Nothing is better than to spend some fine moments with a best friend.
A very best friend, Chubb, came yesterday. He just got back from the States following a three-week abroad assignment, and upon hearing the unfortunate news he took a train from Kuala Lumpur and all the way here after his 13-hour flight just so that he could pat me in the back like we used to do back in the old days every time each or any of us was going through our hardest moments in life. The amount of kindness he shown, priceless. But he couldn't stay long; work awaited him back in the city of sins, and he had to leave late in the evening later.
I drove him to the train station.
Along the way rain poured down like nobody's business. The road was filled with all sorts of vehicles that moved cautiously to avoid any collision whatsoever. We had long talks; the sort of talks that grown men have among themselves, deep and full of meaning. Rather emotional we were, for we have not met for so long and by the time we realized it, it was almost the time to say goodbye. Supposedly the best man of my wedding, he expressed himself in great detail and his hopes that things will be alright pretty damn soon; that all dusts will settle and everything goes back in perfect linearity. Points of view exchanged, wise words taken. The half-hour journey seemed so short.
As I walked him into the platform while having a stick of bitter cigarette during a rainy day, I saw some of the station crews having theirs at a sidewalk kiosk nearby. Familiar faces. They smiled and nodded at me, a simple gesture of respects taught by manly tradition. All around anxious passengers waited in patience. Around three minutes or so before the train arrived, and these last three minutes couldn't be anymore critical than they already were. These last three minutes could be the time when he'd tell me the words I wanted to hear. We stopped at the end of the station and I leaned against a big metal pole as Chubb searched for his ticket. He found it seconds later.
"This," he said as he showed it to me, "is a one way ticket."
I nodded in agreement.
"And this one way ticket takes me to only one destination. To get to another, I have to get another ticket."
I nodded again.
"You have had your ticket, Jack," he continued as he folded the paper and placed it safely in his pocket. "Your last ticket has expired now. This is your last destination. But it doesn't mean you have to end up here forever."
"I see what you mean, brother." I looked into his meaningful eyes.
Then some clinking sounds were heard. From afar we saw the train approaching the platform fast. He then looked again at me, and so did I to him.
"Get yourself a new ticket to a new place, brother. Don't stay here. There are new destinations in life to explore."
"And I can never thank you enough."
"Save it," he said to me as the the train entered the platform, braking down to a complete halt. The smell of burnt rubber stroke my nose. Hissing sound followed next. He stared at me for a little while.
"Till we meet again," he said.
He showed me his hand and I shook it tightly. We hugged and we patted each other in the back while we were. I could have sworn that both of us was holding our tears back. All the memories we had together since the past nine years flashed before our eyes fast. The fact that we grew up together so close to understand each other to the finest without having to have a single word spoken hit us that very moment. What I felt, he felt it too, and what he did, I did. We let go of each other and we stood facing one another in a very gentleman posture, mostly suggested to be practiced during which men were to say goodbyes. The train doors all opened in a synchronized fashion.
"Till do," I said. "Have a safe trip, man, goodbye and godspeed."
"Godspeed to you too, sir," he curved a bitter smile on his lips. "And goodbye."
He turned around and entered the coach and sat down after placing his bags securely at the top baggage compartment. The train only stopped for one and a half minute. The doors slammed shut, the horn was blown, and the train was back in motion again. Through the thick glass window I saw him looking away. Bitter goodbyes could never get any bitter. Probably he didn't want me to see his face the same way I didn't want him to see mine. He slowly disappeared as the train moved further away.
And I wept a little.
* * *
The journey back could have never been anymore lonelier.
Another cigarette lit. Sinful smoke filled the air inside the car, mixed with the ever so refreshing smell of the rain. Sundae (I named my car Sundae) dashed on the road fast as the lingering feelings troubled me to an unbearable point. So many things in mind left unspoken. So many words left unsaid. A complete numbness raged within. Every concrete slab I saw along the way looked at me as if they were saying, "come on, hit on us, it will be painful no more." Pain was such a painful word. In all extremes, pain could still never disappear. Suddenly there was a blinking light next to the odometer.
Lucky enough I was about to enter UTP that very moment, so the nearest pump station was the one next to the campus ground. I parked my car at the usual place - pump no. 4 - and proceeded to the counter. I filled up the fuel quickly since it was still raining outside and I couldn't stand the weather. I looked around and there was only another car next to me that just arrived for the same purpose I was doing. A bunch of young ladies in there, I couldn't see clearly. Not that I bothered much. Once done, I placed the pump back at its holder and plugged in the fuel cap of my car, and secured the fuel inlet cover. I got into the car and closed the door quickly for I long for the pleasant warmth air in it. I was preparing for ignition when there was a few knocks on the window at the passenger side.
I looked to my left only to see a lady standing near, just her body and never her face at first. I rolled the window down and she slowly bent over to show her face. That shiny lips. And that familiar face. That eyes, that fringe. That very memorable smile, a pair of dimple showing. A rather neat row of teeth followed her unforgettable smile. And that cheeks. That cheeks.
"Can I share a ride with you?"
She stood there smiling at me while I froze into complete silence. I didn't know how my face looked like at that very point, but for all I knew it must shown glimpses of confusions. Many unanswered questions came shooting. What do I say, what do I do? Of all the people, must it be you? After a few more seconds I got a grip of myself again and I tried, hard, to smile back as my finger unlocked the car. Her face looked so mesmerizing. Oh how I missed you.
"Well why not," I said.
Welcome aboard, Rosy Cheeks.