Life is a never-ending crossroad. The choices are there, and one only has to choose which direction to take.
The catch is, every direction is the unknown. It has to be chosen and experienced before the consequences are revealed.
Life is a tricky bastard that way.
Life is sly, cunning. It moves like a monster, lurking in the dark, until an unsuspecting prey passes along the way. And then it jumps and devours it. Mercilessly. Giving it no choice but to surrender.
Bright is the prey.
Within a span of almost three months, Bright’s life—the life that he has tried to keep steady for years and the life that he has fought for and has sacrificed a lot for—changes.
To be free. To fly. To cross over horizons. To reach the precipice of nothingness. These are his goals as a wanderer. Spreading his wings fully—it’s what defines him. It’s what makes him, him.
Yet here he is, on a bench at a bus stop, waiting for the right bus to arrive. His cheeks are wet with tears for crying over the loss of that something that stops him from being him.
Bright doesn’t expect the tears to fall. For one, he never has to deal with something similar before. And two, he never finds the use for them. Tears usually define one’s strength. But in his case, tears define his weakness.
Bright isn’t supposed to feel. Most especially he isn’t supposed to fall. He isn’t supposed to be attached. He is supposed to leave after two months.
He couldn’t. Every time he wants to just pack up and leave, whenever he feels Daniel’s hugs and Mia’s cuddles, or even hears Bow’s toneless voice, and he just postpones it for another day.
And then he sees Wynn. His smiles, his frowns, his morning bed head, his icy expression, his laughing face—saying goodbye has never been more painful. It’s slowly destroying Bright inside.
He has so many questions that are still unanswered. And if they remain blank for a long time, he will disintegrate with the burden that is supposed to set him free.
Is freedom still worth it? Will he allow himself to still flee when all he thinks of is being incarcerated inside that apartment with the people he comes to love in just a few weeks?
Does he still need to fly when every time he thinks about the nest that becomes his temporary home, he wants to settle down?
Does he still need these fluffy, intricate wings that he has been enhancing for so long when his feet are now refusing to fly along with them?
Sure, he has answers. But they are still as fuzzy as his feelings. And it’s unfair if he pushes to stay when what he feels is still as vague as his intended destination.
Bright closes his eyes. For the first time in his life, he wishes for his heart to overrule his mind and his senses.
But God—it won’t cooperate.
He opens his eyes, frustrated at the stubborn fist-sized organ inside his chest. He needs help. He needs clarity. Or else even his life’s purpose will become a vague memory that he might not be able to recover.
Securing his backpack on her shoulders, Bright stands up and crosses the highway to wait for the bus going the opposite way.
His wings need to make a detour. Perhaps, it’s time for him to visit.
It’s been so long.
How many months has it been since Bright has last caught sight of the huge glass house he never calls home?
He almost forgets how beautiful it is. How the transparent glasses allow him to see the large front garden and the small lake at the back. How the sun directly shines on his face the moment he wakes up. How he can clearly see the starry night sky from his bedroom window—
Bright has to admit that he missed this.
He turns towards the cab driver, the old but still jolly Tomas, and hands him a wad of cash. He has to take a cab in town to get here, and he is fortunate that the cab driver knows him and doesn’t make a fuss upon seeing him.
Bright is not going to stay. He doesn’t want a commotion. He doesn’t want a warm welcome. Old Tomas knows it, and he silently acknowledges it with just a mere nod.
“Thank you,” Bright says before closing the door. Tomas gives him one last wave before the old man zooms away.
Bright takes a needed breath before he climbs the three-level stone staircase leading to the front door. The young man steadies the backpack on his shoulder before pressing the doorbell beside the polished wooden door and patiently waiting for whoever will answer the door. It’s still early, around 3 pm. He is quite sure that his family will not be home yet.
Oh how wrong he is. Mika answers the door. Poor Mika whose face pales upon seeing her long lost wanderwhore of a brother.
“Bright?” His sister’s voice is a whisper, but the look in his eyes tells Bright the onslaught of emotions she is currently feeling—shock, delight, a burst of anger, and happiness.
Happiness seems to win. Because Mika’s eyes finally soften as she takes in all of Bright’s form.
“You’ve grown taller,” Mika says softly, her voice quivering. “Not that you weren’t a giant even before. I mean–”
“Mika,” Bright responds gently, a small smile on his face, as he watches the tears start to form in his sister’s eyes.
Mika silently and slowly opens her arms to him. “I deserve a big sisterly hug, don’t you think, you big doofus?”
That’s all Bright needs to hear before he comes walking towards Mika’s arms and embracing her tightly.
