A cumulonimbus caused the gloom that day. It went shedding drops of rain that looked like bead of pearls glittering in the grey autumn sky, vanishing as they plunge on leafless laurel trees and solitary cypresses. He watched them dance to pitter-patter on every umbrella that opened towards the heavens, their colors of rich black calling out to such empathy. Finally, the drops kiss the graze of withered grasses and thirsty dandelions, reviving their foliage and greenness. Slowly, the rainfall collect to become one with soil and mud crawled down to the six feet depression where a coffin was laid. It was white like ivory and carved with elaborate insignias as a token of love and undying memories. Soon, it was all covered with crimson roses that carry the last parting words of the bereaved. The priest waved out his hands above with mournful eyes, lisping his beseeching of earnest favors while spades of loam filled up the burrow. He saw faces of despair around the pit, gasping for reprieve and sympathy. If only the rain could also bring back her life, he implored.
This, in his senses, was belongingness. This, in his heart, was death.
It had been two long weeks since Roxanne’s death and Vincent couldn’t get his feet back on the ground. He still couldn’t believe he had lost her and that their seemingly endless love has flown away from him for all eternity. He’d make believe that this was all just a dream and at some point of this nightmare he would finally be unchained and awakened. Days became niches of shackled memories that kept haunting his love-fletched soul and nights were nothing more than a requiem of lovelorn longings that still linger in his mind. He remembers it all, the feel of her name on his lips, the smell of her hair, and the sound of her laugh. Everything is still as fresh as the dewdrops of June and as vivid as the most cinematic imagery a mortal could immortalize. The ultimate fight of this melodramatic transition was to remain whole when all the strength Vincent has built up begins to crumble by a mere reminiscence of the tragedy that gets freeze-framed from beginning to end over and over again.
It was a rainy Friday evening on the 22nd of May and everyone’s feeling the smell of the weekend rush. Vincent was already at a friend's house party and called Roxanne that he’ll be waiting. Roxanne was driving the Lexus behind a small truck that seemed to plod toward the upcoming red light. She was a few minutes late on her way and watching these two people ahead of her jabber away in that truck was getting her out of her ecstatic mood. The light turned green, but the truck too slowly moved forward. Roxanne became frustrated as the driver fixated to the right. He visibly gasped at what was just about to come into her view. A brand new grey-blue Chevy Silverado blazed through the opposing stop light to broadside his little truck. Roxanne tried to stop, but her car slid into the Chevy's rear side and went tossing down the highway to an explosion.
All these is what Vincent needs to drown himself to agony. It’s as if Atlas gave up the bearing of the world for him to endure. Wretched and perplexed was he, blaming the world for such a prejudiced conspiracy. How could an angel like Roxanne be bound to such an end? How could an invincible love become vulnerable on the visage of death? But then again, his heart starts to concoct a spell of phantasm, bringing back the most prized memories of him and her together, infiltrating his whole system and gaining power over the bitterness and pain. In this test of sensations, he himself wasn’t sure if this two-edged delusion is a boon or bane. But one thing was becoming clear to him-he cannot be like this for the rest of his life. If this nightmare must be proven real, he must find a way out. Whatever may lie ahead, he must keep going, recreate his own world and be able to break free from the fetters of this mishap that surely promises him nothing but living scars, frustrations and sorrow.
Two years have passed and the town of New Hope has undergone a lot of changes. New coffee shops and cafes run down a block away from the University premise as well as convenient stores and parlors. New establishments stood welcoming and billboards mushroomed the skyway. The streets are crowded with more and more busy people, indicative of a metropolitan evolution of lifestyle. Summer has ended and without a trace, the arid autumn and the frigid winter fluttered to oblivion.
