Krisalyn Satriya | Art by Sunny Lu
THREE. A yarn bracelet twisted and frayed.
TWO. A torn photograph crumpled in a haze of bitterness.
ONE. A teacup. Chipped in the unforgivable tale of time and wear; the color of the ocean’s foggy breath.
The only things that remain a reminder. The only memories left.
Blue! Blue! he called. Blue, come out! His red boots crunched on the snow.
I’m not coming out! a small voice squeaked from behind the old cherry tree. Or I’ll be ‘it’ next round. I’m definitely not doing that!
He sighed, placing his small hands on his hips and approached the cherry tree. Blue, hide and seek is over now! No one was even looking for you, anyways.
She poked her head out from behind the tree, scowling, and pointed at him through her mitten. You were looking for me. You’re always looking for me! And — she pouted and looked away — you always manage to find me too.
He looked at her. A clump of snow slid off a branch and hit the ground with a thump.
It’s so unfair, she grumbled. When you’re the seeker I’m always found first.
He snickered. That’s ‘cause you’re so bad at hiding, Blue!
A handful of cold snow smacked his nose and slid into his mouth. Her outstretched arm and smug expression made the culprit clear.
Hah! he sniffed, rubbing his nose and spitting out the half-melted snow. You know, I was going to give you your Christmas present! But I guess you don’t want it! He turned and started to stomp away, but something grabbed his puffy jacket.
Nooo, I’m sorryyy! she wailed. Here, you can throw one at me back!
He rolled his eyes. I was just joking, stop clinging!
She let go immediately, azure eyes sparkling. Really? Really? Okay, then give me my present!
He sighed. Her intentions were always so straightforward. It’s not much, but here. I made it because Mom wouldn’t let me buy anything. He placed a bracelet in her hand.
She looked at it closely. It was a little brown yarn bracelet, braided and twined.
He felt a little anxious now. Sorry it’s so simple, I just thought that maybe —
Wow!! she exclaimed.
He snapped his head up, surprised.
Huh? he said.
Now since I have this, we’ll be together forever!
What do you mean? he was confused. What was she even saying?
It doesn’t even matter if I wear this or not, she said thoughtfully. It’s enough that you gave it to me. See, now we’ll always be connected!
He sighed again. Whatever, just wear it. You always think too much.
She frowned. You’re so mean. Anyway, I need your help putting this on.
The air was frigid. Icy snowflakes froze his eyelashes and made his eyes heavy. They fell onto his face and sizzled away. His lungs stung and his breath blew little puffs into the air like clouds. His skin was too cold — or was it too hot — and his cheeks tingled numbly.
Yet despite all of this, when she held out her hand to him, offering, he felt immeasurably warm, like the sun was rising in his chest.
That cafe again? Come on, Blue, he whined, let me choose for once.
No way! You always choose something I hate! She sniffed. It’s not like you have anything to do after school anyway. I know you’re not going to self study in the library. And anyway, I heard this place got some new drinks, so I’m definitely trying them!
He glared at her. Why was she always so selfish? You know I hate this place. The drinks are the worst too. You have terrible taste, I hope you know that.
She pushed open the heavy glass door of the cafe as the little golden bell tinkled. When she turned to face him, her cobalt eyes seemed a bit dimmer. He followed her to a table and sat reluctantly.
Look, she said, slightly dejected. I remembered you really like blueberries, and they have a new blueberry lavender lemonade. So I thought that you might actually like it.
He didn’t realize his mouth was open until he closed it.
Hold on, he said. So we came here for me? You remembered?
She nodded, and he suddenly felt the shame rushing in.
Okay, I’ll buy it, he assured her, then got up to order. Her eyes didn’t regain their usual luster until he said, It’s good.
She laughed, good spirits returning. Ha, for once you’re enjoying something from this place! This has got to be documented forever. She reached for her phone, asking a customer walking past their table to quickly snap a picture.
Blue, I wasn’t ready! he exclaimed, but reached for her phone anyway.
Your eyes are shining, she observed.
He sighed. I didn’t even want to be here. There’s no way —
But then the phone was in his hand, and he was staring at the picture. As if through a summer lens — the blueberry lavender lemonade, the gauzy green curtain that billowed slightly in the breeze, the way strips of light flooded through each space between the fibers like dancing fireflies that painted the room with colors anew —
The contented smile on her face, and his shining eyes.
It really is a pretty teacup, he admitted. But then again, it is just a teacup, Blue.
Her fingers curled around the ceramic tenderly. It was Mother’s. Didn’t I tell you already?
Really? It’s so perfect though. It looks new. He leaned forward and gently reached for the teacup, admiring its vibrant glossy smooth surface and welcoming sheen.
She laughed. And it matches my name too, see? She lifted the teacup. Bright. It’s so bright, you can always see it. It’s like it’s always there, if only in the corner of your eyes.
He glanced at her.
It looks so fragile, she continued, eyes fixated on the teacup cupped in her hands. And yet so elegant. It has only one use so it carries out its job perfectly. No matter how burningly dangerous something is, as long as it doesnt overflow, it’s safe inside the teacup.
He paused a bit. What was she saying?
Then he reached out to ruffle her hair, slivers of sunlight filtering through the strands. Like gold. Silly, he told her playfully, don’t talk like that thing is alive.
She shook her head disdainfully, then fondly grasped the teacup. Space and time seemed to stretch as he watched, a warm glow upon them like a spotlight — the girl and her teacup, both shimmering like mirages in the last fading coral streaks of daylight.
