[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21 & Chapter 22]
Andy got off the bed and walked over to Diano who was curled up in the chair beside the window. Diano’s face was buried in his thighs while he hugged his legs tightly. Andy rubbed the back of his neck and put an arm around him. Diano looked up at Andy and tried to smile but couldn’t.
Andy stood there for five minutes without saying a word. When Diano had quietened down, Andy whispered to him.
“Lie down on the bed.”
Diano drank some water and put the glass down on the table.
“Sorry. I had to let it out.”
“You should do that more often. Just let it out otherwise you can’t lessen the pain. A very good friend taught that to me today.” Andy smiled.
“I know. Saying is easy, doing is not. Although I encourage people to share with me, I hide my pain inside my heart. I was an outgoing and happy person before.”
“You still are.”
“Not really. I’m a depressed alcoholic now. I don’t know where memories end and life begins. Life has turned into a mechanical existence. I go through the motions, doing things I’m supposed to do everyday, without a thought.”
“Did you check at his school?”
“Yes, I did. It added more confusion.”
“How was that?”
“His classmates told me that he’d stopped attending classes for a while and gone away.”
“To another school?” asked Andy.
“Overseas — away from Hong Kong! He’d never mentioned anything about this to me. He’d mentioned about an aunt in Australia. I couldn’t remember whether she lived in Sydney or Melbourne, but it was one of those two cities.”
“I see. And they knew nothing beyond that?”
“Nothing at all. I never saw him online after that. I checked a few social websites. I searched all possible usernames he could come up with but they were good guesses at best. No luck at all.”
“I can’t imagine what you must have gone through.”
“That’s not all. I was so worried. He’d said he was sick. I just hoped he was okay.”
“Hope nothing happened to him.” Andy said.
“One day I read on the Internet about a Chinese boy of similar age who had drowned in Sydney. The name was a partial match. So I wasn’t sure whether it was him or not.”
“Oh my God. I hope it wasn’t him.”
“I tried to find out in many ways. I wrote to the news websites but they didn’t respond to me. I googled but that was a dead end too. In the end, I just hopped onto a plane and flew down to Sydney.”
“I went to that area in Manly where the drowning had occurred. I walked up and down the beachfront and the shopping centre asking people about it. Nobody gave me anything concrete. Some said there are several cases each year and that I should check with the local police.”
“Did you?” Andy asked.
“I was afraid. I don’t know. It was my first trip there. It was difficult to understand the local accent. I had no friends. And I didn’t want to raise any suspicion.”
“But you hadn’t done anything wrong.”
“I know. But I felt guilty. If he hadn’t known me, he wouldn’t have gotten into trouble. Sometimes I blame myself for whatever happened to him.” Diano sniffed.
“That’s not fair.” Andy shook his head. “Maybe newspaper offices could have helped?”
“I tried the two newspapers that had covered the news online. Both said they’d get in touch with me. But nobody emailed or called me. I emailed them after returning to Hong Kong but didn’t get a response.”
“That’s bad of them.”
“I continued checking with his friends for a few more weeks. Nobody had any idea. So, eventually, I resigned to my fate.”
Andy kept quiet.
“Logic says I should move on. There’s nothing more I can do here. But the heart doesn’t run on logic alone, does it?”
“No, it doesn’t. I, out of all people, should know this very well.”
“What can I do? I can’t let go. I can’t move on. I’m stuck in the past.” Diano sighed.
“You’re a good guy, Diano. You’ve already done so much. You deserve a better chance. You deserve someone better.” Andy said.
“But I still love him. I still want him.”
“Well, the truth about love is you cannot hold it back. Like people say, if you love somebody, let them go. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t, they never were. I’m not saying that he won’t return. But you should stop feeling bad about it. It’s the past. You cannot change anything about it.”
“True.” Diano sighed.
Andy looked at the clock on his phone.
“It’s quite late. Let’s catch some sleep. You need to fly back and I need to sort out my new place.”
Diano went to the bathroom to wash his face. He splashed some water on his face and dried it off on a towel. He stood there for a couple of minutes looking at his own reflection in the mirror. He thought about what Andy had just said. Yes, it was time to move on. He’d given so much time to Nyle already. What happened to Nyle was beyond him then, was beyond him now. He had to look ahead, move on. He went back to the bedroom and switched off the lights.
“Thank you, Andy. It was nice talking to you tonight.”
“You’re welcome. And thanks for so many things. Good night.”
Andy fell asleep first. Diano could hear his breath grow deep. Occasionally, a snore would surface. But nothing loud. He shut his eyes and began a slow drift to the land of the sheep.
In the dream, he was standing next to a train, looking up and down the platform trying to find someone. The doors shut and the train began to move. As the train picked up speed he spotted Nyle in one of the cars passing him. He started chasing the car. While keeping abreast, he waved and shouted at Nyle to catch his attention. But Nyle didn’t notice him. Diano reached the wall at the end of the platform and slowed down to a stop. As he knelt down on the floor, his heart pounding at great speed, tears rolled down his cheeks. He watched the train roll out of sight.