The same is true for New Hope University which, in its current enrollment period, has its student population increased by two thousand. The institute’s remarkable performance rating in board examinations and national competitions attracted other towns to invest their education to the latter. It was nearly the start of class and everyone is busy catching up the enrollment pace. But not Vincent, who, in the first day of inception has already completed the enrollment process. He was ecstatic, more of curious how his life as a senior student could turn into this academic year. He met faces of different kinds-some familiar and some entirely strangers. Those he doesn’t recognize would just pause and pay a smile while others he knew jsut pass by and make him feel invisible. On a ledge in front of his course department’s office he sat. He in himself was New Hope town in human transfiguration- braver, brighter and better. He looked from afar, with eyes playing on the nimble of heads and shoulders of people passing through the corridor. He drenched himself to an illusion of how each head turns toward him with a infectious smile, that once in a while, happiness is sought even in the gallows of solitude. Solitude-it wasn’t a strange name to him anymore. It never was. He was entangled with it on that day the sickles of death took his love away. Somehow, through the passage of time, the wound that was scourged deep in his heart has mended and the thought of being alone became amusing that he has managed to laugh about it over the seasons. He is more human now, away from the devious portal of his mundane imagining.
The daydream was shattered when out of the blue a silhouette of a familiar figure took the stage. She was elegantly tall, with hair of pure ebony lolling on her shoulders. Each step enraptures, and each gentle sway of a hand is a compelling rhythm. She draws closer to where he was and he's left slack jawed. She entered the office and he was back to his senses. Maybe not. What he beheld was something farfetched, something that he cannot comprehend. Vincent saw it all coming back to him. A remnant of his long buried love has come to life. It was Roxanne and it is more certain than breathing. He couldn’t explain what he felt. It was a maelstrom of joy and surprise, of hope and fear. It was the face he yearned to see, so long that the yearning turned to hate and despair. But now that it came to pass, his humanity fell apart. Although he is a mere victim of his own circumstances, the serendipity took a shot straight to his heart and there is nothing he could do about it.
Perhaps there is, and he is now pretty preoccupied. He wanted to know her. He must unknot this puzzle that has challenged his whole conviction. He must find every answer and throw all of its questions behind. Whatever there is that the road has in store for him is not essential anymore. He couldn’t care less to fathom this enigma and once more, find something worth living. But now that he is hanging in midair, he planned to fall back. He jumped out of the ledge and headed out the campus, afraid that she might be at sight and all the strength in him shall subside. He was up all night, thinking of how he could get a chance to meet and talk to her. He had thoughts of crafting schemes, devising methods and inventing tricks.
And nothing of it worked.
The first day of class commenced. New Hope University is buzzing with ecstatic students. Vincent giggled with utmost excitement, carelessly bumping shoulders and brushing elbows with other students in the corridors. He molested his tattered COR and skimmed for his first class. It is in room 101 scheduled 9:00. He reviewed through the digital clock and he hurried as it ticked to 8:58. Luckily, he is safe from prime tardiness, though he seemed to be the last comer. He seated at the back, knowing that after thirty minutes, he’d helplessly succumb to napping since it is his favorite subject-English 8, Technical Writing.
And so she happened.
It was her, Roxanne’s doppelganger who broke the charts. She was 15 minutes late and unforgivably beautiful with her sequined tee and skinny jeans. She realized what she has gotten into and apologized with the kindest gesture. The professor gave her a hand and led her to the seat beside Vincent. She felt awkward. He was worse. They both sat like lifeless puppets with the puppeteer gone until she broke the silence.
“I’m Katherine,” she muttered. “Katherine Evans, glad to be your block mate”. She took it off with a smile that sent Vincent to hyperventilation. He couldn’t shake her hands. They’re already shaking with butterflies. The poor guy mounted his strength. He could not afford to lose the chance. “Vincent, Vincent Smith”. That was all and a nod. It was rare for Vincent to survive the thirty-minute nap attack but he did this time, although the victory seemed unnoticed. They enjoyed the remaining hour sharing thoughts and ideas with Vincent succeeding in all his attempts to stint his best jokes. He has come to know who she is at the basics-a transferee from Dakota University, a cheerleader and an adventurist. He also looks forward to know more about her in the days to come- hoping that she likes cheese, watching live wrestling fights and attending Sunday mass.
