Many years have passed since his loss, still the one thing she could never understand was why she had seen all the other departed loved ones in her dreams, but never him. It felt as if he had suddenly completely vanished. She had prayed for him and lit candles, hoping he had found his peace. She has always regretted not having told him how much she loved him and not being allowed to say goodbye. The thought of him being alone in agony minutes before he passed away has always made her heart deeply bleed. Maybe in other circumstances she would have come to terms with his sudden departure and would have let go, but all that pain(his, her mothers and hers), has created a cursed loop of sad memories around the date when he had passed away.
Tonight, another year has passed. Silent cold winter night outside. Sitting in her armchair, with grey hair and her finger touching the window, she can still see him with the eyes of her mind, his temple leaning against the cold window of an old train that was supposed to get him home, but has instead delivered his soul to an unknown destination.
Cold winter, a rusty train moving slowly through a vast plain of white, snow gently falling from the frozen sky. He is worried sick about his wife and daughter and prays God that the train could move faster so he can get home and hold them in his arms.
While looking out through the cold window he observes the snow flowers growing in beautiful patterns. But a sudden claw of pain catches his chest. He knows it’s his heart, the same pain like few months ago when he collapsed in the living room. Only now it’s so much more intense. He tries to call somebody, but nobody’s around. He tries to stand up, but his feet are too heavy, he cannot catch his breath. The compartment starts turning around him, faster and faster, a carousel from which he has no strength to step down. The intense pain paralyzes him, and while unable to defeat the pain, he exhales resting his forehead on the window. He understands that this is the end. His thoughts fly far to his beloved family while he slips into a deep silent dream.
As he opens his eyes he finds himself barefoot, leaning against a willow tree, the same tree where he used to play as a child. There’s an amazing glow in the sky. He wonders what happened to the pain in his chest, but it’s all gone. He runs through the grass and gets his feet into the river.
The cool water, the sounds and smells make him feel young, his heart filled with an enormous joy. It feels as waking up from a nightmare where he was dreaming he was having a heart attack alone in a train. He is back now, young and happy, no fear, no memory, no pain. In a distance he hears familiar voices, his mother calling him, his childhood friends coming. Yet he tries to understand why every once in while he dreams of this unknown girl, that seems so very familiar. He always dreams the same thing: she is praying for his peace and that he is happy wherever he is. She is talking to him, asking him where he had vanished. It’s a mystery who she is, still, he feels as if he knows her since forever. Dreaming her makes him feel sad, because every time he sees her he tries to embrace her, to comfort her, but she doesn’t even notice his presence.
One day he asks his mother what this may mean. Smiling she tells him : “Next time when you will dream of the unknown girl, look around you . There must be something you need to do before these dreams will stop, God has His reasons.”
Sat in her armchair, asleep, she dreams of a field full of flowers where in a distance she can finally see her father. She recognises him, young and looking happy, and while seeing him, tears stream down on her face. She smiles and her face is suddenly lit by an unearthly happy glow.
He can hear her talk to him in her mind: “Where have you been all these years? I missed you so much. I never had the chance to tell you how much I love you.”
He reaches his arms towards her trying to hold her, but once again his arms pass through her as if he would not be able to touch her material body. He feels saddened, but as he turns his eyes around in the room he notices on the table several pictures, most of them are hers with her family. Out of all the pictures, one catches his attention: it’s his picture, as a young man, holding in his arms this little girl. Who is she? Then he notices a note written in ink on the picture: “Dad & me, 1979”.
He looks amazed back at her. She is older, but now he suddenly remembers the shape of her little nose and hands while playing with her as a baby. He finally understands and he feels deeply heartbroken at the thought that his child has spent so many years crying for his loss. He was never lost, how could this be possible?
While she leans her temple against the window like he once did, he kisses her forehead and whispers in her ear: “My child, I found peace and I’m always with you. I know how much you love me, I love you too. Now stop re-living the past, live YOUR life, it’s time for YOU to find the peace and to be happy.”
He lingers there for another moment listening to the ticking of his daughter’s watch. He smiles. After so many years, for one moment, he can feel again the passage of time before returning to Paradise.
1000 words, memyselfandela / Adela Galasiu, 22nd of December 2015
In loving memory of my dear father Ioan Galasiu, who passed away 26 years ago. I truly believe he has found peace and Paradise.
