the Pursuit of Happiness
Matthew Lu | Art by Catherine Li
All those years ago, we sat under the apple tree that’s been there as long as we could remember. Many of my precious childhood memories would be with you and the apple tree. I remember the chilly autumn days where you made piles of leaves for me to jump in. I remember the hot sunny days where we hid in the shade of the tree with our popsicles. You would always leave the last bit of your popsicle to attract all the bugs flying around.
“This is a ladybug,” you said, with the little bug cupped in your hands. I leaned over just slightly to see the tiny red dot on your hand. “Do you want to hold it? It’s a symbol of good luck.” I nodded and watched the little creature slide from your hand on to mine. I watched the ladybug crawl a little on my hand before stopping for a moment. As it began to move once again, I noticed a little dot left behind where it used to be.
“EWW! It pooped on me!” I yelled frantically as I waved my hand back and forth. The small smile you tried so hard to contain quickly broke into a roaring laughter, which filled the air. Eventually I began to laugh too, and we laughed our hours away, until we could laugh no more.
My childhood is filled with happy memories spent with you. At that time, I believed you would always be there with me. Yet, your love of bugs never died, and it was that love that brought you to go explore the world. Now, I spend my free time reading all your articles. Every time I read the words you write, I can hear your voice explaining to me everything I’ll need to know about the bug and more.
A couple hours ago, you sent me a text, telling me that you were coming back for the weekend. There was an alien movie that premieres tomorrow. You asked me if I wanted to go watch it with you, but only if I still got excited just from the thought of aliens. I’m surprised that you remembered that I obsessively believed in aliens all those years ago. A small smile had appeared on my face from your text. Of course I wanted to go watch a movie with you. After all, it’s been so long since I last saw you.
Yet, I’ve grown so much without you. I’m so different from when I was a child. People call me mature, accomplished, sophisticated, but honestly I just want to lie on the ground laughing with you, wasting away our summer days.
I’m not the same person you knew. We had naturally grown apart, going our separate paths as we graduated together. This not-so-subtle anxiety crawls on to me, making every inch of my skin prickly. I don’t want to see the light in your eyes falter as you realize I’m no longer who I used to be.
I don’t make plans spontaneously, I don’t waste money on coffee drinks, I don’t eat for the sake of curing boredom. Everyone calls me responsible, but is responsible really the person I wanted to be? My detailed agenda, carefully documented finances, planned meals, are only proof that I’m no longer that easygoing friend you had.
I spent all these years waiting for the day you would come back, but now that you’re actually coming back, why am I filled with so much hopelessness? One word with me, and you’ll realize that I’m different.
That’s right, I’m scared. Scared that you’ll reject me. Scared that you’ll leave me. Scared you won’t accept me for who I’ve become. Fear has wrapped its arms around me, whispering to me these lies. I try to shake this uncomfortable feeling, hoping that you would be with me again. We had said our goodbyes at graduation, and I thought I had come to terms that we would go our own ways. I didn’t want something to ruin the partially happy ending we had.
From the corner of my eye, I see a glint in the sky. It’s like this tiny glimmer of hope that could save me from it all. Maybe I could just not see you tomorrow. That way I can just save what I had left.
What could help me from this oh-so-miserable situation that I’m in? I hope this light would be a meteor, just about to crash on me. I hope this light would be a shooting star, so I could wish that you would forget about me. The light turns off and back on.
It blinks, “… / – / .- / -.–.”
Oh? Are those aliens? Are the aliens coming to take me away? Are these extraterrestrial creatures the ones planning to take me away from this world? Although they will only abduct me for the sake of developing their scientific research, I, too, will actually benefit from this kidnapping. I will be free from my obligation to meet you. The aliens are the ones who will save me from this predicament that I am in.
The aliens… will save me?
Yeah, right, because the aliens totally exist.
Such a foolish thought, about aliens abducting me. Who with any common sense would believe in the idea of aliens? The possibility of aliens actually existing is just impossible. Even more so being taken away by the aliens. Wait… the aliens? A small laugh comes out. I realize that maybe part of my old self is still here, the one who so adamantly believes in aliens.
I guess we can never really completely hide away the memories of who we were in the past. That’s right, I’m going to be fine. Maybe the aliens did save me, because they were the ones who taught me that I can’t hide my real self away forever.
Tomorrow is going to be a good day.