Paradoxical Fiction

It was a Friday afternoon.

We met at a coffee shop.

There were no vacant tables at that time so I asked you sheepishly if can I seat with you. You obliged.

You were typing something on your laptop. A project perhaps? Oh well, at that time I was thinking at least I get to sit, drink my coffee and read a good book.

Every time I was sipping my coffee, I would unconsciously look at your stern eyes looking at your screen. With words on backwards mirrored on your glasses as you type without rest, I can see you were gaining momentum on what you were doing.

And then suddenly, you spoke to me,

“What is another term for happy? I’ve been using that term too many times already.”

“Well.” I said, “It depends on the sentence. I mean, joyous, cheerful, and contented are acceptable but slightly different types of being happy.”

We were staring at each other at that time. You, sort of deciphering my answer, while I was looking at you thinking, “Damn it. I explain too much.”

And then suddenly you said, “Yeah. I can use “contented.” Thanks!”

After that, you would ask me from time to time for other terms and sentence reconstructing. I became your editor of some sort (or a dictionary, thesaurus, or whatever).

I never finished the book I was reading at that time. I caught myself sitting next to you as we are finishing up your article to be submitted to your editor.

That was then I learned that it’s your first project for a column segment of a travel magazine. You said you were trying to do your best but all of the jitters are mentally blocking the stock knowledge that you have.

Afterwards we were actually chatting even after you already passed your article. I knew your name, the university you studied from, and, to the extent, even your favorite boy band.

Eventually, you realized that you diverted me from reading your book and you were apologizing so much. Even though I said it was okay, you were still saying “sorry!” countless of times as we exit the coffee shop.

Weirdly enough, we were actually chatting and exchanging topics like we’ve known each other for a long time. Because of that, you suddenly asked me to let you treat me dinner for the trouble you’ve caused and for the help that I provided.

I said that there is no need and you don’t have to since I was always willing to help. “Besides,” I added. “The fact that you gave me a seat so that I can enjoy my coffee is already enough.” But still, you grabbed the sleeves of my shirt and keep on yanking and insisting on treating me dinner.

I eventually accepted your offer. and gave me the date, time, and place.

But sadly, on that day you had to cancel it because you have to travel somewhere and do some work.

You were apologizing countless of times through the phone as you hope that I would not be mad.

I was not.

It was kind of funny as you were apologizing. you asked me why and I simply said: “At least you’re not trying to tear off my sleeves again.”

You chuckled as well, continued apologizing and set another date of the dinner.

Well, the next one was a bit different. You were one hour late at that time. You insisted that it’ll be a quick overtime at your office (well, you kept saying that every 10 minutes).

And then you arrived, dashing through the host and tables exclaiming “excuse me!” and “coming through!” across the hall and towards our table.

There you were again apologizing for being late. You almost got teary-eyed at that time. Weirdly enough you were constantly bowing down as well (Culture from another country perhaps? That was new).

I just smiled, took my handkerchief, wiped your face and said, “Hey, it’s okay. At least you’re here now. And besides, I finished reading my book. Hahaha!”

There you were smiling, laughing, and crying, all at the same time.

During that dinner, you talked all night about what happened at work. Told me what happened during that time you went to another province for your article. When you ate a live insect for the sake of writing about it and then vomited right after you sent the article about it.

That became a common thing. We would see each other for dinner. Talked about almost everything until the restaurant closes.

There was one time when you told me that you will be out of the country for a couple of weeks (So that’s with the bowing). You told me it was hard for you to decide since you will be away from me.

I knew for a fact that you want this dream job ever since I saw your enthusiasm and determination when I first helped you at the coffee shop.

That’s where I told you in an instant that you should go.

“I mean it’s an out-of-the-country all-expense-paid travel to another country where you will just eat and be merry. All for work! Come on!” I exclaimed as I almost forgot that we were at a public place at that time.

The real reason is because I do not want to see people struggle on making choices when I am involved in it.

