That morning was a warm one, the Sun ripe as a peach in a cloudless sea. I sauntered down the pavements, some extra energy in my steps, observing the shrubbery that lines that exact strip I’ve walked up and down for weeks now, trying to capture the perfect scene. I bring out my notepad, observing how the lighting falls down just right on the concrete. I sketch it out, the nib of my pencil rubbing on the fibrous parchment, scratching frantically in a vain attempt to capture that moment in time, preserving the picture in charcoal. 

That had been my goal ever since starting out as an amateur artist, trying to grasp the ropes, to capture a moment in its exact clarity. I’ve had a love for the arts, namely painting, ever since I was a small little kid. Those days where I’d look up at the sky and see how the birds fly overhead, black splatters on a limpid afternoon sky. Or that little butterfly that used to nestle itself on the leaf of my mother’s eucalyptus plant in the porch of my childhood home. I think it was a monarch. I’ve done research on butterflies, sparked by this peculiar childhood moment, but somehow I could never find an image online that matches the exact appearance of that butterfly from my childhood. It was unique, special in the way it seemed so vibrant and larger than life to me as a kid, and now, at the age of 22, having seen far bigger things – I still think that butterfly was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. 

Funny how things from a childhood can haunt you for the rest of your life. The image of that butterfly rests in my mind as I sketch the scene before me on my notepad, trying to get the angle of the light just right, in my head, on the paper. 

I chase things, like birds, light, imperceptible traces of moondust lying in the world – almost like residues of a fallen world, just hidden out of sight. I think I’ve spent my life chasing things that will never come to me. Like clouds, I would stare at them as a kid, and wonder how I could pluck them out of the sky and hold the tufts between my fingers. Like her, I think, when I realise I’d been thinking of her at the back of my mind as I sketched the scenery. 

I received a call from her later that day.

“Hey James, you up for brunch?” Her voice shifted from the speaker and I imagined her, like a coy teen, twisting the cord of a landline giddily 


“Down seventh avenue, the usual spot.”

“Don’t you ever get bored of that place?”


“It’s the only place that your fragile stomach can handle, James. It’s not like I never suggested any other spots to you.”

“I’m not that picky of an eater!”

“Yeah sure. I will always remember you as a kid, how you always splitted your broccoli from your mashed potatoes.”

“In all fairness, broccolis and mashed potatoes are an awful combination.”

“Maybe, maybe.”

We met later that day, in the usual spot, a small little cafe named Paul’s tucked inconspicuously down the edge of the street. We’d frequented that place since we were teens, working together as servers, trying to scrounge up enough money to buy the video games our parents never got us. 

“Remember how we used to screw around with the coffee machine at the back? I remember Rupert would always get so mad with us, he’d be like, “oi, stop screwing around!”” She chuckled briefly, lazily stirring her latte, unscrambling the intricately drawn foam art 

“To be fair, we were pretty hard co-workers to deal with. I’m pretty sure he hated us because it seemed like we came in with zero experience and started messing around with the order of stuff around here.”

“True, but it was so fun though. We made the perfect pair of baristas.”

I look down at the cup in front of me, black coffee, filtered from the darkest arabica beans. Rich percolating darkness, it reflected back my soft gaze, and I saw myself like a child staring into the depths of dark well.

“So how’s work been?” I asked, my gaze shifting to the window and the world outside

“Oh…the usual. I’ve been looking around for a new job. Y’know how it is, Damien doesn’t seem to value me around. He praises me and all, until I ask for an increment. It’s been 3 years, James. He hasn’t said anything about it yet.”

I shook my head, “he’s awful. You should just leave that job, he doesn’t deserve you.”

“Yeah, you don’t think I know my value? I’ve been looking around, looking up job post applications, forums, Linkedin… I found some really good jobs, from well-established pharmaceutical companies, but they’re abroad so it might be hard to get a post there.”

“Well, you should apply anyway, you never know. Especially with your qualifications too.”

