I woke up on a day I don’t recall, or the month or even the year. I don’t even remember this being a reference to F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
I woke up on a bed of water; apparently surface tension was on vacation. There was no sun as far as I remember. I couldn’t ask anyone for confirmation either. I was the Island that day. It seemed like a dream, and I don’t know if it wasn’t. I let my fingers touch the water surface. There were no ripples. It felt like sticking a finger into jelly.
A moment passed with me encumbered by the physics of where I woke up. There was no benefit in trying. Besides, I had no desires. I lay there, but it felt like time had lost meaning. The time passing was time regained and I didn’t feel anything. It was like floating in ethereal limbo for eternity.
I forced my eyes to close, and I could still see. It was a strange sight: When did I get thermal vision? A trance was it? I had wondered. The excruciating serenity that followed was something I had a love-hate relationship with and for now I could only stare at the white sky.
Moments passed, I reckoned and there was a moment I could not forget. It was the time that I felt again. I was plunged deep into the water and being able to breathe was a welcome addition to this uncanny adventure I never asked for.
In the depths there were towns that looked so familiar but I couldn’t remember them.
There was the flora glowing in the ‘sky’ of the depths that I could touch. They sang in a voice I could feel; I felt elevated. It was such a drastic contrast compared to what I saw on the bed of water. I still pondered over this being a magnanimous dream that my subconscious cooked up, but I had my doubts-Was my brain capable of making something like this?
I landed in a street that had electricity. The lamp posts shined with water. There was no one there on a street lined with shops that lived in music. Yet, I could feel them. I could feel the heart, and the soul rising from the insides of those wooden doors.
I looked around and it seemed like a bubble around me. I was too entranced by the view; I didn’t realize when I entered one of the shops.
The instruments left silenced, water occupying the boards and the drums and the keys. The flora lighting up the room in shades of violet; I sat down on the chair near the piano and took a deep breath. It still caught me off guard that I was breathing inside water.
I pressed a key and the note echoed in my ears, I just didn’t hear it. I could only feel all of this. I closed my eyes-I could feel the beating in my heart. A rhythm I couldn’t make out, but it put me at ease. The high pitched sound of the keyboard sent ripples across the sky; and the flora danced to the rhythm of the music.
Time passed apparently, and I woke up in a clearing with firewood on the ground. I heard the crackle of wood burning; cold emanating from the ground; the smell of roasted marshmallows and laughter.
Since I woke up that day it was now that I started to feel alone. I could feel all the happiness in this… bubble but I couldn’t share it. Is this what it’s always going to be? Is this it? Is this my daily routine? Living a treasure I can never possess.
I felt a hand in my hand. I looked beside me, and there he was: the answer.
He shook his head and nudged me to come with him.
We walked for a while and then the scenery changed; I was above the water on a road where fall had shown its majesty.
The golden leaves crunched under my bare feet; the sound of the waterfall numbing the crunch. The kid beside me didn’t hear it perhaps-I had no way of knowing. I could see a bridge up ahead overlooking the waterfall. Quite a peculiar bridge might I add; it was made of maple leaves.
We stopped at the bridge, the waterfall sounded like a mellifluous flute. He nudged me signalling to sit at the edge of the bridge: legs dangling.
“Are you sure about this? It looks precarious,” I remarked looking over the rails.
He looked at me with his eyes crossed. I chuckled and followed his lead.
We sat there; a steady stream of water rushing below us and the kid’s face stoic and unencumbered.
“Does all this not bother you?” I asked looking at him in awe.
His face stood still.
I looked away at the falls. There were tall trees at the top swaying with the tap of the rushing water. The wind picked up and it rained leaves. I grabbed one as it flew by my face.
“It is,” the kid spoke his expression unchanged.
He appeared quite wise for one so young.
“You talk too much.”
I chuckled, “I do. Yeah, I do.”
“You like?” he said pointing at the visual ahead of us.
“All of this?”
“I don’t know what I feel about it,” I answered, taken aback by the lack of self-awareness.
“I’ve heard that before,” his voice trailed off disappointed.
“Oh… I’m sorry I just don’t know what to tell you,” I said reaching out with my hands.
He let out a heavy sigh, “I know. I just hoped you’d tell me something I didn’t find here.”
“I just got here, I think. Where were you all this time?”
He stopped answering.
The sun coloured his face golden. He resembled Helios: a bright lit face, blonde hair, and a battered t-shirt. I looked at him for a long time. We shared a peaceful silence and I could not figure out if that was something he longed for, or I was being judgemental; Perhaps, I was both. I felt embarrassed by my lack of empathy for a kid that was the only anchor holding my sanity in this place.
“You know I can still hear you talk in there,” he said pointing at my forehead.
“You can? That’s not possible.”
“Does this look possible?” he looked at the bridge.
And then he laughed. I could not tell you how I longed for that. I could not explain in words what that laugh did to me. It was for the first time in this land devoid of time that I heard someone; felt someone; saw someone. It was the joy that I so longed for and was unaware.
“Why do you cry?” He put his fingers on my face.
“I didn’t…” I felt warmth on my face. I could not comprehend but I accepted it.
“You look nice,” he said with the widest grin on his face.
“Would you hear a story?”
“Yeah, definitely,” I jumped at the opportunity of social interaction.
“Okay… I’m… I don’t know what my name is, but I call me Rain. You want to know why?”
“Ask why stupid,” he said, pushing me with his hand.
“Okay… why?” I asked, the smile spreading on my face as well.
“It doesn’t rain here, that’s why. I am special,” he announced spreading his arms like wings.
“Okay special one, go on.”
“I have been here for so long, I had no one to talk to. They all left and they don’t answer my questions.”
