Half-Heartedly

 Chapter 19

     Neither Leona nor I said a word as we rode in the ambulance carrying Tutto’s body home. I was exhausted from crying, and just sat there, hands in my pockets, seemingly staring at Tutto’s pale face but not really seeing anything. Leona appeared to be feeling the same. Her fingers were clasped together, her knuckles were white, her expression was blank.

     The ride home logically should have been only about half an hour, but it felt like a week. Despite having done a lot of thinking already at the hospital gardens in the morning, my brain wouldn’t stop working. I thought about how I wasn’t there for the last few moments of Tutto’s life. I thought about how instead of me comforting Leona it had been the opposite, with me crying like a baby and Leona gently patting my back. I thought about the last words Tutto had written down for me, how it had been merely an answer to one of my selfish questions. I thought about how it would have meant more if I had asked him to write down what he really wanted to say, either to me, or to Leona, or to anyone.

     I had been thinking so much that I could barely remember what happened that morning as the ambulance pulled up to Tutto’s house. The house was small and old; its framing was a little crooked, and the paint was peeling and molding in all places. However, it was a nice little house, with a beige body and an olive green roof and trimming. Leona opened the front door as the ambulance driver and I carried Tutto’s body into the house. As we passed Leona on the front porch, I thought I heard her whisper in a voice so quiet it was barely there: “Welcome home, Tutto.”

     The inside of the house looked just as small as it did from the outside. The tiny mudroom led to the living room, where there was a beaten up leather couch, a desk, a shelf of books, and a small glass cabinet that held many picture frames. Beside the living room was the kitchen, with a stove, a fridge, some cupboards, and a small table that must have served as the dining table. Leona opened a door at the back of the living room and revealed the bedroom, with two beds, each situated on one end of the room, and each with a small nightstand placed beside it.

     We laid Tutto’s body on the bed to the left and Leona pulled the covers over him. Although his face was pale and his body was cold, he looked quite peaceful, as if he were only still sleeping. The driver said his condolences and left, leaving Leona and I by ourselves with Tutto. Leona pulled up a couple chairs from the kitchen and handed me a glass of water. We sat down beside Tutto’s bed, both of us deep in thought, yet both of us glad that the other was there.

     Leona broke the silence as she got up. “I’m gonna go call my aunt. Let me know if you need anything.” I nodded and she left the room. I found myself alone with Tutto’s body, and all I could do was stare more at him. He had lost all the colour in his face, and without the up-and-down movement of his chest, his body seemed unusually small. To be honest, this was the first time I’ve been close to or even seen a dead body. I felt a bit of fear, but it was not because of the fact that he was dead, it was because he had been alive, but now he was not.

      In the living room, I could hear Leona quietly talking on the phone. Her voice was soft with sadness, but she was not choking on tears anymore. She had been crying a lot as well, I guess she was just too tired to cry more.

      A few seconds after she hung up, Leona reappeared in the bedroom. I looked up as she walked in and took her seat. Her face was bare of makeup, and her hair was casually tied up into a bun. However, even without her usually stylish do, she was still beautiful.

      “You can use the phone if you want.” She said to me.

      “Thanks.” I sat there for a few more moments, not sure if I needed to call anyone. I got up eventually. I had called my parents at the hospital last night telling them I was staying the night; I should let them know when I’ll be heading home. I also needed to let my buddies know where I was.

     I wandered around the living room and found the phone on the glass cabinet that held the picture frames. After a few rings my mother picked up.

      “Hey, Mom.” I said, trying to sound less tired. “It’s James.”

      “Oh, James.” I could hear the anxiety in her voice. “Are you still at the hospital, James? How is your friend?”

      “He d-” I started, but stopped, surprised at how difficult it was to say that word.

      “James?” My mother asked, sounding even more worried than before.

      “He passed away.” I finally let out.

      There was a long silence on the other end of the line before my mother finally sighed and said, “I’m so sorry, James.”

      I nodded, forgetting that she couldn’t see me. “They were saying he didn’t have long.”

      “How is his family? Where are you now?”

      “I’m at his house with his sister. Actually, his sister’s Leona.”

      There was a little gasp. “Oh. So your friend was Leona’s brother?”

      “Yeah.” I answered.

      “Oh.” I could tell my mother was starting to cry. She had always been the sympathetic type. “Is she going to be alright? What can I do to help?”

      “It’s alright. Her aunt is coming to help her.”

      “Okay. But let me know if there’s anything I can do.” My mother’s voice cracked a bit. “Will you be coming home today?”

      “I’ll stay with Leona till her aunt gets here. She lives quite a ways from here and will need a few hours.”

