Chapter 2: A Conversation with a Peculiar Friend

It was 09:30 pm.  I was watching all of the outlining lights of the city from my apartment terrace view while finishing a good bowl of freshly heated ramen from the microwave. Something caught my attention. As I moved my head upwards to my right, just across from where I sat, I saw what appeared to be an audience.  There sat a frog, smoking its long and lean wooden pipe. Apparently, it was not just any ordinary frog.  I could tell from the prints and the design of his robe.  He was sporting a well-maintained facial hair growing from his small chin, the strands were grayish white, telling me that he’s been around for quite some time.  He had 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 just moved into a new home.  We had financial difficulties since my father died and wanted 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.” With a mischievous smile on his face, the frog politely declined.  He then 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 of course, almost choking on a string of noodle.

“My dreams told me that the next neighbor is the one who’s going to help me with my mathematics. I was observing you these past days, and I can’t see any signs at all that you have what it takes.  I think you’re a slacker, you just stare at photographs in 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. 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 about. These were colors that this world hasn’t seen yet. And it had something to do with our eyes he said, preventing us from really seeing.

The cold September breeze on that silent Tuesday evening called for it, I guess. While the hot broth slowly loses its warmth, replacing it with the oddity of that night, I was taken to places in my mind that I thought never existed.

The stranger then opened about his long-lost love. He began 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 lingered about, just far enough for him to reach were the brightest stars that night.

He was instructed by his mother to hunt for pond flies that nested on the very surface of the still waters.  “Be one with the leaf” she said, “and hold very still to have a successful hunt. Have the required patience.”  He was waiting for hours for the right timing 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 staring blankly to the sky.

I said I was not sure. And even if have, it wouldn’t matter. She was gone already and there was no point of remembering a tragic story. It would only bring you regrets and keep you awake most nights.

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. And from time to time I was unconsciously nail-biting and dozing while the neighbors were watching their endless drama anthology on TV.

“Are they always like this every night?” The old frog just smiled away. 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. 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 are catching up. You’d realize just about before it ends that your life as you know it had already passed you by along with all the unspoken questions in your lifetime. The answers had sailed far away 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 was so glad all the same for the chance. For these are the exact words I thought had slipped away from my writing hands fifty ink cartridges ago.  And I never had the opportunity 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’d 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 puffed 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.

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