Monday, March 24, 2008

A Story Never Told

“Grandpa, what on earth are you doing here?”
Just as soon as he opened the door and saw the old man standing right there in front of him, he felt at a loss. You see, the old man used to live in a small provincial town and as far as Michael knew, he never set foot on the big city ever before. And yet, there he was.
“How did you come here? Who brought you to this place?”
“I have no time to spend on useless words,” the old man said and stepped inside, since his startled grandson was too much at a loss even to invite him in.
Michael lived in a tiny apartment close enough to the university campus. He was just a student working hard to get his law degree and make his poor parents proud.
The old man sat at a chair and asked Michael to do the same.
“Would you like something to drink grandpa? Coffee, water, anything at all?” asked the youth, but the old man answered that there were no more flavors in his life, and again invited him to sit. He had no other choice but obey the old man’s order.
“Michael, I came all the way here just to tell you a story, and no matter what you hear please do not interrupt me. Do not try to understand the things you are about to learn with your sound and square logic; do not think as a lawyer; just believe me when I say to you that your grandfather is just a simple human being, and as such, he is also a big sinner. A man who has spent a lifetime in unheard of pain; a pain coming from within; starting from a long kept secret, that he alone knew, and for which he alone suffered in his very soul. I came here not ask for forgiveness or judgment. I know too well that for a crime like the one I’ve committed there can be no atonement. The only thing I ask of you is to listen. Do we have a deal?”
“Yes,” answered the young man, even though deep inside he felt like the old man was just fooling around with him, since he always loved a good laugh.
“Many years ago, ages I should say, when I was young boy, I used to live with your great grandparents in a remote sea village up north. It was a very small place with nothing much to do or see. Half of the men were working in the fields, and the other half were fishermen. As for fun, we almost didn’t know what the word meant. Only when there was a local festival or a wedding, or some travelling musicians or circus men would pass by, only then we’d have a bit of fun. Well, that’s how our life was and we liked it, since we had no other.
In that place and under those circumstances I grew up to be a man. My best friend back then was George. We were of the same age, and we used to spend every single day from night till morning together. We would go night fishing, or for long swims, for walks as far as we could, we would do everything that young men those days did in a company of two.
George was great as a kid, and grew up to be a fine man too. Everyone loved him. He has always smiling, laughing, with a gentle heart, always ready to offer his help to anyone in need. And he was beautiful too, very beautiful really. All the young men back then would jump on the first opportunity that came around for a trip to the city to see or pay and touch a woman, but George, no, women would simply go to him. Yes, there were quite a few secret meetings taking place in the village; and they remained so. Secret, that is.
Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I felt jealous of him, really jealous. He was my best friend alright, I’ve got to meet some women because of him, but when we were together I felt like I didn’t exist, like I was nothing. He, whatever he wanted to do he did, whatever he asked for he received, without a try; I, on the other hand, I couldn’t do anything right. I used to say that even if I went close to a goat on my own, the goat would run away. Well, I was jealous of him, but I also loved him dearly, and I felt that if ever the need arose I could give my life for him.
Besides my miniscule joys and great disappointments time was really flying by, and as I thought that nothing really exciting was ever going to happen, in our sleepy little village, there came Helen, your grandmother.
The old woman you now know, used to be a real beauty, tender and graceful. She was like a flower that simply by coming there made the place look more beautiful; she made it blossom, adding colours into our lives.
Well, all the young men fell in love with her right away. She didn’t look like a girl in our eyes, but more like a fairy. She wore a smile on her face all day long, just like George. And she didn’t seem to have anything in common with the village girls we knew, or the women we met in the city. She seemed kind of fearless and free; and everyone would admire these qualities of hers.
Not much time has passed before all the young men of the village, one after the other started proposing to her. Every single man wanted her to be his wife. But her father didn’t want to be parted from her. As the first proposals arrived he would say that Helen was far too young to be married, but later he would change his mind and say that she and only she had the right to choose whom to marry. That was unheard of in our village, but of course, there was nothing we could do about it.
After a while we all started competing with each other in order to win her attention. Only George would stay out of the game. “I am who I am, and as such everyone should accept me,” he said when I brought up the subject one night.
It’s needless to say that those were the best days of our lives. At last, something different, something out of the ordinary was taking place. We were all fed up living the same things day in day out.
Helen, who later came to know about our little fair fight over her, enjoyed every single moment of the whole affair. Her soul was full of joy and she showed it. She was our Queen and all of us were her subjects. Whatever she asked for she could have. To tell the truth though, she didn’t ask for anything. She would talk to everyone just the same; refuse the proposals one after the other, and keep on smiling.
