Let it Last Forever
That one particular morning, on that one day you couldn't forget… I'm pretty sure everyone has dreaded that moment. I'm sitting on my bed, and I'm closing my eyes. I'm thinking about everything that has happened, and I'm wondering how I'll be able to let it all go.
My name is Rick. I'm a chicken farmer, along with my mother and sister. I suppose anyone would wonder, where's the father in this tiny little family? Well, the truth is, I don't know. He took off one day because he said he'd be able to find a cure for my mother, who has this disease. I was so young that I can't remember him much now, except vague memories of his young face or the sound of his name.
Rod, Rod, Rod, Rod.
If I say it enough times, it just sounds like useless sounds, replaying and unheard. But I can hear them. That's exactly what I'm thinking too when I say my sister's name.
Popuri, Popuri. Popuri.
Popuri is leaving. She was proposed to… and not only was she requested to be engaged and married, but to leave her home, her town, her family— to leave, are the keywords. She sealed the deal with a yes. Worst of all, she married a man I don't approve of— Kai. It's not like he's a heavy drinker or anything extreme, but he's a traveler. My father was a traveler as well. And a traveler's duty is not to stay in one place too long. To search every speck and dust of the world, and not to stop until you've fulfilled this life-long journey.
I hate them both, because they're tearing my family apart.
When I was little, my family was my arms. I grew up cradled in a blue blanket in my mother's arms as she sang songs to me at my bed. I grew up leering at my sister as she stole all the attention when I was old enough to know what jealousy felt like. I grew up following in my great ancestors' footsteps; to be a chicken farmer. I grew up with my mother's cautions, like "Don't talk to strangers" or "Don't stay out after dark" and things like that. They raised me with one clear message.
Family is forever.
…So why did Dad leave, and why is Popuri next in line? My mother already has a sickness, so will she be next? Or if I drown in my piteous and lonely self, will I? Loneliness is a popular thing to be afraid of. But there's no need to be afraid anymore. I'm already lonely. What I'm afraid of is the stage after loneliness… if I've already been so weakened by the lack of male parent, what will happen with lack of siblings? I love Popuri. I watched her grow every step of the way, and kind of mothered her as well.
I pushed her on the swing and made sure she held on tight so she wouldn't fall. I waited outside the doorstep even on the coldest, windiest winter nights to make sure she got home. When she did, I'd wrap a blanket around her and she'd take the hot chocolate that was no longer hot by the mantelpiece, and I'd sit her down by the fire and get her a change of dry clothes.
If she didn't return, I would run from door to door, demanding if they'd seen a cheery pink-haired girl. I would fly off my rocker, worry more than my own mother did, and go into hysterics. But when I saw my sister's face, oblivious to my actions, all that would die. I'd feel happy, I'd embrace her, and I'd only hug tighter when she told me I was being embarrassing.
But there were some not-so-good times. Whenever the mention of Dad came to discussion, especially at the dinner table, bullets would fire and hell would break loose. He was an irresponsible, foolish idiot, was what I said when I was that angry. Of course, I didn't completely believe it— I just wanted to. I didn't want to go with Popuri's theory of him being a great, caring father that cared enough to go help Mom. I didn't want to live with the burden of knowing I had a great dad I'd never get to know. I wanted to believe I hated him so I wouldn't miss him.
Popuri, though. I know Popuri and I love her. I can't fake hating her; I can't act like I'll never miss her when she leaves. So what can I do?
That's why I'm sitting here and closing my eyes, thinking. Because I'm trying to find out.
The boat leaves in twenty minutes, and I'm still here. Popuri's probably wondering where I am— I know she loves me too, and I can't deny it's mutual. I don't know why I won't see her off. Will it hurt too much? What if she sees me cry? I'm her big brother; I'm supposed to be the role model. She can't see me weak, especially as our last encounter. Our last goodbye. I wouldn't allow it.
The house is empty. Mom's at the beach with her; I know because she was helping her pack and have a girl-to-girl talk. I guess she doesn't think Popuri's decision is that great either. Yet she lets her go. She lets her take off into an unknown world, far too large for anyone to navigate, with a man she's only known for a few years, or less. When all along her family has been there for her the entire step of the way. What kind of mother is that?
Ten minutes. Would the better question be… what kind of brother am I?
My eyes are still closed. If a zombie were in the room beside me, I wouldn't know. And if I did know, I wouldn't care. Because all I could think of was my sister. And I don't want to forget. What will become of me without that every-morning smile? Was I taking here presence for granted the entire time?
