Sinking (Dee Why Beach, Sydney, Australia) Zen and I stood by her bus stop at the airport waiting for it to arrive. We were still buzzing from seeing “Avatar” at the 4D cinema. “So when do you leave for Sydney?” she asked. “I leave on Sunday.” “It’s a shame you are leaving.” “Yeah, I am not looking forward to working over the holidays. It’s the first time that I haven’t spent Christmas at home in thirty-six years.” “Too bad.” She said. “If you were staying in Hong Kong, you could hang out with my family – and you could claim them as yours.” “Thanks for the offer.” And we stood in the sudden cold snap that had enveloped Hong Kong. Suddenly, we saw the convoy of the transportation buses arrive and circle around and all stopping at the designated numbers. The last bus to arrive was Zen’s. We were near the end of the line waiting but suddenly we felt the urgency to say our goodbyes. “When will I see you again?” I asked as we moved forward. “I leave for Malaysia sometime early January. And how about you? When do you get back?” “I get back on the eighth of January.” And I counted there were only four more people left to get on the bus. I heard the ding of each person’s Octopus card. It was at that moment Zen and I realized we wouldn’t see each other for a month. Then suddenly a three hour movie didn’t seem like enough time to reconnect as friends. Zen looked saddened, “So I am not sure when we will see each other again, huh?” “Yeah.” and I looked down at the ground. And then there was only an older woman who took her time to pull herself into the bus. I quickly leaned forward and hugged her. “Funny how life is flying by.”
“Have a good birthday party tomorrow.” She said and she squeezed back. “Happy holidays.” “Yes, Merry Christmas!” And then I noticed she was next and people were getting anxious behind us. I pulled Zen to the side and we let the others pass us. “I am going to miss you. Shame we didn’t get to talk.” Zen noticed my face. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing. I guess it’s just me getting older.” She laughed. “Yeah, you are old now.” I feigned a laugh back at her. “Yeah in an hour or so.” “And you are going to have an awesome birthday party tomorrow night at the comedy club.” She reached out and touched my arm. “So sorry I can’t make it.” I smiled. “Well, I don’t think I would remember you if you came. Might be a lot of alcohol involved.” “See! We can hang out when you get back to Hong Kong.” That’s when we looked around and noticed nobody was getting on the bus. The driver looked angrily at Zen. “You need to get on.” I told her quickly. We hugged quickly and squeezed harder. When she pulled away she looked at me, “See you next year.” “See you next year.” I stood there and watched her get on and swipe her Octopus card. Before she grabbed a seat, the doors shut and the bus lurched forward. And just like that and in a cloud of diesel exhaust, I was left alone. I walked slowly back inside the airport. I went upstairs to Mix and when the Nepalese manager saw me, she smiled and went ahead and punched in a Wow Spunky Monkey. I smiled back and put my hands together. “Namaste.” “Namaste.” She said back. Then the amount showed up on the LED and I pulled out my Octopus card and put it down to pay. I moved out of the way to wait for my drink and pulled out my Blackberry to see the time and noticed it was thirty minutes until midnight; thirty minutes until I was thirty-six.
“Sir,” the Nepalese woman said to me handing out the drink with a straw in it out to me. “Donnie bad.” I said hoping I said thank you in Nepalese correctly. Judging from her reaction – I didn’t or she didn’t recognize it because of my horrible English accent. I walked out to the middle of the waiting area outside Arrivals in the airport. I saw the couples and the families being reunited. And I remembered months ago standing at this very spot – seeing Sophia round the corner out of Customs and break into a smile when she saw me. I also remember feeling her come up to me and me taking her into my arms and suddenly feeling her mouth on mine. Then we would rush to the Airport Express and get to my flat as quickly as we could – because I hardly had the patience to wait before I began ripping her clothes off. And she mine. Then sometime around 3 in the morning we ended up being a sweaty heap either on the bed, on the floor – or sometimes both – her naked body, my naked body hanging off the bed and with her head on the floor. Now I stood alone. I watched the others rejoining. I saw couples kiss. I saw families hug. But I watched biased because they didn’t seem to have what I once had. I remembered standing there – simmering – simmering with a fire - a fire that I wanted to devour or I wanted it to devour me. And then when I saw Sophia’s eyes – I saw that fire in her eyes. I looked up and saw the departures area above me. I saw people sliding across on the moving walkways and remembered myself – two years before I met Sophia – almost three years to today – that was the day I first met Eve - also on my birthday eve. It was the day before boarding my flight around the world, Eve and I were sitting at the Pacific Coffee in front of the moving walkways at the airport – discussing who we were, what we wanted, and why we felt lost. And I remembered leaning in, kissing, and tasting Eve’s tongue when we said our first goodbye – as if we were old lovers – or lovers from our previous life. Then we turned and disappeared from each other. Then suddenly I was back to my present. I was standing there surrounded by hundreds of strangers – alone. I suddenly was filled with fear. A sinking feeling enveloped me.
