I love the smell of old books and the feeling of holding one in my hands. As a child, one of my favorite pastimes was to tuck myself into a corner of the library and read everything within my reach. I studied history, breathed fantasy, drank mystery, and fasted on science fiction.
Even now, the thought of flipping the pages from a well-written novel soothes me like nothing else could. On many nights when I cannot force myself to go to sleep, a well-written book would be my chosen companion. The adventures they take me through help take away my worries until another time. Often I sleep with a book as my pillow. The rustling of paper pages sound like lullabies in my ears.
That is why…when I heard that a bookless library has opened in San Antonio, I felt very sad.
I am a creature of consistency. The things that are familiar to me are what forms my most precious memories. When I recall a certain thing…It is not in a blurry sort of way. I truly do remember, with most of my senses- the way something feels underneath my fingers, the way it smells, the way it looks, as well as the way my heart feels.
An electronic device just fails in comparison.
Where is the flip, where is the rustle, where is the bittersweet paper cut? Everything is replaced by a screen. What is the fun in that?
To me, that’s kinda like going to a 7-eleven to buy a slurpee. You don’t get to drink it and don’t take the time to sip.
They just squirt the favored taste in your mouth and the rest goes straight to the stomach. You’re no longer thirsty, but the feeling is not the same as actually holding the cold cup in your hands, having the freshness on your lips…
Maybe I’m just too picky and conservative.
Books have changed. Libraries have changed.
7-elevens change too.
I encountered one while traveling on my journey to find myself, and I thought it would be a nice place to take the picture with my bottled tree friend.
Like libraries and books, 7-elevens hold precious memories to me.
I can remember it just like yesterday.
There is a 7-eleven a short distance away from my university dorm. We had gone by it on some of our walks, and she had once brought me slurpees as a surprise after class.
One time in particular echoes always in my memory. It was during the beginning, when we were both very much in love yet still shy and distant.
It was evening, and she had walked me to the ice cream store at the corner of the street. Once we had ordered and eaten our ice cream, I was to go back to my own dorm as she left for her apartment.
The only problem was, neither of us wanted to part and I had believed that staying in my dorm would be more appropriate than staying at her apartment every night.
That would eventually change, of course.
But on that particular evening, we were both particularly clingy.
We crossed by the 7-eleven parking lot and then decided to go the slightly longer way back to my dorm. That way, we would be together for a longer amount of time.
I can still remember how warm she felt as we walked side by side. How sweet she looked each time I glanced secretly over (the 7-eleven often in the background, of course).
I remember the sounds of the cars, the sound of her soft and stuttery voice…
I remember everything, and it’s one of those memories that just pulls my heart in a painful way which makes me wonder how I can remain sane and remember it at the same time.
But then my tears calm down.
I still love her more than ever. I can’t help but worry of how bothered she might feel if she ever notices that I still do?
Time changes, doesn’t it?
Books will be gone, libraries are now different. Even, this 7-eleven is not the one in my heart.
For the past two years I’d gone through five different doctors. One gives up as the other starts experimenting…
Books. Love. Libraries. 7-eleven.
None of it adds up, except that there are certain things that I love, and I wish for it to be written here before I leave.
The world spins, things change, I am perpetually suffering from heart ache, and I just might….ahh.
This wilting bottled tree and I, we are of one life.
We can only try our best.
Before I sleep and never wake…I will love with all my might.
The altitude of 6,600 feet is still pretty low when compared to how high the roads would soon become on the way I was headed. Nonetheless, by then my 24 pack of bottled water had begun to pop along with my eardrum due to the quick change in air pressure (no driving over the speed limit!). I also noticed a thin layer of condensation upon the glass bottle.
It made me happy, even if a bit uneasy. Any sign of water would mean that the tree is alive, no? That it’s still breathing? Or at the very least, that water is able to get inside the vial and the tree would be able to live off of it somehow.
Still, I was uneasy as to how these changes in altitude would effect that frail life living inside the bottle. Would the pressure inside be too great?
I care for such silly things, and I can be a bit odd sometimes, in that I have no qualms with saying sorry to animals, plants, and inanimate objects.
Surely, they have love too?
Love is what I breathe, what I live on.
