Saturday, January 26, 2008

Love in the Fire: Revisited

He stood there, looking at what was left of the building that held all his memories. His love, his dreams, his wishes...

His girl.

Her.

All gone, in that one fire.

His hands ran through the remains of the charred pillars, and he sighed. Shrapnels of charcoal crackled every time his feet landed on them. He never wanted to return to that place, but he had to. His memories haunted him. The memories, like a demon, refused to leave his soul and body.

He taught he got over her. He thought now that she's gone, he's free to walk a free man again in this world. He thought wrongly. Not only is he not a free man, as a matter of fact, he is instead a slave, a prisoner, a captive of his very own actions. It should be She that hurt him when she left for the 2 other boys, but now he realized that he allowed himself to be hurt and now he's bearing the consequences of his actions.

So much so until he could never forgive himself. So much so until he could never stay in the same college to finish his academic studies. So much so until he spent 2 months alone, locked himself up in his own room to think things through. So much so until he lost what made him complete.

Kneeling down in the midst of the ruins of her home, he closed his eyes. Crystal beads rolled slowly but steadily from the corners of his eyes. Wincing like in pain, he clutched his fist and slammed it into the ground. An outburst of frustration, disappointment, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness....

"God, why?"

Perhaps God heard his cries, perhaps God felt his pain. A drizzle followed, then a downpour of refreshing water from the skies. The heavens opening up to wash his tears away from his face. He allowed the raindrops to gently hit his face, and feeling every drop falling onto his cheeks, his fist unclenched, his fury slowly left him. He opened his eyes, and the first object that came to his sight forced him to close his eyes again.

It was a little rose plant. He refused to look at it. The rose that was supposed to save his love from the very fire itself. It all was a myth, but what was it doing there?

And again, his tears fell. The rain still fell on his face, mixing the rain and his tears together, leaving him wondering which is which.

Son, why are you running away? A still small voice, from the depths of his heart surfaced. He knew that voice. It was the same voice that told him to approach her when she was sitting all by herself on the table.

Why are you still running? He ran to the fire academy after that 2 months of depression to be a firefighter. If I can't run away from my fears, then it's time to face it, he told himself. Probably fighting the fire would get his mind off her for good. It never did. Every single moment he spent training and every subsequent day he spent putting out the fire, it all only reminded him of her even more.

Why are you still here then? Now he noticed that something has changed. The tone of that voice now carried a sense of urgency. People need you. Get up, and go! He quickly got up from where he knelt down and swiftly jogged to his car. Looking into his pager, he saw a message that sent chills down his spine.

In no time, he was in the next fire-engine, zipping down the busy streets of Manhattan. Zipping up his attire without saying much, the captain briefed the people all about the situation in New York.

"It's a terrorist attack soldiers," the captain said solemnly. "World Trade Center was slammed by 2 planes say 15 minutes ago. It's hell over there, but there are people still stuck in there."

"Rule is simple. Forget about the fire, just move in and save those who are trapped there."

The fire engine jerk to a halt, and the firemen stopped in their tracks unlike the usual jump-off-the-truck-and-grab-a-hose-and-run-to-the-fire stance. Only then did the captain's words actually sank into them. All hell is lo0se over there. The twin towers were sputtering with smoke from both towers. People were running away from the towers. Some were looking in horror, some were videotaping the whole unfurling scene.

And as usual, the fear resurfaced in his memories. The Fire. But it wasn't the time now to mop over his loss. There was a greater fear right in front of him. A bigger fire that he has to put out.

He grabbed an axe, put on his helmet, loaded his oxygen mask and ran towards the building. The crowd made a little pathway for the firemen to pass by. As they jogged into the towers, the crowds on both ends were teary and broken. An American defeated, the hope loss, and amidst the catastrophe that is unfolding before their very own eyes, a group of brave men rise to that challenge.

"God bless you son! God bless you!" One old lady cried out with tears spilling down her cheeks.

"Be careful!" Another one chanted.