She aired out a bitter chuckle, her stirring patterns suddenly more aggressive. “An MIT graduate, graduated with top honours, yet now working in a dead end job for some nobody who doesn’t even value my skills.”

“Don’t say that. You’re good! You have the brains and the qualifications to back it up. I mean sometimes, life takes a bit to get going.” 

She smiled, gaze floating out the window, as if there was something beautiful out the window that enraptured her. 

“Yeah, I guess life does take its time.”

I returned to my desk that night, in my mind visualising the scene, the window that took her away, the light falling gently like rain on the table, the coffee cups capturing a flicker of sun. Her sitting in front of me, her absent smile, the crinkles under her eyes, the pinch of her nose, the light cascading on her skin. It started off as a rough sketch, an abstraction in my mind, one that slowly took shape on the paper. An image, a picture, a painting. It took form at my hand, so quickly, desperately, like a bird swallowing a fruit – I plucked my fruit and ate it too. That night I felt myself drifting off from my work desk, invited into the world she was in; another city perhaps, anywhere more romantic than the dead end job she was stuck in. 

The week went by as usual, my mind clouded by work. I sat hunched over my messied desk for most of the week, staying up late to finish up the commissions my clients had contracted me to do. As the hours clocked by, my mind inevitably drifted off to my childhood, to my earlier days of creating art. I still remember my mother telling me when I was younger to not pursue this kind of life. She called it too “bohemian”, and that I’d never make a proper living as a freelance artist. I understood her rationale but I hated the way she viewed the arts, and by extension, my love for it, as a lesser form. As if it wasn’t worthy of the same recognition and dignity as something like a career in science or finance, despite it being arguably more skill intensive and demanding than those professions in certain regards. She always saw it as a hassle – in all those times she nagged me and asked me to put the pencil down and start doing my maths homework instead – but I always thought of creating art as a labour of love. It might turn out ugly or nothing like how you expect it, but it’s an honest reflection of a person’s character and of the care that went into it. That’s why I could never call a piece ‘ugly’, the word carries no weight to me, nothing could be ugly if someone put a piece of their soul into it. There was a beauty in being vulnerable through art, to me it served as a medium where I could scream, wordlessly. To have all that messy, bloody hurt be etched onto a canvas and have people label it as ‘art’ – something beautiful. 

I received a text from her later that week. 

“I applied to some of the postings I saw on Linkedin. Fingers crossed xx” 

“That’s great! All the best, hope you get it.” 

After that, the week went by rather monotonously. A cycle of morning strolls down the street of Fourth Avenue, stopping by for morning coffee, the occasional meet-up with an old friend at Paul’s and, of course, returning back to my apartment to continue work. It was rather dull, but I had gotten accustomed to the mundanity of everyday life, and I was comfortably settled within it. Or so I thought. 

One morning, as I laid in bed, scrolling through my phone, I received another text from her. 

“James, do you ever think about how we grow apart as we get older?”

“Woah, where did this come from?”

“I dunno why, I just think about alot more stuff now. Life, friendships, family. I think I’m getting older.”

“So, you only start thinking when you’re older?”

“Haha you’re so funny. No. I like to think, and I’ve thought about alot of stuff. Different stuff at different phases of my life. I think I’m currently at that stage of life where I’m thinking about all the things I’ve gained and lost.”

“I’m sorry, if this is about your mother or…

“I mean yeah, I still miss her. But life has to go on right? I don’t think she would’ve wanted me to be sad that she’s not here anymore. Same thing applies to the people I’ve met over the years, so many friends I’ve made and lost. Not because we fell out on bad terms or anything, just…life got in the way. People changed or I changed. And we just grew out of the friendship. It’s really sad, because I wished they could’ve turned out the way we did.”

“You mean like…how we’ve been friends for years now?”

“That’s an understatement, I’ve known you since you were a baby.”

“No! We only became friends because we went to the same kindy.”

