1:30

It is half past one in the morning, and in a few hours I will be leaving for P.

“As if I could put you in my luggage and just carry you along.” said I.

“If I could, I would have been going with you.” replied Patrick.

We made love, in which he was more active and fierce than ever. We both knew that our time was running out… He even let me take photos of him, that he would say against if it was months ago…

“When you come back, we can be together again, and everything will be the same, if it is the destiny.” he said, when I hugged him while I was thinking that nothing would ever be the same, and that we could never know whether we could be together or not.

I think about the noise that Daniel’s flip-flops make on the floor at my office will be still there, without my notice.

 

Yesterday, when the sun was high in the sky, I came back home after going out to buy ground coffee, I was thinking about the time when I was at home a few months ago and I thought about us getting married, which would never be realised. And the warm sunny afternoon when I was thinking about us getting married will be lost, forever.

 

Yesterday evening, I went to the airport to see my Mexican teacher off. And when she is transitting in Dubai, I must be well on my way to P. And later today, I will sit, alone in my apartment, thinking that I have made a long journey, though in fact it is not too long.

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el paraguas rosa

One night, I decide to go out with my bicycle. And at the end, I find myself riding to Thomas’ house. I ride at my top speed, which can equal that of a motorbicycle, unstopped by traffic lights, and about two kilometres from his house, I smile a happy smile at the memories of when I was at high school when on a day like this, I came back to the dormitory when the gate was closed, I called the guard and asked him to open it.

“Open the gate, please.”

“No.” said he.

“Ok, then. I won’t come in.” said I. Then I turned away and rode, first without a destination, then to D., where I heard somewhere, somehow that there were fossils of ferns which had been living millions of years ago among coal beds though coal is itself a fossil. I clung to the thought, and kept riding. I did not come back until dawn the next day. And mis compañeros in the residence hall demonstrated at the front of the guard’s office.

“If he does not come back, you will be done with us.” the boys said, in their seething anger, while the girls cried.

It was not until four in the morning did I come back, sneaking through the steel chains over the wall around the school. From then on, the guard, considered the hardest among his peers, did not dare to not let a student to come in in late hours.

In fact, I rode around thirty kilometres, for I reached the capital of the district, without seeing any hints of the fossils. Or I was too naïve to believe they were there, not in a museum.

The road to Thomas’ is as familiar as that to your own home, that when you are drunk, you still manage to arrive, safe and sound. It was as on a day in May two years ago, I also rode to his house, to meet him, and to confess that I had just cheated on him. It was heart-wrenching.

And I think on Friday, when people wake up for work, and Thomas can be still deep in his sleep, I am leaving for P.

I think about how Thomas has changed my eating habits. I ate phalau for the first time here in Saigon with my second ex, I had not liked it. And I have come to love it when I went out with Thomas, he is the only one with whom I enjoy the dish, even until now. When we broke up, I stopped eating it. And fast food too, though I have never enjoyed it.

And on the road to Thomas’, the scent of milkwood-pine’s blooms remind me of my time in high school, with Toru, in that dark harsh winter, more than a decade ago.

I pass his house, and I look up at his window, brightly lit. I know for sure that he is not asleep at this hour, and that, of which I am more certain, he does not go out, not like me, dragging myself through those bars and others, drinking almost all alcoholic beverages from wine, whisky to champagne and beer, the list can go on, smoking incessantly and going back home totally intoxicated and falling on my bed, to sleep. Or to oblivion?

Drops of sweat are falling on my glasses when I stop, to gaze at his window, wondering what he is doing: reading, editing, listening to music, watching films, or porns. And the memories of my staring out of the same window, to the bush of bougainvillea in his neighbour’s garden, it was raining hard, and we had just made love, as we had done numerous times, in his room, came back to my mind.

 

Then I come back, stop at a convenient shop to buy a beer, a Belgian this time, which I am drinking while recalling a warm, sunny afternoon when I was waiting for him at the same shop. I could not go to his, because his father was at home, and he did never like my presence, which reminded him of his son’s homosexuality, I assume.

Love is not gone as long as the memory of it stays… I think.

 

I come back, and along the way, I think about Patrick, who might be thinking that he is still young, while the breath of death is inhaling and exhaling next door.

 

Está lloviznoso, no mucho, pero persistentemente.

Se llama K, another K, not Kelvin.

Los calles son desiertos. El barrio tambien. A veces pienso que el ultimo refugio es debajo de mi paraguas rosa.