He had no mercy at all for other sea creatures, not even for his own family, he was only interested in power and himself. Never in his life he gave a second thought about killing another or about showing some feelings and this was the only life he has ever known. All known about him was the countless number of his murders and all were afraid of the day when he was to become a king.
After many years of waiting in line for the throne his dream has finally come true when his father was killed. And so he became king and nobody dared to get close to him, everybody obeyed him in fear.
One night, while chasing a female he liked in the blue shining waters lit by the full moon, the king saw from a distance a skinny creature. It was a human being swimming. It was an old man diving there in the hope to find the shipwreck of a boat that sank long time ago, hiding in the watery tomb the bones of his beloved father.
As the old man was frenetically searching on the bottom of the sea using his special torch, he was concentrating only on the pieces scattered on the bottom of the sea. He was much too absorbed by the search to still be able to observe the huge shadow approaching him.
Nobody could have seen but the old man had the eyes full of tears as he finally found what seemed to be the remains of the long lost boat. And he was crying as he missed his father and he wanted to say goodbye, because only a child knows the longing and emptiness caused by the disappearance of a beloved parent.
Angry that the human dared to pass his way and venture in his kingdom, especially in that special night when he was mating, the manta ray got close to the old man. He was so very close that he could feel the energy of the old man’s beating heart. Understanding that this was the core that was keeping the frail human alive, the manta ray stung him straight in the heart with his 10 inches long barb in a split of a second filled with rage. The sharp dagger has found its path in the heart of the man that didn’t see what hit him from behind.
The seconds that followed were filled with silence. The manta was angry that his world has been disturbed by a filthy human. The old man turned and finally understood what had happened. Knowing that these were his final moments he wished the manta ray to live also without what he loved the most. As the waters turned red around the dying man, he fell on the bottom of the sea, his last glimpse at the found boat, his heart filled with sadness for not being able to embrace his father one last time. His eyes slowly closed on this life as a cloud gloomily covered the full moon.
The very next day, as the king swam serene, a huge fishing net caught him and there was no more escape. He fought his way out but the net was too strong for him to be able to break it. Sharing the same fear like many other sea creatures, the manta ray found himself laying powerless on the dirty deck of an old fishing ship surrounded by a loud crowd of men, all laughing and making bets on what will be sold for a better price. Other mantas were captive too, and of all the king tried the most to kill again, but the hand of a human with a knife as sharp of a sword has cut his barb and left him hopeless.
Many stories ran through his mind. Old stories of humans being afraid of the sea monsters, of their quiet approach, of their majestic presence. Old stories heard from his father and from the father of his father. Old stories telling how stupid humans were, how weak and vulnerable in the depths of the endless sea. Laying on the sand in the dying light of the day, the manta ray king faced the same death like others, butchered into pieces and sold to a leather handler who made the best out of his skin.
Every little piece was wisely prepared just to be sold on the market for luxury materials.
And so the king’s skin was cut into 10 pieces, as many as the years when the old man has been searching for the boat of his father. One piece was sold to a tattoo artist, who used it to cover his tools with a special skin. Other two pieces were sold to a designer who created a belt and a purse for the same cinema star, a gorgeous blonde famous not only for her movies, but also for her love affair with a president.
Two pieces were sold to an Arabian shah who asked his people to make a sheath and cover the handle of his favorite dagger. Three pieces have become three famous wallets given as a present to the three finalists of a Formula 1 contest after sharing with the public a champagne bath. And the last two pieces, the very best, were sold to an exclusive shoe designer who cut them into shape and transformed them into a unique pair of custom made shoes for a modern king, ruling over an empire where the sun never sets. And so, the manta ray king got what he wished for, he was closer to power than ever before. So insanely close, but as it has been wished by the sad dying man, never having the chance to ever embrace it himself again.
Frozen air, the white sunshine gets reflected by the glass windows of the bank building I am passing by. Beautiful morning though.
As I cross the street a Driving School car parks on the side of the pavement. As my eyes notice the car I realize it’s the same car I’ve been driving long time ago, while learning for my exam.
As I continue crossing the street I recall that day, the long forgotten details and feelings of that unusual day fall again in my mind.
