Happiness was a strange concept.

It was only an emotion, but it was something she could never have. It felt like something floating around her, something that she could just reach out and pick like a ripe apple from a tree, if only she could reach it in the first place.

Maybe for some happiness was just that, a choice apple among an abundance of others. For some, they were capable of walking in the garden with nothing blocking their path. There was nothing keeping them from enjoying the scent of fruit, the breeze rustling through the leaves, or the gentle call to pick any one of the apples should they choose to do so. 

What defines happiness anyway? Was it the fluttering inside her gut when excitement washed over her like a strong wave, or was it the occasional way something indescribable tugged at her heart gently? What she at first thought felt like joy had quickly washed away like a wave that promised to pull away forever. It was like the tide had been called back to the other side, leaving the shore to dry up. 

If only she could capture that fleeting feeling in a jar to keep with her forever. If she had done that, she could pull the feeling out and release it whenever she wanted to. 

“Do you feel happy?” 

The question fell from her lips. She hoped it sounded like an innocent question, a harmless one with no ulterior intention behind it.

“Yeah, sometimes, I guess,” her friend answered.

“What does that feel like?” Her heart beat faster. Oh, how she wanted to hear everything her friend had to say about happiness. How she wanted just a little taste of it even if she couldn’t call it her own. She would imagine and experience it vicariously through her friend’s words. Yes, this arrangement would do.

“Come on, silly. Don’t tell me you’ve never felt it?” 

The words punctured a hole in her heart. She swallowed her disappointment, her heart folding back into itself. 

Darkness swept into the cold unlit room. A figure sat on the ground, slumped against the bare wall. A defeated sigh left her lips before she took a shaky breath and turned her head to the living room window.

The view of the city lights only made her heart ache, a sting manifesting in the vessel of her emotions. It felt like the rest of the world was moving past her in all its glory, its lights and clamour. But here she was, all on her own, the lights just a mere reminder that there’s so much out there for her to experience, to look at, to feel. If only she would just reach out her hand a little. But the drop was too far, she could not risk it. She could not face whatever it was she would find down there waiting for her. For now, sitting up here in the cold and comforting darkness would do.

She placed her head on her knees. Thoughts and chatter swirled in her head, whispering the deepest and most fearful things. The deep, dark abyss opened up inside her heart, threatening to swallow up everything in its way, threatening to swallow up her.

To scar her, to make her feel small. As if making her little would make her heart small too. But her heart is still near-bursting at the seams with the desire building up in it little by little. Her heart’s too big for her body, sure. 

Running after that dream, constantly picking herself up and brushing off the grime and dust. It exhausted her. Everything felt like it was so close yet so far. Every time she reached out her hand to grab at it, she stumbled into the dirt. 

How could she move on if her world crumbled before her eyes? What could she do but to just watch from where she lay on the ground, the dust kicking up all around her?

That shiny dream that sparkled in golden sunlight, the lift in her heart. There it was, what she had always wanted, needed, desired. It came rolling up to her like a gentle wave the shore had beckoned to come home to. It was like the desert that fell on its knees begging the skies to open up before them and to pour their heavy tears on them to heal their cracks. 

Her cracks were healing. Everything was piecing back together like gold filling up the cracks of a broken bowl. Everything was bright again, her piece of shiny red apple ripe in her hands.

“Do you feel happy?” That question was posed by her to herself, an infectious charming grin flashed across her sharp features. Slipping a hand down to lace with her own, the small gesture of physical contact sent tingles through her body.

Is this what peace with herself felt like? This singular emotion of happiness translating into many different little emotions inside her? She felt a million different emotions coursing through her at that moment that all stemmed from happiness. She could not find words to describe them. It is really such a strange concept, after all.

In return, she only nodded before parting her lips to reply.

“Yeah.” A smile graced her lips, contentment swelled in her heart. Gazing into the sky as light slowly disappeared into the clouds up above, enjoying the gentle evening breeze, she knew she was finally content. As content as she could ever be. “I do.”

By: Zhen Li and Natasha

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