It’s her birthday. Or rather, it would have been her birthday. He turns his gaze to the grey skies. How long has it been since he’s seen a sunny day? It feels like ages.
He wonders if she would have looked up and seen those sunny skies, because he can’t see them. She could do a lot of things, and surely this was one of them.
It’s been half a year. Half a year since the frothy waves and the orange tinted rays stole the image of her dancing in the corner of his mind. Sometimes he can still hear her thrashing arms and legs and feel the waves tangling through his body and keeping him away. But it’s far, as if through a telescope. The mist seems so much thicker now.
Even in the remnants that she left behind. Now frayed, cracked, and torn, the images begin to go with it. The mist creeps up in the corners and seizes what it can. What was she wearing that day, with the teacup? In the snow? He doesn’t know anymore.
It’s a little funny. The more he sees the moments, the sweeter they get. Were they always so bright? So orange and red and warm? The more he sees them, the sweeter they get. And the more poisonous they get. Because now the details have begun to slip his mind.
He grabs his keys from the table and heads out of the lonely dim house.
It’s been a full year since he’s gone to the cafe. He’s always hated it, but if she was there it wasn’t so bad. She liked celebrating her birthday at that cafe. So maybe he can visit it again. Maybe he can gain another memory. Then maybe she won’t be so completely gone.
Though he doubts it.
He begins walking the too-familiar route to the cafe. Outside it’s humid, unrelentingly burning. That’s because it’s summer. It’s summer, but it’s not summer.
It’s summer because his calendar tells him so. It’s not summer though, because it’s not bright. The skies aren’t clear. The warmth in his chest is gone. The sun is hiding behind his eyes. The scent of apples is gone. Days so drab and lifeless are not summer. It’s not summer — because she’s not here.
At the stopwalk he looks around. There are so many people enjoying themselves in the park, so many people who can see the sun. He envies them.
A small child runs past his legs. He’s yelling something. Ready or not, here I come! it sounds like. He can hear sounds of laughter coming from the other children hiding behind the bushes or the trees or the benches. He turns away. Plip. Another drop in his teacup.
The light flashes. He starts walking again.
He has a teacup. It’s right there, in his mind. It’s cracking, and dangerously close to overflowing. He doesn’t want to know what will happen if it overflows. It must be something terrible, though.
He reaches the heavy glass door. As he pushes it open, the bell tinkles. It sounds rusty and old. Plip.
When he walks in, the familiar scent of eucalyptus and mint wash over him in waves. Instead of fresh, now it’s overwhelming and sickening. Plip.
There’s a line, so he seats himself at his old usual spot. The curtains are frayed, dusty. No sunlight pours through the windows. The beautiful teakwood table is chipped and peeling. The plush chairs hold no comfort and he feels unwelcome as ever. Plip. Plip. Plip. Plip. The teacup in his mind shakes, fracturing in more places. One more drop and it will spill.
What is this? He hates it. He hates it so much. He came here to obtain more memories of her, but instead he finds himself disgusted at every little thing. Of course it’s not the same. Of course the memories are damaged. Of course no trace of her is left here.
He pushes himself out of the chair, angry at himself. What a joke. He was so naive to believe anything would get better. He’s about to walk away, back to the street, back to the park, back to the sidewalk, back home —
He stops. And turns.
“Haven’t I seen you before?”
It’s a worker at the cafe, cleaning up the dishes from a nearby table.
His eyes widen. What?
“Man, I haven’t seen you in a while. Didn’t you used to come here a lot with that girl? And for some reason, you always got –” the worker laughs, “– blueberry lavender lemonade.”
The worker keeps talking, but he can’t hear. He can’t hear anything except the dead silence. And then —
The teacup teeters, balancing precariously as the ripples branch out. The silence presses against his ears.
And it falls.
It’s like a woosh. Suddenly everything he can’t hear, the painful silence that enclosed him for so long, is sucked away. Maybe it’s the sound of the teacup shattering, so clamorous and ringing. Maybe it’s the sound of his feet as they suddenly take off and fly, beat by beat, shoes slapping the ground. Or maybe it’s something else.
The teacup lies broken as all the drops he hoped to shut away wash over him. One by one. Again and again. But he doesn’t care. He’s running. He’s running as far and as fast as he can. He doesn’t know where, but does it really matter? (The answer is no, because now he sees it all.)
Through his desperate jagged breaths he can hear her voice. “You were looking for me. You were always looking for me. And you always manage to find me.”
He did. He found her.
“We’ll be together forever!”
He knows. It’s true.
“I remembered you like blueberries!”
Of course she remembered. It was only natural.
“It’s so bright, you can always see it. It’s like it’s always there, if only in the corner of your eyes.”
He can see. She was right. He sees her figure, bright, dancing. She tried to tell him. She’s always been trying to tell him. Only he was too deaf and too blind.
But he knows now.
“I can hear, you, Blue!”
“You’re proof that I’m still alive.”
She’s alive. She’s here, with him. Blue has always been here.
He looks around, at the blue sky. At the sun and its warm rays. At the grass and the dew that shakes itself off. At the cherry trees and the traces of apples in the air and the heat that clings to his skin and
A teacup. Cracked, shattered, and beautiful.
A torn photograph that spoke of summer days.
A yarn bracelet, a proof of connection.
The color of the sky.
The brilliant smile she has when she receives a present.
The look on her face when she sees strawberry cheesecake.