Early in the morning, pouring rain, heavy rain, raining cats and dogs… As I arrived in the parking place where the exam starts I had so many details in my head that it was about to burst. I remembered so many friends failing the exam, since the policemen doing the examination were so well known for their fantastic sarcasm. In a city where you can hardly find space for a bycicle, where the streets got disgustingly narrower and narrower each year, where nobody respects any rules, it’s self understood that passing the exam became an El Dorado…
Many friends were lucky to have a dad who could teach them how to drive in private, for I must say that in my country driving lessons are legal only in the Driving School car , with a driving instructor, and boy, the driving sessions were not cheap at all…
So that morning I said to myself: “What the heck, if I pass, I pass, if not, one more try…”
Four policemen arrived in a small Police car, all wearing leather jackets, interesting hair cuts and all smiling. They examined the papers brought from the office and called the names of the people attending the examination. So I joined another two girls and the three of us got inside the light blue Driving School car.
Our policeman examiner was a tall, blue eyed guy that first of all took a good look at out files and photos. He winked at us with a look saying “hehe, I’ve got you, girls… : )))” and then the first girl was invited to get behind the wheel. And so it all started.
The first girl, very young, maybe hardly 18, was very stressed and forced a lot the engine as she started driving. In her high level of stress she could not concentrate anymore, forgot to signalize which way she turns and ended up by passing so close to another car that the policeman was forced to put a very strong hand on the wheel and get the car in the right direction to avoid collision. Of course after that , with a very calm sarcastic voice, he invited the girl to stop on the side of the road and after that he told her how many penalty points she had for all the mistakes she had done. Then, taking a short meditation moment that felt really like pure torture, he turned his face towards her and told her:
“How could you drive that badly, you almost got us killed.. Failed, of course”.
So the girls swapped places, the girl that had just failed got in the back of the car and the second girl started driving. But she didn’t even drive for 5 minutes and at a traffic light she did not observe the red light , so of course, the policeman did the same thing and she failed. She was devastated, he was proud.
And so, there I was, the last one. I got behind the wheel thinking “oh, well, at least I tried, damn it!”
I had to drive on the small alley in front of a local school, then got on the main street and the policeman asked me to stop in front of the bakery. So I stopped.
He descended the car slowly, no rush, took a long time, then came back with several paper packages with different pies and sandwitches and a cup of coffee.
It was raining cats and dogs still, it was such an ugly sight outside, water was pouring endlessly from the sky… The policeman turned on the radio, then turned it louder and louder, then started opening his packages with pies and, while making an infernal sound on my right side, asked me to drive.
So OK, I did drive. slowly, safely, I did my best. He made sure he ate very loud and folded the paper packages even louder , then he drank his coffee.
And then he started criticizing me for forgetting to signalize( I was wondering when the hell was that????). Then he asked me to stop on a small alley and reverse following a curved road. I did reverse and the car slided slowly , but it was really not that bad…
Again he criticized me for not doing the thing perfectly.
And so on, he asked me to drive and do all sorts of things for 45 minutes. I was tired, but funny thing, I had still loads of energy…
He got angry for all sorts of things, still I stayed calm.
Then he asked me to stop on the side. I was thinking “that’s it, I failed…”. So I parked without problems, then waited calmly for his instructions.
Seeing that I did not get finished like the other girls he asked me to drive again. So I drove again, thinking “OK, what the hell is going on today????”.
Few streets later he asked me to park. Then started to tell me about driving, I was looking at him talking and I was saying to myself: “Come on, cut the crap, say it, I know I failed, just leave me alone”.
He looked for a long while at the paper he had to fill in, his hand lingering with the pen in it, as if he had regreted something. Then his face turned and he gave me a look that seamned more like “damn you!!!” to me. In the long killing silence his lips moved and I could hear him saying:
Love… the “climb any mountain, ford any stream” love… the shouting in undying passion for his love kind of love… that sweet and sticky kind of love…
Why was this significant? Well, he was a love-hater just merely half a year ago. He was that person who would roll the eyes at someone like him now, and just say: “Get over it already!!!”.
In fact, he did. He definitely said that very loud to real people in public. Worse yet, he said it to some of his closest friends. His utter disdain for public displays of affection was both ferocious and adamant. Romance felt like a construct rather than an extension of emotional expression. Love seemed like an obligation, a constant game of one-upmanship where the stakes just get higher. Love. What the hell is love, anyway? It’s just a word.