And then as if a switch is flicked on, Bright cries. Hard. He cries for missing his family. He cries for staying away for a long time. He cries for leaving. He cries for everything he’s been keeping locked inside his chest for a long time.
Bright cries. He just cries.
The two of them stand there for a long time, with Mika holding his much taller younger brother in her warm, familiar arms.
It’s the sight that their parents come home to. After a few seconds of getting over the shock of seeing their prodigal son, they join the embrace-and-tears fest happening right at their front door.
The three of them hold Bright tight. And Bright, in turn, holds on to them just as tight.
Bright never wants to let go. So he doesn’t.
Bright’s eyes are closed, his head on his sister’s lap, as Mika sings a familiar song to him.
The two of them are about to sleep, but because Bright misses his older sister, he requests for her to sing him a song before she leaves for her bedroom.
It’s oddly comforting.
When they were kids, Mika used to do the same. It was her way of helping Bright divert his attention away from his constant desire to flee. Mika has a beautiful voice, which has always instantly relaxed Bright’s mind.
Bright is on the verge of falling asleep, carried away by his sister’s lovely voice, when Mika suddenly stops singing and asks the question he is not ready to answer yet.
“So who is he? Or is it a she?”
“Who?” Bright’s eyes fly open, trying to sound casual.
“Don’t who me,” his sister says, lightly tugging at his fringe, earning her a loud ouch from said young man. “We both know that something, or more appropriately someone happened.”
“It’s not what—”
Mika covers Bright’s mouth with her free hand. “Shut up. Isn’t that the reason why you’re here looking all tired and confused? I know you more than you know your flighty self. Now confess,” she demands, sounding like how a typical older sibling usually is. But then in a softer tone, she adds, “You know you can tell me anything.”
“So–” Mika clears her throat. “Is it a he or a she?”
Bright blushes before finally admitting defeat. Mika will never leave him alone anyway. “It’s a he.”
“Bright–” His sister’s voice sounds frustrated. “What are you so afraid of?”
“I don’t know,” Bright honestly responds. “I honestly don’t know anymore. I used to be aware of my fears and my desires, Mika. But now they’re all blurred again and I feel lost.”
“No, you aren’t,” Mika says.
“I’m not what?”
“You aren’t lost,” Mika replies. “You came back home. You knew your way back home. You’re not lost.”
Bright chuckles softly. “I don’t understand myself anymore, how can I not be lost?”
Mika shakes her head. “I really think you’re wrong about this. I don’t think you’re lost. In fact, I think you’re experiencing the opposite.”
Bright remains silent, waiting for his sister to elaborate because he knows she will, at least until she knocks some sense into him.
“You found something. And it’s making you feel confused because you don’t know how to handle the feelings it’s eliciting from you. Am I right? Or am I correct?”
Bright fails to respond, but his silence is enough for both of them.
“There are things in this world worth taking a risk for. Because sometimes, it’s in taking a risk that we find the clarity we’re looking for.” Mika lightly strokes Bright’s cheeks before her fingers drift back to his hair. “Bright, I will not ask for details. Maybe you need to sort it out first yourself even before you can share it with the people who care for you—I don’t know, I’m not sure. But I just want to ask this—do you think, whatever this is that’s making you feel confused, it’s worth it?”
Mika sighs. “Idiot, don’t use this too much,” she says while flicking a finger on her brother’s forehead. “You’ve been using this since the beginning of time along with your stupid senses. Well bad news, they’re not always reliable. Your senses get dull and this brain of yours is overused.”
Bright frowns. Mika shakes her head.
“Use this instead. Because sometimes, this fist-sized thing here is the only thing you need to consult.” Mika reaches for his hand and places it on his chest.
Bright can feel his heart beating. Right now, the beat is a slow, continuous rhythm. But even if it lacks the pumping adrenaline that a fallen heartbeat possesses, Bright knows at least this particular answer. Because every beat reminds him of nothing but him.
I love you.
“He told me he loves me,” Bright admits as he stares at the ceiling.
“And?” Mika asks softly.
I love you.
Those words used to scare him and chase him away.
“I don’t know,” Bright replies.
I love you.
“Are you ready, Bright?”
Am I ready? Is he ready to be a familiar face in a world full of strangers? Is he ready to be somebody in a world full of somebodys? Is he ready to cut the wings off his flighty feet and stay?
Bright remembers the way that Daniel toothily smiles whenever he wants to ask a favor from anyone. The boy knows how to use his charms to his advantage. Bright remembers the way Mia always tries to act like a grown-up lady even though she is very much still a girl in everyone’s eyes. Bright remembers the way Bow tries to act tough even when he wants to be vulnerable. He’s quite bad at hiding his uncertainties even when he tries so hard to cover them up.
