This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Lying on a bed for the most part. With only a cathode-ray-moving-picture-box and a
window as friends. Nice ladies in pink pricking needles in your veins. As wonderfully
nice as this sound, I can only take this for so long. It wasn’t all this that I couldn’t take,
though. It was the unbearable restlessness you feel when you’re just staring at these four
walls staring back at you. You try to make friends with them; have a little fluff talk, ask
them about their kin walls, offer them a drink. But they never talk back.
Like a little conspiracy among themselves, the window that I thought was my friend now
suddenly crossed me. Yes, it showed me everything. But it was exactly because it was
showing me everything that I could see everything I was missing out on. Another picture
show going on the cinemas. Another life saved. Another song written. Another book
read. Another essay submitted. Another picture show going off the cinemas.
My only times of refuge lie in the daily visits of my friends. The real ones, not the ones in
my head. I should think of some distinct way to differentiate the two. Nevermind.
Sometimes they drop by just for a short while. And though the first few minutes are
basically standard procedure talk about how I’m doing, we’re suddenly talking about a
stall that sells excellent herbal chicken soup soon after. Like nothing ever happened. It
doesn’t even matter how long they stay. What matters is that in those scarce minutes that
they’re around, suddenly everything is normal again. And I never needed them more,
what with this eye I got. These are some troubled times I’m living in.
The door opened and sure enough my folks entered in the room. But it feels like nothing
has changed. I’m still as unrelentingly angry, proud and foolish as I was before the whole
“Crowley, you’ll be discharged today. I tried to ask if you could stay for a few days more
just to make sure that you’re stable enough to get back home, but the man in the white
coat said there’s no need for that.” You can pretty much figure out by now who said this.
“Keep me here any longer and I’ll really be unstable.” A man wrathful by nature and
circumstances that make him restless do not mix well.
“We’re doing this for your own good. You can never be careful enough.”
“I’m sure. So when do we bail out?”
“Noon. Crowley, what’s that red pigment in your right eye? Are you ok? Can you see
with that eye? Get the man in the white coat, honey.”
“Oh, it’s, um, just an aftereffect of the operation, Ma. After all, uh, the surgeries were
done pretty near this eye.” Shit, Jeremy never mentioned anything about the eye getting
red after usage being part of the package.
And the time of discharged had to be delayed for hours because of that; we had to wait
for the white coat man to see if everything’s ok with my eye and head and all.
“Oh, don’t you worry about this, M’am. It’s just an aftereffect of the operation. After all,
the surgeries were done pretty near this eye.” He said.
Wow. Seems like my bullshit can actually get me through medical school.
“Alright, here’s your medication. Take one pill a day after food.” He passed me a bottle
I checked the ingredients as if I cared. “Valproic acid, eh? What does it do?”
“It’s for your nerves. Helps prevent fits.” Fits? Hmm, interesting.
The padding on my head was finally removed and it felt good to feel the cool air on my
semi-bald head. Aye, they only shaved half of my head for the surgery. I took a good
long look at the scar in the mirror. A layer of flaky dead skin concealed the raw flesh
underneath two curving scars. A prominent wide one, right above the forehead, and a
neatly sutured one, right above my right ear, run the side of my head until they meet at
my right temple, where they leak downwards and come to a screeching halt where my
sideburns end. It loosely resembles the shape of a Y.
Come noon, and we’re hailing for a cab outside the building. The clouds just had to
choose this faithful day to shed some of its weight down on us. Within half of an hour’s
time, we reached my rented space. They kept me locked up in there for days. If I were to
see some friends, the furthest I’d go would be the little food stall in the basement. But
nay, not even that was allowed. After all, I’ve broken my trust bank.
Fast forward a few days and a bus journey across the straits, and I was taken hundreds of
miles away from my rented space. Away from my friends. Away from Bigfoot. Away
from The Girl. So here I was sitting in a cab on my native island home staring out the
window, seeing building after building after building. Eventually a familiar building
came into view. The place where I was heading to was synonymous to that of a military
barrack to a recruit; equally loved and feared. A place that you are attached to yet can’t
wait to get out of.
I’ve reached home.
The creaky lifts, dirty staircases, bad paintjobs, loan shark warnings. It was a rather
unreal feeling to actually find solace in what appears to be a hostile environment. It felt
more like a crossbreed between a crime novel set in the Bronx and a slasher flick where
everyone dies. And there is was; the signature sliding grill gate guarding the door that
leads to the place I call home. Totally irrelevant, but I always took pride in that. But when
the gate closes shut and the door gets locked tight, that’s when you know it’s real.
I was first welcomed by the distinct smell of home. That is one smell that you can never
quite reproduce anywhere else. Even if you’ve got all the ingredients: the aging wooden
furniture, the greasy kitchen floor, the peeling ceiling wallpaper and the white leather
couch with the smell of skin and sweat that you can never quite clean off; there’s always
that missing bit. It’s the little things like these that leave an endearing picture of home in
your mind. But in the days to come, I will be made to remember a certain time not too
long ago; a time when all I wanted was to get out of here.