      “Alright.” My mother sniffed. “It’s great that you can be there for Leona. Take your time with her, okay?”

      “Thanks, Mom.” I said, ready to end the call.

      “Oh, yes.” My mother said suddenly. “Your friend Paul called today. He and your other two friends are wondering where you are. Give them a call, eh? Paul said he would be home by now.”

      “Okay. Thanks, Mom. I’ll call again when I’m heading home.” I hung up and dialed Paul’s number.

      “Hello?”

      “Paul, it’s me, James.”

      “Hey, man. Where have you been?”

      “I was…” My voice trailed off. I realized how difficult it was to explain to them that I was with Tutto. But soon after, I kicked myself mentally at how stupid I was being. Damn it, James. He’s dead already and you’re still worried about what your friends might think?

     I was suddenly glad I had called Paul. He would understand.

      “Paul, Tutto Freeman had a heart attack last night after the turkey thing. I was at the hospital with him.”

      Nothing came from the receiver for what felt like thirty minutes.

      “He had a what?” Paul finally said, sounding startled and even a bit ashamed.

      “A heart attack.” I repeated. “I was walking over to get some turkey when I saw him and he collapsed.”

      “Why? How did it happen?” Paul’s voice became almost a squeal.

      I sighed. “Yesterday I was told that he was born with a defect in the heart.”

      Another long moment of silence passed.

      “I feel horrible.” Paul was not taking this piece of news very well.

      “Paul, it’s alright.” I tried to comfort him. “The attack had nothing to do with the turkey thing. It was bound to happen sooner or later.”

      “I still feel horrible.” Paul muttered under his breath. “Is he alright, though?”

      A chill ran down my spine. My body suddenly felt heavy and I had to sit down on the carpet.

      “Paul, I just want you to know that nobody is to be blamed for this.” I started. There was a small gasp on the other end. “He didn’t make it.”

      “Oh no.” Paul said, his voice shaking. I recalled what Paul had said to me before he left to help Albert with the superhero moves. He had come to like Tutto, and probably even started to see him as a friend. I recalled how Tutto had actually smiled to Paul’s words.

      “He died peacefully, Paul.” I said, not able to think of anything else to say.

      Paul sobbed silently into the phone. I would have wept along with him had my tear buds not been exhausted already. I let him cry as I unconsciously browsed the pictures displayed in the glass cabinet. They were all family photos: the infant Leona and Tutto sleeping side by side; the twins, a little older now, playing in the park with their mother, who looked like an older Leona; a toddler Tutto standing in front of his mother, who was holding a picture book; a young Leona, dressed in a pink skirt, looking at the camera with the solemn expression only an adult could carry. The cameraman of the family must have always been the father, for I could find no pictures of him.

      Finally, Paul spoke, his voice cracked, “Sorry. I just…it was so sudden I didn’t know how to respond.”

      “It’s okay, Paul.” I said.

      “Are you alright, Jamey?” Paul asked. “You’ve always been the closest to him.”

      “I’ll be fine.” I replied. I wondered if I was lying.

      Paul pulled himself together. “Well, you must be exhausted. Go get some rest. I’ll let the others know.”

      I smiled into the phone. “Thanks, Paul. I knew you would be the one who would understand.”

      Paul laughed a bit before saying goodbye and hanging up.

      I picked myself up from the ground and went back into the bedroom. Leona hadn’t moved much since I went out. I sat down in my chair and turned to her.

      “I can stay until your aunt comes.”

      Leona nodded and smiled at me. “Thanks. For everything.”

      “My mom says she can help too.” I told her. “Just let me know if there’s anything you need help with.”

      “Okay.” The look in Leona’s eyes was genuine thankfulness. I wanted to hold her, but I was smart enough, and tired enough, to remain outside of her personal space.

      I peered over at the nightstand beside Tutto’s bed. There was a green moleskin notebook left casually on top of the nightstand. A pencil lay on top of it.

      Leona must have noticed that I was looking at the notebook. “He always doodled in that notebook before going to bed.” She explained. “I guess it was his way of keeping a diary.”

      “Mind if I look?” I asked.

      Leona shook her head. “Go ahead.”

      I picked up the old notebook and slowly flipped through the pages. Most of the drawings were of everyday things such as trees, buildings, and animals. There were also a lot of depictions of people: an old lady getting off the bus; a child eating ice cream; a girl jogging with her dog. I smiled as I admired Tutto’s artistic talents; I never knew he could draw.

      As I got further into the pages, I noticed that there were a lot of drawings dedicated to the same girl. She had long, flowing hair, sharp eyes, and fashionable clothes. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were all drawings of Leona.