Patrick might have come in a day like this, at this hour. I would love to sleep in K’s lap, I thought, in a sudden.

 

Outside my window, a perching bird jumps, jumps…

My eyes could capture his figure in the darkness, but my phone could not.

The road to the office is as familiar as the road to a lover’s house…

Carmen said in a few years from now Patrick would be so sick…

The cats would die one day. And I would cry my eyes out as when rabbit kittens died when I was just six or seven years old. I would sit by Patrick’s deathbed… now I am going to tell you… and then I would tell him about my childhood, when we kept a fire under a eucalyptus tree, when we played along on a vast stretch of sand, when I sneaked to see young boys’ adolescent bloom.

As era inevitable: el olor de las almendras amargas le recordaba siempre el destino de los amores contrariados. It was inevitable for me to miss Thomas when I see my two cats, who I took from his house.

 

I thought my niece would be born when I was with Patrick. She was born today, and I am going out with Patrick, maybe for the last time.

 

When people wake up for work, and Thomas is still deep in his sleep, I am leaving for P.

his perfume was still on my bed

A faint whiff of his perfume was still on my bed a few hours after he left. It was not the same as the one he applied the last time he was here nearly two weeks ago.

I woke up today morning at 11 o’clock and there were already some messages in my inbox.

“Can I still send you something to your present address?” asked Toru.

And messages from Patrick. He asked what I was doing during weekend. “Nothing.” I told him. I usually sleep all day during weekends. “I drew yesterday.” “What did you draw?” “You can see and guess what it is when you come.” “Are you home alone? Well, I am thinking about…” And I knew what he meant by that: I am thinking… is always equivalent to I am going to

 

“Why do you turn down all window blinds?” asked Patrick when he came. I reached out for the book and gave him while I was explaining. “It was said that Dr Urbino and his wife had followed the Roman strategy against heat, which consists of closing houses during the lethargy of August in order to keep out the burning air from the street, and then opening them up completely to the night breezes.” “Have you read it?” I continued. “No, not yet.” he replied. “Is it better?” “I don’t know.” “Let’s see what I drew yesterday. What do you see?” “It’s my shirt.” “You are the only one who knows what it is. One said it was a bear in a cage, another said it was a piece of underwear.” “Oh, I know what you are thinking.”

 

I had some beer and thought that I would go to a bookshop, but I would have something for dinner first. I was riding my bicycle, and the destination would be the broken rice restaurant near the first studio I rented when I was a new arrival here in the city, of which the owner was a beautiful young woman, on whom I had a very positive impression. I rode past the streets and the brigde I used to go by everyday years ago, and memories came flooding back. I used to wake up very early in the morning, when the skyline was just in its light purple. I used to walk fast in the morning and slothfully in the evening along the same streets, to work and back home. And I recalled even the mirror I took from my first studio to the second logement which was actually an apartment, the mirror I just discovered days before I left the former, it was hung high above the door. It was where I first saw Chris, and we broke up while I was still there. It was also where I spent long long nights after I broke up with Dylan. And I missed the plants I used to grow, which I brought with me when I moved out, and the last of which died at my 5th accommodation.

But the broken rice restaurant was not there. I kept riding, through the house I rented years ago, to find the landlady sat in the living room staring out to the street. I avoided her stare and kept going. She might have seen me, or she might not. If she did see me, she might wonder what I was doing here, and why I had not come over to say hello. I turned my eyes up towards where I used to live, there were some clothes hung on the drying line…

I went to the bookshop, and in a second, I imagined Thomas might turn up and stand right before me. “Well, it’s good to see you here. Do you find something to buy?” he would say.

It was just eight o’clock in the evening and in the busiest city of the country the streets were deserted, much to my surprise.

 

He was awakened by sadness. Dr. Juvenal Urbino was, as I was this afternoon from a siesta after Patrick left, to find his perfume was still on my bed, I sniffed, and inhaled and kept it in my lungs as long as I could.

I was knitting and drinking while waiting for Patrick. I already had three cans of beer when he came. Te quiero, I practised several times and I thought I was ready to tell him while we were making love. “What did you just say?” he would ask. “It is in Spanish. I won’t tell you what it is.” I would say. But I did not say it, nor did I when he was about to leave, when I tried, with success, to kiss his neck, maybe for the last time, and even before that when I hugged him from behind. “Can I go home now?” (it was much more an announcement than a question), he asked and I unfastened my arms.