Some stretched out their hands to touch the firemen. Maybe they were blessing them with their prayers of protection. The firemen were now, the last hope of the Americans. The last hope of survival not only for the people who were left caught in the building, but for the nation as a whole. That hope was still there despite what was going on.

And as he ran through the crowd, seeing how people looked up to him as a symbol of survival and hope, he wondered then, where is my hope?

He and his colleagues slammed on every door that was locked and eventually found the staircase. People were dashing out of the stairway and headed for the door. "To the roads people. To the roads!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. Then they ran up the 75 flights of stairs. It was a painful run, especially for him. Every step was heavy. Every floor hurt him.

Every fire he tried to put out, he remembered about the love he tried to rekindle, the relationship he worked so hard to save, the fire he so hard tried to keep alive.

Suddenly the building trembled. Tremors sent cement dust falling from the ceilings. The firemen grabbed the railings of the stairways. The worst that all firemen feared was now a reality.

"This building's coming down people. Abort mission, get the hell out of here!" The captain yelled. They all quickly turned back and ran down the stairs.

Only he stood there, in his steps. Watching his fellow colleagues brush past him, he knew that the only way to overcome his fear and his pain, is to face it. But differently. He ran up, opposite the direction of his colleagues, despite the yells of his friends to follow him back, despite the many calls of his captain from the radio to get out, he pursued. He continued to run up the stairs, smash down every single door that was lock, and allowed at least a couple more trapped people out and running down to safety.

The oxygen mask hid his tears. But it wasn't tears of pain anymore, it was tears of joy. He knew, that it wasn't the fire that scared him, it was the significance of what a fire meant to him. He should have realized from the very start, that it wasn't just the memories of saving her and his rose from the fire that he kept reliving, but it was the roses of others that he saved in every fire.

For the years that he stayed on even when every fire hurt him to the core of his heart, he hung on and pressed on, despite not knowing why he did it for, despite that even if he did it to really run away from her, he still did it. For those years that he never gave up, he not only saved people, he saved second chances, opportunities, or perhaps, another chance to love. Now he knew what he was doing. Seconds away from his last moments on earth, he smiled. Been such a long time since he last smiled, and there in the shaking building spewing smoke and dust on the verge of collapsing, he felt an overwhelming satisfaction and meaning in life. Finally able to understand what God had made him to be, he was ready to leave this world.

At that point of time, where the world was watching with horror and shock, as the buildings came down one after another, it was there, as though time had stopped for him to overcome his grief and savour every last joyful moment he finally reclaimed, it was that very point of time where he became a free man. A man that is, at last, free from the hurts of his past, the tears of his heart, and the pain of saving his loved one. He never turned back to the ground, he never moved away from the fire. He stayed in there, he challenged it, and he became free.

And later the week, as people recovered the bodies from the wrecks and ruins, some said that they found a fireman, with an axe in one hand, and a red rose in the other. They said that rose was most likely to be fresh at the time he died. Some said it was a gift from God, one girl knew remembered a rose was once saved from a fire not too long ago, was kept and left for her. For the second and last time, he saved a rose from the fire, with his life. It was a rose that will never die or fade, an everlasting beauty that will never wilt or dry up. It was not for her, but for himself.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Facts against the Truth

Fact is, we're never good enough
Truth is, we can always be the best that we can be.

Fact is, this world always full of darkness
Truth is, the light shines the brightest only because of the darkness.

Fact is, there will always be things and situations that we can never comprehend
Truth is, we can choose to walk in faith and trust in a force that is above Man

Fact is, not everyone will like us for who, or what we are
Truth is, we are what we are, we are who we are, the way our Creator made us

Fact is, not everyone can accept us
Truth is, those that do accept us will love us, and will appreciate us

Fact is, the journey is often tiring and difficult
Truth is, the journey is never walked alone

Fact is, there will always be war, pain, sufferings, tears and cries
Truth is, those sad things that we often want to avoid, brings out the best of humanity


I once told my mom, that Man are either made for war, or they're made out of war. And I realized, that those that were supposed to be made for war will not necessarily win the war, and likewise those that were supposed to be made out of war will not necessarily learn the lessons from the war.

