Cerebral

The Great SIN Hunt – The Seven Deadly Sins are LIES

A mindf*ck novel that challenges morals and puts cognitive dissonance to a test -- in a world where the seven deadly sins are shunned. "There's always a villain behind every genius."

The Seven Deadly Sins are

L I E S


It is all easy to understand.

The Great Sin Hunt

Follow along and keep your mind open. Relax. How many times have I already told you to relax? Breathe. Believe. Get there. Really get there. Fellas, it is not madness humbling itself through. Neither hope. Hope excites me, then betrays my life in the end. It is an unreliable optimistic human substance. Stay away from it. Just get it going. Whatever you’ve got in mind, make sure it comes to fruition. For you are in control of it all. Reality. Destiny. Happiness. Sufferings. Even death. It is all in your hands. It is all up in your head. Your heart helplessly trolls with it.

Let me introduce myself one last time. My name is Skye Stoltz. I am 45 years old. I do not have a name. I do not have status in the society. I do not have a face to be proud of.

But I do have a secret. Something that I can do in my dingy basement. Alone. Isolated. Heartfelt. There is nothing like it. Not even my family knows. As I would like to keep things ordinary. No one bothers me. No one mocks a simple life anyways. No one makes me feel self-defeated.

I have already read all the classic books that you can name of. I know every genius author from Beowulf all the way to Virginia Woolf. To me, a genius is a simple mind who challenges thoughts, memories, morality, principles, and life. A genius is as simple as one plus one, which guides you through an understanding of yourself and the rest of humanity. A genius is a simple Beethoven composition, Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, which makes you feel something about what constitutes beauty and what love sounds like.

That is just one of my secrets.

In my dingy basement, the cheap digital piano keyboard creates heavenly music with my hands. It blasts into my ears from a headphone. I close my eyes and the magic fills my dreams. I can be like Grace George. I can beat Grace George to a piano duel. Or at least, I can shake her prodigious hand.

But I still like to keep my life ordinary, though. Stay noble. Stay decent. Stay mediocre. I do not belong in her world. I will never have the chance to meet her. I cannot be a part of Grace George’s life.

Not anymore.

Grace George’s family owns Sonata Academy. It has been acknowledged as one of the most influential music schools in the country. Working for them shrinks me down into pretending how my mind is only limited to paperworks and practical information. I have been secretly in love with the headmistress, Mrs. Ethel Feinstein. Alongside with it, I have been mindfully plotting a perfect murder of her husband, Dr. Edwards Feinstein — a renowned psychiatrist — a highly dignified man. He gets into my nerves like a snake slithering into my grave. I can never stand the sight of him — not ever. He needs to disappear. Soon. Very, very soon!

But the sad part is, they are a happy family. Grace George lives in New York city with her husband and her teenage son. Oh, there is not a day that goes by that I believe how miserable and dysfunctional they are. There is not a day that goes by that my mind sees them as inferior and middle-class with a slew of ghastly and shameful past. I have created an abominable reality about them, alright. How much Ethel would like to grow angel’s wings for me. How Dr. Edwards destroyed my childhood. How Eli portrayed his good and evil sides. How little Danny should have died at 3 years old or how he could have loved me as part of the family. How Grace George lost her mind, resurfaced, and justified her existence. How Dr. Agnes Berry came to the rescue. How I saw reality and every living thing that caught my senses. How I thought of life, love, and everything in between. How I had been loved. How I showed revenge and forgiveness. How I fooled myself with truths and illusions. Goddammit! It made me feel good.

Though I could not firmly decide which fake reality to indulge in to suffice my fancy as it still worked out fine despite how I sacrificed my sanity.

Dear angels. My angels. Remind me of who I am. Remind me of where I am. Remind me of my remaining days. I promise you, I will show the world what I’ve got before I die. Because there is truth in here. Though anything that resonates with your thoughts and life is true. Anything that changes a piece of you is true. Anything that compels you to do something out of who you are is true.

There is more coming. Do not be confused. Open your mind. Let it all in. You will discover something — out of the ordinary.


I do not just sit behind this substandard desk inside the majestic music school building. I watch. I observe. I study all moves. I listen to everything — arguments, discussions, conferences, recitals, practices. I have distinguished voices. I know faces. I can determine time and space. I have a photographic memory. I have memorized all Beethoven’s symphonies and piano sonatas. I am a walking genius.

They just do not know I exist. And how.

This is my pride. I hide away. Behind this simpleton’s disguise. The awkward worker who hardly speaks to anyone unless spoken to. The awkward worker who works very hard and lives a solitary life. The awkward worker who never has friends, and is always absorbed by the splendor of her mind.

My name is Skye Stoltz. I get it done. Somehow. With my angel’s wings flapping and growing for myself. Alone.

Today my time has come.

Surprise, surprise!

I cough off blood on a smoke break, and the last thing I want to do is worry about my health. Humans are all going to die eventually anyways. The moment we are conceived, our days are already numbered. It is a divine agreement that we are never aware of. Our death is a will. We have already written it down in the life holy book. Physical illness does not damage the soul. Emotional illness does not damage true love. Mental illness damages a portion of life lived. I am still trying to figure out which illness has violated my fate. But honestly, I could care less.

While I puff away and ponder on the Devil’s rush at once, Ethel’s presence appears beside me. It is not an illusion after all. She is interrupting my private thoughts. Her energy is in good faith. In a longing cry somewhat. The woman who has held my heart for so long has joined me in my reflective time. Something that she has never done before, and would never do. Why is she doing this now? What does she want? How is this possible all of a sudden? No. I am not hallucinating. She is here. With me. For real.

“You have been working here since it opened 25 years ago,” she says. “It flew by fast. Where did time go? What happened to life?”

“Are you okay, Miss?” I wonder.

“No. I’m not okay.”

“What’s wrong?”

“You,” she replies. “You’re what’s wrong.”

“Have I done something wrong, Miss?” I panic. “What did I do?”

“No, sweetheart. You haven’t done anything wrong at all. That’s the problem.”

“Well, then, what is it?”

“You’ve been all alone.”

“I’m used to it. Life loves me that way. I’ve got no fears.”

She stands in front of me. “You must really think I’ve never cared. But I have been caring for you from a close distance. I can feel your — grief. I cry with you sometimes. I pray for your happiness everyday. I know your heart. I know it very well that it hurts.”

I look away. “I don’t understand –”

“I would like to take you to a physician,” she says.

“Excuse me?” I yelp.

“For a full physical exam. Please. Let me take you. I know you haven’t been well. I can’t stand watching you like this.”

“Like what? Smoking away? Being unconcerned about dying?”

“Sweetheart, please. I’m begging you. I promise, I’ll be there every step of the way.”

“You pity me.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do. You feel so bad that I am all alone, and that I have been a good employee and nobody cares about me.”

“That is not true.”

“Yes, it is. How do you explain the fact that I have been a permanent fixture around here, and you would only speak to me when needed? And now — because I look sickly and maybe even dying, you start to show that — Oh by the way, I have grown angel’s wings for you. Hop on. — Is that it?”

“Oh, sweetheart. You wouldn’t even let anyone get closer to you. I tried to. Many times. But you would keep on dismissing me. Until I gave up. Besides, your mind seemed always preoccupied. I didn’t wanna disturb it.”

“So you’re disturbing it now ‘cause you think I’m dying?”

“It’s not like that at all,” she insists. “If you could, please, just open your heart to people. Open your heart to me. Trust me, okay? I just want to make sure you’re well. Let me take care of you. Please.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I reply. “You’re my boss, for crying out loud. What are you doing? Do you even see yourself right now? Is this a trick or something?”

“No trick. It’s just me, Ethel. Have supper with me tonight. I’ll make you some butternut squash. My place.”

“With you? Your place? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Divorced.”

“Oh.”

“So I’ll see you later then?”

“I have a feeling that this whole butternut squash supper thing falls under a serious condition. Tell me now before I catch myself in a booby trap.”

“I’m taking you to a doctor tomorrow,” she says, “whether you like it or not.”

“I hate doctors,” I reply. “I hate hospitals. I hate being treated like a helpless cow that is bound to be butchered to death anyways. There is no way in hell that I would go through any medical bullshit. I shall die according to my numbered days. No exceptions. No extension. God, have mercy on my soul. Thanks. But no thanks.”

“Alright. If that’s what you want, I’ll respect that. But would you be up for some serious challenge instead?”

“What challenge?”

“Do you have any idea how many times I have heard you play the piano?”

“W-what?”

“Every night. Before you close the school. You sneak into the piano room and play your heart out.”

“But there’s no one around. I always check.”

“Do you check the cameras?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I love it,” she says. “It’s my favorite part of the day. So here’s the challenge. You and me, piano duel tonight. If you win, I’d leave you alone for the rest of your life. If I win, get ready. Do we have a deal?”

“Just you and me in the piano room?”

“Yes.”

“Then who gets to decide who wins?”

“Whoever gives up first.”

I extend my hand. “Deal.”

She seals it with a handshake. “Deal.”


