A R C A D E
THE LOUDNESS OF THIS PLACE MADE EVERYTHING REMIND HIM OF WHAT HAD BEEN. Bang! The familiar sound of the bullet shattering through his ears as his hands made the move to run again, without the exhaustion that came through that human equation. The man’s callous hands rapidly move as his eyes tried to keep up with the bright moving lights on the screen. Crap, he ran out of bullets. There were no more weapons. All he could do now was run. The man resolved to do what he could, eyes darted with such focus towards the screen. He tried to move faster but the machine made its moves quicker, but still, he made haste as he did not want to give in, moving as if his entire life depended on it.
But in the end, his efforts were in vain.
The loudspeakers then shouted at him once more with vain and the screen gloated at him for the thousandth time as he blankly stared. He supposed that he was no match for artificial intelligence who knows everything about the game. It was supposed to know everything. He had lost once more. Half a hundred times, he was playing this game that day, and half a hundred times he was not aware it was already over.
Not that he minds, of course.
He sighed as he felt his body lean backward, the backrest catching him as he did fall with a heavy thud against it. The sound of the arcade resounding more boisterously than ever but it did not bother him as much as it used to. His long fingers rubbing his reddening eyes to wash away the heaviness he could feel descending upon him. The man was obviously tired, dark bags under his eyes and his skin as pale as snow. But he was not willing to rest. Not yet.
His back removed itself from the rest and soon, he was moving to play the game once more. He dug his hands to his pockets, ready to feed the slot again. But soon he realized there was no more for him to spare. He suppressed the urge to growl loudly as he angrily thought how foolish he was. It was his fault that there was no more to spend.
He left the remainder of his money at home.
He wanted to play more, to spend all the money he had on allowing himself to forget. To drown into the pleasures of colorful screens with loud sounds and loud characters. There was no need to remember about everything else. This was now what he believed to be his world. A world he wanted to desperately remain a part of. To allow himself to feel like there was no need for him to face the bigger world, the bigger cruel and unforgiving world that was only filled with pain and heartache.
This was his escape.
But it seems there was no more way to stay here.
Fate had decided that this is where the night ends for him.
However, he felt could not help but feel bitter over his stupidity as he left the loudness of the wide never-ending arcade and walked off into the cold empty streets, alone. It would have been more comfortable had he brought a coat with him. But he thought nothing of the cold. It was just another part of his life, engraving itself in his heart captured in blue and greys.
There was a time when these streets weren’t so cold, though. He could remember it all. But he can no longer feel it. Back when the days were far warmer, people had been here all the time, crowding through with chatter and boisterous laughter. He had once enjoyed that too, once upon a long time ago. Everything was perfect then. Once upon another time, there was a life that he could even begin to describe. There were no words for it.
Times had changed though.
There was no return to those days again.
Or so he believes.
There had been so many times when he had decided that the only option for him in this city was to leave it all behind completely. It was the only plausible option for him. He had not been born here nor grew up here. He had no family here nor had close friends that had been near by. If anything, he would have hoped to live near those he knew, those he loved and those who cared about him. But he did not do that.
Instead, he decided to move to a place that was foreign to him. A place where he did not know the culture or the customs. A place where he struggled hard to understand the language and still fails to understand it half the time. A place where he would have to create a new beginning and have a different path. A place where he had to do any kind of work so that he can live here with comfort. He decided to leave everything else behind because everything else was outweighed by one thing, one person. He decided to leave everything else because there are more powerful things at work.
He had been so afraid, anxious at such a change to his life. As many he knew were for him. But he did not mind so long as he could stay here. Live here.
And in time, everything felt in place. Everything did not seem strange or foreign, everything was perfectly shrouded in the element of bliss.
He grew fond of the city.
He started to have adoration for it.
He had grown to love it.
But as he walked alone, cold and quiet, with no one beside him..he could only think of one thing.
He had started to hate it.
He had started to become disenchanted by it.
He had begun to loathe it.
And yet he had not yet left it.
Why has he not left it yet?
He should have done it right?
But he wondered why he has not left.
Was he still clinging to that deem, false sense of hope?
Or was it because of something else?
