It was 09:30pm; I am watching all of the outlining lights of the city from my apartment terrace view, and while I am finishing a good bowl of ramen freshly heated from the microwave, something caught my attention. As I move my head upwards to my right, just across from where I was, I see what appears to be an audience. There sat a frog smoking its long and lean wooden pipe and apparently, it was not just any ordinary frog. I could tell from the prints and the design of his robe. He is sporting a well maintained facial hair growing from his small chin, the strands are greyish white, telling me that he has been around for quite some time. He has his legs crossed together, while awkwardly dabbling his webbed toes in the air. He was sitting on the edge portion of the neighboring roof and he’s always been doing the same routine for years.
Of course, I never knew this since my family and I just moved in here. We had financial difficulties ever since my father had passed away and now we are moving to another home to start over.
As a matter of etiquette and good manners, I signaled to him if he wanted some of what I was having, raising the bowl chin high and directing the chopsticks towards it.
“I had flies. Thank you” politely, the frog declined, wearing a mischievous smile on his face. He then immediately followed it with what you can say an offensive remark – “You’re not the neighbor I was expecting to have”.
I had to ask why, almost choking on a string of noodle.
“My dreams had told me that the one who’s going to live next to me is the one who’s going to help me with my mathematics. And I was observing you these past days, and I can’t see any clue at all that you have what it takes. I think you’re a slacker, you just stare at photographs from your phone and you have a nasty habit of picking your nose.”
For a while there, I felt very insulted. This is not the type of conversation you have at first meetings. But I know his kind. Old folks tend to speak this way without thinking first; they would go about it, as if it is their inherent and social right or something. My old professor spoke like this frog, and it kind of reminded me of him. We were good friends until he went abroad for his treatments.
As the hundreds of matchbox lights from the façade of the buildings paint a mosaic landscape, the frog and I had started conversing. We talked about a lot of interesting things. My favorite was about the undiscovered colors that he dreamt of, these were colors that this world hasn’t seen yet. And it had something to do with our eyes he says, preventing us from really seeing.
The cold September breeze on this silent Tuesday evening called for it I guess, while the hot broth slowly loses its warmth, replacing it with the oddity of this night, I was taken to places in my mind that I thought never existed.
The stranger then opens about his long lost love. He begins by telling the story on how they first met.
He was in his younger self squatting on a pond leaf under the biggest moon of that year. The fireflies that linger about, just far enough for him not to reach were the brightest stars that night.
He was instructed by his mother to hunt for pond flies that nest on the very surface of the still waters and was taught to be one with the leaf holding very still to have a successful hunt. He was waiting for hours for the right opportunity when a more experienced frog easily snatches his prey away. She was hunting from a tip of the tree branch just over the pond. And from the moment he laid his eyes on her long-lightning-speed-whipping-tongue, he knew that she was the one.
As he was going over the story, I went inside and poured us some ginger juice and got something to smoke. And when I came back, I pinched a fingertip of tobacco from my cigarette into his empty wooden pipe and offered him a light.
“Have you met yours?” he wondered but staring blankly upwards to the sky.
I said, I was not sure, and even if I have, it wouldn’t matter, she was gone already. No point of remembering a tragic story, it will only bring you regrets and will keep you awake all night.
He smoked his long wooden pipe, blowing feebly into the air and nods.
I scratched my bearded jaw and rested my numbing head, placing the whole weight in the open palm of my left hand and the rest of the elbowing arm against the wooden arm of the chair. And from time to time, there were moments when I was unconsciously nail-biting and dozing, while the wailing from the living room of my other neighbor can be heard. They were watching their endless drama anthology on TV.
“Are they always like that every night?” the old frog just smiled away and I knew that he had learned to accept it, the same way that he had accepted the loss of his greatest love.
I felt sad for him, as if I was in the singularity of the black hole of his loneliness. And it felt like that each active and non-living cell in me were either being expanded or pushed in. It felt like, I was never going anywhere, at the same time drifting away.
“A once healthy body is now starting to deteriorate as the numbers of time pile and as the seasons of change are catching up, and before you realize it happening, your life as you knew it, had already passed you by along with the stacked but unspoken questions, which answers had sailed into the oceans of the wandering and the forgotten.”
It was almost a mumble, but I heard the old frog’s every word.
Then I responded by saying that it was not my intention to make him feel sad, but I am so glad on hearing these. For these are the exact words I thought had slipped away from my writing hands fifty ink cartridges ago. And I never had the chance to hear the reading of these lines out loud.
“And all the anecdotes and old love letters may seem nostalgic now, but I hope you’ll agree with me when your time to scribble has finally come.”
It was almost an attempt to cheer him up. But I couldn’t tell if it was working or not. He just repositioned his right leg placing his knee right next to his shoulder and puffs on his wooden pipe, displaying his mischievous smile while the subtle whistling of the eastern winds and the throbbing percussion of the monsoon rains started to come and drenched us hopeful and drunk.