“Yeah, yeah, but still, we’re friends even now. Don’t you think that’s amazing? It’s almost our 21st anniversary!”

“How fun, reminding me of how much older I’m getting every year.”

“Cheer up once in a while man, you gotta look at the bright side of things.”

“Of course, I do! I’ve been taking morning walks recently, they help with my mood.”

“No…I didn’t just mean it literally. I mean, look at where we are now. You, and your budding little art career, like you’ve actually managed to build up quite the following. Me, hopefully about to resign from this crappy job, get a fresh start somewhere else. We’re on the cusp of great big things. Call me psychic, but I can feel it.” 

“Well, I guess we can only wait around and hope your psychic powers are right.”

All my life, my childhood wish was to be anywhere else. I knew her’s was too. We would call ourselves dreamers growing up – which sounds corny now, but it made us feel so different and refined back then – and we dreamed of anything, faraway cities, deep blue oceans with empires of coral reefs, misty planes that concealed the truth of the universe, open fields that swayed in the summer and bloomed fiercely in the spring. I think that’s where a lot of my inspiration came from, all those childhood whimsies I indulged with her. 

In a way, I think of her as my muse. Whenever I paint a scene, I not only visualise the scenery, but her in it as well. I imagined her as a part of the landscape, because somehow it never felt complete without her in it. I used to sketch her outline somewhere in my drawings, tucked amidst the ferns or perched on the crest of a hill, a tiny figure looking up at the stars. She would always be in there somewhere, hiding in my art. 

The following day, I was handing over a commission to one of my clients, an older gentleman who seemed to have an eye for up and coming talent in the art world. I suggested we meet at Paul’s and he agreed. We sat by the seat opposite my usual spot, coffees in front of us. He sat cross-legged, his arm lazily spread out across the seat next to him, and his gaze drifting between us like a slow breeze. He had an air to him that was hard to encapsulate, like a figure who frequents bar counters or patrols corridors in an antediluvian manor, he was both regal and softspoken, a man who speaks only when something worthy of his attention prompts him to. 

“So, tell me son, how was my request?”

“Not too difficult at all, Mr. Rimbaud.” 

“I saw the picture you sent me. Excellent work, my boy. When it’s delivered to my place, I’ll be sure to inspect it in closer detail, but from what I’ve gathered so far in the picture you sent me, it looks stunning. It might be one of your bests so far.”

“Thank you very much, Mr. Rimbaud. That is very high praise coming from you.”

“Indeed, it is. And I’m sure you’ve managed to come to the conclusion as to why I invited you for a drink today.”

“No? I was quite surprised by the request, you rarely ever meet the artists you commission from what I’ve heard.”

He let out a hearty laugh that sounded vaguely like how a bear would laugh. “You’re a funny one, boy. Yes, it’s true, I don’t know many of the faces that are responsible for the paintings that line my hallways, and I tend to keep it that way. We never meet, it keeps the mystery, the intrigue going. But I make exceptions from time to time, when something catches my eye. I think you know that by now, right boy? I host curated art galleries, for established artists and also rising stars. Raw, unpolished talent just waiting to be witnessed by the rest of the art world, artists like you.”

I sat fixed to my seat, momentarily in shock. Here was a man, renowned in the art world, a figure whose name alone carries significance, almost a legend in the scene – a once famous painter with a long illustrious career and works they’d feature in art magazines, who retired and chose to pursue art curation instead – telling me he wants to bring my work to the rest of the world, telling me he sees the value in my work. It shook me to my core to have it be acknowledged in such an open way, my art was worthy of praise, it was worthy of an actual career, worthy of being seen by others – worthy of something. 

“What do you say, son? You can sign a contract, fulfil the terms and I’ll get your name out there. The terms are laid out clear and simple in fine print. You fulfil your end, I do mine. It’s an equal exchange. I think we’d make great partners, because we both want something that the other has.”

“I’d be honoured, Mr. Rimbaud. I really would. Perhaps you could send me a copy of the document? I’ll have a look at the terms.”