I walked a slow walk from the IFC to the Macau Ferry Terminal. It was past midnight, it was now officially my birthday, and there were very few people out – and I seemed to walk slower and slower as I stared out at the harbor. I thought to myself, what would happen if I disappeared? I walked like I was mesmerized by the lapping waves of the ocean. My computer bag was slung across my shoulder and it felt heavier and heavier. I felt my footsteps getting harder to make. I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore, I said to myself. What else do I have to do? What have I not already done? Then I shook the thoughts out of my head because I know it’s the dark side of my brain trying to prevent me from tomorrow which is always stronger, better, more fulfilling than today. If I killed myself, what would be the point? Then the other side of my brain, you are selfish. Aren’t you afraid of hurting everyone who loves you. Do you want to continue living this way? Remember, everyone you truly loved – left you. Your biological father, your mother, your ex-wife, and Eve. And you hurt Sophia so bad she gave up on you. Why love anyone? Shutup, I told myself. You shut up. It would only be appropriate that you die on your birthday. And I stopped where the walkway turned and jutted out overlooking the ocean. I looked around and saw nobody. I stared down at black that was the ocean. Saw the waves crashing, lapping, foaming. If I jumped off, my computer bag would hold me down. Keep me sinking, sinking. Sinking. Even if I tried to struggle to keep myself above the surface – I still would descend. Or maybe the pollution in the water would do its damage – and even if a good Samaritan jumped in and saved me – the pollutants would give me cancer. “What the fuck are you thinking?” I said aloud. And looked around to see if anyone heard me talking to myself. But there was no one.
You have a comedy show tomorrow night, I said inside. I stood there feeling the ocean wind push against me. And against every wish inside – I walked away from the railing and inside the Macau Terminal Ferry - inside the automatic glass doors - into the white fluorescent lights. I walked but the emptiness kept swelling. The fear growing within me that I was living a life with no reason. Without warning I felt myself crying. You are a pussy, I said to myself. You have nothing. You are walking to an empty an apartment. Everything you own can fit inside a suitcase. You have no relationships. No children. You are a man with no home. Fuck you, I said to myself. I stopped walking and just stood there. And then put my fingers in my eyes and pushed down the tears. I was standing beside the closed Kentucky Fried Chicken where Eve and I had once sat talked about the future of us. “You will grow tired of me,” she had said. “You need to live your life. And Sophia loves you very much.” “But I loved you first,” I had told her. “But I wasn’t available.” “Now you are,” I added. Eve was quiet. “I am afraid.” The next morning after we made love, she left a folded piece of paper on my desk in my apartment. Standing there in the Macau Ferry terminal, I pulled out my wallet and took it out – that folded piece of paper - the most prized possession out from its secret compartment. Her poem began “Beautiful, The day you loved me With your soul Without even knowing me You gave me life
You were born, Beautiful.” I finished reading and re-folded it. Before returning it to my wallet, I kissed it twice. Then I mustered the strength to go home. At home, my mind had been correct. My apartment was empty and I was alone. And I saw my suitcase in the corner – ready for me to pack everything I own inside. I took my shoes off and sat down at my MacBook. I sent Eve an email. But I knew she wouldn’t respond. “Thank you for my early birthday gift – your poem. It saved my life. It is filled with love. Miss you.” Then I took my Blackberry and called Sophia. I sobbed uncontrollably. And I apologized for hurting her – and I repeatedly told her a million times – she deserves all the happiness. And I asked her multiple times, “Do you think we can be friends?” She was quick to say, “Yes, of course! Why are you sad? You are one of the luckiest men alive.” “I know. But I am just afraid. I am stupid.” “Well I won’t disagree with you. You are stupid. You gave this hot girl up.” I laughed. “Yes, I did. And I am sorry.” The phone was quiet for a moment and I thought we got disconnected. “Hey, I forgive you. Let’s move on. Besides our lives together is not finished yet, okay?” I took in a big breath. “Yeah, okay.” Finally Sophia and I said our goodbyes. And just before falling into bed, I did a refresh of my email, and I had a new message. “You are welcome. I miss you too. Happy birthday. Love. Eve.”
Erik and I had known each other nearly eight years – first meeting in North Carolina – just after I had gotten married. And then I attended his going away party for moving to Australia. He was one of the inspirations for me to move to Europe with my wife. After living in Australia all this time, he had just returned from a six weeks visit to the States and he too was spending Christmas alone – so we thought we would synergize our homsickness.
His house was empty of furniture because he had only moved in two weeks before. It was Christmas Day and I woke up on the air mattress that Erik had bought for me.