      “He really liked you.” I said, handing the notebook over to Leona. She gently flipped the pages, looking at drawings of herself: Leona cooking in the kitchen, Leona reading on the couch in the living room, Leona standing at the front door. The pictures were all of Leona doing what she does every day, but the detail put into these drawings, especially the kindness shining through the sharp, penciled eyes, reflected Tutto’s love and gratefulness for his twin sister.

      Leona handed the notebook back to me, massaging her forehead as if trying to fight back more tears. “I’ll look at it later.” She murmured.

      I continued to skim through the notebook until there were no more drawings left. Instinctively, I let the pages turn until I reached the last page. I wasn’t expecting to see anything, but I saw the corner of a picture sticking out from behind the binding of the notebook. I took the picture out. It was a photograph of a young Tutto, about five years of age, smiling into the camera happily, his orange eyes glistening in the sunlight. Beside him, an older Tutto, also with orange eyes, was kneeling beside the toddler, holding his tiny shoulders.

      “Is this your father?” I asked, showing the photo to Leona. She glanced over and nodded, studying the picture for a bit. “I’ve never seen that picture before.” She pointed out.

     I looked more closely at the picture, and recognized the place where the two figures were. It was the small stream that flowed through our neighbourhood, where I had hung out alone as a kid, stabbing myself with the nail.

     My eyes widened with realization. The stream was also the place where I had met my saviour, who had saved me from depression and sadism and led me towards a cheerful, popular life. I looked more closely at the older orange-eyed male. It was him. It was Tutto’s father.

     I smiled. I felt lucky to have had the chance to meet an intelligent and kind person such as Mr. Freeman. I turned the photograph over and saw that Tutto had written something at the back of it.

 Tutto knew everyone here

     I looked at Tutto lying on the bed. He had said that to me before. When we were at the stream together, and he had told me he used to go there as well, he had said the exact same thing to me. He knew everyone there.

     I turned the photo over again and almost yelped as I caught sight of another figure standing in the background. It was a boy, about the same age as the young Tutto in the picture, with dark hair and a dark complexion. His purple eyes were peering right into the camera, as if he had been caught red-handed.

     I recognized this boy. It was me.

 Half-Heartedly previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Half-Heartedly next

 

第十九章

  我跟雷恩娜坐在載著土豆回家的救護車裡,兩人一句話都沒說。我已經哭到精疲力竭,只是坐在那裡,手口袋,看似像在著土豆蒼白的,但其實什都沒看見。雷恩娜好像也是這樣。的手握在一起,指節發白,沒有表情。

  從醫院到他們家理論上應該只需要半個小時,但是感覺卻像一整個禮拜。雖然早上在花園時已經想了很多,我的大腦就是不休息。我想著土豆走時我卻不在身邊。我想著我沒有安慰雷恩娜反而是拍著我的背安慰著哭得像小孩的我。我想著土豆幫我寫的最後一行字只是回答我自私的問題。我想著如果我有叫他寫下他的想說什那多有意義,不管是要對我說,還是雷恩娜,或是任何人。

  我想事情想到根本不記得那天早上發生了什事了。救護車終於抵達土豆家。房子小而老舊,結構有一些彎曲,油漆發霉而剝落。然而,那還是個可愛的小房子,有著米色牆壁和橄欖色屋頂和邊。雷恩娜開前門讓我和救護車司機將土豆的遺體抬進裡頭。當我們走過雷恩娜時,我好像聽見低語,「歡迎回家,土豆。」

房子裡面看起來像外面一樣小。小小的掛衣間後是客廳,客廳裡是一個破爛的沙發、一個書桌、一個書櫃、和一個擺放許多照片的小玻璃櫥櫃。客廳旁是廚房,裡面是火爐、冰箱、一些碗櫃、和一張用來吃飯的小桌子。雷恩娜打開客廳後面一扇門給我們看臥室,裡面是兩張床,各靠著房間的一邊牆,各有一個小床頭櫃擺在旁邊。

我們把土豆的遺體放在左邊的床上,而雷恩娜幫他蓋被子。雖然他的臉蒼白、身體冷硬,他看起來相當安寧,像是只是在睡覺一樣。司機說完弔辭後走了,留下雷恩娜和我兩個人陪土豆。雷恩娜從廚房找來兩張椅子並遞給我一杯水。我們就這樣做在土豆床邊,兩人都沉思著,也都慶幸有彼此的陪伴。