Another quirk came up when I’d called to chat with a couple of friends that day. Somehow we ended up talking about Australia, along with the island continent’s interesting plants and habitat.
I mentioned the marsupials I would want to see there.
When I was little, I’d always dreamed of crawling into a Kangaroo’s pouch. How safe and comfortable would it be!? It’s like always being enveloped with love.
…My friends teased me when I said that though, so I guess I’m the only one who thinks so.
I like being warm. I enjoy being loved.
I want nothing more than to always be with the one I love.
The journey overwhelms me quite a bit.
I looked around, and the roads stretched endlessly ahead of me. I feel like I could see very far, very far ahead.
This will be my future, perhaps, to always be going forward no matter how lonely it would be. If I stay in one place, my heart would catch up with me. I would want to be with her again.
I would want her to love me.
I would not be able to handle the silence of my disappearing world.
Somewhere in New Mexico, the sky is as blue as water. The whispy strokes that are the clouds create words seemingly full of well-wishes.
I’m reminded of a large fountain she and I had walked by once, on which couples had written promises upon the concrete sides. Briefly at the time, I’d wondered if it would have been silly to offer writing both our names there too.
Perhaps the magic of that place would be able to keep us happily together forever.
But then again, we had not yet confessed to each other at the time. I was still in that dreamy phase, where everything we did and everywhere we went to together I had seen through rose colored windows. At the time, too…I felt that writing names on the fountain would be redundant. I believed strongly then, that we would both never let each other down.
I did not care whether I would always be just a friend. At the time, and even a bit now too…I would have been content just to stay by her side forever even if I was to be nothing more than a gentle breeze upon her ever smiling cheeks.
Barely two days into the trip, right in the middle of this rest area I realize that my picture taking skills need much improvement. Should I focus on my plant friend, or the scenery around us?
I take pictures inside the car because I don’t trust myself to hold the plant while walking around. Since the gel dried up, the little tree inside has started to shuffle each time the bottle shakes. Hang on, my friend, don’t shrivel on me yet!
Let’s make a little wish: please, heavenly beings above, let my plant friend be my constant companion through this. May us both last long enough to see as much as we can see, and for me to write down as much of my love story as I can.
When K and I first bought the pair of bottled plant cellphone straps, there was a thick layer of blue gel-like food at the bottom. One plant followed her when she left, and while the blue began to disappear from the remaining plant, it continued to accompany me as my relationship with her bloomed, wilted, and died.
I carried it with me always, as a symbol of our memories and my life as I had once dreamt it to be. But a couple of months ago the gel completely dried out and the leaves began to yellow.
For a while now, I’d been planning on this silly trip. I would travel all over the place, and my plant friend would be in constant motion with me to see all that I would see. Some of that, I had hoped to see with her one day.
The trip would be like a last shout from the depths of my heart. How meaningful would it be, to bring this momento with me, and let the plant experience as much sun as it would before it expires?
Once I return I would accept the fact that everything has to end, just as new beginnings will appear. Once I return I will not stop giving everything my all, but I will be at peace with all that is meant for me.
Whenever I thought about the upcoming trip, I always believed it to be a sad one. But then on the first evening after a long day’s drive, I saw this:
There is a halo, beckoning us. The sun’s rays peak from behind the clouds, somehow full of promise. My heart bursts. Together with my little plant friend, I remember my love for K all over again.
It is okay to feel this way, I guess. Okay to be alone in the world. The plant and I, we are each dying in our own quiet way; we are of one broken dream.
But who was it who said that what’s important is not the outcome…but the journey?
When was the last time the heavens had shown so spectacularly? Telling us to believe, to trust, to let our love live?
Around four pm, walking to a small Japanese restaurant. The roads are full of cars, and the sun glimpses down at us- not through clouds, but reflected by dorm windows and science buildings.
Jokingly to myself (but half-serious too), I secretly make her walk on the side away from the traffic. My heart warms with fondness- she is the clumsiest person I’ve ever known.
A year after she left, I was in a bad car accident while ambling across the street. I had never been the same since, always wary of incoming cars.
But on this day there is nothing left to fear. I grab the bottled plant with me and walk out of the car.
Deep in the woods lived a gentle woodcutter, who was as kind and innocent as a child. One day he came upon an injured bird and decided to bring it home to take care of it.
