lost and hard to find your way back.

Sighing, I take a step forward, burying that voice I can never seem to locate where. What’s the point anyway? It keeps saying the same thing over and over again like a broken cassette or a failed stand-up comedy. Maybe it doesn’t know anything else.

“You’re free now,” it says. "Forget me."

March 19, 2021 11:17

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