雷恩娜打斷沉默站了起來。「我打個電話給我阿姨。需要什麼可以讓我知道。」我點點頭後她走出了房間。我自己一個人在土豆遺體旁,而什麼都不能做只是又再看著他。他已經沒有臉色了,而少了胸口上下的起伏,他的身體顯得非常渺小。老實說,這是我第一次看見甚至靠近死人,所以有一些些畏懼,不過不是因為他死了,而是因為他曾經活著過,現在卻沒了。

在客廳裡我聽得見雷恩娜安靜地講著電話。她的聲音因為悲傷而柔小,但是她並沒有哽咽。她也哭了很久,可能已經疲憊到無法再哭了。

雷恩娜掛上電話一下子後就出現在房間裡。她走進來坐下時我抬頭看她。她的臉沒有化妝,頭髮也只是隨興的綁成包。雖然沒有她平常時髦的打扮,她仍然美麗。

「你需要的話可以用電話。」她對我說。

「謝謝。」我坐在那一陣子,不確定該不該打,最後還是起身了。前一晚我有打給父母親說我會待在醫院,而我現在應該讓他們知道我什麼時候回家。我也需要讓朋友們知道我在哪。

我在客廳裡尋了一下,看見電話在那個玻璃櫃上。電話嘟嘟的一陣子後我媽媽接聽。

「喂,媽媽。」我說,想辦法不聽起來太勞累,「是詹姆斯。」

「啊,詹姆斯。」我聽得見她聲音裡的擔心。「你還在醫院嗎?你的朋友怎麼樣了?」

「他ㄙ-」我開始說卻停頓,驚訝著那個字竟然這麼難說出口。

「詹姆斯?」我媽媽問,聽起來更緊張了。

「他去世了。」我終於脫口。

電話裡頭一陣安靜後我媽媽才嘆氣說,「真是遺憾呀,詹姆斯。」

我點頭,忘了她看不到我。「他們昨天就說已經沒多久了。」

「他的家人還好嗎?你現在在哪裡?」

「我跟他姐姐在他家。其實,他姐姐是雷恩娜。」

「是喔。」我聽得出我媽媽已經開始哭了。她一直都很有同情心。「她還可以嗎?我能怎樣幫忙?」

「沒關係啦。她的阿姨會來幫她。」

「好。可是需要什麼一定要告訴我。」我媽媽聲音破了。「你今天會回家嗎?」

「我會在這邊陪雷恩娜到她阿姨來。她家離這邊蠻遠的會需要幾個小時。」

「好。」我媽媽吸氣。「還好你可以在那裡陪雷恩娜。要好好照顧她喔。」

「謝啦,媽媽。」我說,準備要掛電話。

「喔,對了。」我媽媽忽然插嘴。「你的朋友保羅今天打電話來。你那些朋友在問你在哪裡。給他們打個電話,好嗎?保羅說他現在應該在家了。」

「好。謝了,媽媽。我要回家會再打給妳。」我掛電話撥保羅的號碼。

「喂?」

「保羅,是我啦,詹姆斯。」

「啊,老兄。你在哪裡呀?」

「我在…」我的聲音淡掉。我感到要跟他們解釋我和土豆在一起很困難。但是不久我在心裡踢自己一腳,罵自己白痴。搞什麼啦,詹姆斯?他都已經死了你還在擔心你朋友們會怎麼想。

我突然慶幸我打給保羅,他比較可以瞭解。「保羅,土豆‧福利曼昨天那個火雞節目後心臟病發作。我今天早上在醫院陪他。」

電話裡沉靜了好像有半個小時。「他什麼發作?」保羅終於說,聲音又驚訝又羞愧。

「心臟病。」我重覆。「我要走去吃些火雞的時候看到他昏倒。」

「為什麼?怎麼會這樣?」保羅的聲音變得很尖。

我吐氣。「昨天我才知道他生出來就有心臟問題。」

又是一段很長的沉默。

「我好慚愧喔。」這個新消息對保羅打擊很大。

「保羅,沒關係啦。」我想辦法安慰他。「病發跟火雞沒有關係,隨時都會發作的。」

「我還是很慚愧啊。」保羅低聲說。「不過他沒事吧?」

一陣寒意衝過我的身體。我突然覺得自己很沉重,只好坐在地毯上。

「保羅,我要先讓你知道這不是誰的錯。」我開始說。電話另一頭出現驚嘆。「他沒熬過。」

「啊,不要。」保羅聲音顫抖。我想起保羅去幫助亞伯特前對我說了什麼。他已經開始喜歡土豆了,說不定已經接受他為朋友。我想起土豆對保羅說的話露出微笑。

「他走得很安詳,保羅。」我說,想不出別的可以講。

保羅輕聲在電話裡頭哭泣。如果我的淚腺沒有早已疲乏我可能還會跟著他哭出來。我讓他安靜地哭,自己無意識地瞄著玻璃櫃裡的相片。裡面全都是家庭照:嬰兒的雷恩娜和土豆睡在一起;雙胞胎長大一點在公園,跟看起來像老一點的雷恩娜的媽媽玩;一個年輕的雷恩娜穿著粉紅色裙子,成熟地看著鏡頭像個小大人。家庭的攝影師可能一直是爸爸,因為我沒有看到他的照片。

