Fake it, or be Institutionalized (according to an old friend)

I’m sitting on the roof of my new apartment building. It’s quiet, wintry, and raindrops are trickling on my skin from every direction. I’ve lit more than enough cigarettes for my lungs to bare, but the burn in my chest assists in the well-practiced reflection process. I can see most of Taipei from up here. I can see Taipei 101, Taipei’s proudest possession. Once, I thought your friendship was my proudest possession. But I’ve been wrong before, for we are no longer friends, and your friendship wasn’t something to be possessed or, since I’ve recently learned, it wasn’t friendship at all.

I’ve gained a lot in the last months. I’ve had to let go of about the same. It seems like ‘knowing you’ was forever ago. It’s ironic that in finding a new journey; a new self; you need to let go of a previous one, no matter how much you want to cling onto it. Adjusting might sometimes be harsh on the mind. Especially when someone else tries to establish your already fragile mentality.

I’ve been trying to read M-Train, but my mind wonders and leaks out into the past. I can’t help but stare at the railing in front of me. It’s filled with gorgeous golden sunflowers as decoration. The sun beams are leaking through, blinding my eyes. I’m thinking about you.

Sometimes in the quietest of moments; the prettiest of scenes; the worst parts of people slither out slowly; and break into consciousness previously unseen.

We’re in a hut, trying to escape a world of pain.

You asked me to read you a paragraph, seeking for the answers behind the curves of the words. I eagerly read each word with a rounding passion; pleased by your request and wonder.

You listened with intent and did not recognize the dedication in my accent. You listened until you found a phrase considerate of your felicitous tendencies and dismissed my stride. I attempted to finish reading the paragraph as you so desired, but you ordered me quiet, blaring as the windows and crystals on wooden tables shivered through ordinary surrounding things.

This wasn’t the first time I saw maliciousness in your entity but the first time it forced me into utter silence. I sat for a while staring at you while you took out a pencil from your stainless-steel pencil case and started to draw on an empty piece of paper. I noticed a lot of pages had been torn out of your notebook. I wonder who had been privileged enough to prompt previous sketches or ideas written down and then torn out, either finding its way into a garbage bin, or stuck onto a wall with sticky tape to be admired and serve as inspiration.

It’s 20:09 on a Sunday. We haven’t spoken in three months. I just read the last page of M-Train. For a moment, I thought I might be trapped between my old life, a life with your dishonest warmth in it, or a healthier life, the one I’m currently craving. But I wasn’t. I just moved a little slower than usual. The lack of speed must have been trial and error, trying to atone. Aiming to make amends or perhaps reaching for a goodbye I deserved, but never collected. It also might be connected to robust, mean, robbing insult exchanges. I now concur that there couldn’t have been an easier, satisfactory means to force out the flame. Some railways are forced to reach a timely stop, either because of a roadblock, or disturbance on board. If it hadn’t come to a halt, we both might’ve been institutionalized for being mentally out of sorts; not in one’s right mind; not on the right mental health path; mad; insane; mentally ill.

Isn’t that what you used as an excuse to bury me? My mental soundness?  A worn, hand-me-down mentality that you relished and bathed in, until there was nothing more left than a fleshless, lifeless mango-seed?

I was in-love. And your other friend preoccupied. I remember you weren’t eating. Weeks went by. Just skin and bones. You walked around for hours, just to find yourself lost, without direction. I remember picking up the phone. Listening to your sorrow.

You, little sunflower, as radiant as the sun itself. I learnt when you touch the fire, you will. Get burnt. Or go up in smoke, charred and cauterized. Everything blackened. But I have never been afraid of the dark.

I’m in my apartment in the city we once roamed, I’m awaiting your arrival. I’ve cooked pumpkin soup. You show up with exhaustion and a hint of shimmer once forgotten. You’ve been through a tough time. You whisper your troubles into my ear and in return I feed you. You smile briefly as we say our see-you-tomorrows. I am terrified if you’ll still have a tomorrow.

Shades of sadness and rain: sometimes a force that could drown the sun itself. All I had to give was my honesty. I could nurture and push the shadows away for seconds at a time. You seemed grateful and in that presented me with an obligation, a purpose, to not allow you to give into suffocation.

When you named your shadow and connected it to an old-friend, now foe, I was torn between two worlds that I believed in. That I was a part of. But sunflowers are delicate and need a lot of care, so I abandoned my morals and watered your seeds. My own choice, one I now ponder over into the morning hours.

Sometimes circumstances force you to choose a side. I chose mine with truth, honesty and a little too much eagerness. I was prepared. To fight. To honor. To protect.  But you, little seed made your way back into forced-out land and you relished in the momentarily glow.

But I couldn’t follow you, I could only protest, as I was there when that land drained you from your color and warmth. I couldn’t stand by and watch you suffer again, so I screamed as loud as I could. STAY! But you couldn’t. And I did not have it in me to mend something that broke us both.

It’s February. Last year this time we were eating potatoes and butter, stroking trees, hiking through the mountains of Taiwan. It’s such precious memories. But last night I had a dream. I dreamt that I told you all that kept eating me up inside. Like a mosquito draining me of memories with each and every sting. I dreamt that we were at the same ‘punk-rock-themed-party.’ Finally, we were in the same room and you had no choice but to listen to my despair. I started yelling, screaming at the top of my lungs. Can you hear me now? You have nothing to hide behind, all you could do is listen, can you hear me now? with all these witnesses, can you lie your way out? Refrain from the truth? But it was only a dream, and so many things keep being left unsaid. What an absolute tragedy it is to try and talk to someone that you once shared everything with, but you can’t, because they’ve decided it is more convenient to deem you mentally ill and unstable, than to face the truth: you’ve lost something you hadn’t planned on losing.

I remember you said you would only consider being my friend if I’m ever mentally stable. As if it is a choice I could make, because believe me, I’d make it in a heartbeat. Like a parent promising to love you, only when you’re less gay; or have better grades. Instead I watched you slither away, little snake, into grass not so green.

Do you miss me? Do you thirst for my being, as I do yours? Do you remember all the light and rainbows? Because I do. But you won’t allow me to share it with you.

Instead, I record my thoughts. Every time I hear a spark, every momentous light whispering. I take a polaroid-shot of glimmer and store it in a little evergreen box under my shared-bed. I’ll show it to you when we meet again. Not that I have to prove anything to you, but I have to at least prove it to myself.

Can you hear it? It flickers in the moonlight, humming in the shade of trees. My mentality is making noise. I only have one goal, and it’s not to fall as low as I did before your sunrise.

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