The days after she went away

Submitted into Contest #196 in response to: Write a story that includes the phrase “Maybe in another life.”... view prompt


Romance Contemporary East Asian

I still remember the day we broke up. It was when the second wave of coronavirus broke out in our country. I was working from home so that I could pick her up early. Normally, I often had to finish my work early then drive as fast as a bullet from my office to hers through crowded streets so that she would not have to wait long. Now I did not have to rush but was still anxious as she had texted me that she wanted to talk to me the day before. Nevertheless, when she stepped down from the grand Lotte building, climbed on my motorbike and told me intriguing everyday life stories, I thought she forgot what she wanted to tell me. Apparently, it was insignificant.     

“Today I have to escape home quarantine to see you,” I told her.

“Really?” she said surprisingly.

“No, just kidding. Luckily, the ward official gave me the decision to end my home quarantine this morning”

 We were on the way to her sister’s apartment. Suddenly, it rained. Raindrops got bigger and bigger. I had to stop to wear raincoat. She embraced me in the raincoat, which was strange as she had been often embarrassed with my raincoat. Once she said it smelled, another time she complained that I should pick her up by a car like her colleague’s husband. This time she was still cheerful and tender. Nevertheless, when I stopped by her sister’s building, she suddenly told me:

“Let me embrace you”

I had no idea why she wanted to do that.

“But I’m wearing the raincoat”, I told her.

“It doesn’t matter”, she gently said.

Then she embraced me when I hadn’t taken off the raincoat. Had I known it was the last time I saw her, I would take off that damn raincoat immediately to enjoy the last sweet taste of love. Just when seeing her sobbing, I realized what was happening.     

“Why did you cry? I should have been the one who cried. I’m the one who is still in love with you while you no longer loved me for a long time. I’m the one who have been left in a decaying love”, I thought to myself while driving home on the long wide road. Raindrops kept falling on my head. I hate the rain. It made my nearsighted eyeglasses dim…

 I went home, sitting on the sofa trying to figure out everything. At that moment, I felt nothing. When a hurricane has just swept through and destroyed the house of someone, perhaps he would have the same feeling like me. Empty. I pondered upon her tears. The first time I saw her crying was when we watched a funny animated movie in the cinema. I touched her cheek and suddenly felt wet. Her eyes were full of tears.

“Oh my god, I haven’t seen anyone crying while watching an animated movie like you”

“I’m thinking about other things”

I did not ask further but I doubted that her sorrow related to me.

Just when sitting in the waiting room at the airport a few hours later, I texted her about that.

“Why did you cry? Have I done something upset you?”

“No, it’s not your fault. I just felt our love story sad”

“I’m sorry”

A mixed feeling of happiness and bitterness filled my heart. I was happy as I was the reason for her teardrops yet bitter as I made her cry. During two years of long-distance love, I tried to fly to Saigon to visit her every month but it was not enough to ease her loneliness. In the only handwritten letter she wrote to me, she told me that she had been sick and gone to the hospital where she saw another patient was taken care of by her boyfriend. She was jealous of that patient and wished I could take care of her like him. I promised to myself that I would make up for her. Apparently, I have not done much to fulfill my promise though.

I was obsessed by her gloomy face that day. And when she embraced me crying, the sorrowful memory came back to me.

“Are you going somewhere faraway?”, I texted her, “Please take care yourself. I’m sorry sometimes I was so busy that I have not take good care of you”

“Darling. Sorry, I have to go. If I continued staying here, your life would be miserable. I realize we won’t be happy together. You are my youth. I owe you a lot. Please take care. Goodbye my first love.”