What if I said “No, you cannot.”?

 

Would his perfume be still there when I come back, I wondered while riding home.

 

No, it’s not. I told myself and finished my cigarette.

¿Para toda la vida?

My palms cover halves of my eyes, through which I can see the white blank of the word processor. I am thinking…

 

Dear Thomas,

I want to hug you and spend a night with you. I am drunk, and nearly naked. I have just bought Underground Railroad. And I am going to write you a letter. My house in… is nice, and it is spacious. I hope that you can come one day. I already imagine us in it.

 

The blank of the word processor faces me. I need a hug of a human being.

“Do you know some bar where we could dance?” I asked Patrick and Carmen. “I want to dance with you though I am very bad at it. Just want to do it.”

There came no reply. It was too late.

 

He looked at himself in the mirror, his mind was full of the sea. Who danced like it were the end of the world at Para toda la vida by  El sueño de Morfeo? Perhaps it was too late, for everything. Could it be?

If not now, then when?

How can I start a sentence? Or even a word?

 

It is how the story begins. I saw a handsome boy in a bookshop in the city’s centre. I stared at him, and kept following him all around the corners, and even took two photos of him. My friends, when told about him, could argue about his handsomeness, as they always do. He left. I checked the bill and left the bookshop too, to find out that he was waiting at the front door, perhaps for the rain to let up, that I did not know. I decided to stand there, waiting, less for the rain to stop, but to see him more, to devour his image in my mind. I was, and continue to be desperate like this. Or as such a pervert. It was raining very hard, and harder. Fifteen minutes or so passed, and I headed towards him and said: “Excuse me, do you have any paper and a pen?” “Yes, I think I have. Please wait a moment.” he said. “Sorry, I only have a ball-point pen. Paper, I don’t have.” he replied, after searching his bag. “Ok, that would be fine. Never mind. I have a bill here. I can write on its back.” I said. “Or, if you want, I can tear a piece of paper from my documents.” he said. “No no, please don’t, never mind. The bill would suffice.” I said. And I wrote my number on the back of the bill, and gave him, in haste, then I thanked him and ran away.

“Fuck!” I swore, to myself.

I was raining, even harder, while I was riding back home. If not now, then when? I thought when I approached the boy.

 

It was cold outside. Snow had been falling hard for weeks now. And an old letter I came across this afternoon when I was reorganising my study left me with a pang in my heart, as I were struck by electricity. It was years ago. A letter by Kelvin, which came just days before we broke up. I opened it, this time, and read from beginning to end. The letter, written in his careful hand-writing, which somehow resembled that of a boy in his middle school, and which was on the paper that now turned yellow over time, read…

The snow kept falling, and outside it was already dark when I came to the kitchen to make myself a dinner with…, a huge glass of whisky and…

The kiss I placed on his lips at the railway station back in 2013 came back to my mind.

Dylan might think, one day.

 

The cat jumped onto my lap, purring and sleeping soundly. Thomas, I’ve just bought Underground Railroad. I was going to text him.

 

“Can I sleep with you until you go?” asked my housemate. “Yes, sure.” I replied, and after a short pause, I continued “But not when Patrick is here.” “Of course not. Oh my God… what are you thinking?” she exclaimed. In September, I had not anticipated that it could ever be the last time he spent the whole night with me. Perhaps, we never know anything. I never know.

 

Today, while I was riding home from the swimming class, there are only three sessions to the end of the class, and I have not made any major progress, and I might never know how to swim when the class ends, I checked out some guys on the street, whom I believed were gay. They were riding a scooter, leaving behind a scent that reminded me of that of Cherry Ng, which I could smell and discern numerous times at my office. And I came to wonder if all gay guys in the world would use just the same kind of perfume. Then my mind brought me to a blood donation campaign, and in the questionnaire there was “Have you ever had sex with persons of same sex over last six months?”, to which I checked “yes”, and over which the doctor who interviewed me afterwards could not hide his fright and confusion. “Why? You should not do it.” said he. And I was rejected.

I was upset, back then and even now when I recall it. But I had done nothing, I did not want to make a scene, my rational but less brave half-mind told me… “Go to hell, homophobe!” I should have said. How many words are there that we should have said, but did not?

 

“I love you.” I would say to …, the list would be long. I would also extend the sentence to Patrick and Daniel, even though they are not in the cluster. If I die tomorrow, would they sing an elegy? I wonder.