You were slightly speechless at that time, then you smiled and told me out of the blue,

“You always make me smile. I’m glad that I have met you.”

You have beautiful eyes. I never mentioned that? That’s where I hold your hand and ask you as well out of the blue,

“Do you still want that leftover dessert?”

There you were laughing while beating me hysterically (seriously woman, I had bruises that time! Haha).

As you were in another country, you would often call me since your company is paying for the bill. Talking about how exciting it was being there. Eating raw food, go to a festival, and write about them.

There were two days left on your trip when I surprised you by visiting. Of course you had that astonished face as you beat me again and again for not telling you beforehand.

I accompanied you on your work as we visited more festivals and famous places, eating different kinds of food.

Even helped you again on writing your article. Well, it’s not exactly help since there was a point that you were leaning your head on my shoulder while I was one actually typing since you were sleepy…nope, if I remembered it correctly you really were sleeping.

And then the next morning you would compliment me, “Thanks! You’re the best!”

I simply replied, “There will always be someone better than me. I’ll help what I can.”

With a confused face, you still hugged me and said thanks once more.

Eventually, that was a habit now, as you go to different countries. Especially now that you quit your job and had your own blog (which is well-known, by the way).

I am so very proud of you.

And I am glad that I have witnessed it.

There was a time that you barged into my apartment and you would just get a bottle of beer in my fridge and just sit on my couch while you suddenly talked about the annoying townsfolk of a place you just visited. And almost all the time you would see me holding a book, destroying my sanctum of peace. I didn’t really mind since I saw the smile on your face when you realized and began apologizing.

You would give me a piece of rock or stone with the name of the place you’ve visited at that time. I even suggested one time that you should at least upscale it into a stone per city or country; and not per building, restaurant, or any specific place. I mean what the heck, you gave me almost a small sack of stones one time! That was too much for my collection rack!

I still remember all of it. On how I immediately saw you full of ambition and dreams the first time. Staying positive with that “Everything’s gonna be alright” attitude.

I remember the time you said before we went home,

“Thanks for being there for me. There are so many tough times that I want to give up. But there you are, helping me every step of the way. I can’t imagine how you do it. Lifting my spirits up and making me laugh or smile when I’m down. You know what, I’m happy.”

And then you hugged me tightly and dashed to the last bus at that night. I saw you waving your hand by the window as I waved back.

Here we are now.

If you received this message, then I would highly suggest not to barge into my apartment. For I am not there anymore.

I am not exactly that optimistic person you perceive me to be.

I can make you smile or laugh…but I can’t make you happy.

I can make you cheerful, but I doubt I can make you contented.

If you want to count the ways for you to contradict my statement, then I can give you instances as well otherwise.

There are times that we would raise our voices during arguments. I can remember that discontented face every time (sometimes, at a point of tears).

Weighing the good and bad things wouldn’t do us any good. I’ll believe you when you say that it was all good. That’s why I will not make you choose. For that I want to apologize for this selfish act. Remember what I said?

There will always be someone better than me.

Please do not misunderstand. This is all me.

You might ask, why did I stay with you? Actually, that…I do not know.

I was just happy to help you.

Happy to see you succeed.

Happy to see you obtain your dreams.

Happy to see you smile.

I thought that can actually do something good and at the same time be happy.

But I want to make you happy…and I can’t do that.

I know any apology can’t outweigh everything that I’ve done. So I would like to say thank you instead. For you have at least made me think of the world differently (I mean, I was most of the time with you during your travels). I was really satisfied being with you as I try to help you. I really thought I was a different person after I met you.

I was not.

I hope that you would continue to pursue on your dreams. Don’t waste that time that I helped you with your very first article.

I hope that you find happiness, because I can’t define it for you.

Good bye.

P.S. Please don’t beat up people or tear off their sleeves.

Oh, and there’s a rock on my doorstep with the name of the coffee shop where we first met. Please put it on my collection rack.