There is always 2 sides to things: the facts - which we can see, believe and be convinced about based on evidence - or the truth, which more often than not, depends on what we choose to believe in.

And the truth to me, is that the facts don't define me, it don't change people, it only brings the truth to light.

What would you believe in?

Giving Up

I'm not the typical person to give up, and the only time I would do so is either when I feel that it becomes pointless to persist or pursue, or when the times get to hard on me until it hurts.

And in this case, the reason would be an overlapping of both.

For months and years I've tried too hard to be someone I'm not, something I myself can't understand, and play a role that I'm tired of playing. That is a role of pretending. Pretending that I'm always happy with the way things are, satisfied with how people treat me, enjoying the company of people that often neglect me. Because deep down, I've been crying for so long because it just hurts to know that people that you actually love no longer love you as much, or that the ones that you truly care for have forgotten you, or that you are merely a second class friend to many people around.

Coz the fact is, that I'm not the type of person that would often be likable. That's simple. Because I'm short and not good looking, because I'm loud and speak up my mind, because I look scary when I'm serious, and of course, because I'm often too authoritative and speak with a commanding voice.

Too long I've tried to be a friend to people that are scared of me. Too many times I've been there for people who never did really care about me. Too often I go the extra mile for those who would take me for granted. But they know that I still would do all those even if they never think I'd care.

And now, I officially declare, that I could no longer be bothered, and I refuse to allow myself to be hurt by the actions of the people I care. Not by caring less, but by not caring about their reactions. That I still stand beside them when they need me and i just leave them when they don't want me. That's exactly what I'm going to do from now onwards.

Frankly, it's only because they don't understand that I am accountable to a force greater than Man. It's simply due to the fact that they don't comprehend the magnitude of responsibility that is upon my shoulders. And of course, they don't see the times I have to be with others more than themselves.

Thus, I miss out opportunities in being the nice guy, the best friend, or the brother that many have always dreamt of. As a result of that, I no longer am the one that people like. After all, I was never the likable one. He was, the guy wearing specs and shorts. The other one is more good looking than me, the one who just had a hair cut (unlike my shearing of hair)

I'm too tired to give a damn now about all these. So just leave me alone if you're gonna compare about who's the nicer guy, or who you're gonna spend more time with, coz I'm too tired and hurt to know any more.

Yes, you know who you are.

And it's just going to be too bad if you can't accept me. I don't desire your acceptance, but I won't mind the extra friend that comes with that price of acceptance. Deep down, I do wish I had friends that look beyond 'being likable'. I'm just not that guy. And I'm terribly sorry if you're disappointed. And yes, I'm crying as I type this.

But I'll be fine. As usual. Just need to ventilate once in a while. And if you're going to condemn me for ventilating, just close this browser or go to someone's else blog. Just leave me alone if you have nothing nice to say.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Beheading the Knight

My room was dark. Nearly pitch dark. Didn’t need much lights. I like to think alone in the darkness. Clearly, I could see, were 3 documents on top of the table. One was a documentary article about the cats. It was a ‘parting souvenir’ that the seniors gave me. According to them, it was tradition to pass that article around to people who would be leaving.


I finished reading that article in a minute. Slouching back into my armrest, I flung the article back onto the table and chuckled to myself. So that’s why they gave me that article, I said to myself.


The cat is known for its silent kills, quiet moves and its non existing sense of loyalty. It befriends creatures that are of purpose, meaning or use to itself. The cat has no loyalty to any master, but to the person who feeds it and keeps it happy. It does not recognize to place or person, and is famed for irritating its next of species – the dogs.


Much has happened. Even more will be happening in the days to come. In this region of Santo Ae, things happen. Quietly. Swiftly. Without warning or notice. People here are cunning, like foxes, like leopards lying low, waiting for a careless prey to come by and pounce on it.


I was that prey.