The clock ticks on. Time check: 7:05 p.m. Workload for the day is done. Tonight is different from all the nights. With my life expectancy at stake, a piano duel against Ethel would not exactly mean hailing a dream come true flag. In fact, it is preposterous as my pride puts it. I do not want to be a lab rat. I do not want phoney machines attached to my vital organs to stay alive. I do not want to die in an unfamiliar room. I want to lay in my own bed, beside my fancy red notebook and the cheap digital piano keyboard. My dingy basement is home. It knows my heart a lot more. It understands my shortcomings. It keeps me safe. It loves me more than I love myself. I am going to die in my own home. My dingy basement. The only one that deserves to keep my death clock. Nowhere else.

I sit behind my desk for a while, reflecting on my past. No matter how vague it looks, I am certain that I have done something good somehow. Perhaps, at work, when time and time again, I would discreetly teach some kids my own piano code. Or maybe secretly appreciating vibrant life movements around me. Or just smiling at strangers. I cannot remember how it all started or what traumatic incident that has led me to this day. Being alone. Falling in love from afar. Loving music. Composing. Writing down my wicked thoughts. The Devil’s rush and puffs!

I have already analyzed life. I have questioned its purpose. I have found it to be mysterious. What it can never justify is how I have intricately weaved up my circumstance. My ending, which may still be unknown. How soon will I die? How long has life been testing my heart and mind? Which memory of me will linger on? What will be written on my gravestone? Will they even remember me?

Chest tightens. Back pain stings. Cough spits out blood. Blackness creeps in. Slowly. Until a zap captures me away. Into the light. A blinding white light. It tempts me to jump right in. I pause and feel its magical peace. There is sacred life living in it. Supernatural yet almighty. Whatever it is — or — Whoever it is — has offered me a beautiful home. I begin to see myself in a different context. All that is left is my desire to say goodbye to the love I have left behind.

I hear scattered voices that sound like firm bellows. My body becomes a prisoner. I struggle to open my eyes. I attempt to move, but they are in control of me. I feel weapons sticking into my skin and shocking my nerves. Until the zap pulls me out and blows me back into the blinding white light. I am home.

“It isn’t home time yet,” a kind voice says.

“What do you mean?” I reply.

“I can’t let you in yet.”

“Why not?”

“You must say your goodbyes first.”

“I have nobody to say goodbye to.”

“Oh, you know who they are. You know them by heart. They also know you by heart. You must go back and say goodbye.”

“No. I don’t want to. I don’t even have a face to show to them. I’ve made them look evil just to suffice my illusion. What a shameful thing to do. I’m really embarrassed about it. Please let me stay here now. Please.”

“Alright. Only if you could answer my question.”

“What is it?”

“Have you ever loved purely?”

“Yes, I have. I have loved someone purely. Over those years. Unwavered.”

“How?”

“Silently.”

“That’s not pure love. That’s pride.”

“All because I didn’t do anything about it?”

“Pride killed you. So did loneliness. And fears.”

“I didn’t want to ruin her life.”

“Pure love teaches courage, good judgment, how to embark on a journey, wisdom, beauty, happiness, arts and music. Which one carried you through life?”

“Music.”

“You didn’t even want it. You used it as a good diversion. Music was just the best companion for you, but it certainly did not come out of pure love.”

“I didn’t answer your question, did I?”

“I can’t keep you here. Until you’ve accomplished your purpose.”

“See, that’s the problem. Because I have none of that at all.”

“Yes, you do. It will be shown to you once you go back.”

“I’m tired. I don’t wanna go back anymore.”

“Would you rather want to spend eternity in here without any memory of your past life and wonder about what has become of you or what is meant to happen for you just in case you are given the opportunity to live a different life?”

“You mean I’d completely forget — her?”

“Not one trace.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Either you do as I say. Or — that.”


Silence sings along with my heart. Coldness traps my back like calm winter. A zap takes me back to the voices. The firm bellows afflict my nerves. I cannot see anything. Though I can feel hands and weapons jabbing me all over. The panic snaps my pulse. Back! I open my eyes and see strangers’ faces floating above me. They are dressed in funny white uniforms, with gloves on. Where am I? What is going on? How did I get here? This is a beastly place. I am going to be butchered alive. I have to escape.

“We got a pulse!” says the man.

“Thank God!” says the other.

I am in a hospital. How is that possible? I was just sitting behind my desk in the school office. What the hell happened?

“Welcome back,” the kind voice whispers into my ear. “Be good.”

“When are you taking me in?” I whisper back through my mind.

“Once you have accomplished your purpose.”

“I’m tired.”

“Pure love never gets tired.”

“But pure love always cries.”

“It only does when you’re afraid of it. Give yourself a chance to be happy, Skye. Even just for a little while. You owe it to your legacy. Then we can talk about coming home.”

“I miss her.”

I may never understand the kind voice’s existence and its powers, but the spiritual confrontation may have found my heart. I thought I would grow old and die without knowing a thing about love. Its touch of warmth and care. Its deepest sacrifices and intimate meanings. Its lush name itself defines all wonders.

How to teach a heart to love may be daunting. How to value it may even be frightening. How to keep it may be challenging. To me, all this is still a mystery. But I am ready to accept it as far as legacy is concerned. You may call it hypocrisy, but I will still guard my heart. Along with hers. The same way as I revere her reputation — as Sonata Academy’s headmistress/owner, as a mother and grandmother, and as a woman. I would rather die protecting her than taking a risk. I would rather die with a cowardly dream than taking advantage of her curiosity or fascination. I would rather die lonely than stealing away happiness from the innocent.

That is just me. Being proud of who I have become. An ordinary with a noble job and no dream in sight. Just fantasizing the love of my life from a close distance. Just serenading her with my piano playing from my dingy basement. Just revealing my thoughts and woes through words. Safe. Saved. Sane. Nothing to worry. The Devil’s rush and puffs make me honor my importance, hence the music and the words constantly scream out. I cannot let them down. Or my sanity is at stake.

Consciousness has taught me one great thing: segregating reality from madness. I hear people snarling. Their movements seem to be in full speed. Footsteps roar around. Machine bleeps on. I am still paralyzed. Reality is terrifying. I would not want to be in it. But I have no choice now. I cannot escape from it anymore. My mind is even too exhausted to fabricate a story that would cheer for my illusions. All I can do right now is think of her smile.

The smile that assures me life is still good. It only needs a chance and all the help it can get. For it can never stand alone. For its worth is determined by how I care for it. For I am its bearer. It desires me. It is desperate for me. It only wants me to keep it going. How foolish I have been to have abandoned it. Intentionally. All because her name is more important than what my heart says. Though it is only right. It will always be right. I shall never regret it regardless. I am going to die a happy mind. With her beautiful smile left in my memory.

Yes, I do cry. A lot. It does not lessen off my pride. It only comforts it. What is wrong with pride anyway? They say it is one of the deadly sins. But it has been my savior. Ethel’s savior as well. For simply keeping her inside of me, under my skin, and in the special corner of my mind. For doing my professional duties impeccably. For serving with loyalty and love for my job. Even God would never define it as a deadly sin. It is an extraordinary pride that can never be matched, which I must proclaim with my chin up. Let me cry my heart out. I am okay. I will never disappoint my strength and courage. Regardless.

I pause to listen to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 2nd movement or total blackness would engulf me. I have a gut feeling that it would be a terrifying surprise. After all, the white light and the kind voice cannot not save me around this time. Until I have accomplished my purpose.

Beethoven’s composition style always provokes my heart and mind. It makes me see my hands giving life to my own secret melody myself. It urges me to appreciate it for what it is. Not to yearn for more to punish my weaknesses. Not to expect for a masterpiece as I create. As it is only a lie. For there is no perfect masterpiece. None. Not even Beethoven’s music. Neither Bach’s. For a masterpiece is a subjective genius. For a masterpiece means it has captured the heart of humanity. Without questions, disputes, and even discussions. For it is too perfect to be analyzed. For it has transformed the world. For it has already stood the time. It is a masterpiece of thoughts and feelings. It is a grand way of discovering the hidden. Good or evil. Or both. Whatever it is or however it answers a heart, it is a masterpiece. Because of its delivered virtues.

I am writing down my grief in my mind. Along with Sunset over Empire. I am grateful. Though you must really think how pathetic I have been and how undeserving I am of Ethel’s concerns. For worshipping pride as if it is a religion or god. For the madness that I have gone through to keep my fantasy alive. For the relentless words found in my fancy red notebook. It is not my fault. It is how it is. Go figure.

“Sweetheart, can you hear me?” It is Ethel’s voice whispering into my ear. “You’re going to be okay now. I promise.”

I struggle to move my fingers to touch her skin as a response.

“It’s okay, sweetheart.” She lands her lips onto my forehead and drops a tear. “I am here for you. I will always be here for you.”

I moan. “I have always loved you, Miss. And I would like to remember your smile when I get to heaven.”

“I will take you home with me soon,” Ethel whispers on. “I bet you can’t wait to have a big bowl of butternut squash, huh? I — I — I love you –”

Do not make depression as the culprit. For it is an irrational excuse for everything that is wrong. Overindulgence is a sign of loneliness. Society is a lonely pack. Its defense mechanism is to act like a murder of crows. You are lucky if you happen to capture a tame one.