 The most painful moment of a breakup is not the moment your lover say goodbye but a few weeks after that, like a poison gradually soaked into your heart. Everywhere I went, everything I saw, every sound I heard reminded me of her. When I was at a H&M store seeing some couples hand in hand happily together, I saw the reflection of us in the beautiful old days. When I passed by the Lotte center, I seemed to see her walking towards me from the skyscraper, climbing on my motorbike, telling me exciting everyday life stories before we had dinner at a nearby Japanese restaurant. The days I went to restaurants with her, seeing her pretty face, hearing her pure voice were the glorious days of mine. The present seemed to be an illusion. Only the beautiful past was real to me.

The days after she went away, I listened to the song “Come back to me” by Utada Hikaru a hundred times. Intense lyrics and melodies made me burst into tears. My mind was flooded with beautiful memories. For a long time, I wanted to break up because of her coldness. But now when my wish came true, I did not think about the loneliness of a decaying love anymore but the sweet taste of love in our early days. I only remembered the twenty-year-old beautiful gentle girl who loved me from the bottom of her heart. I did not remember the twenty-five-year-old gorgeous distant woman who left me.

 I reminisced about our first kiss. We were sitting together watching Saigon river while the moon was watching us. My lips suddenly found hers. I had no idea what was going on, just felt like I was drowned in happiness. That moment was unforgettable. But now whenever recalling that kiss, I felt not only sweetness but also bitterness. Five years before, I was the happiest person on earth. Now I was the most miserable man in the world.

 While watching the old photos in my smartphone, I suddenly saw a screenshot photo of her text message.

“Darling I love you so much. Although you are not perfect, you love me so much. I feel really lucky as I have you in my life”

Right, I was just an average man yet I did some extraordinary things for love. Once, she went to the airport but forgot her identification, thus she called me to bring it to her immediately.   

“How can I enter your room?”, I asked.

“I hid my key in the pink plant hanging in front of the house”

I rode my motorbike to her rent house as fast as a rocket, searching for the key and entering the house like a thief. Fortunately, I found her identification quickly, got out, locked the door and rode to the airport. Never in my life had I driven that fast. During the trip, I often reached 100 kilometers per hour which was double my normal velocity, feeling unrealistic as if I was living in another world. When I arrived, her eyes sparkled with joy. She embraced me, smiled and told me that she had been put on the next morning flight. Later, we slept together embracing each other in a hotel nearby. It was the night I would never forget.    

The days after she went away, the first things I thought about when waking up were the things I had and had not done that make her leave me. I used to think my money could keep her by my side but I was wrong. And when she left, I had nothing: no love, no money and no hope. I lost everything when I bet my life on love. My inner altar which worshipped the god of love had been in ruin.

 I had hurt her. So did she. And the one who had been hurt would usually do something to hurt the other one in revenge. It was like a spiral and we kept hurting each other until our love was broken. Although she was the one who said farewell, I knew she might suffer more than me.

 On my bookshelf and working table, still stood our old photos together. Among them was a photo had been taken outside a shopping center. Her smile was so radiant and cheerful. It was one of the beautiful days I made her heart flutter, the day she wrote three words “I love you” with her lipstick on a paper napkin, which was still in my keepsake box. When I took the napkin from the box, the lipstick letters had faded and were unreadable. They had faded like her love for me.

Every afternoon when I went back home from work, there were two routes for me to choose. The first route was through Sword Lake, which was shorter and more relaxing. The other was through West Lake and crowded roads. However, they were the most beautiful roads I had ever gone for they were the ones led to my lover. Now, the route led to my lover no longer existed. Neither did she work at the Lotte building anymore. Where was she? I had no idea. Maybe she was still in Saigon. Maybe she was still twenty years old. Maybe our love was still there forever. Maybe we were living happily ever after in some parallel universe. Or maybe in another life, we would be...

May 01, 2023 09:43

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Joe Smallwood
21:30 May 07, 2023

The most painful moment of a breakup is not the moment your lover says goodbye but a few weeks after that like a poison gradually soaked into your heart. Wow, so full of longing. Another life, a love that lasts. Thank you for this.


Dao Huy Kien
10:15 May 08, 2023

Thank you for your thoughtful comment :)


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