After tending to the animal’s injuries and giving it some food and water, the bird soon became well. Round and round his head it flew…the woodcutter was happy.
One morning, however, he woke up and the bird was nowhere to be found. With much sadness, the woodcutter thus continued his life as he always had before meeting the bird.
Not long afterwards, however, the woodcutter met a beautiful young lady and they married.
Perhaps the lady had brought luck to him. Perhaps the lady was the reincarnation of the magic bird- the woodcutter grew to be very rich.
Nonetheless, the woodcutter continued his simple life as always. Each afternoon he would go on a walk with his wife beside him.
But alas, his happiness was not meant to stay.
While on one of their usual walks, the couple stumbled upon an angry bear next to a bridge. During the struggle, the woodcutter ended up unconscious.
When he woke up, the bear and his wife were no where in sight.
Finding himself to be completely uninjured, the woodcutter looked around to see that same bird flying high in the sky ahead. Thinking it to be his wife, he cried out and ran onwards, never noticing his dying wife with the bear at the bottom of the bridge.
He would follow the bird for the rest of his life.
I am here as I am. Why do you not see?
Look in front of you, know the me that exists.
There is no need for magic, no need for miracles.
It might just surprise you what together we could be if only we had tried.
I look through our photos at times. I will never forget the times we shared.
It is a lie, of course, because memories do fade quickly. Promises are only made for things about to be broken.
The voices I remember most will be that of the loved ones who are around me.
The warmth I am familiar with will be from the laughter and tears newly shed.
The experiences I reminisce on most often will be with those who’ve stood by me even after all this time.
Soon, she will be nothing more than a distant dream half forgotten, reflected by the dampness in my eyes as I wake up at night.
I’m not sure I remember what she was like. Unsure whether the softness of her hands and the sweetness of her presence was merely glorified imagination.
My memories play like old video clips.
An instant here…a moment there of certain things that remind me of her. All disjointed and yellow at the edges.
Yet what the brain forgets, in the heart it still lingers. Aches. Yearns.
Forward. My life moves forward- even if it feels like I’m dying in each breath I take.
In a recurrent dream I find myself walking towards the university tower after class.
We had planned to meet there, she and I.
Where are you?
"At the tower", she says.
I start walking around the building. No doubt, she is doing the same at the opposite end.
Which side of the tower?
She remains quiet, before-
"Guess. Isn’t it more fun that way?"
I call her name impatiently with a slight whine to it.
Eventually she relents and stops walking. I am to continue my trek until I see her.
In my memories, I do.
And yet there is one huge difference in my dream when comparing the two; during those nights I continue looking for her until I wake up.
I never do reach her, and I’m always a step behind.
Perhaps my memories lied.
Hide and seek. Search and find.
Way to ruin the game.
I guess I was never really any fun back then.
My prideful mind tells me I’d be better now, if given the chance to love her anew.
I don’t handle surprises well, I don’t know how I’m supposed to react.
Did I ever make her laugh? Did I think to ever impress her with the extraordinary, ever play jokes or do anything interesting?
No, no. Probably not.
I’m just plain me. Constant but boring. I believed love would conquer all.
My mind supplies me with a different memory.
An evening in Minneapolis.
I’d expected her to be in the bathroom while I struggled to open the water bottle.
A thump thump thump on one side of the wall separating the kitchen and living room.
I looked. No one was there. But something in the back of my mind clicked…the bathroom light was off.
And when I turned, she was there to envelop me in a hug.
There’s a promise I hope will forever be etched into my soul.
If miracles exist, or even in a next life…
I want to bring her the most pleasant surprises for every day of my life.
I will wait for that moment forever.
This is the story of an empty inbox.
This is a story about going home.
It’s all stored up in her memories somewhere; neatly filed and marked for easy access, there was a time when those emails and chats were pulled up and reread every single day.
Nowadays, most contacts have been directed elsewhere and Gmail sometimes wonders if those days filled with chatter and love were only a dream.
Still, Gmail sees the girl every single day; she would stare at the empty inbox as if an email would appear just by her willing it to, before sighing and creating a new draft.
The girl writes endlessly. Writes as if her life depends on it.
Night and day, Gmail is the girl’s constant companion.