This is my mind creeping in. My body is still attached to medical machines. I can only hear the bleeps. I can only feel the damaged organs being treated. I can only move a spasm. All this because I have abused myself. Out of loneliness. Too much despair has attracted me to the Devil’s rush and puffs. Good times. Regrets would only condemn the choices once death knocks in. Regrets are for the cowhearted. I shall never apologize for my actions. I am not afraid to die after all. I have made myself worthless here. I have wasted away pigments of what I should have been or become. I have made a pact with life: I do not belong anywhere at all.

Neither in heaven. I was given a life. I should have been grateful. I should have cared for it. I should have made it happy somehow. However, love has buried me into loneliness instead. There is my rationale. Excuse me. Justification is needed here. Though against better judgment. Look at me, for God’s sake! I am almost dead. The mind is the only part of me that is alive. I am aware of my physical condition. I do not know how long I must suffer more. I might as well request for euthanasia once I am able to communicate. I am sure Ethel would understand and help me through it. Unless she would rather punish me for my undeclared love. That would be childish. After all, my body is hopeless, and the last thing I want to do is being a burden to the beautiful face I would like to see before I take my last breath. How could my mind still think and vindicate me? I can see her smile radiating into my frailty. I see her smile. I feel better. It is enough. I can go.

The Devil’s rush and puffs. Hmm. What would my life have been without them? Four bottles and five packs in a week. I drink and puff away while daydreaming of life on stage. The drama, the exhaustion, the excitement, the thrill of transforming thoughts, and the legacy left behind. I drink and puff away while daydreaming of love. The intimacy, the passion, the care, the support, and my worthy recognition. I drink and puff away while daydreaming of having a family. The joys, the butternut squash, the amusing conversations, the arguments, and the funny story exchanges. I drink and puff away while composing dark or enamoring melodies in my head. Its desire to be heard ignites like a wildfire that burns a whole town. I drink and puff away while writing down my supercilious thoughts and telling contemptuous stories about people that I wish were either good or evil to satisfy my fancy. I drink and puff away while pondering on the meaning of the bits and pieces of purpose. I drink and puff away while figuring out a complex puzzle of my mind. I drink and puff away because I am lonely. I drink and puff away to make the world pause for a little while and hope that it would see me.

The Devil’s rush and puffs have witnessed it all — my history, my life. If only they could translate my legacy to paper, it would brave the test of time. The chemicals cheat me into believing that they perform magic. Not only do they drug me to put a smile on my face. They also make me experience a simulated reality that I have always wished for. The Devil’s rush and puffs have put me into this room. The intensive care unit. The hospital room for dying bodies. It wakes me up from a lie. No one is spared. No one is invincible. No one lasts longer than expected. This is a physical world. It breaks, hurts, and dies. The rest becomes an illusion that fires out of passion. That is how all things move. That is why there is happiness or sadness. That is where reality comes from. Ironic, isn’t it? But this is one of the truths I have uncovered myself.

The Devil’s rush and puffs are not to blame. They are not an alternative to the missing faces or practical aspects of life. They are serving their purpose. I would not say it has defeated me in the end. Absolutely not. I do not regret gulping down a bottle of red wine in a span of 15 – 30 minutes. I do not regret puffing away 20 cigarette sticks in a day. I do not regret isolating myself because of them. Neither keeping the addiction from work. I do not regret choosing them over the what-if scenarios. Damn me. I have never had the courage to do something good with my life. I may have done something kind, but I cannot remember it anymore though. Whatever it may be, I am hoping that it has inspired a mind or an idea. Whoever it may be, I wish for their success in everything. That is all I can do for now. Hope. Wish. Pretend. As I lay in my deathbed. With the love of my life sitting beside me.

Ethel kisses my hand. “You have a good heart. Never forget that.”

“You do have a good heart, Miss,” my mind responds. “If I did, I shouldn’t have been alone. As they would still show some courage and efforts to love me.”

“I have always loved you,” she whispers. “I was just scared to do anything about it.”

“It’s not fair that you’re doing something about it now that I’m dying,” my mind cries. “Whose fault is it?”


There is no immorality in self-indulgence. As long as it purports a long-awaited desire that otherwise cannot be accomplished by reality. Like composing Sunset over Empire with sophisticated attention to details. When frustrations are about to kill. When sleepless nights are about to collapse. When weeks vanish in a blink of an eye. As mind moves like a whirlwind that denounces the outside existence. Then something that beauty cannot comprehend is created. Something that maybe — only the heavens would afford its worth. As its music splits subconsciousness into embodiments, which require a strong heart that can take on immense sorrows. I am appalled by how my mind explains such things. Perhaps, not exactly explain, but establish a thought. Overindulgence in a hobby that produces good results is not a sin. No matter how it tortures the mind and body. No matter how it loses sanity. No matter where it goes or is hidden. It is still not a deadly sin. Music is a part of the aesthetics. It captures all senses. It can kill or save. It is something to love and fear.

So I sit there and compose my heart out. Every key and every touch must be in perfect pitch. I hear Beethoven’s voice. Along with his symphonies and piano sonatas. My imperfections are reprehensible. I cannot believe I have been given such obsession to conjure a musical piece as if I am responsible for its destiny and reputation. It does make me question my purpose each time it imprisons me. The Devil’s rush and puffs calm me down. Though only for a while. The demon implores me back. I am left without a choice. I follow around like a sickly dog that will die along the way. It is not a work of a genius at all. It is a work of a mediocre. For a genius does not have to spend much time on it. A masterpiece shall be created without even a drop of sweat. A mediocre, on the other hand, struggles to achieve what a genius could produce. The end result that debilitates a heart or influences a mind. The end result that amazes angels. However, the process takes longer than reading an entire book. Trash. Lost confidence. The Devil’s rush and puffs come to the rescue.

As you must have known, it is also a part of my indulgence to investigate humans. Their character intrigues me. Their hidden thoughts and desires. Their outfits and the portraits of their lives. Who they are. Who they love. Who their enemies are. How important their status is and how they replenish their minds with good memories. What happiness means to them and how to bask in it with full sincerity. What love does to them and how to keep it with pure heart. The Devil’s rush and puffs accompany me as we analyze human theories. How significant they are to each other. How they surmount hardships together. How kind they are to life. Too much consumption of it budges my senses off. Judgmental and loud voices from afar. Punches from raging philosophy of man. The smell of weed that prides freedom. Though I have no intention of personally knowing them, I am simply fascinated by their very own arrogance. Each mind is arrogant no matter how humbling the speaking voice may sound like. Each heart is arrogant no matter how innocent the face may look like. I am arrogant no matter how modest my life has been. It is the truth. My own truth, at least. Where is immorality in it?


Gluttony does not end with food and drinking. It ends with everything done in excess, resulting into death. Though no immorality claimed despite the overindulgent activities. It is a preordained matter, not just a choice. An interest that becomes an obsession is gluttony in itself. A hankered love that rules over life can also be perfectly defined as such. Immoral self-indulgence that must be condoned: anything that violates beauty and the common good. This is not a preach. This is my own opinion. Having lived through 45 years of quietly observing the world and scrutinizing minds through actions, my hypotheses may be an accurate representation of the subject. That is also me being arrogant. You may agree with me or not, I could care less. My thought is mine. And mine alone. Your thought is yours. And you have a right to oust a tempting notion bursting through. You may respect it or denounce it. But as much as you can, keep your thoughts safe. In a sanctuary where no one can burn it down to ashes.

Let me remind you again: I am still in the intensive care unit. The machines keep me alive. I have no idea as to when this is all going to end. Ethel fights on. She has been by my side the whole time as far as I can remember. My memory seems to be on a lockdown, though it is aware of critical moments. I can hear her grieving and praying at once. I cannot hang on anymore. My body is too weak now. However, the kind voice has asked me to come back to accomplish a purpose. What purpose would that be? I am still looking for it. All the way down into my enduring mind. I know it has something to do with Ethel. With my vegetative state, how will I achieve what I have come back here for? Perhaps, she will tell me some truths. The truths that she has been hiding from anyone. Forbidden or not, it would not threaten her reputation at all. Because society cannot castigate her anymore. Neither lay an accusatory finger. Her heart can speak up. Her mind can fight back. Her existence is full. She is a woman.

“You have forgotten about me,” Ethel whispers. “You have forgotten everything. I was your piano teacher. You must have been 11 at that time. I would teach you piano in our living room. We were neighbors. Your mother and I were best friends. Everytime you’d come for a lesson, I would serve you a bowl of butternut squash. You loved it so much that you got spoiled. So I would have to make more just for you. Because Marla hated it –”

“I remember that,” my mind responds. “I just had to pretend it never happened because what happened next hurt too much.”

“We would go for walks after lessons,” Ethel continues. “We got really close. You told me you fell in love with me. But you were just a baby, sweetheart. You were my daughter’s age, for crying out loud. Even though I might have felt something, I couldn’t go for it. So I told you to stop seeing me anymore. You were so upset that you wouldn’t even stay friends with Marla after that, and nobody understood why. Years went by, and we built Sonata Academy. If it hadn’t been for your parents, you wouldn’t work for us at all, would you? Because you hated me so much that you wouldn’t even want to go around near me. Not even at family parties. But I carried your love all through these years. I tried to reach out to you again, but you would always skip away. Now you have given me a chance. Only because you are left with no choice. And you are breaking my heart again. This time around, it is a lot worse. It’s grief. How am I gonna survive that?” She squeezes my hand and kisses me on the forehead. “Tell me, sweetheart. How will I survive this alone?”

