A Holiday for Healing

“Never have I imagined that you would be here,” he opened. “Not at a time like this.”

“Do I look like a ghost to you?” I laughed.

“Nah, nah. Of course not,” he replied. “But you act like one, not only to me, but also to everybody.”

He finished watering his orchids and did exactly what I imagined he would do — he fixed his thin, silver hair with only a sway of his fingers, walked through the door even if his feet were covered with mud, and pushed two heavy couches which he thought he can never move around. Usually when he does this routine, he would complain about his backaches, which would worsen after cleaning all the serious mess he has made on the floor. In the end, the job will inevitably fall into my hands.

But today, he was different. He grabbed a wet mop and proceeded with the cleaning. Looking at all the sweat hurrying down his face, I knew he was too exhausted, so I attempted to grab the task by gently wrapping my palm around the handle. He glared at me and continued moving — which was another way of saying, “I don’t need your help, moron!”

The night turned quieter and colder. He exhaled deeply as he shielded his arms with his loose jacket. He handed me a scarf, which I only placed on my laps.

“I didn’t even ask how you were doing,” he said. “My apologies.”

“No need to apologise,” I replied. “Besides, my answer will always be the same.”

“Tell me.”

I stared at him intently and said, “Nights will swallow the days; sweet arrivals lead to bitter departures.”

He sipped freely from his cup of coffee and rested his back on the couch. He did not speak, but I believed he knew what I meant to convey.

My sight began hopping on every bulb of the differently-colored Christmas lights that ran across the walls of the room. The speakers sang the tunes of common Yuletide hymns, albeit in their classical versions. I saw the Tree standing like a tiny, defenseless child being driven into a corner.

“I’m sorry about the tree,” he commented as we walked around it. “It’s been years since I last installed it. Look at all this dust …”

Afterwards, I sat on the floor and examined each box neatly covered with costly wrappers. I shook some of the boxes in an attempt to guess the contents. Most of them I guessed correctly —watches, shirts, earphones, and body essentials. The names of the recipients were individually written on tiny gift notes glued atop each box.

I stood up, walked towards the table, and drank all my lukewarm tea in one shot — just like how I treat cold liquors.

“Your name’s not here,” he said, as he held the two smallest boxes. “I’ve got too many things to apologise for.”

I beamed a smile. “Haven’t I told you before? I don’t expect receiving anything from anybody. Not even from you.”

“I know. It’s always okay for you.”

“And if jealousy and/or envy arise from within me due to materialistic thoughts, I will seal them away … just like what I actually do.”

He then leaned on his couch and shifted it in such a way our eyes cannot escape the force that drove us to continue the conversation.

“You’ve always been different, Josue,” he mumbled. “But your uniqueness makes me sad and enthralled at the same time.”

“Why so?” I asked.

“Because what you have always wanted couldn’t be fit into any of those boxes; they can never be demanded.”

“Is it love?”


“What is it?”

For a moment, he paused as if he was trying to find any affirmation from within his reach over my soul. He slouched, motioning like he had arrived with a very specific answer.

“Healing,” he said.

My mind went blank. I moved silently to divert my attention and proceeded to pour another round of tea into my cup. Some of the tea spilled on the table like a stream of mossy river that led to a green sea near my toes. The cup fell on the floor as my hands instinctively and desperately searched for paper towels.

“You’re always like that,” he continued.

“What?” I replied.

“You’re always like that,” he repeated. “Like a cup of tea — you are often prone to spillage and breakage. And yet, no matter how many times you break, you still try to pick yourself up and look for your missing pieces …”

“And each attempt is a disappointment,” I replied hastily. “And each day is an opportunity to bleed and to nurture hatred.”


“I am a duality of love and hatred.”

He did not reply and appeared to be waiting for what I will be saying next. I finished cleaning all the mess and threw shards into the trash bin.

