Past Simple Life
The unexpected sound provided by the alarm clock woke me from the long nightmare that I had not had for almost a decade. I might have eaten too much last night and so I had dreamt of something ridiculous. I am going to make a big donation today so I must shake it off. Anyway, a dream is just a dream.
“You are early again, Tawan. You are going to a temple not on a date.” Ging greeted me when she saw me enter her house – the place where some of our friends usually use as our meeting point before going off.
“Don’t you think it is too early to tease me, Ging? You have stirred my fair mood this wonderful morning,” I complained.
“Hey! Aren’t you used to it? We’ve known each other for, what seems to be an eternity.”
“That long, Ah? Where are the others?”
“Do you think they will come before the roosters finish brushing their teeth to prepare to crow as you do? Come here and help me pack these donations.” She smiled.
Ging and I have known each other for about 10 years. We know almost everything about each other. That day, we were going to make a donation at Prabatnumphu Temple in Sara Buri Province, a small province north to Bangkok. One of our friends had pointed out that we always made donations to children, elderly or disabled people, but we have never made any donations for those people at Prabatnumphu Temple. We all agreed that we should do something for them. While what we will do for them can’t ease their great pain, they may feel happy when we go and meet and cheer them. And thus they might have more energy to fight the disease. The killer that destroys not only the body of its host, but also his or her mind; as there is no cure, the victims can do nothing but travel an agonizing journey to their final destination. Moreover, they have to endure the condemnation and discrimination of people who usually feel disgusted by them. This temple is one place that cures and looks after these people who have to suffer from HIV. But, this temple should be anywhere, but here.
The wheels of the vehicle started to move forward, but the wheels of my heart began to move backward and drive my consciousness toward a blind past. As we got closer to Sara Buri, I couldn’t help to let my shallow memories fly.
“What’s wrong with you? Why are you sitting like a stone sculpture? We should go somewhere else” Ging said worryingly.
“I’m fine. I really am. Maybe I’m just carsick. Let me nap for a while. It might get better.” I quickly closed my eyes and pretended to sleep because I was afraid that she might know what was in my heart.
“You’ve never gotten carsick before, Tawan. Be true to your heart,” Ging said and closed her eyes as well.
I turned my face to the road. The road sign read “90 miles to Sara Buri.” I felt anxious. The only thing I could do now was keep myself from expressing my deep feelings so the others wouldn’t recognize them.
Sara Buri is my ex-boyfriend’s hometown. We got along well together for almost a year before we broke up. Our relationship did not over smoothly so the memory of it has haunted me for many years. We were so different. I once read a short story entitled “A Fiddler on the Roof”, in which a girl fell in love with and planned to marry a foreign boy. Her father disapproved of it saying, “A bird may love a fish, but where could they build a home together?” I did not understand its meaning clearly until I faced a similar situation myself. Sometimes, when two people have extremely different natures, it may be hard for them to carry on a relationship. Trying to stay together may become destructive and ruin any sort of friendship that could have been.
Until I saw the road sign, I did no know how far I had gone. But the road sign seemed to have the power to direct my memories to him in a flood. He immediately shook his wrist to free himself from my hand. “What do you want me to do? I have no choice. My parents ordered me to leave so I have to leave.”
I followed him and begged him to stay with me longer. I could not accept that he dumped me without any sign. I boarded the bus after him and tried to sit near him so that we could talk, but he moved away from me. The other passengers sensed that something was going on and kept looking at me crossed eyed. I could not face the embarrassment so I jumped off when it reached the other stop.
I came back to my dorm paralytically. That night, I had to stay in the same room without him. My consciousness was shut off. I saw a small knife that I always used to cut fruit for him every night. But that night, he was gone. I did not know what to do with it so I took the small knife and cut my wrist. My blood flooded on the floor. Luckily, Ging found me in time and took me to the nearest hospital. That crazy idiotic action has left permanent scars on my right wrist.
My dull vision met the road sign again. We were almost at the temple. Memories of the past grew stronger and stronger.
“Tawan, I have something to tell you,” he said.
“What is it about? If it is bad, skip it. I’m not prepared for that stuff tonight,” I replied and turned my face from him.
