Slowly, we will both forget this. We’re not even a pair of lovers.
A can of warm soda becomes my escape as I struggle to deal with this loss.
I’m still sitting here, in the same position you saw me in just moments ago when you woke me up so gently and softly whispered those words.
I prayed those words would never come. But come they did.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I never really slept. I closed my eyes because I was begging the universe would let me safely keep this moment — just this one moment — in a tiny little snowglobe for me to look into whenever I try to find happiness in my mundane world.
It was only moments ago that you stepped out of this train, walked off into your city’s station after that characteristic awkwardness of ours. The awkwardness of a child just caught committing a first sin. An awkwardness all too familiar.
Some sad, lonely country music is seeping through the train doors. The station really is working its hardest to turn itself into some pathetic stage for my pathetic emotions.
Hey, do you realize something? We had a train station goodbye. How cheesy is that? Every pulp romance novel ever has that train station when a pair of lovers say goodbye to one another.
Did those characters feel the way I did, though, I wonder? Maybe. But maybe not. Because characters who part in those stories usually come back together again after a time, riding off into the sunset towards a happy ending.
That is what will never happen to us, B. We’re not fictional characters of some cheesy, sentimental writer.
We’re not even a pair of lovers.
I write this story as soon as you were ten feet out the train. Just after I got your text message. Before the train would start again to its end, an end where all fates go.
Our encounter can be counted in mere weeks, not even months. But that’s not a problem, is it? You can fall in love in three seconds, after all. Or, you know, say hi to an attractive stranger and find him smiling back at you, with a smile that could melt mountaintops, and then you let him sweep up your entire world, sending it hurling in a hurricane of the most unforgiving love story ever told.
I have a million stories like that one, B — I’m an amateur writer, you see.
What I don’t have are the simple stories. Just like the one you gave me mere moments ago.
I remember all of our moments. Minutes ago or four weeks ago. I remember how I struggled just to catch a glimpse of your back. How I kept trying to find reasons just to talk to you with the oldest tricks in the books. How we eventually talked of the marionettes up above with strings more subtle than a spider’s web. About how little we all know and yet how much we think we do. About our dreams, the dreams that brought us to that town. All those in our little coffee shop talks that were never too special, yet very much unforgettable, as if frozen in time.
And yet time moves on, B.
Outside, night climbed and descended. My eyes open and close, but I remain wide awake. The train carries me in its strange, sorrowful crawl. Outside, tiny shops and quaint little houses begin to show, near the mosques and the giant trucks traveling hither and tither, strangely shaped objects in tow. Dots and streaks of white, yellow, and red whizz past, painting everything into one giant blur of space dust.
I am whisked away, trapped in a tin can whizzing through outer space in a silent sci-fi skit. I’m heading home from a mission in a beautiful corner of a galaxy.
I’m heading home from a dream.
To my left: nothing. No more shoulder for me to rest my head upon. It was there mere hours ago, when we finally decided to let our heads touch, our fingers intertwining in the silence.
We, too, were silent. You’ve never been a man of many words. It was a perfect, simple stillness. I tried hard to ignore the sounds of the train wheel, taking us closer and closer to an inevitable moment.
I did ignore it. Until you whispered to me that we are here.
Three hours to my final stop. Three hours to where the only man I am supposed to love is waiting for me.
Remember that old lady we talked with earlier? She’s fast asleep now, mouth half open. I stand up and walk down the train corridor. Most people are still asleep. Some are engaged with their phones — telling their loved ones they will be home in a few hours, no doubt.
I take out my phone and read your message once again.
“See you later.”
There is no when. Perhaps because there will never be one. This is the end, after all. From nothing, to nothing.
I walk back to my seat. I take my half-empty can of soda and drink it. What once held wild promises now just mocks me with its bland, awful taste.
Slowly, we will both forget this. I’m coming back to the man who is waiting for me, after all. And you — who knows? Maybe you will meet someone new, and a few more. We will say hi over e-mails, saying we have to meet up one day, while realizing full well it will never happen. Maybe we will smile upon chance encounters within crowds, when our hands are holding those belonging to the people we are supposed to love.
I sigh a heavy sigh and let my body slump over to the window. My forehead sticks to the glass. I wipe the mouth of the soda can with my fingers.
Fleetingly, the lyrics of a song I know so well come into my head. It was a song about windows and soda cans.
Yes. This is all I need.
See you later.
This has been a short story by Lidya P. Ayuningtyas, translated by Bonni Rambatan. For more stories like this, please follow Pleasure & Pain, our Medium publication that explore the complex intricacies of love, sex, and relationships. To write for us, simply tweet the editor at @bonni07.
If you like discussions on storytelling, check out Narrative Design, a podcast on art, literature, and critical theory hosted by the editor of this collection.