There was a knock on my door. Popuri? My head's spinning. She'll miss her boat! Maybe she changed her mind and she's coming back!! My thoughts are wiped clean, and I can't decide if that's a good thing or not. So I race down the stairs, and let the occurrence make up my mind.
It's not Popuri. It's Karen. My girlfriend. And pretty much the only person in the world besides my detaching family that really cares about me. If I propose to her one day and she accepts, I'll never leave town. I couldn't do that to my mother.
"Rick?" She looks sad. I told her this was the day Popuri would be leaving. "Why aren't you…"
She doesn't finish, because she doesn't have to. I don't reply and regret coming downstairs already. I love her, but there are times in life where love isn't comfort enough. I wanted to be alone, to think— to make sure I would never forget.
"Rick, you have to go to the beach."
The direct tone in her voice makes me weak. "Karen…" I whisper, feeling the red-hot tears rise. "I can't."
She looks defiant. It's her character. "Rick, you have to."
"I don't have to do anything."
"Rick—" She seems to be holding back some waterworks too. "You want to."
"I did. You did. You love her."
Now I'm starting to feel angry. She's my girlfriend, so shouldn't she understand? "There are times," I began, "when the human mind wants to be alone—"
"Are you telling me to leave?"
I feel surprised, but the mere thought of Popuri is enough to make me feel small again. Like the big-brother-guardian has lost its purpose because who he's guarding has a new protector. The glassiness of my eyes shallow, I look down and choke, "Karen, I'm sorry. That's not what I mean. But it would be best if you…"
"Rick, if you love her… go." She ignores my frozen face, her voice rising. "If you really, truly loved her, you would go to the beach and see her off."
I feel slapped. I look up furiously; adamantly, I scream. "ARE YOU TELLING ME I DON'T LOVE HER?" Then I stop. I think about what just happened. And I start laughing.
Karen's dumbfounded, of course. "That's not what I…"
I don't let her finish her sentence. "Karen, she's my sister. She's Popuri. She's—" What else is she? I couldn't say how I felt, I just couldn't. "I… love her." That said it all.
She smiled softly, but I could tell she still was strong. "Rick, Kai's stalling the boat."
I blinked. "What?"
"Popuri started crying like mad, saying she wouldn't go. Kai's stalling the boat."
Despite how little I liked him, I felt shattered. "Why doesn't she…?" My throat's dry.
All of a sudden, Karen's rough again. I can always trust her to tell me the truth— she's really well at telling me the ones that really hurt. "She says she won't go unless her big brother is there to say that last goodbye. She's sitting on the beach, getting sand in her new lovely dress, crying and pulling Kai down with her. And what are you doing, Rick?"
I know it's a rhetorical question, but I answer, just in my mind. I'm pretending I'm the only one.
She read my thoughts, somehow. "You're pretending it's just you in the world. Poor Rick; no daddy and no sister!" She knew she hit a hard vein, and I knew too, but she did nothing short of a blink. "It's all about him, isn't it? He doesn't understand it's hard for her too. When he proposed to her, she didn't just think, 'Oh yay, adventure time! I can't wait to leave my family behind!' No! It hurt her to make this decision, Rick! Don't you get it? People move on! They change!"
Again, I closed my eyes, just to stop the tears. But they were flowing now.
A quiet voice ended the screaming. "Maybe I'm not the one that should be telling you this. But tell me you love her, Rick. Show me. Go to the beach."
I opened my mouth to reply, truly moved, when a blasting horn sounded through my ears. At the same time, Karen and I raced up the path; panting the instant we reached Rose Square.
"Please! My wife's just trying really hard to make up her mind right now, er, something about underwear, so if you could please, please just wait a little longer while she can think…"
"No! I've kept this blasted boat here long enough! I'm leaving, with or without passengers!"
For a second, I forgot Karen was there. I let go of her arm, which I had been squeezing for mental support, and flung myself down the final steps that led me to the beach. Tripping, falling, and sprinting to get back up, my glasses flew off in the process but I kept running.
"STOP!" I screamed. "DON'T LEAVE YET!"
I saw a blurry, pink figure move towards me, but I couldn't make it out due to my terrible eyesight. Arms whipped around me and I felt my shoulder grow wet with another's tears.
"Rick! I-I thought you wouldn't come…" my little sister whispered.
