Okay…so I guess a massive apology is in order. Life takes over and…well, you know the rest. There’s no way I can really apologise except to actually post…so…
Let’s just get right to it. In my act of a revivification (yes, this is a word!), I post the next episode of the Red Thread.
I should also announce that I’m heading to Japan next week – cherry-blossom is rising, and Tokyo awaits! Of course, for me, Japan has proven to be a great source of inspiration. But it’s also made me aware that one very important cliche that I want to capture. Cherry-blossoms – sakura – signify transience. They bloom once a year, and during that time, people celebrate in its cerise. But they are also aware that whilst the cherry-blossoms are beautiful, the falling petals are also a symbol of decay. But people are still drawn to them, still enchanted and entranced by them, despite being aware that they only last a couple of weeks.
It’s paradoxical, and yet it’s also an emotion that’s hard to articulate. I really want to capture that feeling. I hope that going to Japan will help secure the words to express it.
I intend to post when I’m there, so watch this space!
In the meantime, if you haven’t already checked out my web-serial so far, just click the menu on the left, or click the link for Episode 1.
If you have been keeping up, then this is probably the best time to re-read the previous episodes! (I don’t want to give any spoilers to new readers!)
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let me know what you think, and if you aren’t already, you can follow me by entering your email address in the left sidebar and on Twitter @tmir92
AND a massive thank you to everyone who’s supported me so far. It’s been so great to hear positive feedback and criticism likewise.
The Red Thread
This was the day when everything would fall apart. It was the perfect day for it. That morning was bright, glorious, peaceful. Not a single cloud crossed the sky and a calm, soft breeze swayed the trees, sending their autumnal waste across the streets and making them flutter as if caught in a spontaneous dance. That was the setting when Mei and I dropped Hiro off at the station before heading into hospital. Hiro’s departure had been prearranged: after all, today was the day that Yue had arranged for us to go out for drinks, and go to a club – ‘relax, drink, talk, dance’. That was how Yue planned it. And it was a plan I was utterly suspicious of, but one with which I would be forced to comply, lest I give up the secret for Yue’s spontaneity.
When we left Hiro at the station and waited for the train together – before finally wishing him a safe journey back home and calling Mrs Shinenaga to assure her that he would be fine on the train alone – Hiro kept talking about Tristan, speaking very highly of him, about how Tristan seemed to understand him, about how sincere Tristan seemed to be, about how good-natured Tristan was. Mei wasn’t convinced. After all, the guy was hard work to live with, and had a bad temper, and so far her experience of him had been mostly negative. But I knew that her hesitation to take Hiro seriously was not out of disdain for Mr Tristan Leannán. I knew what her true reason was: she liked him. I knew she liked Tristan. But she couldn’t say that. There were too many loose threads swaying in today’s breeze, especially given that Tristan’s engagement was only recently shattered. Shattered. That was how it felt when I heard everything. The shattering of broken glass: at first, completely intact, but within a second, the glass had shattered into a thousand shards, its chime so perfect and yet also it signalled pure destruction and annihilation. Now, there was no way that it would be brought back to perfection without the scars of its previous shattering. Scars. That is what would be left behind if everything didn’t come out soon. Yet I couldn’t say anything. It wasn’t that I couldn’t bear to say anything, rather, it wasn’t my shattering to relate.
Tristan and Yue had already left for lectures by the time we were walking out to get to the station on time. Hiro had already said his goodbyes the evening before as we had dinner. Most of the evening, Tristan was quiet, especially after the conversation we had in the hospital corridor that afternoon. Occasionally, our gazes would cross and I would immediately break it by picking up a dish or pouring myself a glass of water, or looking over at Hiro who was much perkier than he had been when he arrived almost two weeks before. He was now attached to Tristan by more than just the thread of chance; to Hiro, Tristan had become a counsel of wisdom. For me, on hearing one single utterance of Tristan’s name would chime the glass, but never enough to shatter it. We had all become too bound. The moment it shattered, we all would be. I looked over at Mei who tried to resist modestly.