They have a strange bond; Gmail and the girl, mailman and sender.
A story comes to mind, of a young maiden waiting all night long for her lover’s return.
Perhaps only the lantern that accompanies the heroine would understand what Gmail feels.
The girl is always on the move.
Always going somewhere, Gmail finds, if not in body then in mind.
Always doing something.
Even at work, she would be constantly shuffling back and forth.
From the printer to the phone and the patients to the paperwork…
Gmail blinks orange in the background, as if in encouragement.
At times her boss would tell her to sit down.
Take a break and relax.
The girl would smile, sadly.
Back and forth, back and forth.
During break, the window tab switches from the insurance clearinghouse to a half-written, half-deleted email.
In a tiny corner of the computer screen, Gmail sees it all.
Perhaps she is chasing something, Gmail thinks.
She keeps going and going.
Yet Gmail would not possibly know that the girl is slowest to move on out of all her friends.
Slowest, and never would move on.
Could not know that it took her three months to stop crying once the computer is off at night.
Five months before her first true smile.
A year and a half, to accept a future with her and Gmail alone.
Gmail would see her always with friends.
A heartbeat behind, a few steps ahead.
On a skateboard. At a track field. Inside a basketball court. Chopping onions in the kitchen.
"Wow, you’re always so full of purpose. You’ll be better than me at this before long."
The girl is so slow yet so quick.
But for all the energy spent, the girl travels in a circle, always coming back to where she started.
The girl would smile, and Gmail would wonder why it feels like heartbreak.
And then there are days when darkness overtakes them both.
Gmail would hate this most of all.
The girl would lay on bed with so many wires attached, too weak to type.
The people come in at random.
Often, there is no one at all; the girl would refuse to call anyone, alert anyone.
Time would trickle by that way until the girl can move forward again.
In those moments Gmail would feel most helpless.
Is the girl chasing, or running away?
She smiles, and pushes herself to stand.
The world has been depicted through rose-colored glass, Gmail suddenly understands.
She’s riding a bike. She’s sailing. She learns. She gets raises. She befriends. She loves.
But where is she aiming for, where is she going?
Gmail longs to feel the wind dancing in her hair. Yearns to see the color she has mentioned in her emails.
Wants to touch her successes. Taste the sweetness of the food she has tried and know the people she was with-
And the mountains she had climbed, the things she had bought, the lives she had touched, the kids she had taught, the friends she had made, the loyalties she had never broken, the life she had lead-
Sometimes Gmail wonders if it would be best to just tell the person at the receiving end of these emails.
The girl thinks of it often. To just say it all out: of the sweat and the tears and the times she has bled.
Easy enough, to just send. Just ask for one more time and one more chance.
One minute on one night, a final word for a final date in those last moments. After all she had given…is it too much to ask?
Be with her till the end, please. Lie to her if you have to.
A last purpose for Gmail. The girl at her computer would type and type away-
The chat would be full like it once was, and laughing is something common.
The girl ponders but doesn’t say. Her life runs on that way.
In the twinkle of the stars is everlasting gentleness.
On a bed in a darkened room, Gmail waits for the girl to walk back.
There are so many stories left untold.
The depth of her love would never be understood. Her heart is thrown away; she chases.
In the end, every day, Gmail waits for a new story.
A new email, and words the girl continues to write.
They are all left unopened.
Never realizing it, the person at the other end smiles happily.
It is enough for the girl, and eventually Gmail understands.
The girl doesn’t need pity. Doesn’t need lies nor cruel truths.
The girl truly sees, yet chooses to believe in only what she chooses to see.
She’s running away and chasing a dream.
There’s a sense of nobility and magic in all of this, Gmail realizes. A love that does not end.
A strange type of beauty in never stopping in loving a love that one has loved enough to set free.
Eventually a day would come where darkness is too great. The girl would not be there to log on. The account will die through inactivity.
All of a sudden it hits, and Gmail sees it all where the girl truly belongs.
A voice from long ago…
The girl on her cellphone, walking upstairs to a University apartment.
Hubbish. Ne, Hubby, I’m home.
Have you ever wondered how much less crowded we would be if we could live in the ocean?
I’ve always felt that the dolphins did the right choice in going back to sea.
Aquatic mammals. They’re smarter than us. We just don’t know it.