“Forget it, you will know about it tomorrow anyway,” he said and got up from the bed we slept on to turn off the light and got back into the bed again and went to sleep.
. . . . . . . . .
One morning, he woke up very early. I asked where he was going but he did not answer. When I finished my breakfast, I went to my university and went directly to the student affairs center to rearrange my study schedule. I found him doing something at the counter.
“What are you doing here, Night?” I asked in surprise.
“I quit. I’m going to study at another university,” he said, “When you finish your business here, go back to our room.”
I was stunned. I hurriedly finished what I had come to do and went back to my room. When I reached the room, all of his belongings had been packed in his suitcases. He sat on the bed, waiting for me.
“Where are you going? What is it? Why didn’t you tell me before?” I asked him, shocked, My tears dropped without any sign.
“I tried to tell you last night but you didn’t want to hear it. Anyway, I have to go. I don’t want to be late. My friends are waiting for me,” he said and held up his suitcases.
I grasped his wrist automatically. My eyes filled with tears until I couldn’t see him clearly.
“You said you wouldn’t leave me. But what is this?” I said and cried.
“Hello.” He answered my call.
“Hello. Why didn’t you come to see me? You left me waiting in vain.” I asked.
“I went home. I’m sorry.”
“But why didn’t you tell me before you left? You have been like this before. You’ve never cared for my feelings. I have no idea why you always treated me badly when I am the one who cares for you the most”. I exerted my long – term pressure on him.
“We don’t speak the same language, Tawan. I can’t talk with you anymore. Call me when you think we can have a real conversation.” he said and hung up.
I called back immediately but he refused my call. That time, total anger and hatred replaced my love for him, I picked up my cell phone and sent a message. It read:
“Return the money that you borrowed from me by this Friday, or else
I will tell your parents about it.”
The next morning, he sent me back a message. It read:
“I am surprised that you’re not a fool anymore. Anyway, about the money, you can tell anyone you want. You know I don’t care about that.”
And that was the last message I received from him. When I read that message, I felt sincerity in those letters that I had never been touched before.
Finally, we reached the temple. The surroundings of the temple looked very nice. But, instead of the smell of joss sticks, as at other temples, it smelled like a hospital. We looked around for a while before going to meet the abbot.
We paid him our respect and told him that we were the group from Bangkok that wanted to make a donation to the temple.
“Ah! I remember. I am so grateful that you think of people in the society who are suffering. These days, most people only think of themselves. How can our society survive in this way?” The Jaow Aawad said.
We talked with him for a while, then he suggested that we give the patients the donations by ourselves. He said, “They are just like you. Don’t be afraid of them. There are nothing more but victims of a deadly disease.”
We went to distribute the donations in different directions. The patients in the middle line were my responsibility. Many patients there looked very sad, but when we approached them closely, it was obvious that they felt happier.
“Where is patient from this bed? I ask a patient next to an empty bed.
“He is in the bathroom. Ah! There he is behind you,” the old man said.
I turned around to meet a shocking sight. My eyes opened wide. I couldn’t take my eyes off the figure in front of me. My hands became so weak that I could not hold anything. The donations fell to the floor. My ribs were trying to move and finally they produced a sound that my ears had not heard for a long time:
His eyes opened wide and showed his surprise which was as obvious as mine. When he mustered the strength, he turned his back to me and walked away. I touched his arm automatically and asked him:
“Are you still angry at me?”
“No, I’m not” he answered and tried to walk away.
“So why do you walk away from me again?” I asked.
“I didn’t …please, leave me alone. I don’t want to see you anymore. We should not see each other again.” He tried to say something else but changed his mind.
“Why? You are the same. You’ve never changed. You can go anywhere now without telling the others.” My tongue slipped and mentioned the past. He sighed and said:
“I am so sorry for what I have done. If I had a chance to turn back time, I wouldn’t have treated you like that. I…” Ging came before he could finish what he was saying.