“I am so sorry, Miss,” my mind weeps, “but there is nothing that we can do about it anymore. I am sorry that I can’t love you back the way that you want me to.”

“Why did you run away from me? I divorced Edwards because I told him I had been in love with you. I was brave enough to ruin my marriage because of us. Because I couldn’t lie anymore. Because I wanted to make my heart happy for once. But you ran away instead –”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Until yesterday when I found you so helpless on the floor. I finally caught you. I held you. I can kiss you now for the first time. If you let me to.”

“I will get better to feel that kiss, Miss. I promise. I can’t go to heaven without it. I can’t.”

“They’ve told me you’ve got advanced lung cancer. I don’t believe it.”

“It’s okay, Miss. It’s my destiny. I’m sure you will be fine.”

“Sweetheart, can you hear me? I love you. I love you very much. I am so sorry that this has to happen to us. I wish I could have told you to wait. Or I could have just taken the risk of loving you back. I wish I had handled it differently. Then maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”

“You did the right thing, Miss. There is nothing to worry. Just know that I have always loved you just the same.”

Envy is the driving force amongst the seven deadly sins, or I would not have had the interest to learn piano and master it as much as my appetite could take me. I envied Beethoven with a passion that I devoured music like a drug or I would suffer from serious seizures and be sent to the emergency with pivotal consequences. It was not about imitation at all. It was about finding music inside of my ardent delinquency. I achieved greatness through hard work and patience. Though it would only stay safe in my dingy basement. A few people may have known of it, but it never left its hideaway. Not once. Never at all. Do not even think about it. Not even the school cameras could compel it to jump over the fence. It stays where it belongs. It stays in my quiet mind. It stays in silence for the rest of my days. It may reappear some time once I get to heaven, but I am sure I would not be afraid to perform in front of the angels up there. I would have enough confidence and a sense of accomplishment. I would be proud of myself. For the first time, I would scream back at the world with ‘I told you so!’ I would entertain the heavens with some of my breathtaking compositions. Because in heaven, I could have my own star. I would shine forever.

Grace George’s phenomenal success does not envy me at all. It would not be the kind of life that I would dream to have for myself in any way. That would be an everyday torture. Like living or existing for audiences and being cautious about your actions. Mistakes are a taboo. Make sure a fixer is on the lookout. You cannot twist a bad truth by yourself. You have to have a devil’s aid standing behind you. Your soul is already promised to be taken away in the future. You better get ready to die. How enticing is that?

I only envy Grace George for having little Danny, who has become a promising talent that will capture and break the hearts of the weak, though he will give them a gift of strength through his music. He will invade famous concert halls all over the world soon. At 15 years old, his amazing prowess starts to overshine his mother’s fame. I cannot remember our interactions anymore. Or if we have ever had any at all. His kind smile always pinches my motherly nature. It is one of the beautiful faces that my memory will never forget. Even after death.

“Advanced lung cancer,” a familiar voice of a decent young man busts into the intensive care unit. I am sure that is little Danny. It has to be him. I want to see my boy and hold his hand. He has come to see me. The angels have heard my prayer. I have been given a chance to say goodbye to him. One last time. “Grandma,” he mutters to Ethel, panicking, “it can’t be. She doesn’t have advanced lung cancer. No. I don’t believe it. Not happening.”

“If only this were just some — nightmare,” Ethel sobs. “Where are they?”

“They’re speaking to the doctor,” he replies. “Grandpa has picked us up from the airport. We’ve just landed about two hours ago.”

“I am sorry for dropping the bad news in no time,” she cries.

“We packed up right away the minute after we got your message.”

“Thank you, little Danny. I’ll leave you alone with her now, okay? She can hear you. Just keep talking. She would love to hear your voice for sure.”

“Thanks, grandma.”

As Ethel’s footsteps retreat out of the room, I move my hand to acknowledge little Danny’s presence. He kisses me on the cheek and feels my hair. He truly loves me. What have I ever done for him? I hope I have changed his life somehow. Like a splash of magic.

“Talk to me, little Danny. Tell me a secret. Tell me your truths. Tell me how you knew me. If only I could tell you that you always lit up my world every time you would visit from New York. If only I had told you how much I adored your heart and talent. If only I had taught you something about music and life. Then I wouldn’t wonder anymore. I can go with a smile.”

“Grandma told me a funny story about you,” he says. “Mom had to perform here with the symphony orchestra when I was around 3 years old. The night of the concert, you looked for me. Grandma told you I was with a nanny. You know, a stranger. You got so mad that you ditched them right away and kidnapped me. You took me to Sonata Academy, into the piano room, and you played for hours. I was so enthralled by it that I listened to your performance all the way through. She said she watched the footage soon after you took me back home and told them about how you kicked out the nanny and got away with it.”

“I didn’t want a stranger to touch you,” my mind replies. “Yes, little Danny. I remember that now. I do.”

“I think it’s sad that the world doesn’t know your name.”

“My name is never important. I have never had one. I don’t.”

“Why did you abandon music?”

“I didn’t abandon it, little Danny. I still consider myself a true artist despite it all.”

“A true artist never forgets who she is, and the magic that she can do. I bet you knew who Beethoven’s immortal beloved was.”

“His music.”

“I owe it all to you. You taught me the piano code. And piano has become my best friend since. I compose, too. And I can’t shut it off once it attacks me. Sometimes I think I’m sick. In the head, I mean.”

“That’s how it’s supposed to work. You’re supposed to be tortured by it for it to really work.”

“I hope I know what to do. Because this thing has been bugging me like crazy.”

“Enjoy it, little Danny. It’s your magic. It will keep torturing you anyways. No matter what you do, it will always harm you one way or another. But it’s the only beautiful pain in the world that gives you rewards in the end.”

“You told me something about magic the last time we talked. You said you’d turn to Beethoven to believe that magic is real. And that sometimes we create our own pain. From it, we create our own art. With it, we create our own purpose in life. Solving a mystery is not important. Having a mystery is. Because in it, life goes on. Life has more meaning. Life is real that way. After all, this world is full of judgmental fools. Now I need my own mystery to make it more fun.”

“Mystery is found in pain.”

“I haven’t lived long enough to understand all this. But I can do Moonlight Sonata Movement no. 3 though.”

“If only you could play it for me right now.”

“I have an important question to ask. I’ve accidentally eavesdropped on Mom and Dad’s conversation one night, and I’ve heard something that has shocked my identity. Is it true that you’re my surrogate mother?”

I lift a pinkie finger as a sign of yes.

“Does that mean we’re genetically related?”

I lift the pinkie finger again. Yes.

“And I’ve just found out about this now?” he collapses. “This is so unfair! You all lied to me!”

“We didn’t lie to you, little Danny. Some things should just stay as a mystery.”

“How dare you look into my eyes and lie to my face! How could you bear doing that to me all through these years?”

“I love you, my son.”

“For once, you never told me you loved me! Not once! You owe me that! You owe it to me!” He rests his head on my stomach, weeping hard. “I love you. I always think of you. It must be why you’re always on my mind. You could have told me you loved me, too, you know? I feel like in the last few years you’ve stopped caring. Why?”

“Because I already knew I wouldn’t live long anymore. I had to disappear on you so you wouldn’t get hurt this much.”

“Can I call you Mom, too?”

“I carried you for nine months. Of course, I am your mother — too.”

What is there to envy beyond the intensive care unit? Movements. Laughter. Love. To feel, to move, to touch, to reveal your heart and mind, to admire beauty, to appreciate nature, and to create music. To know you are loved and cared for. To share intimate moments with a romantic partner. To reflect on the past, the present, and life in heaven. To be grateful for the truths granted by desire and desperation. To take a walk by a countryside and enjoy fresh air. To luxuriate in the Devil’s rush and puffs.

Oh no. Not the last one. The last one brought me into this room. Oh no. I apologize for being a hypocrite. The last one did not land me in here. I did it myself. This is the society’s problem, really. Looking for something or someone to blame. It is a blame game world. What else is there to envy beyond the intensive care unit?

They have my little Danny. My son. My flesh and blood. Not only Marla’s and Eli’s. I tried to forget him, though. The way I had to forget Ethel. I had to manipulate one of these truths so as not to hurt. As I find horrible lies to be more convenient for my mind to ponder on. Have mercy on my soul, but I have not harmed anybody as a result of it. I may have broken their hearts, but it is a part of human growth. Experience sorrow in order to relish the honey taste of happiness drop. Experience madness in order to empower reality and decide which truths to keep. My only wish is to remember some good memories once I get to heaven. Like Ethel’s genuine love. Little Danny’s pleas. Sunset over Empire. My dingy basement that has been my secret keeper. The cheap digital piano keyboard. The fancy red notebook.

Nothing else. No one else. That is all.

What else have I forgotten? What else is there to envy beyond the intensive care unit? Who else must I remember? I have to convince myself that I do not have anything more valuable than what I have in the list. All right. I am all set. I am ready to go. My memory is at its peak. In an enormous glow. Though I am sure it has forgotten something or someone. Or maybe even a few significant faces. I am not sure. I just know that they will pop in. Soon.