What was it, you might wonder, that turned him into such a bitter curmudgeon at such a (relatively) young age? Same old story, I guess – he’d been in a good number of relationships, many of which left him so heartbroken it was hard to pick himself off the floor. After a particularly bad year, it was enough. He removed his heart from his sleeve and tossed it. It just wasn’t worth it.
Sure, since then he had other rendezvous. He even said the big “L” again, though it was more calculated, measured, and guarded. Love was something that could be rationalized. Marriage was something that could be brokered. Everything occurred in its due course, was controlled, and was expected.
Everything… except this.
He was in a rather deep denial over how badly the last relationship had hurt him and proclaimed, nearly the next day after the breakup, that he didn’t give a damn and that he was over it. The breakup, while not his idea, was just the due course of the relationship. Though he had plotted it differently, he rationalized it would have ended eventually, and she had been gracious enough to do him a favor. His love and him, they connected then, while he was stoically broken and when he still thought he knew all the answers. He dismissed her, back then, since he would need to grieve for the prescribed time (mathematically, it is half the time you were with someone, but he figured that he should be good in about six months, give or take). He told her that it wasn’t going to go anywhere. He saw other people. He even ended it with her. It just wasn’t in his logical and methodical equations. He explained to himself the significance of the break. Over those many heartbreaks, he realized that using “let’s break up” as fighting ammo just isn’t cool. To combat this, he’s implemented the “a break is a break” rule, meaning that if she breaks up with him (or vice-versa), then there was a damned good reason to do it. No looking back. A break is permanent.
So, when he ended it with her, he really had no intention of ever seeing her again. Ever. But something odd had happened. He couldn’t stop thinking about her. But there was so much fear. So much fear that something would go wrong. Well, he called “fear” “reality.” After all, she was German. He was American. She – here for just a few more months. He had a job here in Chicago, with no potential to transfer elsewhere. Where the hell can a relationship with limited time go? To the short-term-no-commitments bin, and that’s where he tried to keep it.
Maybe she found him at just the right time in his personal quest of self-exploration. Maybe they were so compatible that everything was just what love is supposed to be. Maybe, just maybe, there is no explanation, because that’s what love is, something irrational that just kind of happens. Whatever it was, it was as though his heart melted – literally. He hates such cheesy metaphors; he would apologize for all those cynics out there – don’t forget, he was you!). It was as though he’d put his heart in a cryogenic freezer and then took it out, just in time to be warmed by this beautiful and amazing woman.
Regardless of what it was, he couldn’t stay away from her for long. He invited her to the L Stop launch party, where he had convinced himself it would just be a hook-up. At Thanksgiving, he specifically skipped out on plans elsewhere to cook her a traditional meal, convincing himself that it was just that he was showing her a true American T-day. No, there wasn’t a possibility that he actually liked the girl. What’s done is done. No looking back.
Something, though… something was different. He felt his pulse quicken. “Breathe, breathe, get it under control,” he thought. Her perfume lingered in his car after she left and his pulse raced. His thoughts wandered off to her during the day. His heart beat uncontrolled within his chest, it felt like anxiety. But it felt so much better than anxiety. Damn? What the hell was going on with him?
Fortunately, though, he was too intoxicated with her to think straight. He had blurted out things like, “Why don’t you come over (again) tonight” before he could think them through. His poor roommate had to listen to “Why the hell do I like her?” over and over again while he picked at the teeny tiniest minuscule faults wherever he could manage to imagine them. This eventually morphed to, “Why can’t I STOP liking her” and eventually an all-out, “Oh GOD, I think I’m in LOVE with her”.
All the reasoning in the world couldn’t rationalize this away. In fact, despite their separate nationalities, there was no legitimate reason holding them apart. He could always move to Germany; she could move here, she had an in-demand job that could always warrant her work visa, maybe no marriage needed. She was smart, funny, gentle, and crazy hot – what the hell was there not to love?
Well, after leaving behind his own hangups, and letting it just all unfold with no plan…it turned out there was nothing not to love. Was it…was it that he was just too scared to try love again? Scared? Him? But, it turns out he was. He kept thinking that this wonderfully amazing woman would just walk out of his life (and really, he had given her plenty of reasons to).
But he let it all go and decided to put it all on the line. Instead, with a shaky voice, while they snuggled on the couch, he leaned over to her ear. Just as much because he was scared he’d mess it up in German as he was scared to say it out loud, he whispered:
“Ich liebe dich”.
1100 words, Adela Galasiu 2012