It was my last Independence Day celebration in Indonesia when a boy named Ben confessed that he had a crush on me. I didn’t even know he existed until he told me that confession with a pair of blushing cheeks. I didn’t really remember his physical appearance but I thought he was cute.
Ben, whose complete name I forgot, was my team mate in the game called “Balap Bakiak” (Wooden Sandal Race) when two persons shared the same wooden sandal and managing their balance to walk or even run to the finish line. Ben and I won the race, and we received small package consisted water bottle and lunch box plus a medal made from chocolate.
I ate the chocolate right away because I liked it. That was when Ben gave the chocolate to me and confessed that he had a crush on me.
“Can I accept the chocolate without saying yes to be your girlfriend?” I asked.
Ben didn’t find it funny, which I did. He just put the chocolate on my hand and ran away. I was confused why he didn’t find it funny because I was seriously just joking. He was cute, maybe I would like to be his girlfriend if I didn’t have to move to Singapore the next day.
Actually I had finished my 6th grade on June, but I insisted my mom to wait until Independence Day celebration on August before moving out to Singapore, so I could take part of the fun games at my school. I always loved Independence Day celebration. Mom agreed so she decided to stay with me in Indonesia for two months more while Dad moved to Singapore first because he needed to start his new job.
Shannon showed me her medal which she got from some games I didn’t remember. The shape was different from mine but I knew the chocolate would taste just as delicious as mine. “Here.” Shannon gave her medal to me too. “I know you like chocolate.”
I didn’t hesitate to take it. Smiling, I told her, “Somebody gave me a medal too just now.”
“Who?” Shannon briskly sat on a bench and patted the space beside her.
I sat and told her, “Ben.”
“Who’s Ben?” She raised her eyebrow. She was so cute when she did that.
“I also didn’t know him until we were paired up as a team mate. I think he was in 6D class.”
“He likes you!!!” Shannon shrieked.
“Guess so.” I acted nonchalantly.
“Don’t bullshit me! You knew he liked you!!!” She became more and more excited.
“Sshh!” I put my hand on her mouth. “Shut up!”
Shannon laughed and some of her saliva squirted between her lips to my hand.
“Eww!!” I wiped my hand on her skirt.
“Did he say anything to you, Elly?” Shannon widened her eyes and batted her eyelashes to me. “Tell me please…” she begged.
“Okay. But this is just because I will move away from you and I don’t want any secrets between us. He told me he had a crush on me.”
Shannon was about to shrieked again but I managed to shut her up. I threatened her not to give the details if she kept shrieking.
“I want exact words from his mouth.”
“He said, Eloise, I know you’re going to leave so I need to tell you I have a crush on you. That’s it. And I told him the joke and he didn’t find it funny so he left.”
“You idiot! Of course it’s not funny for him! I think you owe him an apology!”
“No. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’ll leave tomorrow.” I said.
Shannon shrugged, “Up to you then.”
“Miss, are you okay?” The flight attendant waves his hand in front of my face, which turns my attention from his nametag “Ben” to his face.
“Yeah, sorry… What did you say?”
“The man asked whether you would like to drink.” An old Caucasian man, about on his sixties who sat beside me explains to me.
“Glass of fresh milk will do. Thanks.” I say. So he leaves me again, with a memory which I thought long lost.
“Thanks,” I say to the old man. He just smile. There’s quite a big space between us, however it is a business class, so he asks, “Mind if I put these here?” showing two oranges and five magazines about flowers.
I nod, “Sure. No problem.”
He thanks me and continues to read one of his magazines while Ben the flight attendant gives me a glass of milk. “Anything Miss?”
I shook my head, “Not for now. Thanks.”
I never see my Ben anymore but Shannon was in the same class with him on 9th Grade. I saw his photo when Shannon showed me her reunion photo about 5 years ago. Shannon didn’t know him very well to know where he was and what he was doing then. But she said he was on facebook. I never had intention to check his facebook, until now, ironically on the airplane where I can’t connect to the internet.
My Ben, I chuckle. What am I thinking?
I don’t know why suddenly I can remember the detail of that Independence Day. I met a lot of Bens in my life and it never occurred to me to think about this Ben whose face I don’t even remember just because I read that name “Ben” on some flight attendant’s nametag.
I finished the milk even before he goes out of sight so I call his name again, “Excuse me, Ben!” then give the empty plastic glass to him. He smiles to me, maybe because I calls him by his name.
I don’t really like being on the plane, especially alone because I don’t know what to do and it’s just so boring. The personal entertainment device makes me sick somehow. I don’t know if it is because of my cancer or it has been always like that. You see, I have never been in a long haul plane before so I never tried a personal entertainment device before. Even though I went on a plane which had a personal entertainment device, I never use them because I usually went traveling with Shannon and we had our own plane game such as word game, what if game, or we just talked non stop.