My breathing is shutting tight. All machines are going berserk. Especially the life support. Erratic footsteps and panicking voices erupt into the room. Oh, I am so stubborn. I see what the fuss is all about here. They are keeping me alive. With sophisticated medical machines sticking all over me. People dressed in white robes tossing me around like a baby that has just departed its mother’s womb. Ethel is lurking in the corner, grieving. A woman in uniform removes her from the room. I see little Danny peeping through the glass windows. He has been bursting into loud cries. Ethel joins him, and they lock arms instantly.

Am I going to die any minute? Where is the kind voice? I must hear it now. I must know.

“Please, talk to me. Am I okay to go yet? Am I? Are you sure?”

“It is not over yet,” the kind voice replies.

“I have already made peace with Ethel and my son. What else must I do?”

“You haven’t made peace with anybody at all. Not because you’re in a deathbed. But you need to hear more truths from them. All truths.”

“More truths. I don’t wanna hear them. I don’t wanna remember my life as a painful experience. I wanna remember my life as having loved someone and giving birth to a beautiful son. I wanna remember it as good as the way you paint rainbows across the earth after storms. I wanna remember it as kind as your illuminating voice that saves a worrisome soul. I wanna remember it like that. Not more truths that I wish were horrible lies instead.”

“You will not remember anything at all anymore by the time I take you with me. But they will. They will remember everything about you. How you’ve made them realize who they are and what life is all about. How every feeling transforms a day and the rest of their lives. How silence respects honesty and sincerity. How a simple understanding is achieved in the midst of complexity in the mind. How your pure heart has honored their quest for happiness. Everything has a lifeline. Including memory. Once time’s up, something new will come along. And the new thing heals or, if necessary, rectifies the old.”

“I am full of shame. My thoughts were disgraceful. Why should I hear more truths? I tortured my body. Just as I tortured my mind. I’m dying now. What difference does more torturing make for my damned soul?”

“Being kept alive by those machines does not mean torture. It means a courageous attempt to welcome their voices in. Once all truths have been settled, you’re good to go.”

Settled truths. Accomplished purpose. I have never thought it would be this hard to die. Conditions are laid out in bright black and white contract, which amuses me. Yet at the same time, I grieve along with Ethel and little Danny. How can I assure them that death is a gateway to a brand new life where happiness does its job like a fairy godmother? I cannot wait to go home with the kind voice. Not anymore. In the meantime —

My sense of reality convulses back in. An eerie buzz drills into my ears. Pinch feelings make me want to squeak. My consciousness warns me that I am back in my deathbed.

Again.

So what else is out there to envy beyond this intensive care unit room?

The word is a mistaken derivative of sex. Lust extends its meaning beyond Freud and renowned philosophers whose discoveries are still the subject of mindful debates. It may just be the only word that acts on its own and continues to live up to everyday expectations. It may just be the only word that tells the truth. It is the only word that challenges moral integrity in all angles. It is not a scare. It is a need. The need to experience the world with its mysteriously intimate commands that can never be ignored. Life would take you to nowhere without it. You would be stuck in the ordinary and the mundane. Beauty without chaos is unappreciated. Desire without madness always ends in disappointments. Music without an emotional backstory is flat. Sexual indulgence is human nature that releases emotional agony. It is not lust. It is physical gratification. Or for some, a pleasurable diversion.

For lust works its course everywhere. The lust to put a smile on your face. The lust to keep track of your intuition. It is the lust that makes you fall in love with life. It is the only thing you are capable of doing without considering a heartbreak. For it controls you with every ounce of its solace. It suffices a dream. It gives you the freedom to feel the heart of soul that is hidden in the life that you have grown to know. To lust is to live. For lust is optimistic. Open your mind to it. Never limit yourself to world’s cliches. They make you dumb everywhere you turn. Lust has been a victim. Your job is to save it and keep its worth.

I am in my deathbed, and my lust for life can only be seen in my mind. Making things right. Pursuing love. Being a mother. Keeping friendships. Recognizing warmth and joy. Forgiving the past. Accepting truths. Seizing right moments. Meeting sunsets. Serenading a heart. Laughing along with loved ones. Taking walks with a beloved. Having bowls of butternut squash. Creating more music. Writing good thoughts to transform mankind.

I have forgotten something. There is someone out there who needs to know about me. I have to remember the name. The face is blurry. The identity is still unknown.

Moving on.

The lust to sharpen knowledge tempts my mind to run away from formed ideas that may make sense to some. The lust to visit strange and beautiful places is now achieved by my imagination. But the lust must end. Here.

Lust is a complete testament of human existence. It is everything that keeps balance and madness together. You were born to lust after your destiny. Your purpose is to obey the results given by the experience. What matters is the lust that you have shared and delivered to a little elusive thing called life.

Free yourself. Lust after all things that make you feel hopeful about tomorrow and be truly happy about the present moments. Meet someone with a good heart. Have lust for each other everyday. Passion is a lasting chemical that keeps lust going. Make it a spiritual journey that takes you to a dream that completes a goal. Strip yourself off from desires that no longer serve your purpose. Let lust warm your heart and enrapture it with pure distinction of a life lived as detailed by one meaningful event that becomes the epiphany of either a beginning or an end.

There is nothing bad about lust at all. Unless you use it by its worldly definition. With negative intent. Then you are making love with ignorance. As you are — time and time again. Only you can make something good out of it. Use it according to your heart’s longings. Not according to its world view.

I have come to a full understanding of it as I lay in my deathbed. When you are dying, your questions become clearer. Ultimately, the answers are wiser than what you may have imagined them to be. Your only wish would be to have the opportunity to explain it to a loved one. And I have never had one at all. A romantic partner, that is. I will never know what it would be like to experience this truth. As I do not have much time left anymore. The lust that I have got left is holding Ethel’s hand before I go. It is more heartfelt that way than anything else right now. My body is about to give up. I know it. I can only pray for a faster ending and to witness my funeral from above.

Lust is the only fantasy that can be experienced without a second thought. Your mind may wander from New York city to Vienna. But lust reigns behind the subconscious efforts of how the journeys learn the good and the bad along the way — at once. It becomes your greatest motivation. It always gives you the feeling of an impressive conclusion. It designs the climacteric of it all. It may make sense or not. What matters is you have utilized its purpose and arrived at a grand ending. Without regrets.

The machines seem exhausted now. They have been fighting on for me. I want to free myself for a little while just to speak to Ethel about my ending. Nothing grand. Without arrogance. I simply want to fulfill my body’s wish. To rest. To play music in heaven. To laugh with angels. To discover mysteries. To leave a life that has caused me grief. To meet Ludwig Van Beethoven. Maybe even Bach. To seek more meanings. The esoteric, the practical, and the beliefs. To capture lust with a whole new courage. To live. Again. Somewhere. In somebody’s imagination. I am about to become a memory.

I can hear him breathing fast with suppressed anguish. He is holding my hand and pressing his lips against my cheek. He whispers into my ear, “It’s me, honey. Eli. I hope you can hear me.”

“Tell me some truths, Eli. Our truths. What’s our story?”

“We’ve been best friends since kindergarten,” he says, “ and I always thought of you as my childhood sweetheart. Indeed, I fell madly in love with you in high school, but you could never feel the same for me, so I moved on. You taught me some tricks in music just to impress Marla. You wrote some amazing melodies for my songs, so I could serenade her. Though I never meant to pursue it at all. I was a street musician for a while to get through a tough period of my life. Thanks to you, I survived. And I won Marla’s heart. We got married. And since we couldn’t have a baby, you agreed to give birth to one — for us. You gave us Danny. You did the most noble thing for my family. For everybody. I tried to keep our friendship. But why would you always push me away? You broke my heart. And I will never know why.”

“I didn’t push you away, Eli,” my mind replies. “You had become my imaginary friend instead. It was more convenient that way.”

“Could it be because you might have felt something for me, too?”

“I missed our friendship. After I turned you down, you kept yourself at a respectful distance. I couldn’t mess around with your anymore. Though we managed to maintain our casual get-togethers, but that was it. Until I decided to get rid of the pain and forgot about what we used to have.”

“I miss those intelligent discussions as you’d like to call them. Something about art and Beethoven. You know I’ve been carrying those thoughts ever since? Quite deep to dig in, but it always makes me wonder about life regardless. Yet at the same time, it motivates me to be better. Better husband, better dad, better everything else. I try to be. Everyday, at least. Sometimes it works as expected. Sometimes it falls short. Most of the time, though, it’s okay. And I’m already fine with that. The most important thing is — I do it.”

“Do you remember one of those discussions?”

“You said,” he continues, “suffering unlocks a promise of life. Like you must suffer greatly first before you conceive your own art. Then you must suffer greatly while art grows within you. Then you must suffer greatly for your art until you die. Only death could separate you from it. And only in death you would ever find peace. However, your art will continue to live on. It’s the only beautiful thing you could give to the world. It’s been a lonely life. But it’s part of the whole package. If it wasn’t for pain, where would I be? If it wasn’t for Beethoven, how would I appreciate its worth? It’s still an extraordinary life. Still extraordinary. I wish you could be here all the time to experience it with me.” He pauses to weep. “I always wanted to be with you. If only you could love me the same way.”

