Published: December 23, 2013
I used to be a child once, he thinks. He stands in that forest which used to be his playground, where he would play among the trees dappled by the sunlight that filtered through their leaves. The sunlight in his memories, although pale and admittedly not very strong, was warm and comforting - a far cry from how he is feeling now. He is a man drenched in sorrow; grief and regret like droplets of rain that fall on him from the heavens. He wonders if it is a game for them, for the ones who reside in the skies and look down upon lives like his and so many others in this world as if they were nothing but mere entertainment. He wears a mask of indifference on his face as always, but as he stands in that forest he begins to feel his sorrow overwhelming him, and suddenly he becomes a child again.
He is a child, covered with dirt from the top of his dirty blonde head to the soles of his boots. He is a child shrouded in darkness, his face pale and marred with a tinge of longing and sadness. He is a lost child; a child who has no one left in his world. A child left all alone. There is a dim light in his eyes, and he is staring at a crimson street. The street is empty; all the shops lined along the street is closed, and only the streetlights that give the street its crimson hue give off any feeling of warmth in the otherwise cold and lonely street, for it is a dark night and the moon and the stars have gone. At the end of the crimson street is a family; a father dressed in a suit who has just finished work as a businessman, and a mother who holds her young daughter's hand. They stand in front of a display beside a restaurant, their silhouettes bathed in the light from the display. He stares at the family for a while, a hint of envy creeping into his heart, and he remembers: I once had a family like this too.
He remembers the house with the red door. He remembers the white walls and the little light that hung by the door and the number plate that was hammered beneath the light. He remembers the number on the plate: 655, and he remembers how he used to think that it needed only eleven more to become 666, and eleven was always his favourite number. He remembers the flowers that were planted all around the house; flowers that were as red as the door and fell on the ground every time the wind blew. He remembers their soft, gentle scent that had enveloped him whenever he stood by the door as a little boy, and how he would always associate the scent of those flowers with home.
The house was home. The house was a good place; it was filled with light and warmth and it made him feel safe. No matter how scary the forest was or how daunting the outside world seemed, the house was there to make him feel better. It was somewhere he could return to. It was his own little place; his own refuge from the cold world outside. He remembers the comforting scent of thick, black coffee that always emanated from the kitchen, and how even though he didn't start drinking coffee until he reached his late teens, it still brought about a sense of warmth and security. He remembers the wooden cup on the counter that was always full of the steamy black liquid warmth, and the coffee beans that had spilled and was scattered all over the counter top. He remembers the little study adjacent to the kitchen, where the scent of coffee would inevitably waft into. He remembers the armchair that sat near the round rug. He remembers sinking in the armchair and breathing in the scent of coffee while perusing a book he had taken from the bookcase in the room. He remembers the bookcase and its glass doors, and the spinning wheel that sat atop it. He remembers the myriad of books that he and she had both collected, and how all those books curiously smelled like coffee, and most of all he remembers the time they would both just sit together in the warmly lit study and laugh and talk, enveloped by that familiar, comforting scent.
He wonders if he can still remember her now. He tries, and in his mind he sees her; she of skin lightly bronzed by the sun, swathed in golden cloth. It was a favourite of hers, that golden dress; it was one he had bought for her a long time ago, and she had cherished it the moment she laid her eyes upon it. The dress, with its laced shoulder and neckline and a corsage on the right breast, looked as if it was made of molten gold. He thought it suited her skin, and she loved it. He remembers how she would wear the dress whenever they went out, and how she would put her hair up in a bun and accessorise with a pearl headdress. She used to joke that the dress was already too beautiful and needed no accessories; he remembers thinking that she was the beautiful one, for her skin glowed in sunlight and, coupled with the dress of molten gold, gave off a radiance that was one of a kind.
Aah, he remembers her now. He remembers her warm eyes, and how they often sparkled with inquisitive delight. She found wonder in everything she touched, and her eyes sparkled with light whenever she found something worth her curiosity. She was entranced by fairy lights which he had hung on the walls for decoration; he said it reminded him of her eyes. He remembers her just staring at a string of fairy lights in her hands, mesmerised by their glow, wondering if her eyes really did glow as beautifully as the lights did.
He remembers her whimsical sense of humour, and how she once dreamt of colourful umbrellas raining down from a sunny, blue sky. She loved that dream and would so often tell him about it again and again, and he remembers just sitting there in the armchair and listening, smiling at her exuberance. He remembers how much she loved the stars, and how she had been amazed by a parade of lanterns rising into the inky darkness of the night. She had seen it on TV during the times when she was unable to go out, and she had sighed and wished that she too could be part of that rising, glowing procession to the heavens.
Now she is trapped inside her own shell, covered in layers of silence. He does not need to try and remember; the image of her shrouded in the shadows, no longer beautiful, is imprinted in his mind. She is no longer the colour of bronze and molten gold; she is monochrome. Dull and no longer iridescent. In her silence she admires beauty, but her admiration is always short and painful for that which is beautiful reminds her that she is beautiful no longer, and so she suffers in that silent cocoon.
She suffers alone in that house which has lost all its warmth, and it is now a mere husk of what it used to be. There is no longer the comforting scent of coffee; all that remains is the scent of decrepit desolation. The paint has peeled from its walls, and the red door has lost its radiant colour. Emptiness echoes through the mirrors, making the cold, empty space seem so much emptier and lonelier. Little remained of that which used to be his refuge. That house which had been so safe is gone. She has gone.
He has never returned to that house since.
He stands in that forest which used to be his playground, his face a mask of indifference. But deep within him, that child is still there, and he silently weeps for what has been, and what never will be.