My Blackberry had a message from Isra when I checked it, “Working Christmas – not that busy. Everyone gone home. But it makes me feel alone.” I sent back, “Know this – you are never alone. I am here. If you ever need to talk – sms me and I will call you back.” “You are very sweet.” She responded back. Erik found some bread in his cupboard and I had my first taste of Vegemite smeared on toasted bread. I also ate two bananas and drank water from the tap. When I went to take a shower, I couldn’t find any shampoo. Just a bar of soap. So I used it to wash my body and lathered my hands and washed my hair. “Hey man,” I said when I was out. “Why don’t you have any shampoo?” “Why does anyone need it?” he shot back. “People need to have or buy too many things. I live a minimalist lifestyle. Reminds me of all the things in life that you really don’t need. Commercials and corporations just make you think you need them.” I nodded. “True.” “Fucking right its true!” he said and pushed his long, sun bleached blonde hair out of his face. “There are only two things that are real in this life. And neither one of them have to deal with money.” “Go on,” I prodded. “You need to see this movie on Youtube.com called ‘Zeitgeist’,” he said. “But what are the two things that are real?” “Fear and love. That’s the only things that are real. The only two things that motivate us.” “How about those who are in fear of love? Or those who love to fear?” “Their life feels empty. You can’t do both. You either feel love. Or you either feel fear.” And he disappeared into his room and closed the door.
The weather in Sydney had turned rainy and cold – which was unlike typical Australian summer Christmas. “You brought this weather here, Jackson.” Erik said with a sideways grin. We drove in his 4x4 to Dee Why or DY Beach one of the Northern Beaches in Sydney which was only a kilometer from his house. We took with us one of his long boards – for me – and a short board – for him. The beach on Chirstmas Day was already half packed. There were a group of surfers wearing Santa Claus outfits. Erik and I paddled out into the ocean and the waves were rolling in. I underestimated how strong they were. Erik gave me some basic tips – never to put the board between me and the waves or it would knock me down. He showed me how to paddle out. He showed me how to wait for a wave. He supervised me for a couple of waves and then he went onshore to watch from a far. And out in the ocean, I felt a bit awkward. I straddled my board but would rock and nearly topple over – so I laid on it like I was riding a wild horse who didn’t know me yet. I rode a couple of small waves in but couldn’t stand up – but nearly got to my knees. My body quickly got tired because I was using muscles I had never used before. But I didn’t give up. And once I paddled out further than I had before. I paddled out where the more experienced surfers waited – sitting, waiting for the bigger waves to come in. And then the ocean surface began swelling, bulging, and descending. And then suddenly, the waves began to climb out of the ocean surface, rise, rise, and then spout out – then crash in a foamy resistance. Then crest again – stronger and higher. A couple of the waves I passed over. But then just a little out – I saw a big one rise, grow, push forward. I struggled to straighten myself on my board and then I paddled forward – my left hand – then my right hand. But my board and I seemed to get sucked backward. And when the wave crested, it crashed hard and pulled me down with it – and the board disappeared out from under me – and I descended underneath. With the power of the wave pushing down on my head, my body – I was sinking. Sinking. Sinking. I struggled to push up and my feet could not find the sandy bottom. I paddled, I cupped my hands and dredged my way upward without moving. My heart started beating fast,
my lungs needed air. I could feel the rip current tugging me – pulling on me – but I tried to go sideways in the water and push up to the surface. But again I felt I was sinking. I was sinking. And then finally I just launched upward and my head broke through the surface. And I gasped for breath just as another wave crashed down on my head. I went under again but quickly re-surfaced. And there I was – and in front of me was my board – being tossed about – covered in salty foam. I swam forward but I felt weak. As I tried to swim – I felt weaker and I felt I was not going anywhere. I paddled harder but then another wave crashed on top of me – and I felt myself going down, going down – and suddenly – my feet touched the bottom and I launched up and reached out – reached out – and touched my board. Then using my board – as the waves crashed over me – I pushed to the shore. Erik was pretending to be asleep on the beach when I finally collapsed beside him. His board was stuck head first in the sand. He spoke without opening his eyes, “Dude, I forgot to ask you the most important question.” I gasped trying to catch my breath, “Yeah, what was that?” “Do you know how to swim?” And with that he cracked one eye open to look at me. “Yeah, it’s just been awhile.” He leaned up. “Hey, I don’t want to bring you out here for you to die on Christmas Day.” I coughed a little but then breathed in slowly. And my thoughts inside matched the words about to come out of my mouth, “No man. I am not ready to die yet. Too much I go to do. Too much I still got to say. I got a lot of living to do.” And then I thought about his comments earlier and added. “I have too much to love.” Erik knew what I was saying and he threw out, “Yeah, man, fuck fear.”
Written by GS Jackson, © 2009 LOL Entertainment Group, LLC (USA) Limited (HKG)