It took a few days for everyone to settle down, to find their foot on the ground. For Papa
to find the right angle to sit on the couch; I still can’t quite figure out why he’s finding
such a hard time to just sit down. For Mama to find all the pieces of herself and put them
back at their rightful places; it was a big shock for her, needless to say. She doesn’t like
to be shocked, you see. For me to come to terms with missing out on a whole semester of
school. It’s barely been a month since the start of it, for crying out loud. But it didn’t
affect me quite as much as I’d expect. Well, not yet. Nevertheless, life goes on; nothing
should change just because of the big bang. That’s how I’d like this family to run. It ain’t
easy conveying to this Mama, though; she’s still uneasy about looking at my scar. As a
matter of fact, ‘uneasy’ would be an understatement. She looks like she’s on the verge of
turning on the waterworks every time she sees it. Papa looks pretty unperturbed by it,
though. And it was nice to at least have someone around to bring about some normalcy.
Ally was away on a business trip, and she won’t be back for some time.
Aside from the fact that I can’t feel the right side of my scalp, a few random bursts of
excruciating pulses of pain and swollen feet, I felt pretty up to the task of coming back to
class after only a few weeks of rest. Everybody said I couldn’t do it: my folks, my
lecturers, even some of my friends. I could prove them all wrong. But just because I’m
proud, doesn’t mean I’m not susceptible to reason. As a half-assed soldier that was once
in the army, we know when to advance our forces. But we also know when to retreat to
recover our losses.
Hence begun my little holiday. It felt good to just slack around with some of the nice
privileges for being at home. But there was a catch. There was a strict and absolute
timing for everything. What time to wake up, what time to eat, what time to bathe, what
time to brush my teeth, what time to sleep. No exercise, no loud music, no sleeping
unguarded, no phone calls for more than 5 minutes, and the whole lot. There was no
room for error and exceptions; the warden’s words were final. These were nothing,
though, if I could just take a walk outside. But no. The furthest I could be permitted to go
was the front gate. It was right out there, just beyond these bars keeping me in: Freedom,
mocking and teasing me. I could still swallow all that, though. A jagged little pill to
swallow nevertheless, but it was still alright. Because I still got my window. But even the
view outside the windows was tainted by grills. I reached my hand out between the bars
every day just feel the sun on my hands. I took out my old guitar and started singing
some songs to pass the time. But they would shut me up. The closest thing I got to music
was the warden screaming at me about the tonnage of my folly, making me feel like a
pool of shit. Iron bars and concrete walls on all sides, locking me in like a beast in a cage.
Eventually, a very old memory started rolling its squeaky reel. Sitting on the couch
suddenly stopped being all that comfortable. This holiday slowly felt like I was doing
time in Shawshank.
I missed my little rented apartment. Then again, in those days when my folks were
around when I was discharged, they were watching me like hawks. I remembered there
was this one time when Bigfoot dropped by my rented place one afternoon to see how I
was doing. The rare smile on Mama’s face disappeared. We both sat at the living room,
with Bigfoot looking mighty uncomfortable under her glaring eyes. But within a few
minutes, we got straight into talking about The Godfather, Bob Marley and Asian
politics, like old buddies. Just like nothing ever happened. Mama was flabbergasted. She
was more than flabbergasted; she looked like she just wanted to hurt him. But so far,
every minute that passed with me and Bigfoot still enjoying the conversation was a
minute passed without her emerging from the kitchen with a knife with murder in her
eyes. Alas, she wouldn’t resort to such barbaric antics. She has another plan at hand.
She came to speak to me when Bigfoot went to relieve some excess weight.
“What the hell are you doing, Crowley?” She screamed in her whisper.
“Er, scratching my back?” My back has been real itchy lately for some reason.
“This is the guy who almost got you killed! Don’t you think he at least owes you an
apology? He should be grateful we didn’t direct the bill to him.”
“Well it’s not exactly his fault, Ma. It was my stupidity, for the most part.”
“Why are you still defending him? Don’t you hate him for landing you in this state?”
That’s when I knew what she was doing. Sometimes when you hate a person so badly,
you want to hurt him. You just want him to have a little taste of the pain that you had to
bottle up all this time because there just wasn’t any way to get it out. But when you know
you can’t hurt him, your mind switches to the next most feasible plan: you try to inject
your hatred into others. You try get to get people on your side. To join your cause; if not,
to sympathize with you. But above all, to share the pain inside you.
She was trying to get me to be angry with him, even if just a little bit. But I couldn’t.
Because I just couldn’t see the point in doing so. I could hate him. I could make him
cower in guilt and regret for what he’s done, but I wouldn’t be hurting him. Yes, it’ll
make him feel like shit, but that will not hurt him. If nothing else, I’d be losing a friend,
which means one less person to bring some normalcy around here.
I don’t put blame where the blame is not due. He may be an accomplice, but that doesn’t
make him Judas just because he wasn’t the one on the trolley. Now, putting the blame on
someone else is all nice and dandy; you get all the empathy votes. But there’s a whole lot
of waiting, silence and drama that you don’t need along the way. You just don’t get any
good out of it. You see, it’s much more pragmatic to just shoulder it on yourself, because
then it’ll be your fault. And when it’s yours, you have control over it. So then you can
bide your time to make your amends and do your time. Because it’s your mess.
“No, Ma. I don’t.”
And I always clean up my own mess.
Bigfoot finished his business in the toilet, looking a whole lot lighter. And we continued
talking like the buddies we are. That’s how I was with my friends: it’s going to take a
whole lot more than just hate and hurt to break something as strong as friendship,
brotherhood, and all the things those damn hippies talk about. And honestly, I don’t know
anything so fruitless and destructive with a magnitude exceeding that of hate.
The visiting hours came to an end. Lights out.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?