保羅終於又說話了,但聲音仍然哽咽,「對不起,我只是…好突然呀我根本不知道怎麼反應。」

「沒關係啦,保羅。」我說。

「你還好嗎,阿詹?」保羅問,「你一直都是最親近他的。」

「我會沒事啦。」我回答,但懷疑著自己真不真心。

保羅振作起來。「那,你應該累死了吧?去休息一下。我會讓另外兩個知道。」

我對著電話微笑。「謝啦,保羅。我就知道你才能夠比較瞭解。」

保羅笑了一下,對我說再見掛了電話。

我站了起來回到臥室。雷恩娜在座位裡沒什麼動。我坐下面對她。

「我可以陪妳到妳阿姨來。」

雷恩娜微笑點頭。「謝啦。全部。」

「我媽說她也可以幫忙。」我告訴她,「需要什麼就跟我說。」

「好。」雷恩娜的眼神是真誠的感恩。我想要抱她,可是夠聰明,也夠累,不侵入她的個人空間。我看到土豆的床邊有一本筆記本隨興的丟在床頭櫃上。一支鉛筆擺在旁邊。

雷恩娜應該是注意到我在看筆記本。「他睡覺前都會在本子裡畫圖。」她解釋。「可能是他寫日記的方式吧。」

「可以看嗎?」我問。

雷恩娜點頭。「可以呀。」

我撿起本子慢慢翻閱。大部分的圖都是畫日常事物,像樹、大樓、和動物。也有很多人物像:一個老阿婆下公車、一個小孩吃冰淇淋、和一個女生牽著狗慢跑。我笑著欣賞土豆的藝術天分,從不知道他會畫畫。

翻到較後面有許多圖都是在畫同一個女生。她有著長髮、尖銳的眼神、和時髦的衣服。我一下子就認出那是雷恩娜。

「他很喜歡妳吔。」我說,把本子交給雷恩娜。她溫柔地翻著書頁,看著自己的圖:雷恩娜在廚房煮飯、雷恩娜在客廳沙發上念書、雷恩娜站在前門門口。那些圖都是雷恩娜做著每天做的事,可是圖畫的細膩,尤其是尖銳的眼神裡的善良,表現出土豆對於姐姐的愛與感恩。

雷恩娜把本子還給我,按摩著額頭像是在忍著又要飆出的眼淚。「我等一下再看。」她低聲說。

我繼續翻著書頁直到沒有圖了。習慣性地,我讓書頁一直翻到最後一頁。我沒有想說會看到什麼,可是瞄見一張照片的一角在筆記本的封套後露出。我把照片抽出來。照片裡是一個大約五歲的土豆,開心地對著鏡頭笑,橘色的眼睛在陽光下閃爍。在他身邊蹲著一個老一點的土豆,也有著橘色眼睛,抱著小孩小小的肩膀。

「這是妳爸爸嗎?」我問,把照片給雷恩娜看。她看了照片點點頭,「我沒看過那張照片吔。」她指出。

我在仔細一點看照片,認出裡面的地點。那裡是流過我們鄰里的小溪,我小時候孤孤單單刺著自己的地方。

我恍然大悟,眼睛睜大。小溪也是我遇見救命恩人,讓我擺脫自殘憂鬱讓我轉為快樂的地方。我仔細觀察照片裡較老的橘眼男人。真的是他。是土豆的爸爸。

我微笑。我能夠有機會遇見聰明又溫柔的福利曼先生,感到很榮幸。我將照片翻過來,看見土豆在後面有寫東西。

土豆知道這裡的所有人

我看著躺在床上的土豆。他和我說過那句話。我們在小溪的時候,他告訴我他以前也常常去那裡,然後他就對我說了那句話。他知道那裡的所有人。

我將照片翻回來,看到照片背景裡另一個人物時差一點尖叫。那是一個小男孩,跟照片裡的土豆一樣大,有著深色頭髮和釉黑的皮膚。他紫色的眼睛直視著鏡頭像是被抓獲了。

我認出那個男孩。是我。

Half-Heartedly previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Half-Heartedly next

-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo 

創作者介紹

DesigNing

Ning 發表在 痞客邦 PIXNET 留言(0) 人氣()