By Candice Balete

Because it’s all just lies.

Furious scribbles, jargon – showered on old parchment and dull ink. It’s all about captivation; emotional overflowing – much like the ink that spilled over your desk the other day, forever tainting the polished mahogany, dying it black.

Your ever tidy scrawl overlaps over itself, the insouciant scratching over of words that did not quite simply mean the way you want them to.

A half-empty bottle of whiskey litters the carpeted floor. The amber liquid beckons your gaze, its orange hues an invocation of old flames rekindled. Autumn winds, city streets, and countless cries create a collage, a collusion of memories that torrent the mind’s eye. Flashing images hurl themselves ceaselessly; relentless like ocean waves, yet fossilized in immortal amber-tinged rock.

This is about things that you don’t understand and don’t give a damn for.

But I must write this down.

Before it’s too late.

Once upon a time is a completely overrated way of beginning a tale, but the phrase is a cliché simply because it holds certain truths. It is a phrase immortalized; it breathes life upon any superannuated tale, painting pictures of evergreen pastures and alabaster castles in the reader’s mind.

However, this is not a story about a price charming or a damsel in distress; regardless, this particular story is worth hearing, simply because this story is true. Indeed, there had been a once upon a time where circumstance had chanced for something significant enough to be retold.

You had asked me if we could be together. In hindsight, there had been nothing particularly romantic then. There was no background music, no captivating lights, no dramatic declaration of love. But your dark eyes bore something that hinted promise, and I took the chance.


My assent was articulated in the briefest whisper, but I knew that I confirmed my fate.

We could write our own story, you said. Something different, something special.

You bought the parchment – the finest ones your money-bursting bank account could afford. Their velvety surface felt uncomfortable against the touch of my rough, scarred hands. But I accepted them despite my initial discomfort, only giving my best to please you, to win your affections.

I procured the ink and the quills. Not as exuberant as yours, but I hope it fit the bill. You did not seem to mind at that time, even commenting how the auburn shade of the quill feathers complemented the glow in my eyes.

Together we coalesced our writings; our handiwork hardly congruent, but we accepted each other’s effort, trying to figure out this novelty called love. Your long fingers against my calloused ones, intertwining like the pages and ink that bound together into one being, one book.

There was a particular summer when you invited me to visit your family home. While your family had not been privy into the depth of our relationship, the thick tension was palpable. It threatened our private sanctuary more than I dared to hazard. I remember your mother’s intense glare on my person, and your father’s cold indifference. Your warm hand on my shoulder was the only silhouette of security I had during that trip amidst the cold walls of your ancestral home.

It was only when we were in the privacy of your bedroom that I could find myself starting to breathe freely again.

You rattled on in length about how you despised your family, how your mother would burst if she found out you were different. I wonder if she knew the extent of how different you really are; how different we really are. Are we really different, at all?

What is love, but a mere inability to hate?

It was then I saw our reflection on the grand full length mirror on the side of your room. Despite your rage, even your posture and the simple flourish of your gesture echoed aristocratic sentiments, betraying the heritage you despised so much. I wondered why I was still there, despite possessing the unalterable knowledge of who you truly are.

Then I saw my reflection juxtaposed with yours, my plain button-up shirt and trousers a far cry from your Oxford dress shirt, accentuated with a pullover and even family crest cuff links. The scars that etched my body from use and abuse were a ghastly complement against your pristine countenance.

A stray tear escaped from my eyes. You stopped your ranting, and wiped the tears away. Your hand was reassuring; one thing lead to the next, caresses and exploring hands made us soon forget why we were even there in the first place.

After that nasty servant tattled to the family about our clandestine activities…

What is a memory?

There were times when I almost gave up on writing this story with you, moments where I became devoid of feeling.

I remember tearing away page upon page, loosening the silken thread that bound our lives together; trying to forget, erase, renew. But even then I knew it was impossible to sanitize the disgrace embedded in our histories. Bloodied hands can only further taint a discarded canvas, never able to render it pristine again.

How could I even imagined, dreamed, of being with someone as perfect as you? It was all a lie.

There were times when we wouldn’t speak for days, weeks. An outsider might assume this as companionable silence. How could it be companionable when I ached so much inside, dying to hear the baritone of your laugh?

