She was 20 and he was 26. They met by the river one May afternoon. She was from the city and he lived in the small town of St. Anne. She was a city girl who loved the outdoors; simple and carefree. He was a young man who nursed his grief, who loved to be alone and who shut himself off from seeing the real beauty of life. They were complete opposites.
"Hi!" she said. She is petite and looks younger than her age, unusually pale but there was some glow in her small eyes. She's wearing a brown leather hat. He's sitting at the big roots of a mango tree at the riverbank, waiting for any fish that will bite his bait.
He looks up and frowns as he sees the unfamiliar face. He looks back at the river and says, "Ello".
She sits beside him. "Mind if I sit here?"
"You're already sitting there", he says without looking at her face.
She just shrugs her small shoulders. "My name is Gessana", she says after a long silence. "What's your name?"
After that they remain silent, and after several more minutes she tells him that she will go home now. Her cousin might be looking for her. He just nods.
The following afternoon, she finds him again in the same spot.
"Hi! Please, do you mind if I sit here again?" she happily asks.
A simple nod is his answer. She's wearing a yellow dress and she looks very fragile.
"Where do you stay?" he asks her after she fully settled on the big stone beside the big roots where he sits.
She smiles. "Keanne is my cousin and she invited me to spend my summer vacation here."
He nods again.
"I like it here, the place, this river, and the quiet environment." She closes her eyes and leans back on the mangoes' bark.
He looks at her then looks back at the water.
"Is that all?" he asks.
She opens her eyes. "Hmmm, it is relaxing in here, I like the green grass and the feel of the rough mango bark on my back. The warm stone I sit on. Everything!"
"Nature lover, huh?"
"Hmmm, sort of. How about you?" She looks at him.
He shakes his head negatively. "Nothing."
She frowns. "Nothing?"
"Hmmm, hearing it is something new!" she says jubilantly. "But honestly, a person has always something on himself; beauty, joy, cravings, even loneliness and desperation. There is always something in a person's life."
And that was the beginning. They became friends, sharing that something and nothing.
But he lives in his dark past. She's the light that comes to lighten his world, but summer will end after two weeks and his world will be dark again.
"But you don't need to think sadness before it grips you", she says as they hold each other's hand under the mango tree at the riverbank.
"You will not enjoy life if you think of getting hurt someday. You will not feel what real love is if you restrain yourself from loving that special person wholly. Will you reap full trust if you sow only half? Interruptions come in a person's life and we can't stop them, nobody can. Someone we love might disappoint us, incurable sickness will embrace us, and some people will leave us behind. Well, it's natural. We don't know what's in store for tomorrow, so while we have the now, let's embrace it joyfully, thanking God for giving it to us, even for a short period. What matters is the lesson it teaches us, that there is always more to life than increasing its speed."
"Yeah, I guess so."
The following day is a cloudy day for him. As he cleans his closet, he sees the picture of the woman he loved before, he was about to marry, a woman whom he'd given all his devotion and understanding, a woman he adored, yet left him because of some foreign ambitions - unattainable if she remained in their small village. The grief and bitterness flows back to his heart like a strong current of the river.
She's been waiting for him for two hours already yet even his shadow isn't there. But she still waits... till the darkness envelopes the day and it's time for her to go home. Every day she waits for him at the riverbank until the summer is over; the summer of her heart.
"Where does she live?" He is sitting in the living room of Keanne's house. She's looking grumpily at him.
"Please", he begs.
He frowns. "Please tell me. I need to go to her and tell her how sorry am I."
She shakes her head. Then some small pearls of tears roll onto her cheek.
"She already passed away, two weeks ago. She had bone marrow cancer. You saw how pale she was? Of course you didn't see it, because you always looked down at yourself."
He sat by the river and wept silently, but tears would not return her from the grave. Then, he remembered what she said.
"Always enjoy the present because it was God's gift to us, and it's the only thing that we have now."
Copyright © 2005 Lumie Rose N. Jawili