“Jame-sy.” Freeman said dreamily as he staggered beside me. “Where are we going? Baha.”
“To my place. It’s just around the corner.” I held him by the arm so that he wouldn’t lose his balance again. The boy was getting drunker and drunker by the minute. Good thing nobody’s home tonight, I thought.
Because my parents’ house is only a few minutes’ walk from my college, I still stay with them to save rent. That evening, my parents had taken Samantha to her best friend’s birthday party. She had been looking forward to it all week, saying that there would be games and desserts and all the things that an eight-year-old would dream about. Patrick and Miranda, needless to say, agreed to go with her so they could chat with the other adults. They love talking about their son and daughter with the other parents, always boasting about how well we behave at home and how proud they are of us.
“Here we are.” I announced as we stepped up the front porch and into the house. Our house isn’t large, but it is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The interior was designed by Patrick himself, possessing a modern yet cozy atmosphere. My favourite place is the living room, where my father spent the most time working on. At first glance, it looks like a South American jungle. In it are many wooden statues and furniture my father built and carved himself. He said he got his ideas from ancient indigenous art. There is a large couch that has twisted animal figures carved all around the edges; a comic-looking hunter with his belly made as a clock; tall llama statues used for hanging hats and coats; and, situated in front of the couch, a wide, wooden table with the world map carved onto it.
“This place is fan-tastic! Hahaha!” Freeman awed as he caught sight of the room. He excitedly jerked towards it.
“No!” I pulled at his arm, making him lose his step. “We have to clean you up first, and then you can go in.”
Freeman pouted disappointedly, but let me lead him to the bathroom. I left him there to wash off the dough chunks on his hair and face, while I went up to my room to get some clean clothes for him. When I came back down, he was standing at the bathroom door, a towel wrapped around his waist, yet still dripping water all over the floor.
“That was pretty fast.” I said, handing him my shirt and pants. “Here. Dry up and put these on. And then we’ll go to the living room.”
Freeman smiled happily and changed in a matter of seconds. After I dried his hair and made sure that he was as clean as he could be, I led him to the guest room and sat him down on the couch.
“Don’t go dancing around, alright?” I ordered. “It’s already a risk for me to bring someone this drunk home. I don’t need you to start breaking things.”
Freeman saluted with a shaky hand. “Yes, sir. Bahahahaha!” He looked around the room in drunken admiration. The way his head was wobbling on his neck made me think he might pass out anytime.
“Hey, Jame-sy.” Freeman said as he traced the outline of North America on the table with a finger.
“Yeah?” I said, pondering how I was going to get him home later.
“Tutto’s daddy said that World War Three is happening in his chest. Haha.” He was now slowly outlining Greenland.
“That’s impossible.” I said, starting to regret having taken him here to listen to his never-ending talks.
“But Tutto’s daddy never lies.” Freeman moved his finger to South America. I thought about the last time I heard him say this. We were on the roof, him talking and me listening. It was the first time I ever heard him say something meaningful, and it even had me thinking about the lessons in life. Maybe this time it would be the same.
“Why does he say that then?” I asked patiently, as if talking to a toddler.
Freeman had already finished tracing the shape of Australia, and was now moving on to the Asian-European continent. I watched his slim finger twirl on the table, thinking of how agile his movements were despite how drunk he was. Once again, neither of us made a sound, and once again, the silence had been too long.
“Freeman?” I said when he finally finished tracing the map. “Can you tell me what your father said to you?” It was strange how I always wanted him to talk when I knew how annoying it would become.
Freeman looked up from the table and peered at me with the big, orange eyes. “Tutto was at the construction site working with his daddy, and then his stomach started screaming.” I knew better than to interrupt him this time. “And then Tutto woke up in bed, his daddy was sitting beside him.”
What the hell? “Wait.” I raised a hand for him to stop. “You were at the construction site, and then you suddenly woke up in bed?”
“Jame-sy is good at summarizing stories.” Freeman smiled and gave me a thumbs-up.
I dropped my shoulders. Why did I even bother to make him speak? I mentally explained to myself that he was dreaming about himself being at the construction site, and then woke up with hunger.
“Tutto’s daddy asked Tutto how he was. Tutto answered him that he was feeling fine. Tutto’s daddy held Tutto’s hand to his chest and let him feel his heartbeat. It was steady and firm, like the rhythm of a big drum. Tutto told his daddy that he liked to feel his heartbeat. Tutto’s daddy smiled and told Tutto that the heart is like the drummer in a music band. Without the drummer, the whole band would lose control of the beat, and the music would be a mess. So, our bodies need the heart to do its beating everyday in order to stay under control of the movements the cells in our bodies make. Tutto told his daddy that he has a firm heart, and that he has good control over the movements of his body cells. Then Tutto’s daddy sighed, and said that World War Three was now happening in his heart. Tutto didn’t understand. Tutto’s daddy placed a hand on Tutto’s heart, like this.” Freeman reached over and flattened his palm onto my chest. “He told Tutto that he has a strong heart; that even if World War Three were happening in Tutto’s chest, he would be brave enough to win the war. Tutto’s daddy told him that in order to make his heart strong, he has to have a kind of mental courage, and that mental courage is called ‘faith.’ As long as he has faith, he will be capable of winning the disastrous war.” Freeman stopped for a while and smiled dreamily at nothing. “Tutto told his daddy that Tutto has faith in his daddy. His daddy told Tutto that besides having faith in him, he also has to have faith in everyone, especially his friends. If he has faith in his friends, then he doesn’t have to worry if World War Three happens. His friends will always come to his help, and try their best to win the war, no matter how tough their situations are. That is the power of faith.”
Freeman gave me a big smile and placed a hand on my shoulder. “Tutto has faith in you, Jame-sy.” His smile shone too brightly.
I turned my face away from him, embarrassed of what I had done earlier. I knew that Paul and the others were going to play a joke on him, and I know the guys well enough to know that they are pros at bullying unpopular people. I knew I should have warned Freeman about their scheme. Yet, because I was afraid of being caught talking to Freeman, “the Zombie,” and because I didn’t want to risk upsetting my popular friends, I kept quiet.
Because of my selfishness, I let Freeman, someone who said he had faith in me, someone who called me his friend, be hurt.
“I’m sorry, Freeman.” I could barely hear my own voice. “The joke, I knew, but I didn’t tell you.” I shuffled my legs uneasily. “I don’t think I’m worthy of letting you have faith in.”
Freeman rested his head comfortably on my shoulder and purred like a kitten. “But Jamesy still came to Tutto’s help.”
I blinked. He was right. I didn’t really take him as my friend, but when I saw him being picked on, I still tried my best to protect him. Just like his guardian angel.
Maybe I did think of him as a friend all along, I just couldn’t admit it. Not even to myself.
“Friends will come to your rescue, no matter how tough situations are.” I quietly repeated what Freeman had said to me, as if reminding myself what a friend should be like.
After absorbing Freeman’s story and thinking it through for a while, I raised my head to look at the clock. To my surprise, it was already eight.
“Hey, Freeman. What do you want for dinner?” I stood up, and yelped when Freeman’s body went limp and slumped onto the sofa. I covered my mouth in shock and stared at him, wondering what had happened. To my relief, he moaned quietly and rolled into a comfortable position onto his side.
“He’s just sleeping.” I thought out loud. The chocolate must had done its spell.
I walked out of the living room for the kitchen, only to rush back and try in vain to shake Freeman awake. He was sleeping like a corpse.
Great, I thought warily. What am I gonna say when Mom and Dad come back?
Once again, Tutto Freeman proved that he could always get on my nerves.
-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo