It’s been 2 days.
Beginning of 2018, I took a part-time job at the convenience store near to my house. I was paid hourly. My shift would start right after my classes on weekdays and Saturdays. The only day off I get were on Sundays. It wasn’t a rewarding job, not at all, but I loved organizing things on the shelves. It gave me time to think about pretty much everything. That was my life. Plain, simple, quiet. It stayed like that, up until a few months later... when I met him.
I was getting some expired yogurts off the aisle. There were blueberries, mangoes, and strawberries. That was when I heard someone came in. It was him. I looked up my eyelids and there he was.. and there was just something about him that put me frozen on my feet. For a split second, I saw the emptiness in his eyes but it left when I blinked. All I could come up with, I was probably tired. He looked fine after.
He bought a cup of ramen and a can of energy drink. Sat there for quite a long time, even after he finished them all. Even after my shift was done. I stepped out of the store, looked back, and he was staring endlessly into the air. I didn’t think much of it then.
The next day, he came back and bought the same thing. Then the next day, and the next, again and again and again. He never looked me in the eyes, never spared me as little as a glance. I learnt that he would always arrive around 9 PM and left before 2 AM. It was a schedule. I was getting used to it. Whenever things were restocked, I would put first his usual choice of ramen before other ramens, and his favorite drink too. I remembered thinking to myself that he had a really unhealthy diet.. it was not my concern however, so I opted on not saying anything when he came again.
“You should talk to him,” My sister said. I told her about the guy I constantly saw at the store. I shook my head no.
“Is he cute though?” She asked. I giggled and said that he wasn’t. We talked a lot for a long time, then she fell asleep somewhere in between. I couldn’t tell because I was thinking of him. Was he cute? I couldn’t remember how he looked like. It had been months since he became a regular customer and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know how he really looked like. All I knew was that he was young, probably around my age, he was tall and skinny, incredibly pale hands. I only noticed that about him because whenever he was paying, I would only look at his hand. They were long and pale, a significant contrast to the blue veins on his knuckle.
When I returned to my shift the next day, unknowingly I waited for 9 PM. I wanted to know how he looked like. The colors of his eyes, the lengths of his hair, the shape of his lips. But it was already 11 PM when I got tired of holding my breath. For the first time that day, he didn’t show up.
Some time later, perhaps a week passed, I was caught off guard when someone placed a cup of ramen and a can of energy drink on the counter. I fixed my gaze on his features and I could feel every inch of my body stopped moving. His skin was pale, and though his long fringe covered his eyes I caught a glimpse of his beautiful chocolate eyes, his lips were parted then and there was a cut on his lips. It was dark red and looked fresh. It felt like forever but I knew only a second had passed, and I looked down quickly to register his foods. I was obviously red, I didn’t have to look at a mirror to know. When I looked at him again that night, carefully this time, I noticed that he didn’t have a phone. Or maybe he did but he just never took it out over the few months he had been coming there. I didn’t know what came to me then, where the courage came from, but I found myself walking up to him and mustering a small friendly smile. I greeted him politely. He looked up to greet me and smiled back, and it would have been a lie to say that my heart didn’t skip a beat. He asked me if there was something wrong and I said no.. I was just curious as to why he stopped coming a week ago, that I was waiting, that I felt his absence. Of course I worded it in a friendly way. I didn’t want him to think badly of me. He said that something came up. I never asked him what it was about. We became friends instantly.
We weren’t friends for long. A slip of the tongue, that was all it took to ruin everything. If I hadn’t told him then, if only I taped my mouth shut. We’ve been close for a long time now. It was early December when I accidentally confessed that I liked him. It came so easily to me, to blurt out those three words, to look at him in the eyes without thinking twice. It was natural to meet him every day, to know we both had nothing special happened and to be okay with the silence as he ate while I worked, to sit by his side after 2 AM by the swing at the playground, to talk about life while eating badly fried sausages just so I had a reason to spend time with him longer than planned. He left that day with nothing but a brief I have to go. I’m not stupid nor am I oblivious, of course he never felt the same. As soon as I told him I liked him, his expression changed. Doubtful, hesitant, afraid—I could see all of it. That was why I didn’t stop him from leaving. I continued arranging the shelves until I could no longer cry. Little did I know that was the last time I saw him.
I needed closure. Or maybe I just wanted to see him. To get an explanation. Anything. He told me once, to contact him through his house phone only if there was an emergency. I was desperate, so I left a message on his house phone anyway: Can you come to the store today? I’m sorry. Please, let’s talk. I need to see you. At least let me know you’re okay.
As expected, he never came. I wondered if he even heard my message. Maybe he deleted them. All I could think of was how heavy my chest felt, how hard it was to breathe sometimes, how puffy my eyes were whenever I looked into the mirror.
It was Christmas Eve. I decided to go sit on the same swing you used to go on. At night, the playground seemed dull. There were no kids around. The cold breeze were harsh on my cheeks. I never noticed these when I was with you. It was cold there but whenever I was with you, I felt warm. You weren’t there anymore. It made me feel worse, so I stood and walked home. But just in time, I turned my head and noticed there were policemen in the store, a lot of them. I ran inside hurriedly. Did something happen?
Everything happened so fast. The red lights drapping the walls. The questions. The clueless answers. Yes, I’m him. Yes, I know him. He’s my customer. He’s my friend. They took me to the police station. I think I was crying. Not the body-jerking, loud sobbing kind. I was static. It was waterfall right on my cheeks. It was cold. There were loud, dull throbs on my temples. Everyone around me were talking, but I grasped none of it.
They told me, you were a victim of domesticated abuse. That you were never seen leaving the house after that day. That day when I said, I like you. They suspected you’ve been abused ever since you were a child. They said this time, it wasn’t abuse. It was murder. You were dead. No one was in the house, no one reached out to you, no one noticed. Not even me. I told you I liked you but I didn’t notice.
The sharp cut on your lips. They never left. Your long fringe, the bruises on your forehead. Your long sleeve, long pants, long socks. The lines on your skin. Your pale complexion. The emptiness in your eyes. The silence. Leaving after 2 AM. I never asked.
It’s been 2 days.
I’m so sorry.