We live in a two dimensional world: front and back, side to side. We have no up and down.
The birds can fly, moles can dig, and fish can dive around.
What can we do that they cannot? Their world is larger than ours.
We think. We hope. We dream.
In these intangible things do we pin our lives upon.
At the mall there is a globe that spins and spins and spins.
They light it up like a Christmas tree, continents outlined a starry yellow upon sky blue water…
I take a look at the glass- and feel like I’m sinking in.
The world just falls and falls tangentially around the sun.
Speed is what’s keeping it from crashing in.
We’re always pushed forward and moving on.
I’m always searching for some solid ground to stand on; my mind is a whirl.
It’s so different from the ones they sold back then.
The globe I gave her did not move very well at all.
In fact, it came in a hundred pieces as a plastic puzzle.
It was the first time I’d gone to see her, and in a way it was one of the first presents I’d ever bought for her.
As we built the globe together, piece by piece…I remember thinking, gosh, that’s the world there in her hands. My world.
I’d put my world in this girl’s hands, all wrapped in a package.
Let her hold it. Round and round may it turn, but let it remain as constant and sure as what I feel for her in my heart.
I will trust whatever she does with it.
I continue to fall for her and yet she will never let me down.
A puzzle piece.Perfectly fitting and carefully laid…she built my hopes and dreams that day.
Deep inside me, I still believe in her with everything I have.
There are moments when, in the haze of nervous emotions, I suddenly find certain things that appear to me with much more clarity than the rest.
I don’t recall the brightness of the lights. Don’t recognize any machines within the room. I wouldn’t be able to identify the halls if I’d walked through the place again.
That time the only thing I remembered was a pale purple gown; the one I was given.
It hung on me loosely, two flaps from the back folding over to the front and then woven around behind me once more before tying up into a bow- which was no doubt the only thing keeping it from sliding off altogether.
I remembered thinking, Gosh a dozen of me can fit into this, but the nurse beside me smiled as if everything was meant to be that it washed away any desire to ask for a smaller size or a different color.
She sat me down onto the bed and attached a tube through the hole on my chest. As the garment ballooned and warm air circulated around me, I realized the bagginess was meant to allow for this expansion.
I poked at the stretched-out cloth.
The gown continued swell, and I felt oddly large.
Oddly chubby, bigger than how I am.
As I closed my eyes to rest, I thought the bed to be too crowded and small.
Have you ever heard someone complain about sitting beside a fat person on a plane?
I’ve never had a problem with it, I guess, because I’m always so small that I still have plenty of room even when a neighbor takes away a few inches of my seat.
Or maybe because sitting beside a large person brings up good memories of a flight from years and years ago.
On a plane flying from Dallas, with Minneapolis being my final destination, my neighbor was a round elderly man who my mind fondly named as Santa because I forgot to ask for his real name.
It was my first time traveling alone. And usually, being by myself would make me feel more guarded towards anyone I don’t recognize.
But it was also my first time traveling to my beloved.
Closer. Closer we would get.
As the plane took to the skies my heart was soaring. Every stranger felt like a friend. Mr. Santa became my dearest most special friend at the time, on that flight, so happy was I to share my bliss.
Hours flew by in seconds.
I learned that our destination was his home, and he was eager to tell me about the beautiful attractions the city possessed once he learned it would be my first time visiting.
"Are you just seeing the sights? Touring the states?"
I had only smiled, before he proceeded to tell me about the rivers and lakes.
My heart wanted to scream to the world, to tell him, I’m visiting my girlfriend! My girlfriend…My One.
The city would be beautiful, I bet. The world is wonderful.
I want to share this with you. I wish you’d laugh and join in my happiness.
Because life is such a joyous thing. Each step I take is a hundred miles the plane is carrying me, closer to her.
If I leave that city, not having seen any sights at all, it would still be the most magical place to me because it is where my beloved would be.
I will never forget my emotions on that day, of that friend and stranger I who will never meet again.
A needle prickling into my right arm brings me back down on earth. The machine blowing air into the purple dress hums into my ears.
Mixed emotions tear through me.
I do not cry.
Ne, have you ever felt like you should be somewhere else, doing something else with the person you want to be with?
I feel like that all the time.
All the time.