I tried the personal entertainment device just now and it made me sick. I was okay to wear earphone until recently. Maybe it is the cancer after all.
The cancer… I sigh. What would I do with it? What would it feel to be dead? Am I ready? Does anyone in this plane worry about being dead? With excitement about Paris, I feel scared of dying and I feel sad. Should I start having treatments?
Then it hits me. The reason why I wanted to commit suicide at the first place is because I felt lonely. And I still am. A tear drops on my cheeks as I turn off my reading light. I have to stop being so melodramatic. I lost my mom and my only friend, Shannon; I don’t have any reason to stay alive.
I look out through the plane window beside my face, staring at darkness and my mind starts to wander about my mom. What did she think when she was about to die? Did she know Dad was the one who killed her? If heaven did really exist, could she look down to us and find out that her husband was the one who put thyme on her tacos? Would she be broken hearted?
My mother died on the kitchen floor because of her allergy. Her throat and lungs were swollen so badly, she couldn’t breathe. She died in front of me before the ambulance even came. Her injections were always on her wardrobe but there were none to be found on that day. We also never stocked thyme in our house but two days after the accident, I found the rest of the thymes in the trash.
I moved out from the house after my mom’s cremation and never talked to my dad or my brother anymore. They also never seemed to find me because I always sent money for them every month. I could just leave them without any trace but I was living by myself and my salary as a designer was more than enough to feed me. My Dad was just a construction worker and my brother was still in his never ending university so I figured they could use a little help. I was afraid that my Dad would use the money for gambling, so I registered his name to be on the exemption list of every Casino island-wide.
My Dad had always been a happy old man until he started to have gambling problem which caused all the family saving except my college funds which Mom kept in a secret saving account. When my Dad found out I had the money to go to college, he was mad at hell. He beat my Mom for lying to him and asked my mom to just kill herself so he could take all of her CPF money. I was so scared and so angry in the same time. I promised myself to get Mom out of this house once I had my own job.
That never happened because my Mom died 8 months after the incident. She died because of eating tacos that contained thymes, which were very deadly to her.
The saddest thing is that my dad was the one who made the tacos.
I can’t stop the burning sensation in my heart. I feel the anger again and it is eating me alive as the tears can’t stop streaming down from my eyes. I never believe in love because of them. I always blame my parents for the person I turned out to be; gloomy, negative, cynical and suicidal. It is dark on the plane and I assume everybody is asleep. So I do the thing I’m best at, crying to sleep.
I open my eyes because my neck is in an uncomfortable position and it hurts like hell. The plane is still so dark and everyone is still asleep. I lift up my window and it is dark as well. My watch shows it had been 7 hours since I fell asleep but it hasn’t been morning yet. I guess it’s the time difference because I’m scheduled to arrive at Paris on seven in the morning so I have a longer night on the plane.
I step out to the aisle carefully so I don’t wake the old man up. I think he fell asleep while reading his magazine because the magazine is still on his lap and the eyeglass is still hanging on his nose. I need to take the magazine and put it on the space between us so I can walk by him easily. I stretch out my spine and my hands once I stand free on the aisle. A short little sting hit my left breast so I groan a little.
I usually never notice any pain in my body, more of like I never care but since the cancer thing appeared on my conscious; I have felt even the littlest pain that occurred in my body which Dr. Boey said it’s normal. So, having cancer apparently is a normal excuse for being paranoid.
The glow-in-the-dark line guides me to the lavatory where I wash my face and brush my teeth. I’m staring at my face for about two minutes, with a blank mind. There’s nothing different from my face after the cancer hit me. I don’t look pale and my hair is still attached on my head. I still look normal. But how long does it take until Dr. Boey’s medication runs out and I start to look different? How long does it take until I start to look cancer-y?
Somebody knocks my lavatory door, “Are you okay inside?”
“Yeah.” I reply, “Will be out in a minute.”
The old man is still sleeping when I come back to my seat. Again I carefully walk pass him, trying not to wake him up and sit soundly on my seat. I open my handbag and took out the blue journal that belonged to my mother. I just flip back and forth without knowing what I’m doing, just trying to kill time. That is when I realize, there’s something weird in this journal.
I touch the pages of the journal, I feel it with the tips of my fingers, and I try to find the answer to the oddness I feel. The thread on some pages feels a little loose as if it isn’t sewn properly and the hard back cover seems too thick for this type of journal. Why does it feel so odd for me? It’s just a journal for god’s sake! Stop thinking too much!
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are preparing for landing. Please fasten your seatbelt, make sure your window shades are open and place your seat up right…” as the flight attendant continues to inform us about the preparation for landing, I open the window shade and realize I’m watching a sunrise from an airplane. It is a breathtaking view I’m looking at now, the most amazing sunrise I have ever seen in my life.
Somehow, this sunrise gives me a good feeling, a feeling that my life won’t end in Paris. In fact, it is probably just about to start.