Perhaps she doesn't.
Two weeks was enough a time for the two of them to get closer to each other. They were both open to let the affinity they share to grow and blossom. It was very apparent that the two knew where their relationship is going and they both seemed ready for it.
Months have passed and the two were no more than couples. But Vincent was too overwhelmed of what he had let enter his life. Katherine is no Roxanne. She doesn’t like cheese, wrestling or Sunday masses. She was more self-driven, conceited and unwelcoming. Sooner he realized that he isn’t in love with Katherine, nor will he ever be. He just created his Utopia by painting Roxanne’s memories on Katherine’s facade. He believed to have loved again and he believed in vain.
It was a candlelight dinner at Katherine's and it was all set. She suggested it herself. She would always do this, steering their affair on a one man tag and turning the tides whichever she likes it to be. She seemed obsessed about Vincent, about their friendship, about their bond. This was her biggest mistake: to let Vincent get drowned in her self-consumed devotion.
Vincent is on his way. To break her heart.
When he came, Katherine pranced in glee. She presented the menu. And the drinks too. She was on the midst of telling Vincent her summer getaway plans when he told her to stop and listen. He undid it to her gently by taking all the blames, that it was his butter fingered actions which led them both bruised and bleeding. It was a self-defeating battle preordained by the gods. A tear fell down from Katherine’s eyes, and she didn’t want to show him more. She fled her way out the dining room with a tormented soul, like Aphrodite torn by Adonis, and hurried to her room with the banging of the door. Vincent was left with only the deafening silence, keeping his severed heart together.
As he sat out there slowly losing substance, he began to notice a set of picture frames that showed two happy faces, one of them Vincent was able to recognize in just a matter of seconds. But what puzzled him most is the picture's relevance to Katherine. He thought of a reason to make his way out the riddle. He looked closer to the girl beside Roxanne and found a spot of mole that was identical to Katherine's.
Vincent stumbled to a discovery he wished he had never known.
On the night Roxanne met death, she was not alone. She was with company. The girl that happened to live is Vicky Duran, Roxanne’s best friend. She was secretly in love with Vincent. And she was prepared to change her entire life for a streak of a chance that she’ll have what she was living for.
And she almost succeeded.
Vincent, still staggered on how things turned out insane, went to Roxanne’s grave. He shattered from an implosion of mixed emotions and he cried out like a child who lost his treasured toy. He curled on the ground with so much pain and bearing contained inside him. He called out Roxanne’s name with pure longing, bringing back his old self and his memories of that grey autumn, of that unwanted Friday that took her life away.
Footsteps cracked from the ground and Vincent ceased his outburst of melancholy.
“Let me end your misery,” a trembling voice came from behind him. It was Vicky, whose face is neither Roxanne’s nor Katherine’s. It was a face of a hopeless woman, wretched and determined for something. She was wearing rugged clothes and she held a gun on her hand. To Vicky, living is no different from death. She has now understood why the very person she loves has turned away from her when she gave all that she never was. But the realization priced too much of her reality that she cannot anymore take back. She decided to **** him and then take her own life.
She pointed the gun towards Vincent. He jumped at her to take the gun away. They grappled on the ground, the weapon still on Vicky’s hands. Vincent managed to overpower her but she kicked him, tumbling back to the gravestone. A shot was heard from afar with a man’s cry.
It rained that day. Brown withered leaves of tall laurels hovered with the wind while branches of solitary Cypresses dance to every whirl. The breeze whispered to the clouds of grey, a mark of autumn’s return. Vincent crawled to Roxanne's grave. It was a weeping of a true love that echoed away. Raindrops keep descending from the heavens, washing away the blood that kept flowing to the ground of mud. Perhaps, on the last moments of his life he found happiness, even from a love that was never his to keep.
- by Larry Potter