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.
They sold the glass killer whale at Disney World, with a sign on the display that it was made with a special paint which would light up in the dark.
I bought it the moment I saw it.
It is like a miniature copy of the stuffed Shamu I sleep with every night, a reminder of happy days when I’d always dreamt of winning her a stuffed one at Sea World.
Why did I not attempt it, why did I not try?
Does she still have the other half of the stuffed Shamu pair we bought together? Would she enjoy having a glass one to light up her bedside?
My life is now nothing more than simple memories. Perhaps her feelings have long set sail.
At night my dreams would light up and swim after it.
This is me.
Silly, romantic me.
In the day I put it by the brightest light near my work desk. I treasure it, pour all my love into it.
At night it glows in all of my hopes and dreams.
I pretend that by some sort of magic, it reaches her heart somehow.
I told her once that in some types of Chinese fortune, my soul was determined (via birthdate) to be a rock hiding a jewel inside. Cut it open to reveal what’s beneath, and I would be able to shine.
It’s all nice and romantic.
Except the person who finally splits it would be the one dearest to me. It would take me apart.
Whether the outcome is good or bad depends…
And I have a track record for getting bad fortunes.
I don’t believe in fortune telling though. My interest in it does not go beyond amusement and knowledge for various cultures.
We become what we try best to be.
I found it silly, that when I saw the petrified rock I bought it anyway.
Maybe some part of me wanted the fortune to be true.
I’m so worn and plain on the outside.
But there’s one person in this world who makes me willing to show all that I am.
She’s cut me open. I’m all bare.
And yet…she’s not even looking.
I want to offer it all to her.
Look, how pretty it is inside!
How smooth, how colorful. There’s even a random guy placed in the rock holding some gold.
Look, maybe deep inside, I can be beautiful too.
It’s what I give my all to be.
Just look. Really, look. And maybe, you won’t be disappointed.
A few miles from beautiful Padre Island, in Corpus Christi is a large building with a gigantic mermaid fountain in front of it.
I drove right by the place. Then, two blocks away, decided to turn back and take a look at what the mermaid was protecting.
It turned out to be a humongous gift shop. The exterior was exquisite, with people stopping by to take pictures.
Inside, there was nothing more than the usual disappointing beach decor: plenty of dried shells and keychains, swims suits, and various dollar-store trinkets sold at unfairly high prices.
And yet, at the furthest corner of the store, there was a treasure I did not expect to see at any gift shop: clear candle with starfish and shells.
It did not look like a real candle at all, but I fell in love anyway.
How brightly does hope shine in the midst of darkness?
People give their loved ones scented candles. Or intricately carved ones made by certain names.
Yet to me, it had never been about the brand.
To me, candles are from a past I dare not speak of, for fear it would disappear entirely. They shine of memories long ago in a dimly lit room and a mellow voice that had distracted me from all smells any candle might have emitted.
Shadows danced and smoke flew high towards the ceiling.
I cannot catch my dreams no matter how I try.
My heart burns, and tears fall from my eyes.
Unlit, the candle from the gift shop portrays a scenery from the bottom of the ocean. I bought the candle, for her of course, wondering…does the thing even work? What would it look like, to light a fire at the top of that mini-ocean?
Water and fire. Such opposite things.That candle is what I am. Just light it up. My tears. My passion. All there to be seen.
But then I suppose we might never find out anyway.
It works well as a decoration, and it might never be lit.
I can’t imagine her ever coming back and I have no way of giving it to her.
I’ve saved it for almost two years.
I bought her the yellow arrowhead on a whim; it’s one of the first things I bought when thinking of her during my travels.
I’d seen people sell them all through Western United States. In Nevada, again in Utah, and etc. Yet it wasn’t until that day that a particular one caught my eyes.
I remember the sky already becoming darker that evening. I was driving somewhere through the mountains of Arizona, without any idea of where to stay that night, and the only sign of the sun was a faded pink within the distant clouds.
Not only that, I was hungry.
Realizing how dangerous it would be if I kept on going, I I stopped by a gas station to refuel, ask around for a motel, and grab a cup of instant noodles. While the kind gas station owner showed me how to get hot water for the noodles, I spotted a bowl full of stone arrowheads by the counter. The yellow one was on top.
My first thought was that she would like the color. As I felt it in my hand, cool and sharp, I wondered if she’d ever seen one before.
Stone arrowheads were used all around the world. And yet, arrowheads here are a kind of symbol for the American Natives. They were woven into the history of the United States, and remained in use long after the Chinese had created cannons and the Europeans carried firearms.
I bought the piece for a few dollars, smiling to myself as I left the station. It’s quite an odd trinket, such a silly memorabilia to give one’s lover.
Yet the symbolism of it all did not escape me.
On a trip to find myself, I realize I love this country more than I can say. And there I was, thinking of handling a bit of our sad history over to the person who means the most to me.
Besides- arrows and cupids- doesn’t it mean something in itself?
She would always have my heart. I would give her an arrow to claim it, too.