“Some say that love and hatred are polar opposites. But, in some instances, they can coexist and complement each other.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Every time I try to love, reality further drowns me,” I answered as I sat. “It’s like an ocean that has its own hands to pull me underneath until I can no more breathe. But by the next day, I’ll find myself on the shore, still breathing, having realised that the scars I had have renewed to become wounds—some of which are much deeper or more serious than their precursors.”

For a moment, I stopped. My lips failed to connect more words to the previous ones I uttered. I inhaled and exhaled, as if the air that went in and out of my lungs gave me more courage to speak. I knew he wished to talk, and yet, he remained silent.

“That’s why this one here never healed,” I said, as I lightly thumped my chest. “Because every time I try to love, the pain becomes much worse. And that pain breeds more hatred.”

“I understand,” he replied, as he removed his eyeglasses. “It’s like a part of what you’ve always been saying.”


“”Nights will swallow the days; sweet arrivals lead to bitter departures.””

I smiled and gave my short reply. “Indeed.”

He stood up, grabbed a new cup, and poured tea on it. He carefully placed it on the wooden table in front of me, as if he was encouraging me to invite more caffeine into my system. I nodded and took a sip.

“I must say that you’re right,” I said. “Healing is all I needed; and it can never be demanded. I don’t know whether it can be found through love or through something else, but I’m sure it’s there. It may take a long time, but I know it’s reachable.”

The doorbell rang repeatedly. We both smiled when the voices of the children singing Christmas carols reached our ears. We took our purses, launched ourselves to the gate, and gave the children some coins. I checked my phone and realized that it was already past nine, so I quickly bade my farewell.

“Bye, John,” I said.

“I won’t demand you to return soon,” he replied. “But I wish you’ll have the best of healing this Christmas. Take care of yourself.”

“I will,” I answered.


A Cab Driver’s Story

In a world where evil lurks at the every corner, how could we trust someone who is, in entirety, a stranger to us? Shall we completely lose our faith to our fellowmen?
What do you think is something which drives humans to help one another? Read the following selection to find out.

Had I been drunk again? I thought as I was counting in my fingers the number of shots I had taken. I left the hotel as soon as I got my baggage and caught for a cab.

“At the wheat plains, Sir. Near here,” I instructed the cab driver.

I was a product of parents who divorced when I was still a high school senior. I had never seen my mother for six years so I was little unsure if she would still remember me. Or maybe I may not recognize her because of the passing years that had possibly made her older. “In what district, Sir? Heilongjiang is a big winter province,” the driver inquired and expounded. I was moreover uncertain on where to go because my Dad hardly knew the exact address of where she currently resides. “To the nearest. To the south. I don’t know for I’m searching for my Mom,” my unsure reply, “Or maybe try going to the north.”

I woke up that day due to the hunger my stomach had been screaming. “Where are we going?” I asked the driver. The wind blew much stronger than the days before this one. “We’re heading to the north. At Qiqihar,” the driver replied and afterwards briefly paused to yawn, “It is the nearest one from Harbin.”

Some hanging foliage of the trees harmoniously rested on the ground. Some leaves moved with the dancing strokes of the wind. “For how long shall I wait?” I impatiently said. My tummy began churning itself and it groaned like a starving lion. “Around two hours and thirty minutes,” the cab driver said as he jammed his foot on the brakes and stopped the cab the roadside.

Without any sign, he moved out of the vehicle. I waited for him to come back. Now, fifteen minutes had passed. In that short period, I recalled my dad’s advice not to trust anyone. I recalled the moment when I was held up while riding an air-conditioned bus. I thought of the latest crime I recently watched in a crime investigation channel concerning the taxi drivers. I thought that may be the cab driver had already abandoned me on a place that was a stranger to me. I thought of driving the cab myself.

I started thinking of many possibilities. My hands were shaking and my feet were weak that I can’t even lift my feet to walk. As seconds went by, I felt that someone’s draining my last strings of energy. My faith was eventually lost.