The second document, was a letter. A formal resignation letter to my superiors. I had it sealed with a wax seal my friend made for me while we were still in Knights Kin together, the place where I was formerly trained in. Famed for having the best education academy in the country, I was deployed from Knights Kin to help develop the education system in Santo Ae. On the platform, he stuffed the seal into my pocket.


“Let this seal, my friend, be a seal of our commitment to the education of this country. Regardless of which state, regardless of who we work with, we serve the King.” And off he went, and up I went on the train.


The problem about an autonomous state is obvious. Different states do things differently. While some states are prepared to learn from other states about what is best, not all are prepared to progress. As an educationist, I once asked my lecturer, how is it that education, in certain states, are a priority for development.


“Don’t talk about education, son,” the wise lecturer said. “Even the healthcare and homeland security were never given attention.”


Then what was important in Santo Ae?


“Finance and military.”


Tears rolled down my eyes even as I walked along the streets of Santo Ae on my first day of posting. The streets of SA were decorated with beautiful and gold plated ornaments, a refined architectural taste, beautifully paved streets and luxury cars running along it. People clad in LV and Gucci, aristocrats sipping coffee under the banners of Coffee Bean. Yet I stopped an adolescent and asked for directions, and he stared at me blankly.


“Di-rek-sion?” he stammered. Shaking his head, he walked past me. Thinking that he could’ve been a foreigner, I stopped another teenager. And another girl in her youths. Probably a couple more teens who were dressed in the latest trend.


I was left to draw my own conclusion. They can’t even speak properly.


What has happened to the education?


“It’s virtually inexistence,” the district education officer briefed me while picking me up from where I last cried. “People here know something’s missing, but they’re not prepared to change. The funding came, but no one was prepared to use it. They say that the materials we bought were not suitable for our young children. They protested that we’re making them more secular, but they forget that they themselves are growing up in a secular region.”


“After all,” he quipped, “SA is the leading region for high-end boutiques. I’m sure you noticed that.”


For almost 2 decades, the education system was left in shambles and shackles. Teachers were not properly trained, the system was dysfunctional, schools were in a deplorable state. When I came in 2 years ago, I was working closely with the district officer. Together we planned a revamp right from grass root level, made teachers work on a contract basis – which states a minimum number of hours that they must undergo training before they can teach – and upgraded schools to better equip them.


It was 2 tiring years. 2 years of reviewing every single teacher and every single school. 2 years of intensive training given. There were times I felt that I was being underpaid for the amount of energy and time I spent into training those teachers, but I never complained. 2 reasons why.


Firstly, because education was something I could do. It was The Career for me, it brought meaning to my life, it made my world colourful, it was something I was good in doing. Education was everything to me. I grew up appreciating the importance of education, and I grew up knowing that I would one day end up as an educationist.


Secondly – and more importantly – I was serving the King. It was an honour in the country – whichever region you live in – to be called to serve the King. On His Majesty’s service, a title that any citizen of the country would want to earn. The best part was this: the title HMS is never earned or worked for, it is given on the grace of the King. And I was graciously given this duty to serve Him.


It was an uphill battle to make a failed system work again. The daunting task, ironically, was not against the system, rather against the people that puppet-mimed the system. What people in SA never knew, was that the reason why education was a flop was because of politicians that control the system.


“There is only one reason why they refuse to allow the education system to work,” the District Officer revealed to me one day. “It’s so that the people won’t learn to think, or get smarter than them to put them out of their office.”


I was probably na├»ve back then. I said to myself, I’ll just do my part, no politics, no foul play, no dirty games. Just do my job, and go back to Knight’s, send the King a full report of what I’ve been doing, and keep the folks in SA happy. That’s it. Full stop. And for a while, things seem to be going along that line. Some phone calls from disgruntled politicians were all but else to keep me from my job. For that while, things were getting better. The students were now more responsive to the new education system, they were learning how to read and write, teachers were getting more confident, and were happy teaching.


