Art by Chandler Belaro
The night was cold and starless. Still, it was bright with just the city lights and the faint light of the moon. My bare feet touched the cold rail of the balcony. If people looked up where I stood, they probably would have just mistaken me as a window curtain swaying with the wind.
Just a step into the air and I’d fall.
I closed my eyes, and the remaining tears I was holding back fell down my cheeks. The wind blew colder and I softened my grip on the rail. I lifted a foot and felt the eternal hollowed space beneath. I let my hands go off the rail and took a step onto the air from the fifth floor of my apartment building.
I was ready to fall.
But I didn’t. My foot rested on another step, and my eyes snapped open. I was so sure I’d fall, but I was still there standing on the rail of my balcony like it suddenly stretched outward. I glanced behind me and took a peek of my purple room. It looked lonely as its owner was vacating for good. I felt bad for mom, imagining how she would arrange my desk messed with medical textbooks after finding my body smashed on the ground. I felt bad for the old landlady, wondering if any occupants would still like to rent this room knowing that the previous owner killed herself right on its balcony.
I took a deep breath as I glanced at my room one last time—my phone was still on the floor with its screen broken from hitting the wall after an argument with my mom. She told me to give up my dream of being a doctor because without the scholarship, there’d be no way we would afford med school, especially since she was the only one working for us with dad gone. My laptop was still displaying the photo of my cheating boyfriend and his new victim, and my bed was cluttered with pillows soaked with tears. Everything was how it was before I stepped out on the balcony—except for one thing.
That little pink teddy bear that sat on top of my pillows—just like how I was sure I should’ve fallen earlier, I knew that it shouldn’t be there because I lost it back when I was six.
I climbed back into my room to see the teddy bear closely. Its pink laced ribbon, red round nose, and heart-shaped paws with a little brown stain made my heart skip a beat—no doubt it was Carrie, my long lost toy. I recognized the brown stain that was from dad’s coffee which I accidentally spilled. The hot coffee had reached its paws, and I even placed a Band-Aid on it while I cried, afraid that it got burnt. But one day at the park, when I met new kids and played with them, I went home without Carrie. I knew I placed her somewhere at the park, but when dad came back, Carrie wasn’t there anymore. It took me a week to get over her.
Now I wondered how Carrie ended up on my bed after being lost for 13 years. The idea made me pace backward, and I stepped on what I thought was my phone. When I looked down, I saw a blue ribbon instead. I bent to pick it up and realized that it was so similar to the one mom used to pin my hair with in grade school.
It was a big blue pin with a ribbon full of glitter. I remember how I didn’t like wearing it back then because it seemed to cover half of my head. So during recess time, I intentionally left it in the girls’ restroom.
A cold shiver crept into my bones. Neither Carrie nor this blue ribbon was supposed to be in my room. I clutched the ribbon to my chest. I could have suspected that someone might be playing a trick on me, but I didn’t know a single person who would know about my long lost toy and hairpin except for mom—but she’s not the kind to pull this sort of thing, especially after we just had such a serious argument.
I went outside my room, and as I walked through the dark hallway, I noticed a white sock lying on the floor. It was not my intention to pick it up if not for the name marked on it. Just like with Carrie and the blue ribbon, it brought back memories and this time, it was of when I graduated in high school and exchanged socks with my best friend, Blaire. I couldn’t remember why we chose our socks out of all the things we could trade with each other, but we made it special by writing our names on it. However, I lost it when dad died and we had to move to an apartment.
Why did the things I lost a long time ago keep on appearing in front of me?
I jogged down the stairs and outside the apartment building to inhale some fresh air. I sat down the old wooden bench in front of the gate as I tried to calm myself down. I covered my face with my cold hands, and all I heard was my heart hammering wildly against my chest. When I opened my eyes, I saw a bike parked on the other side of the road. It was painted blue with a big basket in front. I stood up and swallowed a lump in my throat. I crossed the road with my trembling knees and held the bike to check if it was real—this was what I used to have before mom and I decided to sell it. I knew it from the blue saddle with a sticker of my initials.
Something was terribly wrong.
I ran back to the apartment’s lobby and switched on the TV. At least the sound of the TV would break the dead silence of that hour and distract me from all that had been happening tonight. But then I was startled when my favorite medical sitcom which had ended five years ago showed up on-screen. It was probably having a rerun due to popular demand.
A bouquet of jasmines, my favorite flowers, rested on the side table, perfuming the air. It was impossible that I didn’t notice it the first time. Then I saw it had a red tag addressed to my name with a note below in elegant cursive: Happy 10th Anniversary, love. My eyes widened, dumbfounded and too confused to utter a word, when I heard footsteps. Mom, I thought, rushing toward the door. Instead, there was an old woman who looked at me and then around the room as if searching for something. She could be one of our neighbor’s guest so I invited her inside. I sat with her on the sofa, watching the sitcom end. What was overwhelming though, was that she hummed along the theme song that played with the credits just like I did. It was her favorite sitcom, she explained, when she caught me looking at her.
“Mine too,” I told her. “I wanted to be doctors just like them.” She fixed her gaze at me for a while, then nodded, and handed over to me a nameplate she pulled out of her bag.
I almost cried as I took the glass nameplate into my shaking pale palms. Engraved before the title that read ‘M.D., Certified Cardiothoracic surgeon’ was my name. “Just like all the things you’ve lost in the past, you also lost me, your future.” I heard her voice say.
And then, in a blink, everything faded away like dust being blown away by the wind. Then at once, I am back on the rail of my balcony, with my foot lifted ahead. Only now, I really did fall—down where there is no ground to hit. And I just keep falling.