And then Bright finally remembers Wynn. Just Wynn. Because everything about him is something and everything to Bright.
Is he ready? He feels like he is.
Lupita’s words echo in his mind like an endless loop.
“When you can’t take the flight, allow yourself to fall. There’s nothing wrong with falling… and risking whether someone will catch you or not.”
And then Mika’s.
“Leave, travel, go everywhere, anywhere… but come back. Because no matter how much it scares you, home is home, Bright. You need a home. Even if it’s not with us, there will come a time that you will have to stay somewhere.”
“How will I know?”
“When you come back on your own, you know you’re ready to stay.”
Stay. Home. Come back.
“Bright?” Mika’s voice cuts through his thoughts.
“We want to meet him,” Mika declares with a fond smile. “We want to meet the man who finally made you want to stay.”
Bright’s cheeks turn red, but doesn’t say anything. Sometimes he wants to strangle his sister for knowing him more than he knows himself.
Mika simply chuckles at his reaction.
“Sleep it off, Bright,” she says before lifting his brother’s head and putting a pillow under it. “Tomorrow, I bet you will have the answer.”
“Good night, Bright. And don’t think too much.”
The sun doesn’t even begin to shine yet, but Bright is already totally awake.
He takes one last look at the piece of paper in his hand before placing it on top of his bedside table.
“I promise I will come back soon,” he whispers.
Bright quietly leaves his room.
And the house.
He has a place to go.
Dear Mom, Dad, and Mika,
I woke up today and realized that my flighty feet are fading along with my wings. My feet do not feel as light anymore, and my wings are now a pair of translucent nerves that feel useless.
I feel like they will both disappear soon. In my heart, I have accepted that fact.
But before they totally disintegrate right in front of my eyes, I will use them to have one last flight.
And then I will allow them to finally be clipped.
I will see you soon. I promise. By that time, it will be by feet and not by wings.
I love you all.
Bright knows Mika will find his letter. Bright also knows that he will once again disappoint his parents.
But Mika will understand. And she will make their parents understand.
It’s just that Bright has to do this.
For himself and for him.
The café is full.
It is that time of the month when people just want to laze around in an air-conditioned place, gobbling up sweet things while having their caffeine fix.
Bright stands outside the café with his backpack slung on his broad shoulders. He takes a deep breath, the beat of his heart changing along with the look in his eyes.
This time, he doesn’t look conflicted. Or burdened. With a determination that he has only felt once or twice in his life, he barges inside the café, his eyes instantly searching for him.
He doesn’t see anyone, not even Daniel and Mia, who are both there, looking surprised at Bright’s sudden appearance.
Bright whips his head and meets Bow’s pleasantly surprised face. He seems to be manning the counter. Bright would have been surprised too upon finding the other man there, but he is busy searching for someone else.
Bright walks towards him, his gait laced with purpose.
“Where’s Wynn?” he asks, sounding a little breathless. Bow opens his mouth to answer him when a sound of a swinging door is heard.
“Bow? What’s the commotion all—Bright?”
And Bright freezes in place at the sight of the man he misses, flighty feet and all.
Wynn doesn’t know the feeling of how it is to fly.
He doesn’t have wings. He finds no purpose for the pair of elaborate, gentle mesh that has the ability to bring a soul onto its favored destination, along with the feeling of lightness and the taste of freedom.
He doesn’t know how it feels to spread one’s wings, and then allowing them to glide with the wind or even against it.
He doesn’t know how it feels to maneuver a pair of massive woven feathers attached to one’s back as he mingles with the clouds and breathes everything in.
He doesn’t know how it feels to synchronize the movements of his limbs with the flap of his wings.
All he has ever needed in his life is a pair of legs. Legs that can help him carry the load that he has willingly carried on his back for years.
He used to not care. But he finally catches sight of a wing carrier from his post on the ground and Wynn just finds himself captivated by the sight.
He loves how the rhythmic flutter of the wings synchronizes with the dance of the wind. He is amazed by the shadow the figure casts upon the shrouds of white, a touch of gray that heightens the feel of realness amidst the realm of the reel.
But then, the shadow starts to fall. And in his haste to catch it, he changes the direction of his feet.
Wynn feels the fall. While he is the one who catches, he still feels the impact. The reckless descent robs him off his breath, leaving him gasping for a much-needed air that is neither granted nor felt. He feels helpless as he flails, trying to clutch at a saving grace that will break his fall.
He never finds it. Yet, he feels like he never hits the bottom ground. He remains suspended in a cloud of ambiguity, the fine line between two clashing yet complementary forces—the purgatory of a truth and a lie.