“I loved you, Eli. Like a brother that I had never had.”

“You also said — “I have a theory that the only time that we can make the best out of life is when we’re alone. Loneliness is a gift after all. For then we realize that everything has its own purpose and beauty. We get to know ourselves more. We are more free. We were born for something very special. We’re just gonna have to be patient to figure it out for ourselves. You may think my life is sad, lonely, and miserable. Well, now I’ve got words and stories to accompany me. I’m fine. I’ll fall in love when my heart is stronger enough for it.” — “But our hearts are never stronger enough for it, honey.”

“Neither are they prepared for it in any other way while being in it.”

“The funny thing about you is you would rather want to be the villain. The villain in everybody’s nightmares. You lived in an artificial world that we both knew would kill you in time. And this is it. I think you got your death wish. Are you happy that you broke our hearts like this? Without even saying goodbye and giving us the opportunity to love you?”

“I have reasons for this, Eli. You will know why. Eventually. And I promise you, I will say goodbye. A one happy goodbye.”

Eli was the one true friend who would barge in whenever he felt the need to. He was the only absolute connection I had ever had since I was 6 years old. He made me laugh. He helped me make crucial decisions. He could leave scars of judgments. He was straightforward. He tried to save my vulnerability. He also liked to challenge my sanity and strengths.

Until he fell in love with me. He then learned to back off a little. I reached out. He wanted my heart. I took the escape route. We lost each other. The missed friendship became a memory that I had to force myself to settle in my imagination to keep it alive. To relieve a broken heart. To reminisce some beloved childhood moments. The purity of it all. The madness of innocence. The songs about rainbows, autumn leaves, and fascinating humans. How Beethoven would still celebrate love and forgiveness with the world.

Until the end of time.

Wrath burns life. It turns a heart and soul into ashes. You have already stopped living the very moment it fires at you. Death lurks in all corners. Routines have become a struggle. Savage mankind appears everywhere. You curse days and nights. You hurt or harm your enemies in any way you can. You are your own criminal. You find satisfaction in ruins. Your only solace is knowing that your scheme works according to plan. You leave without mercy. It is an accomplishment once you have killed your target. It is always worth it. Heroic.

A trauma is a wrath seed. It continues to grow. Until it suffocates you completely that you cannot breathe anymore. It carries you through a tragic fate. Trust is gone forever. Love becomes a stranger. The sun and the moon deny their existence. Lies and demonic laughters signal their invasion. You lie and laugh along. For relief, redemption and revenge. But since you are helpless, wrath helps you move on. With its powerful heat that keeps you warm day and night. There is justice in it. Also, a divine sympathy. You do not need validation anymore. It is already there. Given. Act on it with care.

The wrath of the world puts a halt to your pulse. It then becomes an oblivious fanfare that your subconscious will remember for years to come. It picks a dungeon. It does not matter which one because all of them will incinerate you anyways. If you were to describe life in one word, you would probably say it is wrath. Though wrath burns life. If you were to study all philosophy books, you would come to an understanding that it is all based on wrath. Though wrath motivates you to become the person you would have never imagined yourself to be. If you were to see your future, you would be surprised to know that it ends with wrath. Though other types of wrath justify it for you. You play with it, for it, and against it. You have no way out. You have no one to save you. You are your own tiny pulse that pumps the fire on. Once it is out, you are in danger. You have become an ordinary. Like an ugly rock that lays to rest for centuries on the same spot. An ephemeral art that deserves to burn on its own as commanded by fate. Your pulse remains halted. Your name is scorched for life. A new one is born.

I have covered their names with wrath and tarnished their realities. It is not their fault as to why I have made them look evil. Wrath has become a gratifying pleasure that nails more madness into my head. This is a personal admission. You might also view it as a direct confession. However, it is never enough that my mind is doing all the works from my deathbed. It is all I can ever do. For now. Perhaps, once the life support is pulled out and I can breathe on my own, then I can apologize.

Hold on. What is there to apologize for? Why am I guilty? Where does the truth come from? Why do I feel like I have been missing somebody more? Somebody who shares with my soul. Where could this person possibly be? It is not Ethel. Neither little Danny. Definitely not Eli. Oh. Dr. Edwards and Grace George will both proclaim their sad anecdotes about me in a short while. I have been feeling their presence lurking around the vicinity since day one. At the same time, the missing person has been waiting for me somewhere. And I refuse to die with a mystery squirming its way into my grave like worms.

Could it be Dr. Agnes Berry? No. I am not connected to her at all. I remember her as Grace George’s savior. Nothing significant in my memory, really. Just another figure. Another victim. Another broken heart. Yet somehow she seems to have left a touch of tomorrow. And I will never find out why. Neither will I look into her eyes and read the truth. Who is she and why is my thought bothered?

Maybe this is not memory disembarking itself. Maybe it is insanity. But how convincing does it rob my quiet mind and pin its truth up high. No, it is not Dr. Agnes Berry at all. It is somebody who is more innocent about life and full of false hopes. Somebody whose heart glows with pure love and respect that can only be measured up with that of an angel’s. Somebody who loves me more from afar. Why is this quest more important now? I am in a deathbed, for Christ’s sake. My mind’s job is to reevaluate my truths. Not to come to a single realization about a missing piece. I am wrapped in wrath still. Two more to go. Yet I have no idea about its resolution. It is as vague as how sleep hypnotizes me to fall asleep without a thought lingering on. Why is Dr. Agnes Berry messing along all of a sudden? Why do I identify her as wrath? Where is she and what has she been up to? Is she the villain? No. That would be impossible. She has a good heart. She keeps secrets. She took great care of Grace George. She could be somebody’s soul mate.

Wait a minute. I have to stop this. I am getting confused. Dr. Agnes Berry has never really had a consequential role on my board. Her game has ended as soon as I have landed in my deathbed. Who is she? And why is she connected to the missing piece? The person who loves me more from afar. Damn it. This is insanity. I am dying. Yet I still cannot find one perceptible truth that sticks into my head. Hopefully, with this new discovery, I am able to find peace.

My pulse flickers on. Wrath becomes a wonderment. A final match begins.

“You once told me,” Dr. Edwards says, “that Beethoven was your Devil. Just months before you turned 11, your Mom introduced you to him. You didn’t fall in love with his music. You envied him. So then you asked Ethel if she could teach you piano. Of course, she did. And then you cracked the piano code soon after. All of a sudden, you got so angry and wild that you played the piano like a beast. You shocked your parents — You shocked all of us. But you weren’t shocked about your amazing discovery because you had had it long before, and it was only waiting for a perfect time. And that was the perfect time.”

“Do you remember why I got so angry and wild?” my mind responds.

“You got so angry and wild that day because — according to your memory — you had an epiphany of you being a woman, and yet you were only 11 years old. We lived in the same neighborhood in Windsor, and it was quite an animated time. You were a happy kid. You also made my daughter happy. You were a genius little fella, and nobody could deny it. And then one day — piano got a hold of you. You had a serious meltdown. Just these unbelievable outbursts of rage coming from a mysterious depth inside of you. You rolled all over the street. You threw rocks and punches at people. Your parents weren’t home that day. You were bruised up and completely out of yourself, then the ambulance came and took you away. We were all there, so worried sick about you. After that, I pursued my doctoral degree to become a psychiatrist, and what an unbelievably emotional experience it had been. Never mind the mental saturation of it all. But you always seemed to find a way to push me to my limits. I could never understand that. Until Ethel told me her own version of truth. But you know what? I can never hate you for it. How could I hate the kid who pushed me to have a dream and make it come true?”

“I had to turn you into evil or I would feel bad for loving your wife. That’s why I was always angry at you.”

“I remember asking you a question one day,” he continues. “I asked you what you wanted to do when you grew up. You gave me a surprising answer, and no 11-year-old would ever come up with it. You said — you wanted to teach the world how to love. And you did. You taught us all how to love. And I’m very proud of you for accomplishing it — even away from your truths.”

“I apologize for ruining your family, Dr. Edwards. I didn’t mean to fall in love with the love of your life at all. I truly am sorry.”

“You didn’t ruin my family, Skye. You saved us all. I just had to let you know.”

“Were you my therapist?”

“I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I managed to sneak myself into your life — time and time again. Not as a therapist, but as a friend. I could never give up on you no matter what went on in your world. The rage. Such rage that only you could understand. I don’t think you’d been honest for once, though. We were always going full circles. We’d go back to square one each time. You loved music so much, but you just abandoned it. The way that a little girl would abandon her most beautiful doll. Or her most beloved friend.”

“Please tell me more secrets, Dr. Edwards. Tell me more about me.”

“Well, I hope I was able to fulfill that fatherly figure to you somehow. I gotta tell you though, it wasn’t easy to reach out. But I couldn’t get through a day without checking on you and making sure you were all right or I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night at all. Marla was jealous of the attention that I had given you. So she spun out of herself and came up with lies to destroy me. Then she would apologize, and we’d be okay again. After a while, there she was — striking more false accusations against me. And I would be enraptured with a bunch of apology letters and kisses. But I never got mad at her for once. Never at all. I still kept loving her. And I would always remember to be a father everyday. To her. And to you as well.”