“Hey man!” the driver said gasping. He deeply breathed for air and opened the front door of the cab. My vision blurred; I only saw a small brown paper bag secured in his arms.

“Here, I brought in some rice cakes and a cup of fried noodles. And also a can of fresh milk and a bottle of distilled water.”

I handed over the entire meal and took a bite of a rice cake. “Oh here, the chopsticks,” the driver said as he was giving the wooden thing. I didn’t speak because I was busy with the food. And the reason too was that I was marvel

I immediately consumed the can of milk and saved the water later for my search. My mind established a synchronized gearing.

“I’m sorry that it got too long. The storekeeper was still frying the noodles. The noodles are delicious, aren’t they? I am a fan of them and I was waiting at the end of the line,” the driver chuckled. I deeply thought: he looked for a store for me, but why?

“The reason why I left you here is to guard the cab because the street leading to the store is too narrow. Besides, between of the two of us I’m the one who knows the way there,” he added as he drove away.

I nodded in amazement. “But why did you bother doing such?” I asked.

“Not so long time ago, I had a passenger who was also unsure on where to go. She was at midtwenties, I assume. She decided to tell her story as we traveled and then she wished me to drop her off to the north. As far as I can remember, she wanted to take her life on those plains because she thought no one cared for her. I don’t know why she told me her story but I was really bothered. When we were already halfway to the plains, I noticed that she moaned to the window that she was hungry. She grew much paler than I first saw her and she kept on touching her tummy. Meanwhile, I stopped the cab at the roadside. She began screaming because she thought that I would rape her. At that moment, I panicked and searched for a nearby store but I failed. I was already searching for an hour on the streets until I reached a narrow street and went inside. Finally, I saw a store and alas, I bought the same food that I gave you. Meanwhile, I came back to the cab and I was certain that she was about to lose her consciousness so I quickly put her lips to the lid of the can of milk. I thought she was about to die already. Thank goodness that she didn’t!” the driver happily narrated, “She also told me that she was pregnant for a month and that his boyfriend had already abandoned him. She said, ‘I think dying is the best option to do in what a world where no one cares for you. But, now there’s a cab driver who cares for a stranger. How rare in the earth is that!’ From that moment, she wished me to return to Harbin and drop her off near their house and promised to tell her parents about her situation and to have the willingness to take the risk.”

When I heard this, I smiled in great wonder. I remembered also the cab driver who took me from Beijing to Harbin. He added, “I saw you starving. Spending a few yuans for a hungry fellowman was much better than letting him die on the streets.” My faith to humankind had restored.

I was even more marveled. “A coffin is more expensive, nah!” he joked.

I realized from that very moment that even the most underpaid in the world has a caring heart and in him dwells a spirit of openhandedness and empathy.

I was thrilled when the taxi stopped at the middle of the long rocky road. “Here, Sir, how much should pay you?” I excitedly said.

I peeped outside through the window and saw the green plains. The driver looked at the meter and then I gave him the amount. “Oh wait, I better pay you for the nuisance I had cost and the food you had bought for me,” I added. The frost winds blew much stronger. “No need to bother, Sir. I’m already leaving. Good luck to your search!” he said.

I finger-waved and said my farewell to the cab driver. I saw the cab slowly appearing smaller and smaller before my eyes as its distance became exceedingly great. I thought: A thanks is not enough to be said to a Good Samaritan for he too is worthy to be awarded with love!

 Author’s Note:
(1) The author, Sueju Takeshi 武, has written this short story two weeks ago, and since Thursday last week, he began looking and fixing for grammatical errors. As a response to this week’s Writing Challenge, Kill Your Darlings, he chopped down unnecessary ideas (originally 2039 words, now only 1223).
(2) My country and China are currently facing territorial crisis right now, but I recognize the friendly attitude of the Chinese people and their unwavering initiative to help their needy fellowmen.