I couldn’t remember how long I was lying on the ground. It felt reassuringly warm. The breeze, though cool and refreshing, chilled through my very soul – to which I reflexively embraced myself as if by sheer instinct I wished there was someone I could hold against the cold. And I realized that at that moment, I was all alone.
Where in the world am I? Am I still in the world?
“Thank God you’re half-awake now. Your snoring was horrible.” A voice blandly drawled.
I turned around, looking for the source of the adult voice. Instead, I saw a kid. Or at least that’s what he looked like. Maybe he was a halfling or a hobbit, an albino smurf, a dwarf or…
The glint from the golden arrow points on his backpack stopped my speculations.
“Welcome to this pit called Love, bro.” He said with a sincere grin. “Except, you already knew it… before.”
I stared at him blankly. He replied with a knowing sigh.
“Yes, you fell in Love. A long time ago.” An awkward pause. “That was a few months ago.”
“That’s… a long time.” I hesitantly agreed. I looked around me, confused by the darkness but clearly perceiving the area. It was a vast space, and as a I gazed up, it was obviously a long drop. There were other people on the ground, too. Some seemed to be murmuring and grumbling, some making creepy giggles. And others were silently crying, too.
“How could anyone survive this fall?”
“Ah, it’s not that complicated, really. First you have to understand that this isn’t an actual place of existence; rather, it is some sort of philosophical dimension wherein abstract concepts such as love are materialized and realized, and that…”
“Okay, I got it. So it’s not real?”
“You mean, you don’t believe that love is real?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then it is real.”
“But just believing something is real doesn’t make it real!”
“Well, you are here right now. Doesn’t that make it real?”
I should have remembered Blaise Pascal’s famous quote: Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point.
Bottomline: don’t argue.
“So, umm… how did I fall?”
“With someone, of course.”
“Like, somebody pushed me?”
“Nope. Like, you were chasing after a girl.”
A sharp pain jolted my mind, as a memory of a face and a name flashed. “Oh.”
“Remembered her now, eh?”
“Yeah… Now tell me, how do I forget again?” I retorted wistfully. “By the way, how come I felt pain? Aren’t heartbreaks supposed to be emotion-based? If pain is in the mind, then why does it hurt when our hearts get broken?”
He somberly looked at me, and said, “Because the source of the pain isn’t in the broken emotions, but in our shattered dreams and memories. It’s those jagged edges that pierce through our consciousness. Unfortunately, we can’t simply pluck them out.”
I mused on the thought for a moment, and realized something.
“So why am I still in love?”
He stared at me like I just asked the most stupid question ever.
“I mean, we broke up. She’s no longer in love with me. So why am I still in this place?”
“Okay, let’s get some things straight: first of all, a breakup doesn’t automatically mean you are no longer in love, or don’t have it. It’s just a decision to end a relationship; as for the phrase ‘stop loving’ – that would imply that such a ‘love’ is purely action, which is untrue because we both know that love isn’t just action.” He lectured.
“Next, have you ever tried getting out?”
I blinked. “I thought people just naturally fell out of this place.”
“You must be thinking about hell.”
“No, I mean, one can’t fall in love again if he hasn’t gotten out yet, right?”
“So you think you can fall into Love, then fall out of it, then fall into the same place again? I think you’ve watched too much Inception.” He snorted. “Besides, no one ever falls in Love twice.” Pointing at the far side of the wall, he explained. “That’s how people get out… usually. And they also take the stairs the second time around.”
I drew closer to the wall, curious yet cautious. To my surprise, there wasn’t just one but countless stairs winding across the walls, criss-crossing with one another and extending towards the sky.
He laughed. “I know!”
“Why are there so many stairs?”
“Well, everyone kept building them. They all had their own ideas, so each one created their own steps – whether it’s about going out of this place, or stepping back in.”
I peered at the countless steps, and smirked. “Well, looks like anyone can actually fall into Love a second or third time.” I pointed at several rickety, broken steps.
“Wrong. Nobody tries to go back into this place without friends – they do help in catching someone from falling. And no one makes it out through these steps without determination and focus.”
“So why are you showing me these stairs?”
“Because you asked. And I did tell you that it is the usual way out for most people.”
“So there’s another way?”
“Well, yes and no.”
“Can’t you just answer me like a normal human being?”
“What makes you think I am human?”
“Well, this place where most people fall into is called Love. But is it really Love?”
“You mean, it’s not real?”
“We already argued on that.”
“I mean, is this a false place?”
“I wouldn’t say it is false; rather, it’s just a part of it.”
“But love is love, right? I mean, what’s the difference? Would it really matter if there’s another place just like this? Would it be even better?”
He gazed up at the distant sky, a mere glimmer in the hole we were in. There was a soft twinkle in his eyes. After a while, he said, “When I was young, I thought the same way, too. When I discovered this place, I thought this was everything.
“Until I found the door.”
“There’s a door?!”
“Umm… yes. Sorry. Anyway, for some time, I tried all sorts of keys to open it. I tried picking the lock, even mustered a group of able-bodied men to ram it open. We failed.”
“Have you tried using your arrows? It works on some RPGs…” I tried to jest. He ignored me. (Maybe he never got to enjoy one when he was a kid.)
“And so, after a long while, I tried the one thing I haven’t tried.”
“Yup. How did you guess?”
“So what happened?”
“The door opened… and beyond it, the world. It was the most amazing view I’ve ever seen.”
I was confused. “I’ve been in the world before. How can it be so amazing?”
He grinned. “Well, you haven’t tried seeing the world from here, haven’t you?”
“I’d rather stay here. I might end up meeting her again outside, and see her with someone else…”
I heard him sigh heavily. With a weary voice, he spoke, “You don’t get it. I already told you before: Yes, this is a special place that a lot of people are dying to find and live in. And I tell you, a lot of people died disappointed from their self-created false expectations.
“This place is just a fragment. Why settle with this little hole you’ve fallen into, when there’s an entire world created for you to enjoy love?”
I fell silent for a moment.
“Can I go back here?”
He smiled. “Bro, once you go through that door – you won’t ever need to.”
He walked me towards the door. As I was about to knock, I couldn’t resist anymore.
“You’re Cupid, aren’t you?”
“You’re from Greek mythology.”
“Roman, technically. They call me Eros back in Athens.”
“Why are you here?”
“I found a better way to love. It’s my role to tell people about it.” He winked and grinned at me, then walked towards the next person on the ground.
I shrugged, and nervously knocked at the door. As the door slowly creaked open, I heard some footsteps behind me.
“Hi, Ron!” A female voice called.