One fine day, as a lot of us boys were walking with her along the rocky beach, she saw George, sitting all by himself at the little quay and staring all the way to nowhere. She asked who that was, and since I was his best friend I offered to give her the answer, not forgetting to drop his “I am who I am,” statement. Allowing me no time to say all I wanted to say, I saw her starting towards him. They sat there together for some time, all-quiet, looking at the sea. After a while we saw her getting up and coming our way. They never spoke a word between them, but as we saw her face we were startled. It seemed really peaceful, while her mind was busy with some unspoken thoughts. At that very moment we knew that the game was once again lost for us. George had won Helen’s heart, without even trying to. In my love-blind eyes I could clearly see that one day she would be his wife. I felt a knife piercing through my soul, taking my life away.
The night after my dreams came to an end, I said that I was sick and didn’t go out fishing with George. If I did go maybe I would have told him bitter words, words that later I would regret. But the pain I felt inside grew stronger by the minute; in due time it would become unbearable. I loved Helen, deeply, I had her in my soul, and until the day before I thought that since George didn’t care, she would be mine; my girlfriend, my wife. My dream was to die, just as soon as it came to life. I couldn’t stand it. Those moments felt like death to me.
As the days went by the bond between Helen and George was becoming stronger. They were so alike; pure souls, full of life. As for me, I was just standing aside watching them, feeling my soul burning with pain and desire. If I had someone to talk to, someone to confide my problems to, maybe then I could find a cure for the illness that consumed my being. But I had no one. So, I’ve decided to keep the secret to myself, and I started spending more and more time all alone. The pain was mine - all mine - and I would get lost in it. I would hide myself from people and from my deeply wounded psyche. But, of course, there’s no escaping one’s self.
When I first decided to stay away from everyone and everything George would come around and ask me what had happened to me, and I would just say that I was not well and simply ask him to leave me alone. I’ve been told that Helen was asking about me too, because she liked me and cared about me and she couldn’t really understand why I have decided to disappear from the face of the earth; but she never came around to visit. How could the two of them understand what I was going through? How could they understand that just as their love flourished, my life’s flame vanished? How could they?
And then there came a time that I became kind of a ghost. I would only go out at nights, walking slowly in the empty dust roads, moving around the fields, pacing almost slowly still at the rocky beach. George, to tell you the truth, seemed to share my pain, even though he couldn’t understand its origin. A lot of times he tried to make me talk to him, but in vein. My soul was dressed in black. Blacksoul. On a gray cloudy dark night, I’ve finally come to take a hard and unjustified decision; a decision that I was someday going to regret, but at the time was the only one that came to mind; a decision that was born by my hatred for my once best friend. “No Georgie,” I thought, “this time things are not going to happen your way.”
It rained a lot those days. The dusty roads of the village and the fields were water drowned. On the eve of St. George’s day, my friend, as I knew, wouldn’t go out fishing. Instead he would head, as every year that night, for a small church dedicated to the saint that was hanging at the edge of a cliff.
And so he did. And I followed him from a distance. The road was slippery, and full of mud, but even though I lost my footing once or twice, he didn’t realize that I was at his tail.
Just as he reached the church he went inside to light a candle and say a little prayer to the saint. I simply hid outside waiting. A few moments went by that felt like centuries to me. As he came out, he climbed at the nearby rocks to stare at the sea, as he always did; day or night; rain or shine. And then, I did what I went there to do. I crept up from behind and pushed him hard on the back. I heard him scream in agony as he was flying down, seconds before crashing on the rocks. At that very moment it started raining again. I lit up my torch and carefully climbed down to find him. His head was almost completely smashed, blood all over him. I only heard him whisper “why?” before passing away. His eyes had turned to glass, and the look of them is still haunting me.
I climbed up the rocks feeling my heart heavy by the crime that I had just committed. As I reached the top I tried to take a last look at the body of my unlucky friend, the friend who was unlucky enough to know me. I couldn’t see a thing, so I started off for the village, as the torrential rain was washing away the evidence of my presence there.
The very next day, when he didn’t show up anywhere, all and everyone started talking about George’s disappearance and they went out to look for him; and so did I. But I didn’t head for the place I knew he was, but I moved along the beach. It was late in the afternoon when a shepherd found his body. They all thought it was an accident, and there was no question in anyone’s mind about that. It was too obvious.
The whole village was mourning for the loss of such a good man, of such a kind soul. And as it usually goes half of them would say that it was the will of god, and the other half that the devil was playing his tricks.
Helen was devastated. No words could comfort her and there was no one she could turn to for protection. Actually, there was a certain one, me. I would hug her gently and let her cry her pain away on my shoulders. And as time went by, she would ask me to stay close to her all the more often. So, no one was really surprised a year later, a year after the murder that she became my wife.
Now, if you think that this story is nothing but a joke, I can already see you smiling, you could not be more mistaken. A truer story than the one you’ve just heard, there could never be. Why did I come here, at this hour, to tell it to you? Because any time now, I will join the kingdom of the dead, and I couldn’t take that dreadful secret to the grave with me. Someone just had to know!”
At that very moment the phone rang and Michael, still smiling, went to answer the call.
“Hey mum, listen to this…”
“Michael… Michael…”
“What’s wrong mum? Are you crying?”
“Michael… your grandpa, my boy… he just died…”
“What the hell…!”
He looked behind him. There was nobody there!

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