“Alright, I hope you consider my offer. I don’t go out of my way like this for just anyone. But you boy, you’re a diamond in the rough. A generational talent. To me, it’s not about the name, it’s the art that speaks volume. And your art, it sings, in a very beautiful melody.”

I felt the tips of my ear turn pink, a part of me was aware it was all just sweet talk, but he spoke with enough brevity that it didn’t feel overly platitudinous. He seemed honest about it, even if he was still trying to sweet talk me into accepting the deal.

 I bowed my head, voice trembling a little. “Thank you, I’m very grateful for your offer.”

He leaned back and smiled rather kindly, not a trace of cunning or malice in his grin. Though in his eyes was a glint, like a scythe of light in the black wells of a crow’s eye when it catches the glimmer of something shiny in the nest. 

“Tell me, what inspires your art?”

I looked up, a little startled by the question. “Uh-h, do you mean like what drove me to start creating art?”

“No, I don’t need your life’s story right now. We can save that later for your biography section. My question was simply asking: what makes your art special?”

I paused momentarily, feeling his dark eyes peering into me, with the intelligence of an owl perched on his tree branch, observing. This felt like a calculated move on his part, to get me to open up about something personal, I think he wanted to see what went into my art. Which part of my soul did I wring out to create those paintings? Every artist had a story to tell in his art, he wanted to know what was mine. 

“I…I guess it would be the people in my life. I grew up in a fairly conservative household, my mother never wanted me to pursue this career. She would force me to do maths work and other stuff to get me to focus on that instead. But, it kinda backfired, because that never detracted me from drawing, it only motivated me further to keep creating whenever I got back from school, finished my homework, or whenever I was free. So, I guess it’s that fire in me, to keep trying, to prove her wrong. That I could be an artist and succeed, and I could be my own person, not just what others wanted of me.”

“That’s a really touching story. You have a surprising amount of grit, kid. I never would’ve guessed that just looking at you.”

“Uhh thanks?”

“While that is all rather impressive, I want to know just one last thing. What do you think of when you create art?”

Another gambit. I saw it in his eyes, like a dog eyeing a bone, wanting to snap at the jugular, see what he could uncover. 

I relented at last. “Her name is Avery. I’ve known her since we were kids, we even went to the same kindy together.”

“So she’s like your muse?”

“I guess in a way, yeah? This might sound…weird to you, but I see her everywhere, in my art, in the real world, in all the things I call beautiful. Even the things I never liked before, like foxgloves and coffee, I see the things that she likes in them, and it makes me like it too. I guess that’s why my paintings have such a romantic quality to it, like I’m infatuated with the world, because I am. She made me fall in love with not only her as a person, but everything around me too, it’s like she lives there and it makes everything so much more beautiful? I guess in a way, she has kind of become my art. And I wake up everyday to make more, because of her – because I see her everywhere now.”

He seemed rather surprised at my sudden, intense burst of a monologue. I rarely ever spoke more than I had to, rarely spoke up unless I was called to, rarely showed my emotions unless I could no longer control them. 

“So you’re like one of those great, romantic poets. Would you say it’s grief that drives you to reveal your truest nature?


“Is grief not the price we pay for love?”

“I…wouldn’t say it’s grief. That would imply I lost something. I didn’t lose anything by meeting her. I think I’m just happy we ever met at all.”

“So then what drives you to create art?”

“I don’t really have any kind of motivating force or drive like that. I think it’s more like whenever I see a moment with something beautiful in it, I want to capture it – that beauty, I want to capture it before it’s gone forever.”

He said nothing after that, merely watching me, as a hawk surveys the land below it. Satisfied with his catch. 

I returned home later in the evening to find a butterfly lingering on the petal of an aster just outside my apartment building. It was nearly the size of my palm, with kaleidoscopic swirls etched onto its wings. For a second, I was reminded of that monarch from my childhood that always rested on my mother’s eucalyptus plant, the one I’d been hoping to find for years. Here it was, though I’m pretty certain it was not a monarch, it was equally as beautiful in its own way. 

