Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Bud

This is an entry for Scribbit's August Write-Away Contest :) It took me all of a couple of hours to write this in pencil in my notebook, I guess I was on a roll...all comments and criticisms are welcome, especially constructive ones :D Enjoy.

One time I decided to sit on one of the stone benches near the university's main library to clear my head. The padded straps of my backpack bit into my shoulders with urgency; the worn rubber soles of my shoes padded quickly over the grass that grew between two fatherly acacia trees, their boughs shading the bench I was rapidly approaching. With one smooth motion I slung my backpack off my shoulder and plopped thankfully into one of the U-shaped recesses on the bench. I unzipped my backpack, pulled out a bottle of bland apple-flavored tea, took a couple of long swigs and emitted a sonorous belch. Then, rather self-consciously, I turned to my left and saw her.

If I hadn't turned around I may not have noticed her at all. She had short, unkempt hair that stopped abruptly just below her ears; it looked as if it had been laid out on a block and shorn with a power saw. She kept her gaze fixed on some anonymous patch of weeds in the sunken field directly in front of us. Her head was bent slightly and her hair hung over half of her face, like a bead curtain. She seemed entirely oblivious to my stare, and for a while I was too. Behind the curtain of hair I could glimpse the profile of an exquisite apricot eye, a small Malay nose and full lips lying in a matter-of-fact line on her face. Her skin was the pale brown of parched earth. My mouth went dry, as if I had not downed half a 500mL bottle of diluted tea a few minutes before.

We sat in silence for the next half hour. She could have been an immensely lifelike statue carved by a mischievous sculptor if not for the rhythmic, almost invisible rise and fall of her shoulders and the occasional flutter of her hair from the breeze. Her close-fitting T-shirt was the nascent pink of a little flower that grows in the cracks of a cement sidewalk, her jeans the faded blue of many nameless journeys. As I sat there, lost in my own thoughts, I compared her to the many anonymous girls I passed by in the corridors of Engineering. She could have been any one of them, except for one thing: she lacked their vibrance and purpose. She sat here, moored in her own little universe, whereas those Engineering girls were laughing on the benches of their organizations' allotted hang-outs, or walking briskly toward the stairs right after a class. She stayed still while the rest of us flowed with time, living and loving. In my heart I pitied her, but I could think of nothing to say.

When I got up and left without a word I cursed myself for being so helpless. I threw the half-empty bottle into the nearest cement garbage receptacle with more force than I thought I possessed. She stayed in the back of my mind for the rest of the day, patiently waiting. That night I resolved to go back the next day and strike up a conversation.

She was already there when I arrived, sitting in the exact same place with the exact same pose. Only the color of her T-shirt was different - the soft green of new grass. Tentatively I sat down, easing my butt onto the cold red stone with too much care. Although I hadn't been to church in months I prayed fervently that I wouldn't fart. She ignored my nervousness with singular indifference; I could have been a dead leaf that had fallen from a nearby tree, for all my troubles. Nevertheless I plowed on. I inhaled deeply, closed my eyes, opened them again to gaze at the people playing frisbee in the sunken field, and began to talk.

I wasn't talking about anything in particular. I just said the first things that came into my head: flunking the midterms, cramming papers, getting drunk at the open-air watering hole my friends frequented. My stories were probably dull, the kind of things that happen to almost everybody on a regular basis. Excerpts from the archives of any of my friends' blogs, with different actors in each predetermined role. I considered myself a nobody in those stories, the nameless narrator who recorded the antics of others. Even so I had been there; each event was burned into my memory, and indication of my existence at that particular time. Perhaps it was this that I was trying to share with her. My life force, my vital energy. I scoured my reserves for anecdotes and insights until evening dimmed the surroundings and I realized that I had been silent for several minutes. The U-shaped recess beside me was empty, the red stone cold to my fingers.

I trudged back to my dormitory in a state of lightheaded weariness. I felt like I had run a 5-kilometer marathon with weights strapped onto my wrists and ankles. I sagged onto the thin foam mattress of my bed and slept after barely shrugging off my backpack. I dreamed of a solitary flower bud growing amidst the mossy stones set into the sidewalk in front of Engineering. There was a large gash in the palm of my hand. I crouched beside the little bud, letting the scarlet drops flow straight into the puckered mouth of petals. With each drop the bud grew fuller and more brilliant; its petals were opening ever so gradually. I knew that I had been crouching there for a long time - I knew my knees were ready to buckle - but I hung on stubbornly. I wanted to see the flower unfurl its scarlet petals, scarlet as the jagged lips that had torn my palm asunder.

I went back to the bench several times over the next few weeks, but she wasn't there any more. Sometimes I would sit in her spot, trying to locate the weeds she had been staring at on the day that I had met her. All I could see were lush green grasses that stretched on and on throughout the sunken field.

Once, while heading for the bench, I was surprised to see an unfamiliar girl sitting in her spot. At first I felt indignant, almost wanting to drive away the intruder. Upon closer inspection my heart began to palpitate wildly; I knew that lithe form, those dark locks. Her skin had grown rich and earthy; her clothes seemed fresh and lively, although she had not traded her T-shirts and jeans for anything else. With great trepidation I divested myself of my backpack and crept quietly into the seat next to hers. This time she turned and smiled the most radiant smile I had ever laid eyes on.

My mouth hung open, and I found myself mumbling an incoherent "Hi." She said nothing; her smile washed over me, and I basked in the glow of her presence. She leaned closer - so much closer - and soon I felt a pleasant, unknown wetness on my lips, sweet as the dew on silken petals.


Bharat said...

Amazing... I really do love this entry... And you stopped at just the right time :)

Julie said...

"If I hadn't turned around I may not have noticed her at all" - I like this line - it will stick with me!
I really enjoyed your blog entry.....keep it up - I'll be back :)

Scribbit said...

I've tried writing fiction so many times and have just so much trouble getting my words to sound right--you have some good imagery here. It makes me want to read more about the characters.

Gabrielle said...

That was excellent!!! I really liked it, you have a real talent. I could see it all in my mind's eye...I truly enjoyed this!

MoziEsmé said...


Emir Rio Abueva said...

:D nice :D
Gawa ka na ng novel! now na!