No. She would be the one to be shattered.
* * *
Siobhan met me at the door of the ward, whilst Mei was stopped by one of the other doctors en route. Of course, she was searching for Tristan, not us:
“He’s not coming in today,” I told her.
“Really? He said he’d meet me!” Siobhan sighed in disappointed.
“He invited me to a club night!” she told me rather excitedly. I looked at her wide-eyed.
“Seriously?! Aren’t you too old for that?”
“I’m two years older than you!” Siobhan glanced at me with a shot of anger, which immediately turned to conceit, holding her face in her hands. “And even then I look younger and more beautiful than you!” I just dropped my head in resignation. It was too early in the morning for this.
“We’ll go together. Do you have clothes with you? You can get changed at our place,” I told her.
“Really?! Ah! This is so exciting! I haven’t been clubbing for a long time,” she told me. “Okay then, I’ll meet you here at five. I’ve got meetings all day!” Off went Siobhan, as bubbly as ever, waving goodbye as she left me by the door alone. I sighed. What an evening to come…
I waited for Mei and Siobhan outside the hospital by the taxi, looking up at the clear sky. There still wasn’t a cloud to be seen, not even a wisp. Soon, the clip-clop of Siobhan’s stilettos alerted me to their arrival, and we quickly hopped into a taxi and made our way back to our house to get ready, all of this in silence. Mei said nothing to me. She just second-guessed that I wasn’t up for going clubbing with Yue of all people, which was partly true. What was eating away at my heart and soul, however, was not the resent I had for Yue, but that I was lying to my best friend: Yue now liked Mei. But this wasn’t even the problem. For all I cared, he could win her over and do whatever he wanted with her, so long as Mei didn’t get hurt. The reason why Yue liked Mei, however, or rather how he had come to like her was a different story.
There was a knock on door.
“Are you ready, Emilia?” Mei called through the locked door as I pinned my earrings. I sighed. This wasn’t the right time to think about this.
“Coming!” I said with a forced smile.
* * *
Yue and Tristan said that they would meet us at the club directly, so Mei called a cab for the three of us, and we made our way to the centre of town. The moment we jumped out of the taxi, we were met by the usual rowdy crowd of drunk women and men, all trying to shove themselves into queues to be filtered into one of the clubs nearby.
“We don’t have to wait, right?” Siobhan asked rather snobbishly.
“You’re with the hoi polloi now. You have to get used to queuing,” I told her with a hesitant chuckle, to which she pouted.
“Definitely not what I was planning,” Siobhan sighed.
“OI! Em!” there was a shout ahead of us, and I was immediately brought to attention. I looked ahead, taking a step out of the queue, only to see Yue waving frantically by one of the bouncers. “OI!”
“Oh! That’s Yue!” Siobhan cried out. “Hey sweetie!” she waved back. “Can we go up front?” Siobhan turned and asked Mei who just shrugged her shoulders, slightly embarrassed by Yue’s obnoxious behaviour.
“COME ON!” he cried out to us, the queue rumbling slightly in irritation.
“Do we have to go?” I asked Mei already irritated by Yue. She didn’t smile, slightly uncertain herself. But within seconds, Yue came and stood in front of us.
“Deaf, are we?” he shot at me. I just glanced back at him. He looked over at Mei and Siobhan. “You both look lovely tonight,” he complimented them, one of the few times that even I was beginning to yield to his exuding charm. He offered an arm each to Siobhan and Mei and, lest Mei was to make a fuss, they both obliged, Siobhan leaping at the opportunity without even being told. He raised an eyebrow at me, both of the girls attached to him. “Sorry, only two arms. What can you do?” he told me, then turning with a callous but flirtatious smirk. For God’s sake…this guy…seriously…I sighed, and just followed them. This was gonna be a bloody long evening.