“I cannot make it up to you anymore, Dr. Edwards. This guilt flies away with my soul. It will appear in the sky as one of the sad stars, which instructs the rains to fall.”

He kisses me on the forehead. “I will always love you, kid-o. You are the book that I dream to write about. But never will. Because your secrets and words will only stay in our innermost conversations. It’s just between you and me. Even the ones when I would have to pretend I was — Beethoven.”

“You were quite convincing as Beethoven, though. I wish we could still do it again.”

“We shall do it again. In heaven. With the real Ludwig Van Beethoven.”

“Are these my only secrets, Dr. Edwards? Why do I feel like you’re keeping something from me? Or could it be that you’ve just forgotten about it as well? The way my memory has forgotten it for so long. Does this have anything to do with the missing face? Do you have any information on Dr. Agnes Berry? Do you know of her involvement in my life? I’m sure you have already met her personally since she rescued Gracie’s hope, which saved her future. Why is this mystery revealing itself all of a sudden from out of nowhere? Who is this person — the missing face?”

“She will be here, kid-o,” he whispers into my ear. “She will find you soon.”

This is the word of a genius. Imagine having the extreme desire to justify all the rights and wrongs, to achieve the impossible and own a spotlight, to accept ideas and bring them to life, to open the eyes of the ignorant and walk them through a wise experience, and to reach the heights of confidence regardless of all the lacks. Greed can be your best friend. Much like the rest of the soaring seven a.k.a. The Deadly Sins. You have it in you, elevating your everyday circumstances. You just always deny it. How could hypocrisy be left out of this? Now that would be a deadly sin. As it drags you to a dead-end path. With all the sufferings that you must endure before you jump over the fence. Every face wears it. Every mind holds it. Every heart acts on it. This is the time when you hope for greed to shake it all off and build trust. As greed drives courage into your words and actions that bring expected results. Your own definition of it is shown through your emotional level. The mental intricacies may drain you out a little, but you will still come out as a winner. Greed always remembers its place and its wants. No matter how high and mighty they may be, as long as the conclusion has joined your life creed, you can walk away with a happy smile that shall last for a fairly long while. For nothing is permanent in this world. Everything is borrowed from the universe. Once you have already withdrawn from it, it will disappear for good. And you cannot have it back anymore.

You are greedy for acceptance, status, and beauty. Use greed to accomplish them all. Just stay away from excess. As you do not want demons to start invading in with a mischievous goal. Greed’s objective is simple: pay attention to anything that benefits your heart and mind, get rid of the rest, and keep collecting results. The results are like juices of a sacred fruit that only grows in a land that you have created yourself. Greed is the song that you are longing for. Dance with it, follow the steps, and never lose your rhythm. If they tell you it is bad, laugh at their ignorance. If they tell you what the world does with it, shake their hands and walk away. If they tell you what the books say about it, pat their shoulders and smile. For it is all up to you however you want it to be. You have brought it into your life with kindness, therefore, it shall obey your desires with good karma. Greed can mean anything after all. For commoners, it is dreadful. For ambitious souls, it is a reason to move. Do not fear it. Make it your impulse.

My mind keeps writing down its thoughts while the rest of my physical body is about to give up. I am greedy for health right now. Just for a minute or two, maybe. To say I’m sorry and thank you. To say goodbye to the music playing in my head. To say goodbye to the words scribbling down my memory path. To say goodbye to the hearts that I have loved, lost and broken. I am greedy for the rest of the truths that are still pacing along with one’s feet. The quest for the missing piece will only take place right here — in my mind. Nowhere else. As there is no chance of me surviving this. What am I still waiting for? The mystery will follow me along into the grave. I must accept it now. Or I shall never have peace. Perhaps, the kind voice will reveal it to me. Or maybe one of the angels will whisper it into my ear before I die. I am still hoping for it though. I know it will come to me. In whatever form, I could care less. As long as it unfolds itself without fear and promises my rest.

Marla wanted the best for Marla. Grace George was born. She stood like a queen, with a crown that shone through the hearts of humanity, transforming them with her music. My music. Like Sunset over Empire that might have been saving lives along the way. Was she unkind to me? I cannot remember. Was I unkind to her? I cannot remember either. But now I regret not spending time with her as much as she would like us to. I regret putting an end to our friendship for whatever reason. She has become one of the victims of my guilt. The guilt that has laid me down in this deathbed. The guilt of fears. The greedy thoughts to fill out all the blanks and answer the desired questions. The greedy thoughts to keep arrogance in place and become selfish as cowardice controls the fire. But how did Grace George make me feel about myself? Like a bullied little girl who has been locked into a dark room. Then why should I revel in regrets? I do not understand. Why should our friendship still matter despite what she has done to me? Let my memory figure it out for itself. Why is she still important in my life? Why does she have to go last? Our last meeting. My last teardrop of friendship. Greed means Grace George. Marla means a childhood friend whose heart is as vulnerable as the bullied little girl locked into a dark room. Does she hold more truths? Does she know about the missing face? Is she aware of Dr. Agnes Berry’s affiliation with my recent discovery?

“Gracie,” my mind begs, “please tell me some truths about me. Tell me everything. My secrets and all. You hold the last chance. Please don’t disappoint me. Please!”

“How dare you do this to me,” Grace George says. “You dumped our friendship all because of a shameful secret, as you’d like to call it. Well, I never realized that your judgment of me would be so shallow that you’d rather sacrifice our most cherished thing in the world. I gotta admit, I might have gone ballistic at first. But being so genuinely in love with my mother all through these years and keeping your heart from doing something about it because you respected my family so much — what can I say — you’ve won my greatest admiration ever. I just can’t imagine how lonely and sad you must have been all this time. Don’t you regret anything at all? Now that you’ve got no chance left anymore. Now that you can’t even say goodbye — She told me everything. Dad broke the news to me as well. And you know what my initial reaction was? I took a sigh of relief. I understood all the why questions. I thought it was all about me, but it was — the Stoltz’s way — something deeper than life — But I still don’t know how you’d do some amazing things despite the conundrums, though. You gave us Danny. You gave me Eli, the best husband a woman could ever ask for. You ran Sonata Academy pretty much. Your piano code inspired me to pursue classical music. And of course, your piano compositions, especially Sunset over Empire, made me a star. And you would never ask for anything in return for once. How could your heart be this pure and generous? Yet how could you be so selfish at the same time? I couldn’t reach out to you anymore. And you’d only respond to me once I needed help with some shit. Would you call that a best friend or what? I can’t even come up with a perfect description for it at all.”

“You will always be my best friend, Gracie,” my mind replies. “You have no idea how much I love you. I’m sure I will miss you by the time I go.”

“But the biggest sin you have ever committed,” she goes on, “is wishing to become Grace George herself. The classical music world diva. The one with overwhelmingly arrogant confidence to be on stage and deliver charismatic and tempestuous piano solo performances that would draw in gullible crowds. I swallowed all the shit to make our dream come true, Skye. Because one of us had to be up there. One of us had to face all the bullshit just so they would hear your music as you’d rather want me to pretend that I was a goddamn genius just to please your humility. Until I couldn’t take it any longer. So I let the cat out of the bag and ruined my career. You hurt me — so I abandoned music just like you abandoned our friendship. You gave me a reason to do it. But you also gave me a reason to quit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still famous. So is your music. Now they wonder about the real genius behind it. Too bad. Too late. They won’t meet you anymore.”

“I’m so sorry if you felt that way, Gracie. But it was my dream for you. I wanted you to be happy.”

“I know what you’d say now. Yeah yeah. It was your dream for me. You wanted me to be happy and be noticed. You gave it to me, and I am forever grateful for it. It also came with a price. I lost my sanity along the way. I drank heavily. I would see horrific things. At one point, when I spent time with you in that dingy basement, I thought I’d seen two serial killers coming towards me that I almost stabbed myself to death. And you saved me from it. Suicide, psychotic episode, or whatever the hell it was. You saved me. I bet the best reason as to why you agreed to become a surrogate mother was for me to be excited about life again. I’m right, aren’t I? You’re so uncanny, you know that? You’re like — everybody’s magic. Or someone’s magic wand — I miss you. And I will never forgive you for not giving me a chance to be with you more. We lost those years. How can we bring them back now? Through our minds? Imagination? Just like those pretend games that we would play when we were kids? It’s not fair. You were never fair. You could have, at least, be a little kinder — to yourself. Your thoughts were wrong. They were just bad assumptions. Your principles sucked because you never let anyone love you in the name of ridiculous fears. Where does it leave us at now? This painful goodbye that will knock me off hard everyday? How dare you leave me in this rot alone?”

“Life has been good to you with or without me. It will always be. I know this. I’ve seen it happen before. And I admire you for it. Oh, Gracie. Fall in love with music all over again. Do it for you this time. I’ll be right behind you all the way through. I promise.”

“Fine. I’ll go back to music. Along with little Danny –You know what I’m gonna do? Try my hands on composing as well. See how far your magic can go.”

“See how far your own magic can go.”

“By the way, I met her in Queen’s park yesterday.”

“Her? Who’s HER?”

“She’s deeply heartbroken that she’s afraid she would kill herself if she would come see you like this.”