The city he had grown to loathe was once the pearl of the world to him, with all the rather small ancient buildings painted in obnoxious colors when he had walked by before as the bigger more modern architecture glistened with pride at the fast-moving pace of time. The sun shone so brightly that one could only imagine that heaven blessed it like a sacred place of worship that only he and very few could find. A place of pilgrimage for those who are in need of some divine blessing in their lives.
It was once a harbor of hope and life to him even at night then. There had been night markets then, unique and festive as the crowds gathered to spend some time with their loved ones or just find a moment to lose themselves from their daily lives, illuminating under the beautiful bright lights of lit lanterns.
There had always been singing from different bands of people, from various ranges of the genre. People formed choirs of all ages who sang wondrous hymns from local churches to raise money for charitable causes. There were young musicians and artists wishing to make it big in the wider world by showing their talent in the plaza square with nothing but their skills, impressing local folks who praise them with applause and a little bit of money here and there.
He had been a present figure in those days, remembering how he too enjoyed those days. Smiling and laughing at times when the crowds orchestrate some sort of flash mob dancing with the music blazing through the air. She would urge him on, clapping for him with delight and even taking photos and videos they would watch later on as their night turned to their little witty quirks and quips, downing some homemade alcohol by the local masters and makers. The weather did not matter then, what mattered was the ability to form a bond of togetherness within the community.
Those days were over now.
The weather had been getting worse lately. Thunder clapping through the night sky, dark clouds looming above them almost every other night. The city’s government decided to postpone the night markets in hope of making everyone safe, still trying to find answers about the weather they had gotten lately. None had gone out too much for the past few weeks, in the rain. Most were afraid to go through the cries of heaven, afraid of the divine punishment.
But he was not like most. He went to the arcade almost every day regardless of the weather. Hours and hours of it, distracted from the dripping sounds of heavenly tears. It was quite a wonder how their electricity had been able to fair well in the catastrophe of loud winds and thunder crashing against electric posts. But he did not question it.
He did not want to be stuck there in that place he used to call home.
He wanted to forget.
He wanted to keep playing in the arcade.
It was still so beautiful at night, filled with lamp posts singing with quiet lights as the wind’s breeze walked pass him in a cold moment. There had been no stars in the past few weeks either, shining down on them like a sign of goodwill from the gods above. Though he was uninterested in it, the illusion of beauty had faded for him within the city walls.
It rained quite a bit earlier too it would have seemed. He guessed the fact as his leather boots felt the small puddles gather through the bricks of stoned pavements, making small sounds as the foot pressed through the wet ground. But it was probably a much calmer storm of rain than the ones that had plagued them recently. His tired orbs managed to look at the puddles, his gaze softening in familiarity.
He could remember that night, under the rainy skies, in a night just like this with the sounds of laughter and jolly singing as the wind overtook their long round stripped umbrella out of their heads. They didn’t even complain about it. She pulled his hand near the bright smile of the lamp post and started to sing about the rain, small fits of laughter and joy reigned. He could remember how he had followed her too, dancing with such weird movements and screaming nonsense into the air as he too shared her joy.
It was one of those days one could never really forget.
He gave one last look with a hint of sorrow as he shook his head, continuing to walk along his path now refusing to turn back. There was no use in turning back, a voice in his head said to him as his feet dragged themselves along the pathway. There was nothing left there for him.
But there was so much more than that night.
There were other nights too.
He continued to walk and walk, forcing himself to cage the emotions and the memories of that night as he reached that old stone arched bridge. He wanted so badly to move forward but when his feet had forced him forward, now it betrayed him and stayed put.
He stopped to look at it.
Back when he had first come here, she had introduced it to him. In the beginning, to him, it was just a bridge. It had been a beautiful strong one, one of the great feelings of pride of many of the people here in this proud old city, celebrated and beloved. It was also an architect’s pride and joy if one could see. A great powerful symbol of a long-forgotten past, built by the many people that are ghosts of a long-forgotten time no one in this world truly knows the truth of. In all honesty, he did not know where this place even comes from. There are stories and there are songs he knows of about this bridge but there are no real truths.
That image was dead to him.
All that remains now was that night under the moonlight, with that generous beaming sky filled with stars. Those great beautiful doe eyes that looked at his own orbs with such love, such devotion, and such great affection that he thought he could never find anything greater than that in life. That gracious pinkish lips quirking at him with such a genuinely unique smile that he thought he could never find elsewhere.