The moment of stepping into the club: a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colours, sounds, smells, all the senses bombarded with a sudden jolt of ecstasy. As we walked – Yue had already prearranged payment and someone immediately had come to take our coats – the sound was intolerable, but the space was amazing. We stood on the upper level where there was many people talking and drinking, and on the level below, a wide, massive dance-floor was set, already crowded, bars and private booths all around its circumference, the flashing kaleidoscope obscuring all vision, the sound of the music penetrating everything.
“I’ve never been here before!” Siobhan shouted over the music to Yue, who just laughed. Charli XCX boomed and clapped with the crowd.
“It recently opened. You can only get in if you have a connection,” he shouted back. Siobhan looked back at me:
“So much for the hoi polloi!” she said with absolute enthusiasm. I sighed in resignation. I guess this was a nice occasion for her. After all, she wasn’t burdened by all the shit…
“Where’s Tristan?” Mei shouted at Yue, who just signalled with a gentle nod of the head towards one of the booths on the lower level. There Tristan was sat, a thin glass in his hand, looking out at the dance-floor: there was something so serene about him, especially in the midst of such chaos. All I thought was: how had Yue convinced him to come here of all places?
“You guys go and sit down, I’ll get drinks,” Yue insisted, only for Siobhan and Mei to refuse and go with him, partly to check out the menu and partly to have a look around. I just went to Tristan. We hadn’t exchanged a word since our meeting in the hospital that day.
As I came and sat beside him – wedging myself close to him because there was no way that I’d be able to hear him otherwise – he didn’t acknowledge me, instead just taking another sip of whatever he was drinking and continued to look out over the dance-floor.
“How’s it going?” I asked him finally, to break the silence – well, the silence between us at any rate. He didn’t reply, just ignoring the comment. Okay, I guess straight to it then. “Should you be drinking? I mean that can’t be good for you…” At this, he darted his eyes at me, and I flinched at how abruptly he did so.
“Look, don’t get all high and mighty because you’re a doctor and think you know what you’re talking about. Doctors have failed many times before.”
“I wasn’t sayi…”
“Just back off! If I want to drink, I’ll drink. If I want to dance, I’ll dance. If I want to smoke, I’ll fucking smoke…!”
“I wasn’t saying anything! I’m just concerned!” I told him forcefully. “What else can I do? I mean you won’t lis…”
“There’s nothing you can do. So just stop trying. Don’t you think that if there was something that could be done, I would have done it by now?”
I just sat back and didn’t answer him, as he too relaxed back against the booth, raising his fingertips to his lips and passing his thumb over them in that attractive, graceful manner, to wipe away the remaining liquor of his last sip. I should have been angrier with him for his rudeness, but I couldn’t bring myself to shout at him. We both just sat in silence as the others finally returned with drinks. Yue noticed that Tristan had become slightly more withdrawn but left him to his silence and contemplation in this psychedelic setting.
After a while, however, Yue was committed to dancing, and having loosened up after a couple of drinks, offering Mei a couple as well, Siobhan finally dragged them onto the dance-floor. I refused. Oddly, I preferred sitting in silence with Tristan. It was surprisingly comforting.
“Suit yourself!” Siobhan declared laughing, then dragging Yue onto the dance-floor.
I watched as Siobhan tried to relax Mei, and I watched as she too just relaxed and went along with the beat, Yue occasionally going forward to speak in her ear and making her chuckle serenely. Every time he did, she revealed her Japanese habit of hiding her laugh behind her raised hand. Beyoncé’s XO played and I watched as Siobhan pulled Mei close to her and lip-syncing the words, helping Mei to become comfortable enough to follow. Yue and I made eye-contact and he smiled, then gesturing me to come out to them. I smiled back but didn’t oblige. I just wanted to remain seated, in my peace, in my non-action.
“She has a nice smile,” I heard Tristan say. I knew whom he was talking about.
“She’s always had a nice smile,” I commented. At this, he snorted and then stood suddenly.
