by Cynthia Chang
Art by Cynthia Shi
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)
April 27th, 2019
She appears when the clock strikes three, her ivory palms outstretched. Her fingers are ice cold, but as she leads me through the wisps of night, her hand seems to draw the warmth from mine, turning my fingers cold and white. Welcome to the dreamworld, Estelle, she says, color finally filling her cheeks, blond hair shimmering, where everything you’ve wanted and fantasized about roams free, in front of your eyes. You could rebuild your world, make everything you’ve wanted yours.
One condition, she smiles, letting go of my hand to gesture to the hazy purple horizon. You must leave everything behind.
We do not exist to beings on planet Earth, nor do they us. We only connect through dreams, and thus, only the soul can cross dimensions. If you turn lucid, you’d let go of everything, your family, your possessions, your Max, everything but your memories. But isn’t that what you’re seeking, to live in your memories, to start anew, to decide your future without your past?
August 5th, 2018
It was back when I cared about the tangible things. All the journals I filled up, past photos we took, the little gifts you gave to me. I clung on to the hope that you would talk to me again, but ever since your incident, ever since you stopped believing in the world and initiating conversation, ever since you stopped confiding in me, we stopped. We stepped away from Max and Estelle—became people our past selves would not have recognized.
Perhaps I just wanted the part of you that you left behind in my memories, the ones I mull over and over again, until even the memory I have of you is warped up into someone you weren’t, only something I wished.
But you weren’t willing to give me that. You had left that part of you behind, in the past that you deemed unimportant, simply because it hurt too much to remember. Simply because it was too tiring, too annoying to stay somebody you wanted to forget.
17:25, wandering around Rochester, New York
And so my call is dropped, message unread on Facebook, voicemail left blinking on the answering machine. Don’t tell me that I never tried, Max. Because I came back for you time after time after time, and you only proved over and over that you were never, ever going to give me the time of day. We may have been friends in the past, but the past isn’t the present or the future, you’d say. Our photos and gifts are left collecting dust in the corner of your bookshelf, and the time isn’t ever right anymore.
November 30th, 2017
“You got a haircut.”
Back then, I could reach out and run my fingers through your new spiky hair. You grunt along on your silver euphonium, your eyes glued to the music on the stand, not minding my hand carding through your unread thoughts.
23:50, watching the ocean from Pier 39 in San Francisco, California
I can barely look in your direction now, your eyes piercing, your voice condescending; but why is it that your smile is still the same as I remember, still as happy and innocent before all the terrors got to you and tore you apart?
These memories don’t matter anymore. Your smile doesn’t matter anymore, because I chose to leave what we all thought was real, because I chose to live in my dreams instead of facing you.
January 30th, 2016
“Estelle, may I have this dance?” you ask, your head tilted, face tinted purple against the dim blue lights of the high school gym.
I smile, but you don’t notice. It took you a lot to ask, and I could hear it in the shiver in your voice. “Yes,” I reply. Thank you.
Everything starts with a risk. A moment where dignity is exchanged for a hand in a dance. A declaration of love in hopes for an argent reply. Letting go of something in hopes that it will become something more.
I take your hand, and we step into the music, all else lost.
11:46, in front of Showtime Live in Shulin, Taiwan.
I walk by the tree on our way home from school every day, waiting for the yu lan flowers to bloom, hoping that you might miss me, knowing that you never will. I explored America without you, went to cities that we had always wanted to visit, but it wasn’t as exciting as when we planned it, because you weren’t there. I have so much to tell you, Max, so much to share about the world beyond our home. There really are places in the world where you can see the stars when it rains, where water defies gravity, where all the impossibles become possible, but I already know that you’ll only avert your eyes and nod listlessly until I turn away, so I’ll never be able to tell you, even if I wanted to.
December 3rd, 2015
Little Max, playing with the little toy cars in the sandy beach of Kenting.
“Isn’t he so cute,” your mother gushes, glancing attentively at the television screen, as you look down at your lap, ears turning red. I hide my grin behind my hands.
“It was embarrassing back then,” you tell me later when your mother leaves to refill her tea, “when I watch myself imagining construction zones with one yellow tractor. See, the whole ocean’s lapping at my feet. They’re flooding my skyscrapers!” You give me a weird look, but you’re smiling too.
“Imagination isn’t the worst thing a child can have,” I reply. “It’s only bad when you become an adult, when you lose it all to the waves within the ocean.”
You’d remember those sandy beaches, those grainy castles that you found in your pants pockets and hair and in between your toes, each one rolled perfectly spherical by the neverending ocean, containing all the imagination one could ever appreciate, from all the footsteps that were washed away to toy shovels that scooped it into castle mold. And the ocean would merely erase your existence, your soul from the sand, rolling those rocks to fine fine powder, reminding you that you’re not needed in the creation of this beautiful place, just like the world does not need you to continue thriving.
You went to find Max again, didn’t you?
If you had known that turning lucid would mean losing him, then why did you?
You know what people think when they jump off the Golden Gate? In the first three seconds, they realize that they had everything they needed to make things right. And in the fourth, the water kills them, and everything that they could’ve had vanishes, just because they jumped.
In the beginning, I just wanted to forget. I wanted to run away from the person I used to be. I just wanted him to know that I didn’t need him, either. But it’s futile now, knowing that I’ll never be able to go back, even if I’ve forgiven him a thousand times over.
So maybe your morals changed, Estelle. Maybe the life changes you, turns you more cynical, even. It’s your decision when you leap between dimensions. It’s your choice when you decide that you want to live as a dreamer. You opened Pandora’s jar, and in turn, you lost hope to the world. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t have any more choices left. One day, Max will look up to us and wish he could redo it all, and then you can show him that though you jumped the bridge, you didn’t die. So don’t give up hope. You should know better than anyone that if you still have hope, you’ll get there someday.