“Who were they?”
“Strangers… they were here when I woke up and then they ran away and I found you after so long of wandering.”
“Oh, do you know why they left?” I enquired, as I held his hand.
“Maybe they were bad people. They were scared of me so they ran away. I was told by someone, most people are bad, so don’t trust them. You should follow that okay?”
“Yeah… you may be right about that as well. Who is that someone that told you this?”
Rain scooted farther from me, “Why…” he said stammering his words.
“I’m just curious.”
“Oh… I didn’t know before but after being here for a while I started remembering. I think it was dad. I remember his face: he had golden hair too and a big brown beard. He told me,” he ended with a frown.
“Oh… At least you remember. He must have been a good father. Do you miss him?” I looked away.
His answer startled me. He spoke about his father so fondly, yet…
“He threw me from the top of our house to teach me a lesson.”
His words sent a wave of fear inside me. I could not form the words, but I understood what lesson he learned.
“Do you hate him?”
“Wouldn’t you?” His eyes were closed.
“I’d wish the worst on him.”
“Why? He was only teaching me a lesson.”
“That’s not the way to do that!” I coughed; my voice elevated beyond its capability.
“How do you know?”
“How?” he stood up, “How do you know? Tell me,” he was standing right in front of my face. I could sense his anger, but at me… what did I do?
“You don’t hurt someone to teach them a lesson. You just don’t. You won’t be able to live with yourself. How could you?”
“Then how are you here? How can you live with yourself?”
I regained my composure.
“What… What are you talking about?” I asked stepping away, “And who are you? You’re just a kid. You can’t have thoughts like these. You can’t be a kid.”
“Yeah, I’m not anymore,” he said stepping closer to me, “I look like one. I told you, I’ve been here for long.”
“Stay away from me.”
“Don’t you remember? You do. You don’t forget these things. All it takes is one hit into the lane.”
I was down on the ground crawling away from Rain, and he grabbed my head. My mind travelled at light speed, I couldn’t stop; it hurt. Everything…
I was thrown back by a jolt.
“What… did you do?” I asked, catching my breath.
“I taught you a lesson Ralph,” he sat with his legs crossed in front of me.
“Ralph… I know that name. I’ve spent so long with that name. It’s me. What happened? I have no memory, it’s so bright everywhere. I’m… I’m exhausted.”
“Let me go, Rain! Let me…”
“We just got to know each other; let’s talk, shall we?” He said inching closer to me.
“So, how do you live with yourself Ralph? How could you teach people a lesson like that? You don’t hurt people. You said it yourself. What got into you, huh? You’re contradicting yourself. Answer me, Ralph. Answer us.”
“What are you talking about?” I got back up, rubbing my eyes.
“Oh you know. That thing you just lectured me on. Listen, I may have had my awakening here due to a fall orchestrated by my father, but you… why are you here?”
“TELL ME! TELL US NOW!” he screamed at me holding my mouth in his hands.
I pushed him off of me, as he landed on his back. He lay on the golden leaves, laughing maniacally.
“I got to tell you Ralphie, you’re bold. You can’t escape your hamartia. It is time to face it. Tell us now. Go on, begin your grand elocution; I’ll forfeit, don’t worry. You’ll be the last man standing; besides, I don’t qualify for that now, do I?” He said looking at himself.
“They hurt me. They didn’t listen. They didn’t care enough, that’s their undoing. They deserved it.” I answered; my voice irreverent.
“Oh they hurt you? They hurt you. They hurt him, y’all here. They hurt this guy!”
He laughs and then grabbed my collar “AND THAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO PAY IT BACK? IS THAT YOUR LESSON?”
“I don’t know, okay. I don’t”
He shrugged, “Oh, you don’t know. Why did I expect anything different? You’re all the same, can’t even own up to your mistakes.”
“Enough! I will talk and you will listen now; enough of your incessant babbling. I found no other way. I tried to reach out. I tried to follow their way, it didn’t work. I needed a way, if they had just listened to me. All I needed was them to be by my side; to listen to me while I told them all my problems. Is that too much to ask for? And no, that isn’t my punishment to them. I’m not even angry at them. It’s not their fault. It wasn’t your father’s fault either. Sometimes it’s beyond them. I gave them time, they did not try. It’s alright, and I wasn’t lucky enough to be heard and look where that got me. Right here, in the middle of nowhere spending time with a grown up inside a kid’s body where nothing makes sense and all of this is for no one, because no one lives here. Is that my salvation, I have no idea, but given a second chance, I’d have tried again and again. It’s just sometimes: it’s not your fault man. It’s just like that, that’s it.”
I didn’t expect him to react well to it, but after all that had happened, it didn’t surprise me when he hugged me.
“Okay, now you got your feeling back?”
“Yeah,” I whispered.
I didn’t want to be there anymore. Sure he got me to some place I wasn’t before, but I don’t know.
I stood up and walked to the other side of the bridge. I felt Rain’s eyes at my back and I couldn’t go on any further. I felt okay.
I returned and lied on the pathway, my head hanging above the stream.
“You lose something?” he asked looking in my eyes with fervour.
“Yeah, almost did.”
He stared, expecting an answer.
“A second chance at life,” he smiled and patted my back.
I looked beyond him to the other side of the bridge. There was a ripple, the first I saw here.
He noticed me looking there, and remarked, “See, choices matter.”
“Yeah,” I said looking away.
“Hey, you forgot this,” said Rain, handing me a 6 string.
“I don’t… oh I did.”
I accepted and held it in my lap.
“Hey, give me the best one.”
I nodded and picked away as the wind led a tour of leaves across the sky.