Halfway Out

Posted on February 6, 2011


She was standing there. At the sliding gate in front of the ivory house by the side of the road’s curvy part. In the glare of the dim sunshine, in the sudden swirl of the dry wind, in the onset of uncertainties. Everything was uncertain that time, the weather could change anytime like the way the blithe of cumulus turns its face into dreary drizzles. She wore a crocheted poncho with a shade of pale salmon, matching sleepers and a beige dress hanging down to ankle-length. She was looking at me, with her doe-eyes, sagged skin and fine lines on her face. Here a line, there a line, everywhere a line, line.

She was looking at me as I noticed a familiar sound came closer.

When I looked back, a truck appeared from the other side of the curve and pulled directly into my path. Before my reflex told me to jump aside, it had drifted away senselessly and screeched in burning sound on the road’s surface. My body was intact except I could feel my heart hitting my throat, but thanks to the strong heart I have elaborated through working in social care. Ten years ago, this place was almost nothing. People were friendly and life was very laid back far from the downtown. The only machinations were urban legends among kids told by the older ones. And one of them was standing in front of me.

There was this ivory house stood  near our house. There lived two old ladies who often seen in the yard of  lush verdure, the one watering flowers, and the other one knitting or playing with cats on the front porch. People rarely saw them setting foot outside the fine white gate, that spanned elegantly as high as my father’s chin. Most people assumed they were sisters, some thought they were twins, but more vigilant ones would say that they had no blood relation at all. After a very brief encounter, I’ve perceived myself as one of the latter.

Nobody knew how long they had been living in our neighborhood, nobody knew their ages. When we were little, our older brothers and sisters told us that Asians eat rodents, bats and snakes; and they aren’t fond of locals, and everything else that made them the very personification of evil. But today, my coming back to hometown was a disclosure that the two women who came to my life along my holiday season were far nobler ladies that the ones I had previously imagined.

It was that next day after my arrival when I decided to assist Miss Amya upon Miss Anahi’s request. My Dad said it was a very decent action when I told him that his only son would be visiting the ivory house more often.

That dim afternoon was the moment we first talked to each other. The one who stood between the gate was Miss Amya. I knew it later after Miss Anahi, whose hair was shorter and straighter showed up from the main door in grey sweater and peach dress. She held Miss Amya’s by the hand to lead her in and asked me to join for a talk over tea on the porch. She told me how Miss Amya’s condition was getting worse. That was when Miss Anahi asked me, earnestly with her bleary red eyes, to take care of her loved one.

It’s called the sundown syndrome, I told her.

We watched golden sun sunk silently at the far side of the white gate.


*  *  *


When I came back the other day I noticed that “Ahn”, the surname they shared, was engraved on the door name plates. I came across the front porch and entered the living room. A repertoire of photographs and souvenirs from all around the world where they modeled like the forgotten stars you adore, was meticulously put together. Some hung on the richly colored walls, some stood on the pale wooden furniture. All of those ornate furniture in the house, the decorative carvings, the paintings of bamboo, fish and bird; transferred me to the other hemisphere.

All those photographs and statement pieces lent a touch to something not too opulent, but rich of story, the kind of live they had left far behind. It seemed like they had jetted around the world to go to thousand places and crush themselves to thousand engagements with thousand people, like they had spent all of their social time together without anyone knowing the secret language of their own that made them look so much after another. To me, they didn’t look like twins, even sisters. They were just strangers with such kind of bonding that even blood relation is disregarded.

It didn’t surprised me that Miss Amya asked for things a thousand times, and told us that she had already eaten every time I tried to persuade her at the dinner time. When I almost gave myself up, Miss Anahi did nothing to her but brushing the strings of the supple silver waves that fell to Miss Amya’s shoulders. Now, their hair were mostly white and silver, leaving the vigorous images from over fifty years ago caged inside the picture frames. While young Miss Amya mostly left her wavy bedhead black at different lengths and cuts, young Miss Anahi seemed like a living mood ring with her continuous alteration of color scheme. With every other precise and abundant details from the photographs, the difference between the two was unsubtle yet perfect. They were a completion for one another. So impeccable that in the world of todays, they would be those avant-pop sensation and psychedelic philosopher.

Both of us had hoped that we might someday go somewhere and just vanish. But when we found this house to keep us inside in peace, suddenly our wishes gone forever.

Miss Anahi told me as I hold a picture frame where the two were captured waving from a doorless little airplane, both looked loose, weightless in the air. Words written on it,

‘Our lights scattered, makes the sky looks blue.’

It was when we explored Peru. And this.. Amya took this picture.

She pointed at an aerial photograph of Nazca lines, it was the bird one.

It’s actually a song. My mother had hoped me to become an entertainer, but as she discovered that I hadn’t inherited the talent, she’d switched me to join the choir..

I helped her pulling the piano bench across the rug, and she taught me about half of the song, or should I say, chants. A story unraveled from that one line written on the photograph. As her fingers moved in rhythm, another statement piece circled on her left wrist stole my attention. Faith was declared from the silver plate of the bracelet. And that night I didn’t sleep. I was drowned and daunted by their world of interdependency. I tried to speculate the fractures and turbulence in their lives like many other people generally. I tried to figure out any of world’s radical change they had witnessed, which turned out in vain because such things could only be ascribed to them. Before I realized, a bird perched on my window, giving me a blank, uncertain moment before I fell asleep.

*  *  *

On that grey evening, Miss Amya was standing midway the gate, like the first day I met her. This time the gate was slid open to a full exposure of the ivory house. She had one foot out, and the other one was closely parted, behind the rail. She smiled at me, and with that smile I knew that she still remembered me. I asked her if she was okay, because I knew that the gate was very heavy since it hadn’t been used for years. She didn’t bother anything from me. Instead, she talked with a gentle smile on her face,

There was this lady inside the house.. She was so gentle and nice, she reminded me to put on my sleepers. I wonder who she is.

I saw Miss Anahi on the front door, her hand resting on on side of the door jamb. She touched the knitwear around her wrist. I wished I could brave myself more before I talk to Miss Anahi, I wished I could hide this uncertain feeling, but all I could do was to pin my eyes to the emotionless facade of the ivory house. I didn’t want to stop there. I shifted my mind to take Miss Amya’s illness and Miss Anahi’s sufferings with all its pungent details professionally, and entered the house.

Another day, it was raining outside of the window. In the bedroom full of portrait paintings, Miss Amya was lying on an ivory bed where she spent days of prolonged sleep without any intakes. We coaxed her to eat for the thousandth times, but she insisted that she had dinner many times and now that she was ready to go home.

This is already home, I heard Miss Anahi behind me in the raspy silkiness of her voice. She sat by Miss Amya’s side, held the weary hand and started to chant,

‘Our lights scattered.. makes the sky looks blue..’

But Miss Amya was halfway out the gate, and the rain outside was moving into the bedroom.

That moment, I was very certain that they were immortal.




2nd of February,

13,000 feet above,

edited on the 7th.

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