It broke my heart to see April walk towards me in that defeated manner. She was my best friend and I had never seen her so beaten. It was as if the light of hope had left her for good, drowning her in darkness only she could understand. My heart reached out to her as she sat down on the empty chair in front of me in the cafe. The little smile she displayed could have taken all her strength.
“Hi…,” she said.
“How are you?”
“Me? Well….like that….”
Another weak smile. We both knew that neither of us wanted to do what we were about to do but we also knew that it had to be done. April needed closure and she needed it fast. She was falling further down the pit of emptiness.
“You sure you want to talk about it here? What if…”
“I cry? I don’t think I have anymore tears left…”
My turn to give a weak smile.
“So, where do you want to start?”
“You know almost everything. I guess it’s just this one thing I need to share. Ever since… that day… his words kept playing in my head. He comes into my dream every single night.”
I turned from looking sympathetic to looking confused.
“Words? You mean Jackson’s words?”
April looked at me for a second before she realized her mistake.
“Sorry…,” she utters with a sigh. “They were so clear, so pure that it felt like real words to me…”
It was that moment that the first trace of tear appeared in her eyes. I sort of panicked. What is she started crying? What if everyone else stared at us?
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to cry…my heart would, but not my eyes.”
With that, she told me her story.
April brought down her last bag and placed it next to her other suitcase. Jackson raced down the stairs behind her, struggling to pull her back. April fought and pushed. She would have screamed but that wouldn’t have made any difference.
Jackson tried to keep April grounded as she made to pick her bags up. April turned and stared at him. She never knew such rage could ever consume that much of a human being. It was as if she was possessed. It took all patience in the world not to slap Jackson’s face. April shoved him away and picked up her bags. She rushed towards the front door and made her way out, Jackson desperately trailing behind her.
I was relieved to see that April held her self together. No signs of breaking down.
“I know you left him. But… you never told me why. What happened?”
April looked away. She bit her lips and turned her attention back to me.
“He kept a secret. When I found out… I was…,” she struggled to finish her words. “I was hurt. I felt betrayed, I felt sad…everything, everything fell apart.”
“Sorry but I’m not following.”
“He was sick, Khai.”
“Sick? What do you mean sick?”
“He had a tumor, in his lung…”
I was completely taken off guard. It wasn’t at all what I was anticipating. As I tried to process the new information, another thought crossed my mind and took control of me.
“You left him because he had cancer? What kind of a woman are you??”
I stood up and was about to leave but April stopped me.
“Will you listen? I didn’t want to leave. It was… it all happened so fast. After I found his medical prescriptions, I panicked. Do you know how it feels like to find out, by accident, that the love of your life is dying?”
“He is dead, April! And cancer didn’t kill him!”
People began to look at us.
“This was a mistake. Let’s go to the park. I’ll tell you everything…”
Thankfully, the park was pretty deserted. I tried hard to calm down. Just like April was my best friend, her late husband Jackson was also my best friend. What April shared with me was too overwhelming.
“I left because I was afraid. I couldn’t stand losing him. I know it was silly, stupid, selfish…whatever. I wasn’t thinking straight. Which is why I agreed to meet him the next day. I calmed down. I was going to return to him, Khai.”
I felt a sting in my eye and before I could do anything, I shed a tear. April tried holding back but she too surrendered and made way for her heart to release the tears.
“Then what were the words you were talking about?”
April covered her face and cried her heart out. I couldn’t do much to ease her pain as I, too, was being swept by an emotional wave.
Somehow, she managed to speak.
April was about to cross the street but when she saw Jackson on the opposite site, she stopped. They had arranged to meet but something stopped April from going to her husband. Her fear of losing him kept her from getting close. It was like she was afraid that if she touched him, he would break into a million pieces and leave her alone that instant. So she stood there rooted to the ground.
Jackson made his move. Each step he took brought them closer but April’s heart withdrew further. It finally dawned on her. She left Jackson because she didn’t want to confront him. Didn’t want him to tell her that the prescriptions were right. That the papers were true. That he had lung cancer. She was in a state of denial. And she defended her emotions by running away.
The next second, everything happened so fast. First came the screeching sound. Then the loud noise of metal and steel crashing into one another. April’s head swiftly turned to her left. The bus swayed sideways before hitting a car. The car rolled fiercely across the street, towards where April was staring a few seconds ago.
There he was. Jackson was in the middle of the road, just a few feet away from the crashing car. And it hit him.
The next thing April knew was that she was kneeling beside Jackson, whose half of his body was under the toppled car. People gathered around them, some on the phone making the emergency call. It was chaos.
But all the noise was drowned out. It was only April and Jackson. He looked into her eyes, cleansing away everything that she was feeling. At that moment, all she could feel was desperation. Desperation to save him. To keep his heart beating. It was at that moment that Jackson, in the state that he was, moved his arms.
Jackson said something to his wife without even speaking. He then closed his eyes.
My vision was blurred by tears.
“What did he say?”
“The sign language… was ‘I love you’….”
And April cried even harder.
“I… I found a letter in his pocket. He…,” she had to give way to her tears. “He said that…. keeping it a secret…was… was the only way…he knew how… to keep me happy. The only way he knew how to keep loving me…until his last breath…”
At that very moment, I believed that true love existed. Jackson, the husband who was deaf and dumb, had a heart of the universe. He loved his wife more than anything in the world. He had cancer. A road accident killed him. But his love lived on.