I was a normal drunkard, an athletic jerk and one hell of a plucky rebel during my teenage years. Sometimes, it takes sleepless nights and cringed attacks to learn a valuable lesson. My nerve had gone as far as losing respect for others, and I mean others besides the LIVING. Just a friendly advice; There’s nothing wrong about being a doubting Thomas when it comes to the Paranormal subject– just don’t mess with it. Challenge it if you’re at least half-prepared. You might get more than just an answer
The Loner’s Bench
Finally! It’s the semestral break! It’s time for some spunky celebration. We only knew one way to celebrate it, and that is to get drunk. Our friend Harvey offered his place considering he lives in a rural area and they have a big lawn. We can go as loud and as crazy as we want and no one will ever be bothered. While in the jeepney talking about our individual plans, the conversation suddenly shifted to the paranormal topic. Harvey was in the hot seat because he’s so obsessively anxious about spirits and entities. He talked about his old man’s neighbor who killed himself out of loneliness and his spirit appears ONLY when it rains at night, which had caused a number of vehicular accidents.
Then I said, “Don’t get me wrong my friend, I don’t mean to step on your dick, but you just freak out too much. It could be just because it’s an accident prone area.“
Then my other friend asked me a very silly question, “So, would you walk on that trail when it rains at night?
I smirked and responded — ” I will tonight if he’s handsome and kind enough to take me to the highway.”
Harvey wasn’t amused with our jokes “You wouldn’t be so smart-alecky if you were the one having to be next to a ghost.”
When we arrived at the barangay where Harvey lives, we weren’t expecting that his house is still 4 kilometers away. Thankfully, the weather was friendly so we strode our way to the forest trail. As we were walking up the elevated paths, I glimpsed a dirty bench seat on a steep narrow trail just a little further ahead.
I asked Harvey, “where the heck is that narrow trail heading? and what’s that bench doin’ on there?”
Harvey answered “No one sits on that bench, I honestly don’t understand why it looks like no one is EVER sitting on it. Local residents do walk on that trail more often than usual.”
The Forest Trail’s Secret
Talk about drunk shaming, we did what we went there for at Harvey’s. I drank like a fish, but I survived the beer night. My friends including Harvey were sleeping like logs piled among the empty packs of chips, bottles, and plastic cups on the lawn. I got up at 3:00 am and woke Harvey up because I need to go home.
“Are you sure? It’s 3:00am and it’s drizzling, I suggest you wait until daylight because tricycles aren’t available at this time.” — with his drunken Draco Malfoy’s smirk.
“No worries, I should be fine.” ignoring the strange conveying of his face and voice.
“Yeah, of course! This barangay is pretty safe. uhm..so, Yeah, Hehe.”
I washed my face, grabbed my backpack and walked my way to the forest trail. Harvey went rushing to the door. “Hey, Cha! Just avoid sitting on the dirty bench on your way..uh, take care.”
“ I was tipsy but I was pretty awake to notice that his facial expression turned inexplicably preternatural for some reason. “Yeah, sure! I ain’t very drunk so, I won’t get tired easily, besides it’s a terrible idea to take a nap there.”
There are a few utility poles enough to light the way and the moon was strangely bright. I reached for my backpack’s pocket for my cigarette and matches. The air was very refreshing so I just thought it ain’t a bad idea to sit and relax for a bit. As I was walking, taking a couple short, firm draws on my cigarette to get it to lit up, I came across the dirty bench and sat. I suddenly felt the seat creaked a little and saw this young man sitting at the other end of the seat, just looking at a distance. After a few minutes, he stood up and walked away. I rushed to catch up with him.
“Hey! Uhm..You don’t look like a resident here, may I join you? I’m also headed to the highway.”
“Uhm, I’m glad I saw you here, it’s cool to have a company isn’t it? hehe.”
He suddenly turned to me and gave me a smile. We were walking next to each other for more than 30 minutes without talking. He seems very gentle and seriously quiet. I felt awkward to start talking, but I was comfortable being with him.
When we were a few steps away to the highway he finally said, ” Thank you for the company, go home safely.”
His simple utterance suddenly gave me that unsayable feeling. I wanted to ask for his name but failed to do so, I just watched him walk away. I turned my back against his, but something stumped me. I took a second look at him, I was completely shocked to see his legs fading slowly. It was so clear that I froze, then I recalled what Harvey warned me about.
The Meaningful Irony
2 months later, we went to the cemetery to visit my grandpa’s grave. The young man’s memory enthralled me to a point that I just felt the need to find his identity. It was more of the instinctive feeling than fear that I felt. I went to a store to buy cigarettes because I was just feeling flustered. An old man sitting on his rocking chair noticed my profound exhales and the intense patterns of smoke from my mouth as I suck my cigarette on the sidewalk next to his small convenience store.
“Hey, kid! Slow down with that tobacco! Did you just missed sniffing rugby (a brand of contact cement solvent ) today?” – His sarcastic tone denoting suspicion.
He felt my agitation through my eyes when I looked at him, “You look troubled young lady, I don’t know your parents, you can tell me what’s bothering you.”
My confidence sunk and was too embarrassed to be straight to the point, “My arbitrary actions led me to this serious disturbance and I don’t know why it does not go away,” Then he smirked ” keep going, I’m listening.”
I eventually gave in and told him about the night I walked with a young man and as I tell him the details, I avoided the words indicating that it was a ghost encounter. The old man’s face tilted and his memory-provoking sigh seemed to suggest an answer to my questions. He stood up and told me to wait for him until he gets back. He walked inside his house, minutes later he went back holding an old photo album. He showed a couple pictures of his younger years, one of them astounded me. The young man leaning against a wall is the one who walked with me.
The old man looked away as he told me who the young man is.“His name is Ruhama, his family moved here from Israel, his parents died from an accident when we were both 13 years old and he lived with us since then. But time came that my parents decided to take me to Manila because I was very sick. The months became 4 years that we did not see each other, when I got back he was already in a coffin.”
The story was touching but it got me annoyed because it doesn’t answer my questions. “Lets just cut the chase, how did he die and what is the connection of the bench in the forest trail?…Am I just one of the very few who encountered this guy?”
The old man looked at me insinuating that he has an idea what I’m pointing out. “He was found dead on a bench seat, sitting and clutching a picture of his family…It was raining that night when he was found.”
Those words played the scene in my head and since now I have heeded the signs, then what’s next?
All He Wants Is To Be Remembered…
I left and went on back to the cemetery. As I was cleaning my Grandfather’s grave my foot got caught up in tangled roots and as I struggled to free my foot, it unearthed a grave underneath the mud. As my eyes explored the forgotten grave, the rain poured and my heart had felt the same disturbance that I felt that dark morning. I wiped the mud off with my hands and it revealed the grave of the youngman who died in May 28, 1958 named “Ruhama.”
I told my parents about what I have uncovered. We waited for the rain to stop, cleaned his grave and lighted a candle. I realized how unfortunate it was that he died because he was forgotten and even after his death he was still forgotten.
I went back to the forest trail months later, I sat on the bench at 3:00am, smoking my cigarette. I was hoping he would show up again, but no young man in old school outfit appeared next to me unlike the first time. I just assumed he is at peace now, because I remembered him and will always remember him.