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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From a Time Travel that Rescues

His fingers travel, hitting a slide note across the fret board of the maple wood. And with all of his heartfelt might, it implores a gentle bend towards the end of what appears to be a decent soundtrack for a short film. The notes from the verses were taking their time drifting past the universe of my ever wandering mind. As I was sitting there slouching on the kitchen chair with so much ink in my head, I was chasing off the day when I first met her on Mars through the lenses of a telescope. When we held hands on its dotted surface, the day when we made Saturn the most envious across and all, and the lingering memory of how my eyes tried to hold on to a rocket ship flight, memorizing all its reds and its silvers, the comet painted across its wings and the flaps, a single journey with the knob of the volume turning notches higher, amplifying this sunburst feeling from within.

Got me a clean white page to begin with, then a cup of coffee to limber up these senses to wake. Scribbling across with a free hand with whatever thought that comes in mind to finish the blueprint for the machine I was building.  I had my body bent going over page by page, prepping up a map for the series of time and rest stop destinations I was planning to visit. As the first of the many sun shining graces came in, sharing a little act of compromise, it took me back to when the younger days seemed to be a little bit longer, when learning about the final frontier and day dreaming about fighting in an alien invasion were still a bit romantic and all you ever needed for energy was to look up to the space and the constellations and your endless imagination will never fail you to nourish.

It was hard to play pretend so I decided to go down into the basement and put on my time traveller’s suit.  I was back peddling in time, checking the gauges making sure that there will be just enough fuel for the return trip. But unlike Doctor Emmett’s flux capacitor, mine was powered by bourbon.  A glass, submerging myself as it found me peace amidst the clutter. It was surprisingly quiet.

A whisper to oneself, landing a long summer thought in slow motion as I sat there dumbfounded in the cockpit of this time-craft staring at the most colourful lights that flicker. I was trying so hard to remember what each switch was for. There were blue lights and orange, red and some yellow ones. An ejection metal lever, a navigational stick in front of me and the driving wheel with easy to push ignition accelerators for both thumbs. It was a crazy science fiction I would say. There were also the high-tech monitors that surround me, dashboard after dashboard, and of course, a big round red button that I dared not to push, but really tempting to.  The only thing I got right so far was putting the seat-belt on. I was about to hit on the state of panic, when my peripheral vision made a sudden breakthrough.  There laid beside the pilot’s seat a sealed envelope that was addressed to whoever was going to encode the starter pin for this vessel with a writing that says:  “No rush, it will come to you”.  With the entire child’s curiosity in me that was screaming to do what was obvious, I hurriedly opened the envelope, tearing through what was inside and what awaited me.  It was a mixed tape, reminding me to relish the inevitable and the course I was about to take.

The song plays, I was ripped, an eject and rewind to repeat routine.  I turned my head on the ceiling light beams from the digital stars that rest over my head. The ignition starts, I was leaning my head against the headrest of the well cushioned seat, covering my eyes just enough to have a glimpse of the sun shining that breaks through the time machine’s wind shield and side windows as the time machine started to ascend. I was hoping that somewhere between the memorized lines of this two-minute soundtrack, that the notes from the chords initiate an easy-going para-sailing through the vortex of the past.

A lingering mental picture of her face in the sun, I remember the smell of daisies in her cheeks, throwing the words and punching the keys, uncompromising this time, as the first lines were dispensed, they  talked about lemonades and the skylines, taking me back somewhere beneath the shade of the coconut trees, road trips and the speeding cars that raced against fate.  All the slurring drunk romantic thoughts, all the fondness inside that grew, as they leave a familiar line across the chest.

I tried to take it all in, as I was in search for the excitement that once kept me going, of whatever was there to take, of what I was allowed to, as I opened the time traveller’s starter kit user manual to get me going. The subtleness of the lights from around me were painting hues of the different impressions of the world outside, they were like stage actors, with their theatrical portrayal of the sunlight in the early morning.

I was going back in time, the world around me started to stretch, I was on hyper drive. I was traveling in the speed of light with a subliminal velocity. Funny that I can go back but never can touch to alter what was there in front of me. I was like a ghost that nobody sees. But It was a good thing though.  One should have the humility to take the binoculars when the world hands over the opportunity to take a sneak peak to the grand miracles laid outside our door steps, emulating these lessons well taught, taking the time learning to breeze through the dog eared parchment pages of each turning moment, a chance not to change, but offering a new start to just rescue the words for another rendition.

As it dawns nearer, approaching the prelude of the second verse of the inspired song that plays, the cigarette now rests on the mouth of the ash tray while I race my fingertips to descend upon kissing the keys.

The symphony from each touch on a collaborative motion of what seemed to be random, was a gathering of these far-fetched thoughts somewhere deep down, going back to the romantic biases I keep.

Coming around from the corner of my thoughts and towards the end of the last chorus that plays, I remember on how everyone would always sing along to this song in those days, while clutching on to our chests with eyes closed and an open lung, taking in a well dispensed advice from an inanimate friend, the shadow of the day, to always brave the distance of these unfolded tomorrows, embracing the truth of the co- existence of our yesterdays and today, that no matter what , we will always have one another, a beautiful tradition of how everyone was.