You frequented your friends’ late night parties, rarely stopping by our shared flat. When you did come home, you reeked of alcohol and motorbike smoke, never sparing me a second glance.

What is hate, but one’s ineptitude to love?

I would remember the words you promised in this relationship, this fling, this thing – striking over these now overt lies, tearing the pages apart. It is much easier to destroy than to forget, easier to forget than to dwell.

I found myself striking through the words we have written before, sometimes even annotating them with scribbles like you liar, or sod off.

A memory is but a mental image fabricated by the mind’s ability to remember.

It is hardly possible for even the most gifted of individuals to recollect every minute event of their lives. Most of the time, incidents that recur in hallucinations and dreams are either those of a euphoric or traumatic nature.

Your elitist tendencies grappled much with my tainted blood. You could not help it, it was inherent in you, this prejudice. According to you, our love, it had to be perfect – ideal, much like the stories that regaled you in your youth: Heroic, action-packed, with valiant protagonists and a happy ending. You found yourself become constantly at unease with my lack of grace and confidence, your flourishing script soon running over the words I had carefully but nervously penned. I never seemed to live up to your high-flying standards.

Gone were the days where our relationship blossomed; the times where we felt our schoolboy friendship develop into something more. Whatever climax our relationship had hit was long gone; I found my own scrawl becoming less organized, less proliferate, less inspired.

I was never good enough, and never will be.

Sometimes I wondered if I was merely a sorry excuse to justify your running away from home, as though you needed to justify anything to those cold parents of yours.

If memory is a mere fabrication, then how do we know that what we know is real? Just because you can touch it, feel it, taste it? What of ghosts of the past?

I would rather hate, or love, than be capable of neither.

Those twelve years of your estrangement have been a blur to me. I searched madly, desperately for proof of what had happened between us. I tried to plug in the gaps and smother the inconsistencies, as though it could rekindle the passion we lost through the passage of time.

The moment I had met you again, I knew that Lady Luck had given us another chance.

We had spent much time renewing our relationship – rekindling our passion. Many nights had been spent in the flush of heated bodies; our touches rediscovering paths long neglected, but not forgotten.

It had never been as physical like the first time. Maybe it had something to do with age, time. Had the vision of our older bodies dispelled youthful fantasies?

Or maybe it was the less than favourable memories that recurred at the wrong moments. How could someone so easily remember how their significant other neglected them in the past?

In the book of time where history is recorded, a clean slate never truly exists. Regardless of how hard one tries to scratch and tear at the words that divulge the past, the vestiges will remain there, damaged but never destroyed.

Both of us knew this well, despite our efforts to ignore the truth that lay heavy upon our shoulders. Hope could do silly and wonderful things to the human persona. We still kept on trying, even though that raging passion had inevitably dwindled into a small flame. We had taken consolation that at least the fire was never totally put out.

What bothers me is not the idea of you, but my deteriorating capacity to remember what we were, what you meant to me, what you are.

In that final moment I felt my heart stop; I couldn’t breathe. I wished I was the one who died instead. It was as though a thick veil fell between us, intangible yet impenetrable.

I researched for ways, loopholes. Methods to bring you back. All were moot.

It felt as though the story we were writing simply came to a standstill. It was not a feeling of ebbing away, the slow rotting of the senses. No, from the very moment you were gone, I knew I had died with you. Only the physical shell of my being remained to tread the earth.

This time, it were as though an invisible hand; the hand of Fate, had thrown the manuscript of our love into a burning furnace – the words; the ink that had formed the curvatures, shapes, letters…parchment carefully folded and unfolded, edited and mulled over – all burnt and destroyed. Your aristocratic script and my tedious scrawl reduced to ashes, reduced to fodder to spur greater fires of passion for the future, at the expense of our own.

People always attempt to preserve memories, not because of the memory itself. No. There will be an inevitable moment when the human mind falters, forgets. Figures and passionate touches reminisced through mere hues of amber; synaesthesia in motion.

Maybe one day, we could meet again in another world, another utopia – where unedited books lie completed by Fate, unpublished and unspoken.

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