I stopped and pulled my notebook out, quickly fishing through my bag for my pencil to sketch it. However, as I was about to do so, it sprung from the aster and fluttered off into the sky. I watched its large silhouette drift off into a tiny blot in the distance, vaguely ascertaining that it had flown off towards the west. 

In my dreams that night, I saw her in the scenery again. She was hiding amidst the foxgloves, a young girl still. She called me to join her and I did, seating myself next to her, in the comfortable little alcove we’ve carved for ourselves. She sat cross-legged, humming to herself, a dash of mud on her face. She caught me staring and smiled, “is there something on my face?”. “Yeah, a little. Let me rub it off for you.” I reached over, my heart beating fast, like the flow of rivers in springtime. 

My fingertips brushed the side of her cheek, before slowly cusping it, feeling the warmth of her skin seep into mine like honey. I watched her expression change, from one of naivety to awe, as she regarded me – finally looking at me. “She’ll never know, James.”

The wind blew, her hair rising in the breeze, and I watched as she exploded suddenly into a cloud of monarchs, their bright orange wings flapping and dispersing into the sky in one glorious, golden torrent of life. I witnessed in awe, as the warm summer blue became so filled with flecks of colour like a springtime shower. 

I woke up, hand clutching my chest, almost painfully as if it were squeezing my heart. 

Ashamed as I am to admit it, it wasn’t the first time I met her in my dreams. Ironically, it was only in sleep that I’d ever have the guts to tell her the awful truth. The awful, awful truth that would break us apart if she knew. It was a kind of naked shame, like smoke that would fill up my throat and choke tears out of me. It was shame like a naked dog roaming the streets, knowing its presence is a mar amidst all the splendour of the city. It was shame, like a young boy who gazed longingly at all the beautiful things in the world he desired but could never have. 

As I got up and walked to the kitchen, taking care not to trip on the half painted canvases that littered the hallway, I began to realise how fast life was going. I was no longer the little boy who ran in empty fields or drew things without a care in the world. I still stroll around in empty fields, but only when I have time on the weekends, and I still draw, but I do it because I need to put food on my table and pay rent. However, things might be changing for the better, I realised as I sat down to read through the contract that Mr. Rimbaud had forwarded to me. I might actually be able to make something of my life and my passion.

I texted him back. “I accept the offer. Do I need to come over to physically sign the contract?”

I placed my phone down, he was probably still asleep or perusing art galleries in search of new paintings to add to his collection. Standing up, I went to make my morning coffee, pouring the powder in and adding water. There was a notification alert from my phone, and I wondered how he was already up so early in the morning. 

Picking the phone up, the only bubble that lit up my feed was a single text message from her. 

“Got some good news to tell you. Wanna meet later today?”

I texted back. “Sure. Whereabouts?”

“I’m thinking of a nice place. How about that field next to liberty park?”


That afternoon, we were sitting in the grass, amidst a field swirling with pollen where you broke the news to me. That company you interviewed for a few weeks back finally gave you the post. You would have to move abroad to Vienna, your dream city, and the company would give you a monthly allowance so you could cover your living expenses over there. You already told them yes, you accepted the offer, you were ecstatic, smiling as you relayed the news to me. 

I remember, distinctively, my world breaking in two halves at that very moment. First, there was the world that was absolutely destroyed at the reality of you leaving for a foreign country, and possibly settling there for years; the idea of you meeting someone there who’d finally give you the love you’ve been searching for, and living the rest of your lives together in a foreign city, clouded in smog and foxgloves, a whole continent away from where we were sitting. And also there was the other world that was highly perceptive and present in that moment, half listening to you speak, twisting at a blade of grass, lost in the way the brown of your eyes caught the light of the sun, realising for the first time how beautiful they were in the light, and how if you kept talking, I’d just live in that moment forever lost in your eyes. 