“Want a drink? I’ll buy,” he offered, still as sullen, though much calmer than before. I just obeyed, and followed him to the near bar, which was still in full sight of Siobhan, Mei, and Yue. As I followed Tristan, I watched the others on my right: Siobhan was just enjoying the music, being as sassy as ever with some guys she had started to dance, but Mei had started to look around, I think in search of us, and then upon not seeing Tristan and me in the booth, a look of slight panic replaced the former smile, like a child lost in midst of a metropolis, until Yue came forward and whispered something in her right ear again, his face hidden behind hers so that I couldn’t see his expression. I watched as she became relaxed again and giggled. Wait. No way…I had seen this exact expression before. Yue stood upright, and gazed straight into Mei’s eyes, lost in them and she too held the gaze, except still smiling, totally oblivious. Utterly oblivious. Yue raised his hand, and gently pushed the loose strands of her hair away from her face, and it was at that moment of intimacy that she broke eye-contact, and coyly pushed her hair behind her left ear. No.
Yue raised her chin with a single, crooked finger, and just for a second – or even less – the cosmic order between these two people, once running its harmonious clockwise motion with the passing days, was flung aside, left to its rotation in some random cosmos, and abruptly halted. I saw nothing else but those two people: and then they kissed. Everything stopped. My eardrums no longer registered the blasting music, my eyes reduced the flashing, amalgamated kaleidoscope to their trichromatic origins, but my heartbeat hastened, and sight of them paralysed me. The four of us stopped in that moment. Four. Four? Shit. Tristan. I looked over at him, and flinched. I wanted to say something to calm him and my mind started processing thousands of excuses and pacifications. But my tongue wouldn’t articulate the words. But…
Before I knew it, he had stepped forward to intervene, to shout at Yue, throw a punch even, but somehow, just before he passed out of my reach – despite my dulled senses – I grabbed his wrist.
“Don’t do anything,” I stammered over the noise. He definitely heard me. He stopped his tracks, but I still grasped onto him tightly. He still watched the two of them, still in their kiss.
“You have no right to do anything now, considering everything,” I told him.
He just stood there, his hand still restrained by mine: I could feel the tension effervescing through his veins, the pressure building within him soon to either explode, or implode. After the pressure finally reached its limit, there was no way that I would be able to stop him. So I just had to wait for a few more seconds…and then…and then the pressure died. The tension in his arm dissolved, and I felt the muscle loosen entirely. What? What happened? And then it happened: within the next flash of colours, Tristan collapsed, and I too was pulled down to the sticky floor with the sudden dead weight. What happened? People, on noticing Tristan on the ground, me beside him, started to enclose us, sipping their drinks, a buzz of discrimination sounding amongst them, that ‘he had probably drunk too much’, and that ‘he couldn’t take his drink’. Tristan. I knelt over him, and attempted to awaken him.
“Tristan?!” I heard Siobhan shout, and I looked up to see her pushing through the crowd, Yue and Mei now also following her. The moment she reached us, she pushed me over and somehow jumped into ‘doctor-mode’, checking his pulse and trying to get through to him, totally ignoring everyone around her, except the barman who was leaning over the bar to see what was happening.
“Call an ambulance!” she screamed at him over the noise.
“Has he drunk too much?” he asked back. “I’m calling a bouncer,” he shouted, trying to grab a bouncer’s attention. Siobhan let out a shriek of exasperation, then pulling out her hospital ID, and sprung up from kneeling to standing with another flash, and forcing it in his face.
“Adult oncology. Call a frigging ambulance now!” The barman said no more, and did what he was told. Siobhan darted a look at Yue: “Pick him up, quickly. We need to get him out of him to get access to the ambulance. There’s no way that they’re getting through here.” As Yue tried, the barman appeared with a bouncer:
“We’ll help,” he told Siobhan. Mei and I were pushed aside as the barman, the bouncer, and Yue picked Tristan up and get him out of the club, followed by an incredibly alert and authoritarian Siobhan. Shit.
I looked over at Mei, who then posed the question: “What’s wrong?! Why did he collapse?!” Shit. I didn’t answer. I just grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of the club with me, Lily Wood wishing us a farewell with a ‘Prayer in C’. Breathe.