At the moment, he is not sure which he prefers—the truth that can destroy him or a lie that can temporarily save him?
How to fall. He never did learn the basics. He’s clueless, emotionless, on what to exactly do now that the man he misses so much is in front of him.
Bright has beautiful, expressive eyes. And he is looking at him with those brown orbs that never fail to render him momentarily useless and numb.
Wynn’s mind is currently a vessel of unguarded, unanswered questions.
What is Bright doing here? Why did he come back?
Bright just left a couple of days ago, leaving him with a hollowness that he has not once felt. And now the man is here. And he is scared to know the answers he might have brought with him.
Wynn walks closer until he’s standing just a foot away from Bright. Bright, who seems to have frozen in place. Wynn would have laughed at the expression on his face if neither of their hearts were on the line.
His movement seems to have woken Bright up from his temporary daze. In fact, the other man looks startled.
Wynn remains quiet and doesn’t say anything. He is afraid to utter a word, worried that it might chase the other away even before Bright states his purpose.
Wynn waits. He waits for Bright to say the first word.
And he does.
“I… visited my family,” Bright says.
The statement confuses Wynn, but he doesn’t say a word, waiting for the other man to finish talking.
“Wynn, I… I… how do I explain this?” The words are whispered, but Wynn still hears them. And before he can stop himself, he reaches out to cup his cheek–a gentle gesture that surprises them both.
“What’s the matter?” Wynn asks carefully. “Did… did something bad happen?”
Bright shakes his head, but doesn’t utter another word.
Bright shakes his head again, and with more conviction this time. However, he still doesn’t say a word to Wynn.
“Bright,” Wynn calls softly, trying to read the cloudy thoughts reflected in Bright’s eyes, but the other averted his gaze. Wynn sighs. “Look at me, Bright. Please?”
Perhaps it’s the pleading tone in his voice, but Bright finally does.
And Wynn finally sees everything.
There is fear in those eyes. There is also doubt. And there is… resolve. Despite the thin veil of insecurity, there is determination in those eyes—Bright wants this to happen and he will not regret it, whatever it is the other man is about to do or say.
Wynn’s chest aches. And he knows, he will soon bleed. He doesn’t need more words to come out from the other’s mouth to define what he has seen in Bright’s eyes.
Wynn cups Bright’s face with both of his hands. He doesn’t say a word, but his eyes are begging Bright to prove him wrong.
“I can’t, Wynn,” Bright whispers. “I can’t stay.”
Wynn stills, his hands as rigid as ice.
“Listen to me, Wynn, please listen to me,” Bright hurriedly says, placing his hands above Wynn’s before the other can take them away. “Wynn, I did not come here to stay. Not yet. I am not yet ready.”
Wynn’s face remains unreadable. Bright gives him a sad smile. He caresses the hands that are still on his face, the gentle soothing motion of his fingers relaxing Wynn, but not making him feel better.
“Why?” Wynn finally asks.
“Because I want closure. And to find it, I need to take one last flight on my own.”
On his own. He doesn’t need Wynn and it fucking hurts.
“Wynn–-I have to go back and retrace the paths I have taken. It’s the only way I know I can attain the closure I’ve been looking for. But before I can do that, I–” Bright’s hold on his hand tightens. “I need to come here first. I need to see you. I need to–I just… I just want you to know that I want to. Stay,” Bright softly admits. “I need you to know that I do.”
Wynn remains silent.
“But my wings–” Bright continues as he gives Wynn’s hands one last caress before releasing them. “They couldn’t be clipped overnight. I need time to slow down so I will not crash and leave us with nothing but broken pieces of me. Do you… do you understand me, Wynn?”
“I need to clip my wings on my own,” Bright says, his eyes never leaving Wynn’s. “And… I need time, Wynn.”
Time. Time is always a factor in a crucial decision. A cruel constant in a world full of uncertainties.
“But I will come back. I will always come back.”
But will you ever stay? Wynn wants to ask Bright. But for some reason, he remains tightlipped.
“Wynn–please always ask me every time I come back,” Bright says, pleads, as if he can understand Wynn’s thoughts. “I know it’s selfish and my answer might not be what you would want to hear, but please always ask me.”
Desperation. Sadness. Anger. Hope. He can hear them all in Bright’s voice.
“I will need to hear you say the words,” Bright continues. “Because even if I will not be ready to stay yet, I will always have a reason to come back. I will always have something to hold on to, something that will always remind me that I need to try because there is someone, something waiting for my answer.”
No words come out of his lips. But he knows Bright can see his pain.
“Promise me,” Bright whispers.
And then… Bright kisses him.