“Who is she, Gracie? Tell me! Dr. Edwards has given me a hint, too! Who am I missing?”

“You never spared anybody, didn’t you? You dumped us all and broke our hearts at once.”

Deathbed means a light reflection of a life lived. My mind continues to discover more truths and thoughts as it wishes for a miracle to define it all in just one simple word. A living human may argue that sloth is yet another deadly sin. So does The Book. However, the world needs to escape away from the rush and be kind to its journey regardless of the moral facts that you may have known or practiced since childhood, which may not resonate with your proven principles anymore. Spiritual, mental, emotional, and subconscious — the neglect that they suffer through one’s lifetime is equivalent to extreme grief. You were born with important fundamentals that should have been your innermost priorities. The heart, the mind, the spirit, and the hidden. All a mystery that breathes along with you and what you breathe out at once. It is not a sin to take thousands of moments to ruminate about an act, an idea, a plan, a spoken phrase, or a dream. It is about taking control of your capabilities and reality. It is about forgiveness and making things right. It is about recording your own history with a faithful consideration regardless of the outcome in the surface. No, fellas. Sloth is a friend. It is your choice to turn it into an enemy.

As death gets closer, I am taking these last minutes of my mind’s lifeblood to write a letter. The missing face will be realized as soon as I am gone for all my questions will be answered in a whole new positive light by then. All my wrongs will be judged according to how my heart has prompted me to act on a thought. All my beloved faces will grieve for a while and move on with their lives along with a dust of blessed legacy I have left behind. Just a dust. For I never see myself as somebody with a little bit of significance. I never pay attention to good and bad realities. I only respect the in-between circumstances that are happening in my head. All truths may be lies or pains that ridicule their existence. All thoughts may be lies or facts that challenge the wise. My mind is not tired of writing all this down into the wind and whisper every word to you. It weeps. It laughs. It embraces. The smile of integrity comes from a reflective state that resembles a monk’s teaching. Your song is sung. Your poetry is proclaimed. Your wish is about to come true. To save the innocent. To save a heart. To save happiness. They have changed my life, too. They are my heart’s heroes. They are my angels, and they have taught me how to fly.

“The time is about to end,” the kind voice barges in. “Are you ready yet?”

“What about the missing face?” my mind replies. “Would you tell me about her instead?”

“You will see her face right before your heart stops beating.”

Dearest Ethel,

I hear your intense grief. Like a wounded knight battling against the invincible. I have been loving you from afar, which you have been aware of since the beginning of our secret story. It is not a mistake. It is the best choice for my heart. You have done your best to reach out, and just as much as I would love to open my door for you, I know that you are taking good care of me from wherever you are, too. There is no need for tears. I feel your love everyday. It is the happy reverie that moves me to breathe. It keeps my clock going faster so as to escape from misery. It is where you and I can be together. Though from afar and without a word, I know all the wonderful things you have done for me. I am forever grateful. As you have shown me the courage to love and how to fight for it. I am so sorry for not fighting with you as it is against my principles. It is not pride. It is fear. For love always quits along the way. I am weak enough for it. However, my choice knows how to keep it in the most noble way. Like Beethoven’s original manuscript scores and letters that have outlived generations, and will always elevate all hearts for the rest of mankind.

My dearest, let go of the intense grief. For I am not worthy of it. For you belong with somebody whose courage to love is just as noble and pure as yours. You belong with the man whose love for you inspires the world. You belong with him. Always. From the time you had met and fought for each other’s hearts to keep your family together — to this day that you have found yourselves in the same room to share a memory — no matter how tragic it may be — but you are in each other’s arms for warmth and comfort — that is noble and pure. Don’t you think?

I am going with a peaceful thought knowing that you are falling in love all over again with your first love. I am going with a joyful heart feeling that you are now full of gratitude towards life and how each day excites you to create lovely memories. I am going with a smile, flying away with my resplendent white wings. I am going with the taste and texture of the butternut squash that you made for me when I was 11 years old. I am going with the beautiful pain of composing Sunset over Empire as I cried to spend a little bit of time with you.

That little bit of time has come. I shall close my eyes soon. My mind might not work anymore. However, I will remember you in heaven. The only promise that I’ve got left is to make sure my memory will always find its way to love you. Even from afar. Once more. For one last time.

Forever faithful,

Skye

The machines bleep off erratically. Footsteps hustle in, along with mercurial voices. On cardiac arrest, my heart pleads them to stop. It hurts even more. I am ready. It is time for me to go. There is nothing that they can do anymore. If anything, they must take off the life support now. Snap and clap! Snap and clap! Tick-tock-tick-tock. Running out. Air. Breathe. The kind voice becomes inaudible. A warm gust is pulling me away. Tick-tock. My name is Skye Stoltz. I am 45 years old. Tick-tock. Bleep! I told a story. Tick-tock. I struggle to open my eyes, and a forlorn face flashes through. It is a strange woman whose grief is that of Ethel’s, Grace George’s, Eli’s, Dr. Edwards’, and little Danny’s combined. She hums the tunes of Sunset over Empire into my ear. So gently and beautifully. As she fights her way through it without choking up. The kind voice was right. I would find out who the missing face was before my heart would stop beating.

Now I want a little bit of time with her. Alone.

Not yet. Please. Not yet. Let me stay a few minutes longer. Just a few minutes more. Just to hug her goodbye and let her know how sorry I am. Tick-tock. Bleep!

Flatline!

I had lived a dream where other dreams came true. I had lived a life beyond what my mind would ever conceive. I had created beauty in the wild to remind them of love. I worked hard. I played the piano as a secret indulgence. I wrote music. I was a storyteller. I was in love. I was a good friend. I gave birth to a son who was never mine. I examined life, the world, the mysteries, the hearts, the minds, and the truths. I understood everything. I knew when it would all end. I knew the secrets hidden in one’s eyes. I knew the answers to all the why questions.

You are given a clue everyday. Your thoughts, your realities, and your truths all have one thing in common: they are all hoping for love. Meanwhile, fate gets in the way. Either it roots for you or lets you die alone. The former means your heart’s genuine goal decides the conclusion. The latter means your choice leads you to it so as to keep fears as a safety chamber.

Life is as simple as feeling good about it. However, pains are needed to test your principles and deliver art to the innocent. Love is as simple as putting a smile on your face. However, heartbreaks are needed to humble up your desires and become kinder to yourself. Once you have already accomplished your purpose, your time is done.

Yet it shall always leave you with a missing face behind, which holds the promise of your legacy.

The legacy of growing resplendent white wings, playing the piano as a secret indulgence, telling stories of all kinds of love, writing music to transform lives, and respecting imperfections.

Above all, let go of your mind. Do not worry about where it wants to go. For it is the master of all things needed to accomplish a purpose.

My purpose was simple: to accurately define love the way my heart would convey its purity and possession. However, my mind’s purpose was as tough as comforting the inconsolable: to catch the magic of life hidden in thoughts, realities, and truths.

Have I accomplished them all? Maybe. Maybe not. As the mind is about to liberate itself. Into solitude and isolation. From sluggish times to eccentric creations. Towards the brand new end and old revelations. About me. About love. About my secrets.

It is running slow now. My consciousness floats along with a star. I would like to proclaim to the rest of mankind the following truths:

You do not own your mind. Your subconscious does. Or someone else. Or even something else. Pay attention.

You do not know how to practice love based on your heart’s plea. Now you know where frustrations and failures have come from.

You do not care to ask for what you truly want. Now you know how madness augments your twisted perceptions of reality.

You do not appreciate simple joys. Now you know why loneliness exists.

You do not pray for something good. As worries constantly bombard you. Now you understand the resentful consequences of it all.

You are only given two choices in a lifetime: to learn — and to learn to be happy. Whichever you choose, you win a little something. An experience that would either get rid of a piece of your character — or build a new one to protect your heart and mind.

You are already given a privilege at birth: to fight for a dream — and to save worthy hearts’ dreams — along with your quest for happiness.

You are given time to discover your worth. Whether it would be with your hands bouncing on the piano keys and scribbling away words — or making a bowl of butternut squash for an ill friend. Be proud of your heart and how it shares its hope and kindness with the world. It is more than enough.

You are given the limitless ability to love. Whether it would teach you how to surmount pains — or how to face a day with beautiful serenity and smiles — until it is time to rest for the night.

You are given the powerful opportunity to conceive all the most monumental events and ideas. As you carry the torch of fate. You are the warrior of your own life — and someone else’s. You are a part of the world’ energy, which determines destiny.

You have been given all of it. However, you do not accept it with an open mind. Thus, the insanity and the chaos barge in. Who are you? You do not have to say your name out loud again and again just to remind yourself of your worth. For your name never means anything. As nobody would really want to get to know it. Though in your own speaking voice, without a soul around, say it out loud as often as you want. For it teaches you something that the ordinary would never know: it is to recognize how lucky you are to have been given the chance to live — and to love with a full heart.

Whoever has told my story, I am forever grateful. My name is Skye Stoltz. I am 45 years old. I have just taken my last breath. Just like everyone else, I was destined for a sad ending. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

See you once you are ready to begin a life.


The Great SIN Hunt – The Missed and The Fools

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