“Tawan, what’s wrong with you? Why are the donations all over the floor?” Ging asked me. Then she stared at the man in front of me. When she recognized him, she exploded at once:
“What the hell are you doing here? Don’t answer. I can guess from your gown. Serves you right. Damn ass like you should end up like this. Tawan! Come to the van with me. All of our friends are waiting for us.” She pulled my arm to the van. After Ging and all of my friends left my house, I lay down on my bed. In my head, millions of butterflies were trying to find their way out. I tried to concentrate deeply. I closed my eyes, but the scenes of today became clearer. I saw the man I used to love the most. He once was so extraordinarily handsome that everyone would glance back at him. But now he is so thin and looks so terrible. A sudden pang of hurt occurred when I thought of his condition.
The clock in my bedroom sounded along with my heartbeat. The butterflies in my head were now divided into two groups; they fought with each other continuously.
I used to tell him and even myself, that I would love him until my dying day no matter what happened. Eventually, I didn’t keep my word. People are different from animals in that they can speak. They can put the meaning of what they want to communicate into the words they say. If people just speak but do not keep or care about the meaning of what they say, then I think they are just like animals that can produce sounds instinctively. Anyway, he was the one who broke the promise first. He left me without any sign. He dumped me as if I was junk. So, why should I keep my word to him? But, forgiveness is a good thing. I should forgive and forget all the things he had done to me. He was in really bad condition. I should go back to the temple and give him
a hand with his suffering. But what would my family and friends think if I went back to him again? They would be upset if I did. Although they could accept it, I had to keep my mind straight now he has HIV. How could I bring him to stay with my family? I had to think of the others, not only myself. And what if, he might not want to stay with me. If he wanted to stay with me, all the old problems we had faced before might destroy our relationship again. Or…
Ring! Ring! The telephone rang and knocked me out of my trance.
“Hello Boss, I’m calling to remind you about the seminar tomorrow,” my secretary said.
“Oh! Yes, yes. What time is it again?” I asked her.
“The flight leaves at 8.00 a.m. Are you alright? You sound exhausted.”
“I’m fine. See you tomorrow morning at the airport, thank you.”
I shook off those blind butterflies in my head and started to focus on my work only. I had to check the information about the seminar again.
. . .
Three months passed as quick as a flash. I had finished my work overseas successfully and was on a plane back to Thailand. I had already made a decision about him. I knew that my love for him had not diminished at all over the past ten years. I may have tried to do many other things, but they were just distractions that I used to keep myself busy so that I wouldn’t think of him. Being with him was the best thing that had ever happened in my life. Although the others may think that he was really bad for the many evil things he did to me, we also shared some sweet and happy moments together.
Now, I am driving on the same road that will lead me to meet him. Now, I have a second chance to spend this limited time with him. So he has HIV. So what? We can remain good friends and I will care for him until his time comes. Being with him is the only thing that my crazy and stubborn heart longs for.
. . .
Standing and staring at his empty bed again. I asked the old man in the bed beside me,
“Where is Night? I have to talk to him. Where is he?”
“Where have you been? He is not here anymore.”
“Why? Has he moved somewhere else?” I asked in surprised.
“Yes, he died a week ago.”
Now, driving back home on the same road, it looks a little bit different, probably because it is now night time. The sun has already left the world.
“Are you sure you can stay alone tonight?” Ging asked me when we arrived at my home.
“Sure. I am doing fine. Don’t worry.” I answered.
“Don’t forget that you have to leave for London tomorrow for the seminar.”
“Thanks. I won’t forget. You know I have never let anything else disturb my job.” I told her.
“Yes. I trust you can do it. Ging smiled at me and gave me a wink.
แต่งตอนปีสี่ค่ะ ไม่นึกว่าจะผ่านมาได้ แต่ก็ผ่านมาจนได้ ครั้งนั้นสอนให้รู้ว่า เมื่อวางใจให้เวลาเป็นเครื่องพิสูจน์ความรักและคนรัก สิ่งสำคัญคือ เราต้องกล้าพอที่จะยอมรับสิ่งที่เวลาได้พิสูจน์ให้เราเห็น ความประทับใจแรกอาจไม่เที่ยงตรงเสมอไปค่ะ และคำพูดที่ว่า ”คนดีๆยังมีอีกเยอะ” เป็นเรื่องจริงค่ะ (แม้ว่าส่วนใหญ่จะมีเจ้าของไปแล้วก็ตาม) สู้ต่อไปนะคะ แด่ all the great lovers ka
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