Near The End

weather-dark-rainy-blur

She sits beside me on the hill overlooking another hill of tombstones. It’s December the first and the wind brings with it a chill of winter that never makes its way to the Philippines. Like a ghost passing by; we don’t see it with our own eyes, but we know it’s there because we wouldn’t be so cold otherwise.

Stratus clouds march our way. I point this out to her, and she breaks into a grin.

“Like soldiers,” she says. “They’ve come to give the dead a bath. It’s their wake up call. They’ll be taken prisoners and sold, but someone will start a coup against those evil soldiers and save the prisoners and then they’ll be free to roam the sky like doves do – not so high, but high enough that we can’t reach them, only see them.”

“You do know I only believe it’s either heaven or hell, right?”

She keeps on watching the stratus army. “Either way, it sets us free from our limited existence.”

“Would you rather we don’t exist at all?”

“I’d rather I can bring back time and live a different life entirely.”

I look away from her. On the other end of the cemetery, another family in white huddle, crying. “All of us wish the same thing at one point in our lives.”

“No, it’s the only thing I can wish for.”

“How come? Aren’t you happy with your husband?”

“I’m happy with him,” she says and smiles faintly at me. “I’m happy with Leslie and Mace. But in spite of all that happiness, I can’t bring myself to be happy with myself.”

“You mean you feel incomplete?”

“Do you remember that painting of a boy our art teacher made? That last one?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“He never finished it,” she says. “He died before he could paint the other half of his face. It was just a sketch, that other half. He started it without knowing he won’t be able to finish it. His last painting – unfinished. How sad.” She wipes the teardrop that spilled from the outer corner of her left eye. “I can’t be like that painting. People like us have to be stronger than we really are.”

I tip my head back. “The stratus army is gone.”

She tips her head back as well. “Maybe it’s tired of taking prisoners.”

“Or maybe that someone who saves them has set them free for good.”

“…Maybe,” she says. “I hope so.”

“Let’s go back now or people will start to get worried.”

“That’s the last thing we want.”

We stand and dust our clothes. Through the corner of my eye I see her picking on her black tights and scratching her wrist. I try to imagine her fifteen year old self, but she’s already gone.

She notices me staring and says, “Yes?”

“Nothing,” I say.

Chalk

SplitShire-2767

I walk the circle drawn in chalk on the ground. The chalk dust deter from its outline. The circle isn’t big. Around two feet in diameter. I meant to say it wasn’t big at first. Two feet in diameter in the beginning and it keeps growing with each round I make. After forty rounds, it must be eighty feet in diameter. It’s like this circle plans to envelope the world, lick its surface, leave its saliva on the cracked soil to forever contaminate our over four-billion-year-old innocence.

My leather sandals with three straps have escaped the perfect prison guards which were my feet ages ago. I must have been fifteen years old when I started walking the circle barefoot.

The seasons have morphed, and the snow where the snow should not have fallen now covers the chalk marks. But I keep on going. Because beneath the snow, in spite of the cold, and along with my growing numbness, I see in my mind where my next step should be. I see the circle.

I know not the number of rounds I’ve made.

My fingers have turned to orange. My hair flows like ink on paper. I feel my nakedness in spring where everything blossoms but me.

One summer after fifty years, perhaps I’ll see the chalk marks again and I’ll see with my eyes what I’ve accomplished. Until then, keep walking. I bite my tongue, trace my belly button, and poke my eyes.  Keep walking.