When you finished speaking, you threw a glance that snapped me out of my spell. I quickly laughed, smiled, told you how I was so happy for you and how far you’d come and how proud I was of you. Yet the whole time, I could only focus on your eyes, normally so dark and ruminative, and how its brownness only came out under the sun. I was convinced I could search the whole world, trek through every forest and hike to the pinnacle of every hill and mountain, and still, never find that exact shade of brown anywhere else in the world. I think I’d lose myself in a ravine or the highest altitudes on the verge of death before ever coming across some dash resembling it, maybe in the bark of an ancient oak or a maple with the most special, unreplicable hue, the kind that an artist would lose their life searching for. It made me realise how I’d probably spend the rest of my life searching, once you’re gone, and the inevitable fruitlessness of my hunt. I’d never find someone with your eyes ever again. 

You laid down in the grass and I followed, watching birds dart across the blue expanse, side by side – just like those warm, drowsy afternoons from our childhood – when the days felt like years.

“How do you feel about it?” Your fingers were absently plucking at a stalk of weed, seemingly unaware of it”

“Me? About you leaving?”

“Yeah, you seem more quiet than usual. I know we haven’t been apart much since we were kids, so this must be quite a lot to take in right?”

“It’s fine…I’m just happy for you that’s all. I said it before and I’ll say it again, you deserve only the best things in this world. If it means you leaving this city and everything familiar behind, then so be it. So long as it’s what you really want.”

You released a sigh, tossing the stalk aside, just resorting to clasping hands on chest. “This place…this life, it really is all I’ve ever known. You know how I hated the town we grew up in when we were kids? I always said I wanted to be anywhere else. But the day I got a work placement in the city and had to leave, I cried. I mourned the fact that I could never return to that life again…of just being a kid.”

You continued, voice getting shakier. “I could return back to the street where we first met, bumping into each other on our silly little tricycles, and it would never be the same again. All I see are the memories we left behind. And I hate that this feeling I have in my chest now is awfully similar to the one I had back then, this heaviness. This fear that us right now – sitting in this field – we might just become memories in another place I left behind.” 

I twisted my thumb, listening to you speak. Your voice ached, the words that spilled so messily out of your mouth slowly wrapping and entombing my heart in ice. In that moment, it took everything from me not to take your hand and clasp it tightly, securely, so that nothing would ever get between us again. You kept them clasped on your chest, unrelentingly, as I merely watched from the side – wishing I had more of a spine. 

“James, I promise, I’ll come back whenever I can. And I won’t cry again, these past few years of my life have been nothing but the happiest.” She brushed away the tears that had formed around her eyes, forcing a smile. “What am I doing? Spoiling such a happy occasion.” 

“It’s alright to feel sad. Leaving a part of yourself behind, we do it all the time. When you think about it, life is really just a set of revolving doors. We’re leaving a part of ourselves behind constantly, everyday. It takes effort to hold onto something. I think that’s what I’ve come to realise recently.” I watched the clouds drift by, slow-moving, barely perceptible, but moving nonetheless

“We’ve been friends for so long, James. You’ll promise to stay in touch right?”

“Obviously. What do you think I’ve been doing this whole time?”

We laid in the grass there for what felt like a lifetime, all the afternoons from our childhood lined up and coalescing into a long span where time didn’t seem to exist, or if it did, we didn’t feel it passing at all. All that mattered was the clouds, the raw open wound of the sky, the gentle palm of the sun on our faces, the moisture clinging to our skin and the warmth of our shoulders pressed against each other, side by side. It felt right lying there, and for a moment I could close my eyes and pretend we were kids again, wishing we could be anywhere else but this washed out town. 

“Avery, do you ever think about how we were made to love?” 

The question had been lingering at the back of my mind, and I had always wanted to ask you, but fear kept the words silenced. Though, now I’ve finally bit the bullet, feeling this may be the last chance I’ll ever get to know your answer. 

You glanced at me inscrutably. “You mean like other people?”

