As I walked towards Max I did not know what to expect. His back was turned to me as he sat at a table for two in the rather empty Pasta Fresca restaurant along Bukit Timah Road. Something about his mannerism gave me the feeling that whatever it was that he had to talk to me about was not good...not at all.
"Hey, Max," I greeted him as I took my seat. "How long have you been waiting?"
Max had his face buried in his hands. He lifted his head and looked at me, looking startled as if I had just intruded upon his privacy. His eyes were puffy and red; it did not take a genius to figure out that he had been crying.
He offered me a tiny smile, one that did not quite meet his eyes. At that point, the anxiety I had felt bubbling up within me began to escalate - fast.
"Oh, you know...," his voice trailed off. He took a deep breath, and let out a long, heavy sigh.
"Hi Nina," he said quietly, casting his eyes downwards. He sat upright with his back away from the chair: a first for someone who always sat slumped in chairs with his right leg hoisted up on his left knee.
"I have been, uh, here...ever since..." His voice caught, but he forced his tears back down and continued bravely, "I've been here ever since I found heroin syringes in my brother's room."
"You found what?" I exclaimed. A few heads turned in my direction, so I quickly lowered my voice. "Am I hearing right?"
I knew it was the wrong thing to say, but I could not help myself. My heart twisted as I watched Max's face crumble in pain. I had never seen him look so upset, and that could be the biggest understatement of the year.
"Heroin syringes," he repeated. His voice was choked with the years he desperately wanted suppressed. "My brother is a heroin addict."
He shook his head, and snorted incredulously. "Who would've thought?"
I reached across the table and took his hands in mine. They felt cold and clammy, and no matter how hard I held them, they did not stop shaking.
"That's not the end of it," he went on, his voice quivering. "He's in serious trouble, I don't know how 'cause I'm not familiar with the law or anything but, my brother, he went into hiding, where I don't know but he wasn't at home yesterday, neither was he at the university, I don't think he's being arrested but, I'm afraid Nina, if the police catches him it's death Nina, it's death!"
His dam finally burst, and he broke down in tears. His scrawny shoulders racked with uncontrollable sobs, and the sounds that he produced was almost as incoherent as the words he had just blurted out.
I did not know what to say. I was still reeling from my shock that Max's straight-A, future doctor brother was a drug addict. I searched for the right words, but could only come up with, "Don't worry Max, it may never happen."
As each word left my mouth I was fully aware of how lame they were. I desperately wanted to take them back, but it was too late. The damage was done.
"Don't worry?" Max choked out. He stared at me, looking at me as if I had just grown another head. "Don't worry? My brother is in trouble, and you're telling me not to worry?"
He snatched his hands out of mine, and stood up so fast that his chair toppled beneath him. "I have to go," he muttered, more to himself than to me. He brushed impatiently at the tears that were still coming from his eyes, and before I could even say something to reassure him that I was not the stupid moron who said all the wrong things at the wrong time, he broke into a run and sped out of the restaurant.
I went home that day, feeling as if my entire world had collapsed. Max was the most fragile individual I know, and he loved and respected his brother more than anyone else in the world. The harsh reality of his brother's life would break him, I was sure.
The day folded into night; I sat by the telephone the whole day, willing it to ring. I was about to give up and go to bed when my most fervent wish was granted.
"Max?" I said as I snatched up the phone.
There was silence at the other end. My heart raced; I knew it was Max, and something had happened...something bad.
"Max, please talk to me!" I yelled.
"Nina. They got him." His voice was flat, dead, lifeless, as if he had already surrendered to his brother's tragic doom.
I found my voice, and choked out, "I'm sorry. Max, I'm so sorry..."
A/N: Did this for an English test. I had to write a story with the words, "Don't worry, it may never happen" in the story. That should explain the lack of swear words and contractions, and the fact that there are quite a few plot holes in it that I'm not bothered to fill. Also, in Singapore, drug-trafficking is a capital offence. This story is, by the way, set in Singapore. Bukit Timah is, obviously, a place in Singapore. Pasta Fresca is an Italian restaurant, and they serve wicked pasta there.