The Visitor

The Earth existed for millions of years just as it is. Then the meteor came and was never the same after.

They say, home is where the heart is. And home is more than just a place, but a feeling. A feeling of being loved – a sense of belongingness. And this is where I really belong: in the library.

My family never really felt home, for me. My father was a drunken man, night and day, while my mother was a gambler, night and day. I? I was their wall. I was a sponge always there to absorb all kinds of dirt, the water squeezes me into. I was their twelve o’clock noon, an alarm telling them they’ve had enough for the day. I was their twelve midnight, asking them to finally retreat all arguments. They never loved. I was never belonged.

So I found company in books.

The first book I had was when I was in high school, my classmate lent me this book that I never returned. It’s about a little prince who had a nice chat with a fox, regarding a little secret, which turned out to be a big secret. But it didn’t matter. I have always kept it a secret.

Since then, I had nurtured this fondness for books; its smell rejuvenating my bones; its sight encouraging my body to live each day, knowing that there will always be a home, and it will always be a feeling.

My first visit in the public library has been very overwhelming. I literally did not know where to start. There were more than ten rows of bookshelves, each telling me this was my home. That this place is where I really belong – all I’ve got to do is pick one and read.

It was the farthest bookshelf I found engrossed in. I picked up the book, The Kite Runner. Then I sat also in one of the farthest corners in the room.

There I found another boy quietly reading a book. He seemed lost, or maybe the story was too heavy for him he didn’t notice me sitting in front of him. His face was slightly angered, he’s biting his lips and his eyes twitching.

I let out a short sniff.

Then he looked up at me with those fiery eyes, yet I sensed the longing in there. His angry-ish face welcomed me, his cheeks told me it was a nice welcome anyway. He spelled a quick grin at me.

I smiled back.

From time to time I would glance at him – his focused aura threatening me, like the way my father scorned at me, when I walked up in the kitchen. His lips twitching every now and then, like the way my mother would try to protect me but she just couldn’t.

Hours passed by and it’s still a silence of reading. I have been feeling hard this time because I was in that part of the book where the little boy did not do anything to save his best friend from those other boys who molested his best friend. And I thought of my parents: Will they ever stand up for me?

I looked at the boy in front of me. He stopped reading, the book already lying flat on its cover, and he was staring at the window. He was looking far away, I’m sure, like he was searching for something. I still feel that longing. I don’t know. I just knew he was longing for something. Maybe, for someone?

I closed my book. And heaved a sigh. I was nervous, gasping for air, for what I was about to do.

I gently put my one hand above his.

He was electrified. But he didn’t let go.

We exchanged smiles.

The back of his hand felt warm, like it has never been held for a long time. I searched the spaces of his fingers and slide mine into his.

I knew it wasn’t so right to hold hands with a stranger, in a public library, in the farthest corner of the room, but I didn’t care.

Because this was the feeling.

It felt like home.

We spent the whole day, staring at the window, our hands cupping each other, while the words never got us home.

********************************

The next day I went to the library was also the day my parents had a huge fight. No, each day was always a huge fight, so huge that all I could do was walk away.

Right there in the last bookshelf, I chose The Fault in Our Stars. Two people were sick yet their sickness made them fall madly in love with each other. I found him again in the same corner, and sat in front of him.

He was reading The Kite Runner. The one I had before. His eyes were glowing and his lips energetically reading the words in silence. Maybe he was in that part where the kite runner always had the gut where the kite would fall, even when his best friend did not believe in him. That was an amazing part, for me.

Then he looked up at me and gave me a smile. This time, it was a little wider than the first time he smiled at me. I felt relieved.

We spent hours reading our books. Then I sensed he was breathing.

“What do you think about kites?” he asked.

I felt my eyes lit up. “Ahm, great? I’ve always wanted to fly, too.”

He laughed, but not too loud. “Yeah… I dreamt of it, too.”

“But when your kite loses its strength and fall, would you run after it?”

He just stared back at me.

Our eyes locked. They were like eclipses finally merging after a thousand years. One shading the other, the other trying to shed light.

We understood.

We understood what it’s like to have our kite falling, and never running after it.

***************** ************************ * *******************

The third time I went was a rainy Saturday afternoon. Soaking in rainwater, I still got inside, squeezed my shirt a little and gave my hair a brush. I wasn’t that wet, thanks to my raincoat.

I walked straight up the last bookshelf and tried picking another book. It took me a while to choose. Suddenly, I’d wanted to grab all of them, but I knew there wasn’t so much time. I ran my fingers through the shelf and found one, by David Nichols, One Day. Two people meeting every 15th of July each year, to live life, love life and then… lose life.

There I found him, again, sitting in our favorite corner. This time, I sat beside him.

He turned towards me and smiled. Wait? Was that gloom I saw in his eyes?

“Tell me about it.” Staring at the book he’s reading.

“The Great Gatsby… when you chase your dreams, but you never actually get it,” he said.

“Ooohhhhhhh….” That was long, I thought.

He looked at me, “Like when your dream is almost at your grasp, but you never get to really hold it?”

He was waiting for me to respond.

I hugged him. His body not reacting to it… until I felt his hands onto my back.

I leaned more to hug him tighter. He then laid his head beside my neck. I could feel his breath, fast and flopping.

It was more than a hug, but an embrace.

More than comfort, an assurance.

More than belonging, a completeness.

More than just safe, it’s home.

*************** ********************************** ******************

It was a particularly bright Sunday when I visited my “home” to see my little “secret” once again.

I was humming as I walked towards that bookshelf that witnessed all my wishful thinkings and wistful choices.

My fingers ran through it and decided to pick Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It talked about a dystopian future. I knew how this book ended, but I chose it anyway, and headed towards that familiar corner I have grown to love.

And then, there was nothing.

It was an empty seat. He wasn’t there.

Still, I sat. I could still see his angry face the first time I met him. I could still feel the warmth of his hands the first time I held him.

I could still feel the hug we shared and the way our eyes met. It’s like I have always been his and he has always been mine. We were a home to each other.

I flipped one page in the book, and tried to search him, hoping I’d find him, and never let him go. I did find him. I read the line, in my mind, hoping he’d hear it too:

“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly.
But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, 
I don’t ever see them fading…”
And then I closed the book and held it in my arms.

************** **************************************** ***************

I’d gone home with a heavy heart. It’s sad to believe I had just shared moments with him for a short span of time, and yet, I have grown fond of him. Like he was the only cheerful thing that ever occurred to me.

I never got his name. Where he lives. What he does, besides reading,,,

Yet, I felt I knew him.

Like we have already nurtured this connection.

Now, I’m facing what I need to face – my parents arguing, day and night while I remain quiet, day and night.

As I walked through the door I noticed a piece of paper just at the doorstep. It’s more than a paper but a piece of a book cover, torn. I could see a little boy, as if he was standing on a planet. My heart skipped a beat: I knew that book. At the back of it I read a note:

“To you… for always making it worth the visit.”

I smiled. It was a hopeful one.

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