Justine didn’t know why she was living. What was she living for? Good grades? Future? Dreams? Nah. Those things didn’t have this magnetizing attraction to her. As far as she could see, life was just a repeated cycle — waking up, boring school, pointless homework, then the grand finale of nightmare realm. Yes, she had nightmares, intangible and inexplicable nightmares, like those that would make someone feel intense horrid fear yet were unable to be put into words or images. These nightmares were strong enough to make her life miserable, but not enough to break her down. However, what made her feel the most empty wasn’t that she didn’t know what to live for, but she didn’t know what she would die for.
She lived on like a nonentity for years. Not because she had a terrible personality or anything; in fact she was an empathetic and nice girl, but she was neither a straight-A student nor a cheerleader, and she didn’t possess the good taste of fashion as the popular ones. Moreover, she wasn’t outgoing at all; at free time she preferred to indulge herself into a sea of books and consequently gained a new perspective on life that was way more mature than the other adolescents. Her life had been this repeated cycle until she started taking a philosophy elective.
This elective itself wasn’t that special, but in that elective there was someone special — a handsome boy, same age as her, fixated on a book that was way beyond his age of understanding. Justine immediately got curious, and curiosity itself occurred very rarely for her.
“Do you think this set of philosophical mindset applies to the contemporary world, especially your social environment?” Justine couldn’t help but throw out this question. The other students all snapped their heads towards her direction, astonished by the fact that she was actually talking. Some smarter students could even sense the tone of questioning layered beneath the textbook-like phrasing.
“A philosophical mindset can apply universally, laying across time and space. All we need to do is to alter or shift it a little bit so it fits into the bigger puzzle pieces of our own society.” The boy didn’t seem to be bothered by her sudden question at all and provided a jaw-dropping response that shocked many students while completely befuddling the others.
Justine stared at the boy, more precisely she stared at the book cover he was holding, and contemplated for a few seconds. Then she began, “I’m Justine. It’s very nice to meet you.” This was the most extravert self that Justine could manage.
“I’m Steven. So, do you…” Steven replied quickly and immediately built upon the previous conversation. It was the first time in Justine’s life that she felt so drawn into a conversation that she didn’t want it to end.
At the end of the day, Steven asked for her number so they could “further investigate down the path of Socrates method”. That night they texted each other and called for hours until Justine’s parents forced Justine to bed.
From that day on, they were always together, in the library, on the flowery lanes, by the fountain, and they always had a book or two in their hands and a profound atmosphere in the air.
“Nightmares are just shadows of our fears in reality, and fears are shadows of calamities. We have nightmares because of fear itself.” Steven said thoughtfully one day after he heard about Justine’s recent nightmares. What was Justine’s fear? With Steven’s presence, she felt so much more secure. She had the world right beside her willing to listen to her. Justine’s nightmares had receded after she met Steven.
“Do you know the philosophy of love?” It had been about six weeks after they met, and Steven and Justine were staying late at school for setting up an event. When they were almost done, Steven suddenly shot out this question.
After thinking over for a while, Justine let out a sincere response, “Well, all I know is that mine’s all about you.”
People still saw them always together at school, walking side by side. The only thing changed was that their fingers no longer clasped upon a book but each other’s hands. Just more intimacy. They would also meet each other at weekends sometimes. The daily good night turned to good night and I love you. The goodbyes turned to tight hugs. Now if someone asked Justine what she was living for, she would respond with certainty, “Steven”. If someone asked Justine what she would die for, she would also reply with that same conviction, “Steven”.
A poisonous snake always bit when the victim was the most relaxed. Fate always struck when the victim was the happiest. Just when everything seemed so right for Justine, everything distorted so terribly wrong.
Wrecked car. Police sirens. Ambulance wails. Emergency lights. Syringes and tubes. Heartbeat detectors. Justine couldn’t even believe the news when she heard it. What was the chance of getting into a fatal car accident? One in a million? Why must fate play this malignant trick on her?
She rushed to the hospital. Steven’s heartbeat was very close to zero. All her walls were crashed down by the tsunami of tears and she cried so sorrowfully by Steven’s bedside that even the angels above would have shed teardrops. Steven’s hands touched Justine’s for the last time, and a crumpled note of last words was delivered at this final moment. Justine reached up and sealed Steven’s lips with one last kiss as the last of life escaped him.
This feeling was worse than death, even worse than the end of the world, especially when everyone else in the whole world couldn’t sense this devastating change. Justine stared at the bizarre world around her, the world without Steven. So much darker. So much more shadows. Laughter died out, replaced by sorrow and depression.
Justine still had the note, but she refused to read it. If she read that note, then Steven would be truly gone along with this last living piece of memory, and there wouldn’t be anything to keep herself moving. She was living for that note, the only fence between her and suicide.
Eventually sorrow took over. Depression traumatized her. She couldn’t battle on any longer. She walked to the top of the building, carrying that note with her, deciding to jump after she unraveled the last words she desperately desired to hear from her love. The night was surprisingly peaceful. Under the starlight, the words on the notes reflected into her eyes. “If fate must take one of us, I’m so glad it isn’t you.”
That night, Justine didn’t jump. She threw away the last remaining idea of suicide. This was the time when she had to live on for Steven, not dying for him.
But Justine’s world was never happy as before again. She returned to her nonentity self. She no longer talked at school. She shielded herself with books. That would pass. Time would heal the wounds. The difference was that Justine found a purpose to her living. She knew that Steven would want her to live happily.
“Steven, I hope you are seeing everything. Even though all good things will be broken in the end, I’m still so fortunate to have you making everything in my life good. Good things will eventually end, but new good things will come into my life. Maybe this is the hope for living.”