a short story by Teo Yu Sheng
He stood up from his seat and looked at me for a while.
“Goodbye,” he whispered, before making his way across the empty restaurant towards the exit.
“Wait!” I called out as he pushed the door open. “You can’t just leave like that.”
There were too many questions left unasked.
Too many words left unspoken.
He stopped and turned back.
“What happens after tonight?” I asked.
It’s that same smile he always gives me, slanted ever so slightly to the right. Only this time, his eyes were distant. It’s like gazing at the night sky, only to realise that the constellations that shine so beautifully are in fact frozen images of stars that have long ceased to exist. It’s like listening to the hum of a lullaby so familiar, only to discover that its lyrics lie so fragmented, and so forgotten, within the chasms of your mind.
“What happens after goodbye?” I asked.
The last word of my sentence hung momentarily in the stillness of the room, bouncing off the empty walls and tingling gently back into my ears like a whisper.
“Your memories will fade and yellow,” he said, “until all that you’re left with is that strange feeling when we meet again, as if I’ve never existed before. As if we’ve never existed before.”
I opened my mouth and tried to speak, but the words were lost before they could exist. A soft chink issued from the glass on the table, from which moments ago he drank. I looked down and saw the ice melting slowly amongst a pool of dark red liquid.
That dark red liquid. Was it wine or juice?
I casted my mind back, and realised that I couldn’t remember what was previously poured into that glass. I looked at his plate across me, with oddly-shaped bones strewn all over and sauce wiped clean, and tried to recall the food that was served on it moments ago.
What’s happening to me? I thought, as I looked back up.
A man stood at the exit, one hand on the door, staring at me. His face was expressionless, but deep within his eyes, there was a certain kind of emotion that was too masked, and too complex, to understand. His gaze was cold, as though the warmth of his soul has drained from him, and for a split second I felt the urge to reach out to him. I wanted to hold his hand, to touch his face, and maybe, if he were to let me, to give him a hug, so that I can surrender some of my warmth to him. So that I can surrender a piece of my soul back to him.
But of course, I resisted.
“Do I know you?” I asked the stranger.
“No,” he said, as he turned and walked out of the room.
Cover art designed by me (here).
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