Preface: This story is about a love that was gone as Autumn faded into cold, harsh winter. But did it really go away?
Our brown leather and suede boots made crunching sounds along the bushes that we passed on to in the field of daisies. She was a distance ahead of me, as usual, peppy as she was, exhilarated to be among the captivating field of flowers. She twirled around in her red skater dress, and I watched in silent awe as she spun around and around, entranced in her own world. She giggled and gesticulated in glee, bringing wind to the surroundings as she twirled around in circles, mimicking the blades of a windmill. Closing her eyes shut for a brief moment, she let her chest heave upwards, breathing in the flower pollen that had permeated the air with its tingly, sweet smell. In that moment, I knew what she was doing. She was taking in all that autumn had presented to her. Autumn was yet another gift thrown in by nature to her, wrapped in a special paper only those who felt deeply could unwrap. And she was one of those people. I wasn’t, but I could still acknowledge that every season came with its various prepossessions, likewise for autumn.
The wind started blowing against us and I shuddered as my hands immediately sought shelter in my long, grey coat. The wind was strong enough to send the threads at the bottom of my scarf in flying frenzy and I walked towards where she had stopped to marvel at the sights and smells before her.
“Hey, you cold?” I wrapped my arms around her from behind, using them as armour for her against the cold.
“A little,” she said, and she put her hands on top of my wrapped arms and we stood there like this for what seemed like hours. And in that perennial moment, love was all that we knew.
Finally, she spoke up.
“Arian, life is made up of abstruse puzzles. And sometimes, when I find a puzzle too hard to solve, I just don’t solve it. You know what I’m saying?” She said, looking at me with culpability.
I managed to prevent myself from choking on the lump that had started to form in my throat. I had been through this before and I knew where this was heading, and it was not good. I was not ready for it.
“Yes,” I eventually managed to mutter out. My heart couldn’t keep still. It felt like a thousand lightning strikes had attacked me from the inside out, but still, I had to keep my cool. I couldn’t break down.
“Good,” she said, “Arian, I think it’s time for this puzzle of ours to end.”
With that, she unwound herself from my sewed arms and walked away, back faced, as though it was that easy breaking us like that, as though we were nothing before, before a few seconds ago.
My arms cried out for me as if on reflex and signalled to her even though she was back faced to me. “Wait!”
She turned back and with a glance on my face, a teardrop descended down her cheeks and landed on her shoulders.
I couldn’t keep my cool anymore. The tears came. In between the hushed sobs, I managed to let out, “Why? Why us? I thought we were fine.”
She lifted her hands to her face and swiped the moist tears off her cheekbones. She smiled and said,” It isn’t just about how you think, Arian. It isn’t. Life just isn’t like how it is for everyone. Life treats us all differently, and so does feelings. Wake up, Arian. Life isn’t as perfect as we make it out to be.”
“I thought you said that life is like a beautiful ride along Mediterranean coasts and Tenerife oceans; like frozen yoghurt on a blazing hot day; like a nice warm coat in a cold, harsh winter; like love. That no life is complete without love, without our love,” I stated, hoping she would remember what she had said and perhaps, take her words back.
She stood there, with an astounded look on her face and breathed out, “You actually… remembered what I said.” Minutes passed until she said, “Well, sorry anyway. I changed my mind.”
Then she turned and ran away. Away from the field of roses; away from me; away from that autumn; away from our love.
Winter came right after that, a bitter and cold one definitely. The house felt empty without her voice resonating around the enclosed air that once held only our breaths. The white tiled floors weren’t warm anymore, now that she was no longer here with me. The snow kept falling and falling outside my window and day after day I would just lie there, reminiscing about the memories we once shared, the memories that I am now forced to forget.
Sleep was now just an option, now that she was no longer leaving the bed sheets with her sweet, sakura smell and the room with her love. TV was no longer fascinating to watch, not without her cuddled in my arms and holding a bag of caramelized popcorn, our weekly guilt snack. Housework was no longer mandatory, now that there was no one to draw lots and decide on which part of the house we should work on cleaning. All in all, home didn’t feel like home.
And somehow, winter seemed to understand how I felt. Winter was prolonged and lasted even until January. By January, I was fine. I still missed her terribly, but now only in a small, hidden part of my heart. I acknowledged that perhaps, this love was not meant for me to keep. And in the early days of January, I finally let myself out of the house.
I went for winter parties, grocery trips and perambulated through the cold coniferous forests of the national park. I went for high school reunions and periods of self-indulgence and it all made me feel so alive. I was living again, with or without her. I didn’t need her like I used to before. And from that moment on, I cut out all ties my feelings had with the love I once had with her.
Then on the last day of the winter, I got a call. I still remembered how I came back home, arms filled with bags and bags of winter goodies I got from a party, to the sound of the telephone ringing. It was ringing in a song she had chosen, which I didn’t agree with, but still allowed her to set it as the ring tone anyway. Before picking up the telephone, I made a mental reminder to myself to change the ring tone after this call.
“Hello?” was the only sentence I uttered to the person on the other end of the receiver, her mum actually.
In a jiffy, I was out of the house, driving all the way to the hospital. I picked up speed and wondered if I would perhaps get into a car accident at this rate. Luckily, there were not many cars and I managed to make it safely.
Upon reaching there, I was greeted by a room of mourning people, all dressed in white. I noticed her mum, her dad and a few of her siblings. Then I saw her. A lifeless, beautiful, pale girl, lying on the bed. It then dawned on me that her heart was no longer bringing her a pulse. In that instant, my world came crashing down. That was when I knew I never really forgot her or stopped loving her at all. My knees went weak and I dropped down to my knees beside her bed, yelling at her to come back. I intertwined my fingers with her now cold ones and put my head to her hands.
“Where were you when she needed you?!” Her mum came screaming and wailing at me.
I didn’t know what to say, but I said something anyway. “She… broke up with me a few months ago.”
Her mum stood frozen and as if by realization, withdrew and headed back to where she was seated. She plucked an envelope out from her bag and handed it to me.
“She wanted you to have this,” she said, now more kindly.
I opened up the envelope and unfolded the letter through hiccupping sobs. As I read through it, my blood went stale and my heart felt like it had shattered and imploded. Her demise tore my heart into pieces and this was purgatory, worse than anything I’d faced in my life. And in that letter, I quote her,
“Months ago, I was found to have a brain tumour. The tumour was so large and in such a complex spot that surgery was impossible. The doctors said I only had a few months to live. And in those few months, instead of enjoying myself the way that I should have, I felt the need to let you know how to live without me. It is okay because I was leaving soon, but you aren’t, and it’s not fair to you. I hope that by now, our love has already been tucked away into the back of your mind and that you are already fine without me. I am happy to have spent the last few months without you just so that you can now live happily for the rest of your life even without me. Don’t let our love tear you down, don’t let me tear you down. Be like a balloon from today onwards, be without me. Loving you and always loving you, me.”