Saturday, March 23, 2013

Theme 18 - Love

This wasn't originally a love story. At least not the kind that you're used to. I know you're used to happy endings with a man falling in love with a woman. After all, I've seen those romances too, so I know what it's like to make believe a one true love exists out there.

I'm in New York now, boarding the subway to get home from work. It's crowded as usual with people invading each other's spaces. An older man scoffs at a couple beside him. They interlock lips every now and then as if they're alone. I scoff, too, and roll my eyes, but secretly I wonder if I'll ever experience what they have.

Looking over to my left, I see a man gazing over in my direction. His small half-moon shaped eyes remind me of someone I once helped. I look down at my lap and touch the black scarf around my neck. One side of it is black and the other is red. It was his scarf once upon a time.

He was a Japanese student at Tyoko University, and I was only an exchange student for the year. I'm sure you can imagine how we interacted: not at all. Yes, our different languages kept us apart, and we never spent any time with each other either. Our friends were different and so were our classes. If I had ever seen him outside of our moment, I didn't remember him. I stayed in my world, you know, sticking close to the other International students and trying to avoid the gawking of the Japanese. It was easier than reaching out in a language I barely understood.

On that average day, I searched for the library, slowly marching up and down the halls as I attempt to read the Japanese characters. Unfortunately, I didn't know any kanji yet, just a bit of hiragana. My teacher had sent me to check out a kanji guide, actually. Having that book beforehand might've prevent the whole mix up. I didn't have a clue as to which room was which, and it didn't help that most of the doors on the hall looked like classroom doors. I stopped at the end at a door that didn't look like all the others. I took a deep breath and opened it.

It wasn't the library. In fact, I wasn't even sure which room it was. A pool of red liquid had gathered on the floor, and when I looked up, I saw a young man holding a knife in one hand with a steady stream of blood pouring from the wrist of the other arm. He gaped in horror at me as I gaped in horror at him, his small eyes are large as my round ones.

I slammed the door and ran to the nearest bathroom, barely avoiding a collision with a teacher on her break. She yelled at me, probably telling me to slow down, but I couldn't. As soon as I got into girls' room, I clawed at the towel dispenser. I pulled and pulled on the lever; my heart racing faster as more of the paper sputtered out. Ripping nearly the whole roll from the machine, I darted back to the room and threw open the door.

Japanese was thrown at me, but I ignored it. It was easy to cast aside words I didn't understand it even if I did hear hatred coming from his strong consonants and shortened vowels. Immediately, I wrapped his wrist with the long trail of paper towels and then caught his other wrist in my hand. I jerked the knife away and chunked it somewhere. Where it landed was none of my concern. I just wanted it to go away. Soon after that, I fell back onto my bum and just pressed my hand against his wrist, holding the makeshift wrap in place.

He didn't say anything and neither did I. I didn't know if I could to be honest. My eyes stayed down on the floor or on his wrist. I was afraid to see that he hated me just because I stopped his destruction. Once I finally looked up, I noticed drops fell from his eyes. They came slowly, dropping onto his pants legs at first until he wiped them away with his other arm. Maybe I over reacted, but I threw myself around his neck and cried. My tears came out harder and faster than his. In the end, I think he was the one consoling me. No, I can't tell you why I cried so hard over a foreign strangers. I just prefer to blame empathy.

A few months later, winter came. I spent most of the time shivering, huddled together with my friends. One day they had gone ahead and walked to class without me. Why, yes, I was running late because my alarm clock didn't go off. It's quite a classic excuse, but it's one that can throw your whole day off. Without the warmth of my friends nearby, I shivered more. Running was impossible. Every time I tried, my knees complained and buckled. The cold felt like hell.

I didn't know where he came from, but a red scarf was wrapped around my neck. When I turned to the culprit to shake him off, I stopped. The guy I had helped against his will grinned at me. He wrapped it tight, making sure to tuck in any loose ends and give my neck a cozy home. After that, we accompanied each other to school. I felt the sun shine on my face and everything felt warmer even though I knew the temperature hadn't changed one bit.

Oh, the doors are opening. That's my cue to leave. My apartment is just three blocks from the train station. I file out with a few others, pushing past those not moving. After exiting the station, I take a deep breath and I look into the sky, wondering what that guy's up to. I haven't seen him since that winter morning.

As soon as my ears pick up on quick plodding feet, something gently touches my shoulder. Great...It might be a beggar or someone asking for directions. I turn halfway, wanting to fend off the person, but the grin on his face makes me stop. I know that smile. The man before me is the one from the subway. He points to the scarf and his smile widens. He doesn't have to say anymore. I recognize him from my past.

We wrap each other up, and once we lets go, he rattles off everything. He tells me about his wife, his new daughter, his pet dog, his New York apartment, and everything else I would've never thought to ask. He says that he's come to New York as a chemistry professor, hoping to meet some of the big name researchers in the U.S. I smile at his words and his speech. Sometimes his words come out in English but others are in Japanese. It doesn't matter though. I can understand both now.

He stops at an apartment building one block away from mine and invites me in for tea, cake, or something. Accepting his offer, we head upstairs together, the sun shining on us even though the thick walls of the building.

My friend continues, claiming that I'm the reason why he's gained so much since college. I laugh, but he just shakes his head.

"No, really," he says. "You've encouraged me to fall in love with myself."

A smile cracks open on my face. Perhaps kisses and swells of passion are nice, but I don't think they're necessary for the best love that this world can offer.


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