Someone like me.

Young adult old soul magic realism
Art by: Xuan Loc Xuan

I hadn’t known he lived so close by, all this time. A mere 5 minutes’ walk away, in one of these houses I often see during walks but never really take notice of.

We had been out enjoying the night and the freedom to be ourselves: young and a bit reckless, drunk on the boundlessness of night. That’s when M. noticed him on the balcony. A man so young and pale and delicate, he looked like a boy who had yet to know what the night held. And he was a boy, even though I know that, like M., he had already made his way to his twenties and was reaching to grasp a quarter of a decade. He had been exhaling the smoke from a cigarette, contemplating life in shorts and a sleeping shirt when M. called out to him.

I had always known there were others like me. Out there, in the vast world, in the endless night. Others with eyes so tender from dreams. Others who could enter other dimensions, who could stay rooted to the spot, stuck in ordinary scenes and still be so far away. But these others were never corporeal. They were always nebulous like the night, far away in time and space, in their own worlds, leagues away from me. The others weren’t meant to be a mere 5 minutes from me, from my own cold nights, my silent howling, my early mornings spent awaiting a reply that never came.

It was unmistakable, that look on his face.

I’ve never seen it on myself, but I know how it makes you feel — foggy and infinite, the body merely an illusion of presence, like a boat moored to land but whose sails have long flown into the night.

I could taste that moment, the gentle loneliness emanating from the scene, the kind that comes from being the only one of your kind.

But he doesn’t know does he, I wondered, that he’s not the only one?

I had known of him years before that, short and just as boylike, with a feathery mustache. Our circles had crossed, but we had never really interacted. I had known of him as just another boy, a face with barely a name attached to i.

Who would have known that somewhere in the future, we would share in so many sleepless nights, so many stars without knowing?

He was now talking to M., a soft, tired smile on his face as his cigarette burned away and the night breeze brushed through his shock of black hair.

This changes everything, I thought.

I wasn’t the only one to whom the night had whispered her secrets. I wasn’t the only one who had lived to see nights without end cross over into the early morning. The night was not mine alone to drown in anymore, to wander through aimlessly like a sleepwalker under the artificial glow of the streetlamps.

I watched as he took another drag of his cigarette.

Before long, before I could formulate a plan, his cigarette had burned out and M. returned to the car.

We left, accompanied by loud music and the vivid image of a cigarette being lit in the darkness.

I left him to his freedom as I went to seek out mine.

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