And Wynn– he kisses him back, pouring all the words he couldn’t say in that one last desperate gesture.
“I’m not enough, am I?” Wynn finally asks when their lips separate.
“I love you,” Bright whispers against his lips, not bothering to answer the question Wynn finally has the courage to ask.
And then he lets go.
Without another word, Bright immediately turns around and leaves, the sound of the bell tinkling after him.
He doesn’t look back. Not once.
Wynn doesn’t see the people around him. Doesn’t see Bow looking at him with worry in his usually indifferent eyes. Doesn’t hear Daniel and Mia being restrained by Jared and Reeve because they are both calling for Bright. Doesn’t hear the sighs of disappointment and pity from the other patrons in the café.
Wynn’s eyes are only on Bright’s retreating figure. He watches Bright walk away from him until he can no longer see the other man.
Until he can no longer feel him.
Until he disappears from his life..
Wynn closes his eyes and makes a small promise to himself.
One day. One day he will be the weight to his wings so he will not be blown astray by the unpredictable wind. He will guide him down until his feet completely touch the ground and he no longer needs to fly.
And Wynn will never let go.
But right now, he needs to accept that he is not enough to make Bright stay.
And he has to let him go.
Endings pave the way for beginnings.
A month after Bright left, Wynn and his family of four started new routines. Routines are something that would not have been possible if their lives weren’t touched by a stranger.
“Are you ready to go, kids?” he hears Bow call from the living room. Wynn places his empty coffee mug at the kitchen counter and leans back against it, preparing his ears for the coming retort.
“We’re coming, Papa! Dan is just slow! His legs are still too short!”
“Am not slow, Mia! And I’m not a shorty! I will grow tall, tall, tall, once they cut my ding-dong, you will see! Don’t be a meanie! I will just tie my shoelaces!”
“What do you mean they will cut your ding-dong?! Papa! Dan is talking nonsense! Uncle Wynn!”
“It’s true, Mia! That’s what happens to boy grownups!”
Wynn shakes his head, a small smile plastered freely on his face. From among all the changes Bright caused, this is probably the best one.
Bright. Wynn unconsciously places his hand on his left chest. The thought of the other man still pains him, but he is coping. He has to accept the fact that while there is a possibility that he might come back, there is an even bigger possibility that he might not. While the pull of the heart wins most of the time, the pull of one’s soul is enigmatically more stubborn.
Even he understands that.
It’s heart versus soul. And Bright’s soul is as stubborn as his invisible wings.
Wynn shakes his head, trying to get rid of the unwanted thoughts. He composes himself before he exits the kitchen, car keys in hand, and joins his brother in the living room.
Bow looks up from the magazine he’s been reading and offers Wynn a small nod.
“Mia has a meeting for her class’s bake sale,” Bow says tonelessly. “Dan says he will wait for her until 2 pm.”
“She’s not even ten and she already has meetings?” Wynn asks, clearly joking. “And Bake Sales? Just so you know, you will pay for the cakes she will get from the café.”
Bow rolls his eyes. “Tell me about it. She’s being smug about it too. She acts like a damn grown up sometimes and I don’t like it. She is growing up too fast. And the cakes–just deduct it from my salary,” he sighs.
Bow doesn’t seem to realize it, but he’s being possessive and protective, and it’s a good sign. For someone who is diagnosed of not being able to feel again, it’s always a good sign whenever Bow shows any type of emotion.
Wynn reaches out to pat him on the back. “You’re doing quite well, Daddy.”
Wynn feels Bow stiffen upon hearing the label, but he immediately relaxes.
“Thank you,” Bow whispers. He doesn’t need to tell Wynn how embarrassed he is. Once upon a time, Wynn had mastered the art of reading Bow. That skill hasn’t diminished in time, flat affect or no flat affect. He might never be able to see happy tears from Bow’s eyes again, but he knows his brother would have been crying by now if he could. Unlike Wynn, Bow never had a problem with expressing his emotions through tears. Bow has always been braver than him.
A comfortable silence hangs between them, the type of stillness that has now become a welcomed regular presence. Silence, in any of its forms, has been a sort of comfort for Wynn.
“Are you going to be okay?” Bow asks him a couple of minutes later. He sounds cautious, careful, as if he’s scared that Wynn will suddenly break in front of him like a piece of fragile glass.
Will he be okay?
He has to be. He just has to be.
Wynn values life and its flow. Life, even with a shattered heart and unfulfilled desire of the soul, must always, always go on.
Wynn lifts his hand to touch his heart that’s painfully beating inside his chest.
“I will be,” he responds softly, his words echoing the thoughts of his mind but not the yearning of his soul.
He will be.