¿Es inevitable?

Hi, I’m… I’m leaving tomorrow but I’ll come back in… Please wait for me here.” I said, gently holding his hand. It was hours, or even days later did I realise that we had not told each other our names. Yet as cliché and predictable as it might be, we exchanged gaze of understanding, and of desire, of promises of tender passion, smiles and nods. All in the purple light of the bar back in P., blurred in cigarette smoke and light drunkenness of beer and whisky.

“I love you.” he said, as I was leaving. It was as achingly easy and superficial as anyone in that case might have said. Perhaps it is the only thing that his command of the foreign language allowed him to utter. Or perhaps we did not have enough time to say anything longer than three words.

Days pass, and I have been becoming less certain about the scenario of going there to see him, by scheduled coincidence.

 

In the dark I was trying in vain to hug and to inhale as much as possible the fragrance of Patrick’s body, its sweetness as he was going to be dressed and come home. His father has cancer, and he could not spend the night with me. I wish I could keep a faint whiff of the fragrance in my lungs and never exhale.

Dear Patrick,” it would start.

 

Thomas, if one day we do not know about each other’s existence, please do remember that you are part of my past, my memory and story.

 

The only thing I can clearly recall about the time I was with Oliver is that he kissed my hand as we said goodbye and his driver was going to take me back to the city’s centre, the wind was blowing from the river in a warm, sunny morning. Other things became a film you watched a long time ago and although you know that you watched it, you could not remember the plot and the impression you had on it.

 

I already miss you, Patrick. I miss your smile, your body, your moans when we are doing it.

I always know that every moment is unique, and that everything we have done together, like everything else, happens only once.

I wish you all the best.

 

¿Es inevitable?

Whither the hours that fly?

It is raining cats and dogs outside. I woke up at the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, which is rare given my constant sleepiness. And I do not have alcohol’s assistance by my side because I am currently in a tattoo aftercare.

I think about Thomas and how our three-year relationship ended up. And it just dawned on me a few days ago that he was the only lover with whom I have gone to supermarkets. Of course we did many other things together: bathing, sleeping, cooking, studying, all together. We love reading, but it is strange that we never read together. We tried at least, but never succeeded in doing so. My language is broken. I took my two cats from his beloved female cats when the kittens were just a month old. And in his thesis’ acknowledgement, Thomas referred to me as “mon amour.”

“I have a terribly bad memory. What left is a moving collage that is sometimes played in my mind like a broken trailer of a bad film. Yet I believe ones are changing, in every second.” I told Toru when he asked me if I found that he had changed a lot since the day of yore. (The expression is far too much superfluous, yet I and Thomas love it, or else I think so).

“I think you are all the same, exactly the same as what I have been thinking about you all along. There is something about you that I find very endearing. Perhaps you are careless as always.” Toru said.

“That’s why I love you.” he continued.

My memories run wild and bring me to Wolf and Chris, whom, for me, are somehow dead. We have not talked for too long and I don’t know about their well-being, nor they know mine. Some of my former sex buddies did text to wish me happy birthday in July, to whom I have no need to talk or just keep contact details, nor I remember their birthdays. They are all dead in my world.

Sometimes it might hurt to think that the bodies that you used to hold very dear, for which you used to have burning desire, and on which you spent your fruitful youth are rotting somewhere else and vanish, like the hours you had been together.

I first had sex with a guy well in his late 40s when I was 19. I don’t tell many about this. I want to deny the fact, and to forget the story behind it. He once told me that he had a son about my age.  It does not matter anymore. Nothing matters, at the end of the day.

And I come to miss Dylan. We loved when he was in his 12th grade and now he is going to do a master’s. We barely talk once or twice a year when he comes back home for summer holidays. We would plan a rendez-vous that never occurred.

“Are you ill?” asked Daniel.

“No.” I replied. “I will show you something.” Then I unfastened the handkerchief I had put on my neck and rolled up my sleeves to show him my two new tattoos: one fiddlehead and one lambda in a triangle.

He smiled, a beautiful, gentle and warm smile that he might have been cracking thousands of times in his life, and that is what I captured and tried to store in my mind so that years away from now perhaps it will be the only thing I remember about him.

A whiff of delicate fragrance from Patrick’s body lingers in my nose… (That was last Thursday.)

My language is broken, so are more my memories. It is still raining hard and it is nearly four in the morning.