“Yeah, I was taught we were all born with love to give. Not in a physical way or anything, but more so in an emotional sense. Loving someone wholly, unconditionally, whether you’re bonded by blood or time, just accepting every version of them – the good and the bad. Even if we weren’t meant to be forever, even if our time on earth wasn’t made to be shared in its entirety, even if either you or them needs to finish the path without the other. I think we were put on this earth to grapple with some kind of indescribable faith, all for a greater purpose, something larger than us. I think it is for us to love.”

I continued, hand waving absently at the sky. “We do it in a way no animal ever could. It’s sophisticated, yet it’s primal. Love is like opening a raw round, with canines meant to tear skin apart. Loving will always mean clinging onto pain and hope, accepting loss, submitting to the hurt, but I’d argue it’s that hurt that keeps us alive, keeps us human.”

“It’s awful, it makes you feel like shit. Sometimes, it leaves you questioning why you’re doing this, but there’s also the moments where it’s everything worth living for and all the beauty that surrounds you. Why is it so hard to reconcile these two halves? Why does it feel so awful, yet strangely mending? Maybe once we’ve fulfilled our purpose, to love each other, to get hurt, to dream about it in our sleep, to still choose faith when everything else has failed us, and to be finally rewarded with something as small as a touch. Maybe it’s only then we can say we truly lived.”

I felt my hands clenching, tightening into fists, as if I were about to fight something. Maybe it was myself, fighting to keep the truth out of my mouth, because it would be selfish, so selfish of me to unload it on you when we’re both only here to say our goodbyes. 

“James, that’s a really heartfelt sentiment…I-I mean it’s lovely. Where did you get this from?”

“My heart…I guess.” I took a slow, steady breath to calm myself down

“I can see it.” You looked at me with the most tender smile, so much so that it hurt. “Your big, big heart. If anyone ever breaks it, you better give me their address so I can give them a piece of my mind.”

“I…yeah, we look out for each other.”


You seemed content as always, resigning to an absent smile, humming to some unheard melody. Maybe it was a new song you had discovered recently, about to become the soundtrack to the new chapter of your life, or maybe it was just the birds singing amidst the elm trees, singing about how the sun sets and rises in the same way everyday and life goes on.

Like the clouds in the sky, life goes on. Mr. Rimbaud got back to me and invited me over to his manor for lunch and to sign the contract. He went over the rough timeline of what I would need to do over the next few months. 

“So first, Madrid. I already made a verbal agreement with the owner of the gallery, he said they’ll open to the public around August? Then maybe Helsinki in November, unfortunately I don’t think I can do the bigger ones over there since you’re still relatively unknown, but I’m thinking of maybe featuring your art alongside some established names. That’ll hopefully get more foot traffic in, more potential eyes on your work. Who knows what’ll happen then?” He trailed off, placing the wine glass to his lip and taking an incremental sip 

“Wow, sounds like a lot of travelling huh?” I remarked, stuffing a grilled scallop into my mouth 

“That’s the life you’re gonna get used to, son. It’s a good thing, no? Better than being stuck in this small, little city your whole life.”

“I quite like it here. It’s a peaceful, quiet life. I’ve recalled all the bends, the street names, the types of flowers and the shopfronts that line the strip to my apartment. I think I’ll miss it all once it’s gone.”

“Well, that’s the life of an up and coming artist right? Always new streets to remember, new cafes to frequent, new flowers to smell, new locales to draw – places that’ll come to mean something to you.”

I looked out the window, my attention wandering with the breeze, trying to imagine this new life in a foreign city. 

The streetscape that greeted me outside my apartment building that morning was the same as it always has been, the familiar bends and shoulders that I know by heart now, the exact slant that the morning sun falls on the pavement and the tall shadows it creates. It looked exactly the same as yesterday and any other day, which relieved me. I still had this familiar comfort to hold onto. 

