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seamus li

seamus li

Winner of the Second Prize in the Undergraduate Category of the 16th English Short Story Writing Competition

Waking up, I hate that little string of sunshine sneaking into my room, spoiling my unmotivated quarantine morning. It’s now been 4 months since the shenanigans happened. Get up, wander around, feed myself, stay alive, sleep. The 2 hours of being on the balcony are the only place where I could feel alive, for I could breathe unapologetically, for once. Oh, also, seeing his windowpane was part of the reason.

We live across the road. He wakes up at 8:45, opens his windows, goes to work at 9:25. He stops by the bakery around the corner for a cup of oat milk latte, extra hot, and a Banh mi. At this point, I would walk in, get a croissant, and quickly jamming through the door with him, just to see his eyes up close, and cherish the valuable seconds of “I’m sorry”. He works 10 blocks away from me. At noon, I would go to the hottest Mexican place under his building, arriving 10 mins before lunch hour, and colonising the best table for two. He would come with that pre-assumed disappointed face, dimming the last thread of hope, and walking away, generously allowing me to enjoy him from behind.

Those were the beautiful days before Covid-19 struck. Everything is closed now. Every door that leads me to him has closed. My obsession for him increased cursedly for god knows what reason. The mere thought of seeing him after the lockdown arouses me. Good thing I can still see him from my balcony, as I am holding onto this silver lining for dear life.

Every second I wish there would be some invisible string that ties him to me for better or for worse. I began to imagine a life with him, where I would cook for him, pick out his outfit for the day, kiss him goodbye, and watch him flossing before bed time. All the things we could be doing.

But this morning, everything changed, for good.

As usual, I was casually glancing at him at my own comfort, until our eyes met. He drew his curtains, shutting down the portal. I freaked out, questioning every second I’ve spent on him, panicking, spiralling into a void.

A drone came out from his window, flying a wobbling cruise towards me, interrupting my anxiety.

“Hey. We met at the bakery every morning. Remember me? Wanna hang out? I’m at 604. ” The note attached to the drone said so. I stared at this note, reading out every syllable, yet wasn’t able to make a sound with my trembling throat. I kept my surprise in as my hands holding onto this key to my dreamland. The air suddenly feels like a luxury. Fuck quarantine. Fuck Covid. I am going, just to reclaim what’s taken away from me.

I looked up, nodded to him subtly, and went back to my room, manically putting on the outfit I have chosen months in advance. My pace was racing against my pounding heart, trying to outrun one another. Within minutes, I arrived at this once a forbidden place.

I knocked on his door, knowing exactly what to say and how to act. Play dumb, avoid eye contact, act timid, blush. I have prepared myself for every occasion possible beforehand, delicately crafted every line, and perfected every delivery.

“Hey, you came! Come on in!” He smiled with a hint of surprise.

“Ah Yeah. I’m so bored in that little box 24/7. ” I narrated my script, meticulously stepping into his apartment. His clothes are lying on the couch, leaving only half of the sunken cushion for guests. Books stacked up on the handle, at the verge of collapsing and falling into the grave of the other half. The place looked nice, the kind of nice that was very last minute, leaving all the bread crumbs leading me to the real him. At least he made some efforts. That’s a great start. I can train him. I have faith in him. I have faith in us.

“You want anything to drink?” He opened his fridge.

“Some water would do.”

Handing me the glass, he came close, smelling like a jazz club. Tobacco, a hint of alcohol, and the subtle sexual tension from his deep voice radiating, fatally enticing.

“I haven’t gotten your name.”

“Neris.”

“That’s a very special name. I’m Sail.”

I smiled at him, falling into those beautiful marine coloured eyes. Finally, I could appreciate them a bit longer.

His phone interrupted the moment, ringing unscrupulously.

“Sorry, I have to take this.” He said, walking away into his room, giving me the perfect window to explore. Though he’s taken from me, I am flattered by the opportunity and spoiled by the abundance of time for me to scan this place.

I started to look around, searching for those bread crumbs.

His drone was lying on the right side of his desk by the window, reflecting the light onto the ceiling. I picked the drone up, staring at it, thanking it for being our messenger.

I blew off the dust. Little particles went rogue in the air, flying with no destination, crash landing onto each other, waiting to be dusted again. Something was off. Why does it seem like haven’t been touched for a long time? I wonder, glancing through the desk, stopping at that notepad under his books. I turned the cover. Within seconds, my brain was scattered.

There it is, the very message, laying onto the paper, staggering into my eyes. Page after page, the very message that I received was written, as if they were prepared for the sole purpose of inviting girls here. I looked down, there it is. The drone that sent me the invitation, with all the other scrabbled pieces of notes piling in the corner, covered up by a blanket. He should have done better.

Was he using the same trick on others?

The room began to spin, along with my last sense of reasoning. The fact that he is seeing someone else was killing me. Or worse, they torture me, suffocate me, force me to surrender under the cruel reality, and bring me back to life, keeping on with the very routine. He’s still on the phone, only worsening all the things I imagine he had done behind my back, in the room, on this couch, with his lips, with their lips. It’s all in my head, right? He wouldn’t have ever done that to me. I am different, right? We see each other every morning. No, he wouldn’t. I couldn’t be just a body count in his pages. I can’t. I won’t allow it. I came too close to this. And I won’t allow it to become my nightmare. Gently putting down the drone, I closed my eyes, and went into the kitchen.

...

It’s now six months later. The Covid-19 ban has been lifted, and the city resumes. I wake up, clean myself, go to the bakery, have a Banh mi, and an oat milk latte, extra hot. I haven’t seen him for a long time. I felt empty inside, to be honest. Several months ago, he was reported missing. Of course, I miss him. I miss him terribly. I stopped going to that Mexican place I used to go to. Every piece of the routine reminds me of him. He never showed up at his window, not in my window. I kept the note, reminiscing the beautiful moment he granted me. But life must go on, whether I glance at his angle or not. I opened my fridge, poured myself a glass of wine. “Don’t you judge me, I’m having one of those days.” I look down, smiling without knowing. There he is, living safely and sounds in my fridge, with those beautiful frosted lips. Everyone could have their own happily ever after. And here is mine, dancing in the kitchen under the refrigerator light, with the love of my life, never complaining, always has his eyes on me. He started it, and now we are finishing the chapter. Love is a temporary madness, and a lifetime companion, in whatever shape or form. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

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