I felt blissful, yet scared. "I thought I wouldn't either."
A loud, deafening honk rang through the air.
"Popuri! We have to get going, now!"
"Wait!" she hissed back in one of those voices you rarely heard your sister speak in. Her tone was butterfly-light again when she addressed me. "I'm gonna miss you so much, Rick."
I didn't reply. That short amount of time I held her in my arms, I savoured. I hated that I couldn't see her— but I had to keep this memory in my head. It was all mind-boggling, trying to believe that this girl I'd spent my entire life with was moving on, and I'd probably never see her again. The fare from here to the city was barely affordable already. And finance wasn't the only matter— what if she came back, and…
"What if you come back and you're not the same anymore? Or I'm not?" I asked her, feeling my role as "big" brother falter. "What if we forget each other and I have nothing to remember?"
"LET'S GET GOING ALREADY!!!!" HONK, HONK.
"We don't have childhood souvenirs like all the other kids, Popuri. Like Mary with that book, or Ann with that music box, or Elli with her pressed flower. I thought we'd be together forever, so I didn't think we'd need one. I thought wrong. And now—"
She hugged me tighter, and I felt her lean real close into my ear. "Then remember this moment," she said, and I felt special that I'd be the only one in the world to hear this message. "Remember this hug, the sound of my voice, the time we spent together. Never forget that, because it's all the memory we need."
I felt her pull away, but I didn't feel broken anymore.
I felt the last teardrop roll down my face, and there was none left. I didn't need anymore. As much as I'd miss her, I know I'd feel happy. Besides: I had all the memories in the world to treasure.
"I'll miss you, Rick!" I heard, with a swish in the water as she boarded the boat.
How I'd kill to find my glasses and be able to see one last look on her face. Fumbling back, I shoved them on my nose just in time to see the little boat detach from the dock and set off. Racing now, I was just about to come to a halt at the end of the dock and scream a memorable goodbye when—
When I slipped and fell in the water fully. As I treaded water and made my way to the surface, panting, I heard a willowing shriek. "My brother just fell into the water! He's drowning, he's drowning! Stop the boat!!"
"Too bad! Took us long enough to get here, and I'm not stoppin' now!"
I intervened before sparks flew. "I'm okay," I called to her, bobbing up and down in the salty sea. "I just fell."
And then I heard distant laughter, which tinkled despite how far away it was. "Oh, Rick. Never change."
And then I said my final goodbye, still soaking wet, and stared at the boat as it disintegrated into the horizon. Pulling myself onto shore, I suddenly heard a voice.
"I'm sorry, Rick. I shouldn't have pushed you into it. Were you too late?" Karen asked quietly.
I grinned back at her, feeling foolish and strange. "I wasn't. It's never too late."
"Oh, and since when did you pick up some new lines?"
I didn't respond. I just stared at her with this goofy, huge smile on my face. "She gave me something, something to remember her by."
"And what's that?"
"Memories. My life." My voice switched to low. "Everyone has to move on at one point, Karen. We all change."
I watched her scan me from my dripping-wet head to my fogged-up glasses to my shivering feet.
"You, Rick…" she shook her head, "you'll never change."
She took my arm and guided me back to my house, thinking aloud just to ease the silences.
Sometimes in life you had to move on. Even if you didn't want to, you had to. So you'd just have to deal with things, and to meet people, and let go of them. Family, I guess, isn't forever. And unless you hit your head real hard, memories are. So I'll never forget… anything.
"Karen?" I interrupted her mid-sentence on her tirade on how Duke never paid them at the supermarket.
She stopped rambling. "Yeah?"
"Will you be here… forever?"
I looked at her desperately, and felt like I was crashing when she looked hesitant. But a final smile sent all blackness down away.
"Nothing lasts forever, Rick," she finally toned sadly.
"But as long as it lasts, will you be here?"
We didn't speak the rest of the way to my house. I smiled as she opened the door and directed me in front of the fireplace with a steaming cup of hot chocolate, already in my room shuffling through my closet to find clean clothes.
Everything changes, and nothing lasts forever… it sounds like a bad omen. But if you look at it another way, well, no one said you had to change alone. You should never be alone. There are amazing people out there for you, and no matter who they are, they've got your back. They're there, even if one day they'll show up at your doorstep, completely different, looking completely different… completely changed…
But some people never change.
And for that, I wouldn't change a thing.