As the same old morning birdsong greeted my ears out the front door, a familiar sight caught my eye on the way out. That butterfly again, with the swirling wings, resting on that aster. I inched closer, but did not get too close, merely stood there and watched. Observing it in its natural, subdued splendour, the way the gentle morning glow suffused it with a warmth that felt familiar and nostalgic. The light, these things, possessed me and I stood there, momentarily spellstruck by this moment that felt ripped out from my childhood. Funny how when something ordinary feels so oddly aligned with a shred of a past life, it just knocks me back violently – to sights, scents, wishes and wants that once lit up a corner of my mind. I just stood there in the middle of my street, dumbfounded, all at once remembering everything. 

I didn’t move for a while, it could’ve been a minute, seasons, maybe even an entire childhood. Felt a tear rolled down my eye and I finally regained my senses, realizing how tightly I’d been clenching my fist, how heavy my breath was, and how I remembered so much in that moment – all the secrets we exchanged in the dark, the smell of her perfume, the long car rides to nowhere, the childish prayers I left to the wind or the lemon cake my mom would bake to cheer me up after a rough day at school. I hadn’t realised how much I carried with me, all the good and the bad – this feeling that had been rotting in my heart forever. But I didn’t grieve its passing, because none of it is really dead to me, those moments and places, sensation and faces – they were as real as I was and I don’t want to believe that grief is the only price we pay for love. To say – with our fullest chest and strongest voice – that we have loved and lost is such a profound statement that no one, not even the loveless and the weak could fault us for. 

The butterfly suddenly fluttered its wings, as if stirred to life by some westward calling, hastily taking flight. I watched, my heart slowly easing as its silhouette became a blot in the sky, and then just another part of life I could no longer experience. It existed as its own thing now, far away from me, no longer for my spectacle or rumination. It just was, as I was, standing on my street, finally putting those ghosts to rest. There was no use in holding onto them anymore.

I turned around, willing myself to unroot from that spot, and kept walking in the direction of the airport. 

“Y’know, after doing some thinking, I think I’ve come to an astute realisation.”

The bustle of the airport paled in comparison to her voice, like the clarity that emerges from the noise, a singular prayer in a chorus of worship, the calm after a night of revelry and booze. She was standing in front of the boarding gate, facing me, it felt almost symbolic. Vienna stood there behind her, and I was the only thing holding her back.

She took a deep breath and continued, “I think I’m ok with leaving now. I’ve come to terms with it. I’m not personally happy with it, but I think I’ve made peace with my decision. Mainly because I’ve realised that I am ok with leaving, while my heart will always be rooted here, in the place we grew up and spent our twenties in, a part of me also wants to embrace this new chapter of my life. I don’t want to cry for the past anymore or feel sorry for leaving. In the end, it was my decision to leave and nothing will take that away.”

I smiled and a silent understanding seemed to pass between us. “Of course, I will always support you no matter what you do or where you go, goes without saying. I’ve lived beside every version of you, and now I’m excited to meet the Avery in Vienna.”



She brought me in for a hug, squeezing my ribs so tightly I could feel them incrementally dislodge from their place. But I cherished the hurt anyways, knowing it may be the last time I’ll ever feel it burn so vicariously through every nerve of my body. 

The voice on the intercom announced that the boarding gate to her flight was finally open, and we disengaged. The tufts of her hair were strewn messily down the sides of her face and I was tempted to tuck it behind her ear, but she threw a glance behind her, and sighed. “Gotta go now.”

“Right, right.” I took a step back and smoothened my shirt. “So, see you soon?”

“You can count on it.”

The last I saw of her was a final glance thrown over her shoulder as she passed through the boarding gate to her flight. It was such a small, probably insignificant gesture to her, just a little tongue in cheek moment that meant nothing, a little childish act that you’d do to a friend or a relative, a small naive desire. But it meant everything to me. 

That was just her, that was me. Nothing has changed. 

I held that moment in my heart, promised silently we would meet again. We always will. 

Written By: Kay Lynn

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