Would we ever meet again?

I know that we disagree, but one day, can we

See each other again, after—

—A lot of things could happen,

That day, I don’t think was meant to be

It’s better this way.

 

_______

 

Repeated ringing. The dull beat of a phone attacks, merciless as ever. 

 

“May. Is there something I can do for you?” Her voice skews, in a way that says that her attention is somewhere else. 

 

“I thought I’d never see you again.” The voice from the woman on the other side breaks through, joy and sorrow, a warm grief. May’s attention snaps, like a rubber-band, back to the call. Her voice, older than she remembers it, but nothing unexpected. Familiar almost, in the way out-grown dresses and overgrown trees are.

 

“I’m sorry.” She smiles hollowly and cuts the call.

 

______

 

Day after day, many things blend into the background. The foreground fades back, and the roads all look the same.

 

In the middle of the city square, there stood a memorial set in glass. No one really knows how long it’s been there, but it didn’t matter. Branches weave left and right, the only thing confining them is the flat surface that they are etched on. Gold and green—all contained in a smooth arc. The glass was surrounded by brick and stone, ragged by the age and dust.

 

The tree on the window was perfect: in its geometric shape and in its architectural genius. The pieces of glass are glazed; it’s beautiful, in the way only a few things are: a blend of nature, through the weaving of trees surrounding it and a marriage of skill. A smooth arch of metal and crystal frame the window, always firm and never yielding.

 

They say that the window panel was originally part of a historical building, a castle of old.

 

Each section of the window whispers a story. 

 

Each dyed shard was shaped with care and precision. During certain hours of the day, light would reflect off it, shadowing the square in a pink light.

 

No one is quite sure where it comes from: some say that it was built that way, to symbolise perseverance in a time where suffering was ramped, while others swear by the fact it was part of a larger building, one that has now been lost to the careless hands of time. 

Things were very different back then, a few might say. In some ways, they were. But in others? In the ways in which they lived their lives and in the way we now live ours? Well, it’s hard to say there is a big difference.

 

Now, still, they live here. With different names and faces, with different hopes and dreams. 

 

History repeats itself, the same story again and again.

 

It’s not even tragic anymore. How can it be, if it has been repeated time and time again—that the question now isn’t if, but rather when? Not why, but rather how?

______

 

You’re genuinely surprised. How? How?

 

You were so certain—the mistakes made by those before you will not be repeated. Not again.

Never again.

 

It’s hard to tell when everything ran away from you. How long has it been?

 

Does it even matter anymore?

 

“May. How can I help?” Your rote voice stutters out the same thing, day in and out.

 

“You say that you don’t want to talk anymore,” he rushes out, panting like this is his one and only chance (it should’ve been, 3 calls ago) and then he starts again, “but you keep picking up my caller id—”

 

“Force of habit, I suppose,” You cut the call, not allowing him to finish the sentence. 

 

Your phone pings. A new text message. The bright letters on the blinding phone screen seem to mock you: ‘Call me whenever you’re ready’. Another message follows: ‘Please’.

 

A wet cough threatens to claw up your throat. You didn’t even know your little brother was even capable of using the word ‘please’; it makes you scared, just how much have you missed? Just how much have you—

 

No. You’ve made your choice, they’ve made theirs. This is not your fault, not your responsibility, not your family. Not anymore. You think it’s sad. Of course, your relationships with your family were strained sometimes (wasn’t everyones’?) but you can’t do anything about it now. You need to hold on, you have a life here—you don’t need them anymore (and they don’t need you).

 

It’s not that simple. Your life took a different path; your parents detached, apathetic. You haven’t seen your brother in the better part of six years. It’s not that you hate your parents—you doubt you ever could, despite anything and everything—but people drift. They didn’t care, and so neither did you. 

 

It’s not your fault that you decided to move halfway around the world, that your parents are too frail to ever visit. It’s not your fault that you can barely speak their tongue. You might have been able to, if you tried harder. If you were smarter, kinder,  more caring.

 

They say that everyone is the product of their upbringing and blood—that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, that you are nothing more (and nothing less) than the fruits of your parents.

 

But you wish it didn’t have to be like this. You sigh, and look at the clock: 4 am. Your little brother never was aware (or caring) of time zones.

 

A small sad laugh bubbles past your lips. you might as well get up, you have a busy day ahead of you.

_______

 

Throughout your day, you get multiple texts. Silly things, like:

  • What time is it there?? (6 am, and still too early)
  • Hey, did you hear about how Carol won that competition? (you didn’t know that, how could you have, so far away?) 
  • Do you know that clouds are actually really really heavy? Like 1000 tonnes heavy? (Of course you knew that, you always were fascinated with meteorology even as a child)

 

Of course, you were smart enough to refrain from actually sending any reply to these messages, but he knew you read them. If you really didn’t want to talk, he knew you would have just blocked his number.

 

So, why didn’t you?

 

You have 5 new voicemails. The screen of your out-dated phone suddenly flashes 

at you. 

 

“Hey, May. How—”You decide that listening to these messages are a waste of your time. You have work to do.

 

It’s a shame, then, when you spend the rest of your lunch break, in the bathroom, with your phone’s tinny loudspeaker to your ear. With your back hunched over, listening to your brother nonsense, about how he’s planning to go overseas. About his new girlfriend, and how your father’s shop has been doing really well, actually.

 

It’s a shame, then, how you fingers itch to reply to all these messages, to say some words of your own—

 

“May, please. Just please listen to me. I know that you… I don’t know, left for a reason? Or maybe, you left and we just… lost contact? I mean, does it matter what happened? If anything actually… Sorry, I… okay, okay, let me start again…”

 

The fifth and final voicemail started playing. 

 

You smiled, as your brother’s stuttering voice continued—sometimes you think even he has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s a lot wiser than he used to be, maybe even wiser than you.

 

You sit back, the awful smell surrounds you, and the walls around you are graffitied. You sit back, and just let go.

 

Writer – Areeba Zabrina
Editor – Olivia Sang
Artist – Bruce Zou

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