The real celebration came on New Year’s Eve. The national regional rankings were released by the Federal Attorney. It was the annual placing of the region in the education sector whereby each region were evaluated based on the results produced by students in a unity test conducted by the Federal Attorney. Champagnes were chilled and popped. It was a celebration, a real party. Santo Ae made it to the top 5 best regions for education! Best part, we were right behind Knight’s Kin in positioning. It called for a celebration. Cheers and shouts ringed through the district’s office. That night we sang and partied into the night.


I called my friend in Knight’s to break the good news. He was elated.


“Just be careful.” He cautioned as he hung up the phone. I frowned while staring into the soon empty screen of my phone. Be careful? Over what?


Perhaps he saw what I failed to see. Insights that came with experience and years of working in the education sector.


Day after New Year, I got a call from the District officer’s secretary. “Meet me at the bridge outside your office.”


My friend in Knight’s was right. Something went wrong. Awfully wrong.


She revealed to me that the day before – barely 12 hours after the results were announced – Santo Ae’s Cabinet met to discuss certain issues. One of it, was certainly about education. They have decided unanimously upon the next cause of action for the education sector.


A total revamp in the sector. Replacement of the district officer, advisors, and teachers. All present sources utilized in the education sector will be transferred to the Home Affair council.


“The Home Affair council?” I shrieked. “That’s another council that’s virtually inexistence! What have they been doing?” I stopped, and yelled a more important question. “And who’s to take over the education sector? The new D.O?”


A politician, she said.


I was angry, I was disappointed, I was delusioned. Realizing that all our efforts and expertise and time spent to developing this sector was officially a waste. Not only would the new politician not know how to keep the education sector running, he’d again cripple the system. The whole model we built on how this system should function, will backfire and collapse, in a matter of time.


And what did the D.O do?


Nothing.


He wasn’t a politician, he wasn’t a power player. He, like me, was merely a pawn in the bigger game of chess that the politicians played.


I packed my belongings that very day. Both the D.O and his secretary advised me against staying to try salvage what’s left. “It’s not worth it,” those words still ring in my head. It never will be. As I was packing my stuff, the letter of appointment from the King’s office fell from a file. It sat lying on the floor, and I just stared at it for a while. So much for working for the King, proud to be part of the King’s ministry, and this is how it’s supposed to end?


How am I supposed to account to the King?


The third document was a single piece of paper. Blank, except for the few words typed and printed out neatly in the very middle of the paper.


In this matter, then, none of you should do wrong to other Brothers or take advantage of them. We have told you this before, and we strongly warned you that the Lord will punish those who do that.

1 Thessalonians 4:6



That very words came from a senior officer who has seen more than I did, went through more than I did, felt more than I did. Taking heed of the words of this wise man, I boarded the very next train back to Knight’s. At the back of my mind, the clouds of delusion slowly faded away. All that was left in vision, was a region with everything needed to make it strong and powerful, had it not be for the politicians who live in that very state of denial, assuming that things are working out well while they’re not, and sabotaging every single department just for their sake of survival.


The King will know about this. Somehow, someway, it’s only but a matter of time. Tilting my head back on the seat rest, I only prayed that that day would be soon.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Looking into the Mirror

Sometimes the mirror ain't the best thing to look at, coz there are times that you just don't wanna face yourself.

True?

The times when you feel like you're a total ass - over some real lousy things you did; the times when you feel like you're just totally useless - for not being able to comfort a friend that you love; the times when you feel that you're never not good enough - after some people that 'mattered' to you rejected you..

And sometimes, the mirror confuses you. It does for me, you?

I look into the mirror, see myself and yet not see myself. Asking, what am I? Who am I really? What do I do now to make people happy?

Amazingly, those other times where it neither makes me feel worse or confused, it makes me better.

To reveal weaknesses on my outer appearance, and work to rectify it - though in vain most of the time. Putting light on what needs to be done to look better. Giving me opportunities to improve on the way I smile, the way I tuck my shirt, or which tie would suit my shirt better.

The same thing that makes us better, could be the same thing that makes us worse. The very stuff that puts a tear in our eye, could well be the very thing that carves a smile over our face.