It was what he had given up everything for.
It was that he had given up all other things for.
She was all he had given up everything for.
That night, he thought, would last for millennia. He wanted it to last forever. It would become like all those historic loves, so great and powerful that it would live on forever in the memories and the hearts of those who would hear of their story. People would have been inspired by it for the rest of their lives, he used to think.
Just like people who are inspired with great patriotic pride when they see this bridge when they hear of the tale of love and sacrifice, they would be inspired to take the turn to such a strong love that could never be broken. Like the bridge that they stood on together, unbroken and unbreakable. Just like the ancient old stone bridge, they would stay and become infinitely carved in the memories of history.
He thought many things back then.
But he supposed that all those things were dead to him.
She was dead to him.
He allowed his hands to grip the part of the flesh where he thought his heart should be in. A place where once there had been so much life. He wonders now, where has it gone. Has it stayed with her. If so, why does it continue to throb when he thinks of her, he wanted to shout aloud. Why does he continue to feel this way? Why does he long for her even though it hurts?
Why doesn’t he know anything?
He decided to just continue walking, going under the arched bridge and letting himself be swallowed into the darkness for a moment. His mind continuously wandered from one place to another. From one moment of past to another, he could not stop.
But he wished that he did stop.
He wished his mind would stop thinking about all of those bloody things because they he didn’t want them anymore. He didn’t want to remember the first time they met, the places they had gone together, all the loving embraces he had wasted, all the time he could have become more than himself but he had decided to give it all up for love.
Love, such a thing. A maddening thing. And he had succumbed to it. He knew from the beginning that loving someone like her was a losing game. He saw it even before it began. But he knew that he was blind, blind and deaf, and foolish to listen to reason. It was a game, a game where he gave in because he felt the madness of love, a game where he knew he would be the losing force. He got addicted to a losing game.
Because loving her was all that he had ever known.
And now he was the one carrying those broken pieces home. Home to a place where there was so much liveliness. Where there had been so much life and love and hope. But now all that remains are cracks, darkness, and loneliness. It had become a foreign land to him. All he has now is the ringing silence.
It didn’t even take a lot for her to leave him. All it took was empty promises and empty lies of affection from another to force her to abandon a relationship built on many virtues and times that he had been so patient with to create with her. She threw everything away and left like they were nothing. Like no sacrifice between them was ever worth it, no words he had spoken had been enough to make her stay and not a single ounce of his love would ever be enough for her.
He was in her roller-coaster and he wished he could get off, he wished that this game she had made would be like that game he plays, that it would finally be over. That it would all stop hurting, that he would completely stop longing for her.
But he supposed it would never be over.
He realized that as he arrived into the emptiness of his home, where nothing of what had been there was left. Everything was the same as it had been since the day she had left him. The dirty laundry crowded in every corner of the home they had shared together. All the plates and bowls of china, the silverware, and utensils, had been used and left uncleaned in the sink.
The empty paper cups of instant noodles that he had constantly forced himself to eat when he had no appetite at all. Bottles of beer, wine, whiskey, gin and so much more lined up perfectly in a line at the table, completely taking over the table where they used to have so many late nights eating and talking. Pictures and letters have been scattered, whole, and broken across the apartment.
The memories came running back like a train crashing fast through the tracks as he decided to lay down and stare at the ceiling in the quiet. It was already late and he had not had any supper eaten. Not that there would be anything in the fridge and not that he was hungry at all. Tears fell from his eyes as he punched the dirty sheets with his fists. He would forever be stuck in this sickening madness, he knows. There probably was no getting over her. There was no way to do that when all he has ever known was her.
That’s why he did not want to stay here.
That’s why he should have just stayed in the arcade.
That way he would never be able to haunt her.
That way all the games he plays don’t remind him of her.
Then he wouldn’t have to think of her, he wouldn’t have to think of how easily he could feel the longing for her, perhaps it would lessen the pain of every single memory returning to him.
Because when he’s there, then he wouldn’t spend all the love he has.
There he could just empty his pockets, not his soul nor his heart.
He would not be consumed by her sweet lies or her beautiful smiles.
There in that arcade, he would never mind having to be in a losing game.