It’s turning out to be one of those strange conversations you’d normally only hear from TV shows or the movies. The details were obscured or maybe it’s because I didn’t believe it was real at all. He claimed that he’s been getting frequent visits from aliens. I almost choked and fell from my seat when he shared that. But with everything that’s been happening lately, who knows what exactly could happen next. Besides, he wasn’t the type who’d make up such a delusional story, he’s incapable of lying, too. I just couldn’t imagine him wasting time like that, that’s all. For him, life is too short for such empty rhetorics.
I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. We’ve known each other since we were kids so I’d know, even if he’s pulling a well-orchestrated prank on me or if he’s trying to conceal something. He was hesitant though. I mean, it was as if he’s pulling his punches with regards to the details. It felt like he’s sparing me from something, even his voice was different that afternoon. I didn’t bother to fight it either, I mean, I didn’t want to get sucked into it. Besides, I was lazy enough not to. And as obscurity would often have it, there wasn’t much to work on. The so-called facts were limited to the following: That the visits happened every Monday evenings, between ten and eleven o’clock, that there were bright lights flashing on his bedroom window, and silhouettes of the lanky visitors stood at the hedges communicating only with meek hand gestures.
I tried to chew on it. I tried to spot gaps in his narrative but he’s relatively consistent. It was a strange afternoon but we still sat there in our wicker chairs anyway, outside the cafe, puffing cigarettes while piecing together the jigsaw puzzle of his predicament.
The sultry afternoon breeze carried the remaining traces of that summer. I can still remember how incredibly hot it was. We’d have been dehydrated to death if not for the occasional mild ventilation from the passing air of the entrance door.
He wrapped up the matter in an abrupt manner as if prodded by the heat. He confessed, like the current state of things that summer, that he felt as though he’s all dried up on the inside, like an empty well in a desolate land.
“I don’t think there’s much left in me. Not much inside this draining well. I haven’t been sleeping since these visits had started to occur to tell you the truth. It feels like they take away a part of me each time.”
His voice sounded tired, impliedly soliciting for a benevolent recoil.
“Even if the well is full, I don’t think there’d be anyone wild enough to drink from it.” was my response to cheer him on.
“There were a few who deliberately did, as a matter of fact, you pompous prick.” He shot back with a burst of timid laughter.
I tried to employ my fully charged optimism to sustain the little progress we had ongoing.
“Whatever it is, aliens or no aliens, I’m sure you’d perk up in no time, maybe it’s yet to precipitate, you know? Like the rain after the drought.”
I sensed his eagerness to refute the last statement was rising up halfway to my point. But the sky suddenly lashed out an angry roar when he was about to.
We both looked up and referred to what we saw as a sign —
“We don’t want to be caught in this downpour.” He was getting up to leave, cramming to get his things into his pouch.
“I don’t want to rain on your parade kid, but you kinda want to.” This I exclaimed with a chuckle.
“So, we’re doing puns now? ” We got the check and drove to the bay. We spent the remainder of the day watching the sunset where he was able to get some brief sleep at the backseat.
We were supposed to meet the following month at the same tired cafe for our routine catch up. It’s one of those things we tried to hold onto after I moved out of town. You could say it’s our own little way of preserving our history together. We could have agreed to do it more often but we both passed up the idea as proximity and real-life happenings weren’t exactly participative, to say the least.
I was about to head out when I decided to give him a call to confirm the rendevous. There was no answer, apparently, the service has been discontinued. I showed up at the place anyway. I waited for four hours before deciding on calling it quits. I learned sometime later from a family friend who lives nearby, that he sort of moved out of his apartment, he didn’t leave a word.
“He just stopped answering the door, according to his landlord.” His things, everything has been completely abandoned.
I tried our common friends, since doing that would likely yield more results than contacting his siblings. And without surprise, I found out, that I was the only person who’s still in contact with him.
I still sat there at our table from time to time, hoping to bump into him somehow. But after a few days, I realized, I did it mainly because of my inability to break habits or it was born out of the protracted inertia if you will.
I was able to convince his landlord to lend me a duplicate key to his apartment, provided that I settle the payment for the unpaid months left in his contract. I packed a few of my stuff, good enough for a few nights of stay, a ream of cigarettes, and a lot of snacks to munch on. I also brought a flashlight and a camcorder just in case. I reversed my sleeping routine to stay awake at night, even decided to put a halt on drinking, too.
I was ready to see anything if you want to know the truth. Again, I’m no believer in such things but who knows what’s out there really. Nothing happened during the first few nights, just random cars jolting here and about. It felt like a retreat of some sort in a weird way, staying in some strange place like that. There was that unexpected tranquility of being alone, there was this sense of oneself that was heightened. Sure, I love the wife and the kids, couldn’t live without them, but there’s something about solitude that sets me down.
On the 8th day, while on the phone talking to my wife, I heard a noise coming from the second floor. I found it unsettling since the ceiling which was the floor of the master’s was made of concrete. If it had been an earthquake, the whole house should’ve moved as well, but it didn’t.
I felt my throat suddenly becoming dry, the same hot feeling I had the last time I was with my missing friend fell all over me. My steps paced stealthily when I went up the stairs, on the way to his room. I turned the knob, swung the door wide, but there was nothing there. Just a sad view of a flyover behind the neighboring apartments and hardbound books that were knocked over by the wind. The bed was made and all of his clothes were neatly ironed and in place.
Maybe, I was overthinking it. I think he’s somewhere out there, safe. Maybe he just needed to go somewhere to be alone for himself, too, just for a while. Probably, he turned into vapor for a quick spin. Probably he’s up there, perched on a cloud, waiting for the end of summer, waiting for the right moment to pour in.
I don’t know, it’s turning out to be one of those strange stories you’d normally only hear from TV shows or the movies. These are strange times indeed.