In the late afternoon,as he crosses the bridge, he sees her. Almost, he lifts his hand in greeting. But it may not be appropriate, so he lifts his hand and stops in the midway, his hands fall to the side. In his vacations, he spends his lunch hours roaming the mountains, lakes taking photographs.Today he hasn’t brought his camera with him. It may be a mistake, he thinks. Leaning just a little too far over the railing, as a reckless child,the woman is staring down at the water rushing below the walkway. The bridge is crowded and it isn’t a great idea to approach her in this way, suddenly. Even a smile is risky. He continues to walk and as he passes her, her thin white silk skirt lifts in the wind, almost touching his legs. May be he is walking too close.
Next day he takes a walk earlier, could not resist to see her again. She is at the same spot. He stops. “Hi!”
She turns her face toward him. “Hi!” She has a beautiful almond color skin,bright exciting eyes. A stranger can make another stranger happy, so quickly!
Crazy smiles. You feel your face rearranging itself in such smiles.
“It is a gorgeous day!”
She nods her head with an enchanting smile and with her slender hand, swipes her long bangs from her face. In the light wind, her tangerine-colored scarf blows languidly over her face.When he was away from her, he found himself thinking of her obsessively. And in her presence that is hot, humid, close-up and magnified, he feels that he cann’t breathe.
“What’s your name?” he finally asks.
“Lovely!” he smiles and extends his hand toward her, “Steven.”
“Nice to meet you.” she says with a smile. Her teeth are not perfect teeth, but her smile is a prefect teasing smile. Her eyes are very dreamy. What does she dreams, he asks himself. Then she hears her voice. “ Are you visiting the town?” He opens the mouth then stops halfway as she continues hers. “ I can guess from your camera. Love photography?”She smiles. “It is very beautiful town with lakes, mountains.People come from different cities for sight seeing, hiking.” She stops and glances at him. “If you want then I can show you a good hiking trail and scenic places to take photos.”
“Sure,just the fact of lifting the camera, fitting my eyes to the lens is very exciting to me. May be tomorrow.” They walk, their hands touching, brushing together like tiny whips.
Love, a secret love it seems quaint, precious. The small gemstone, you have found by the shore, valuable,slipped into a court pocket and fingered, held in the hand, secretly, from time time as if a good luck stone.
If someone asks, what do you have there, in your hand?- you open your hand to dismay, on the palm, the small gemstone, precious to your heart and you say: “ just something I found by the lake.”
Love is that sensation of something on the back of your neck, or it may be what happens when you’ve been looking another way.
A year has passed.Towards the end of October, Steven returns to the same town in his vacation with a high hope to meet Isla. But he could not find her. She didn’t give her any contact number to reach.On the pedestrian walkway, he lingers, hungrily his eyes searching for her, but in vain. But the story should end properly, he thinks. On the last day of his stay he walks impulsively on the trail by the lake, looking for Isla. After four miles,the narrow trail winds down at one corner and stops at a gravel road.He takes the gravel road and in half a mile he spots a house of brick, stucco as if built by untrained hands. Scattered in the front yard are beautiful metal sculptures; some are rusted and others are brightly painted.Who lives here, so far from the town? His heart contracts Does she live here? Here. He stands there. A figure emerges from the front door; a thin lady in a long beige dress. The sleeveless top falls loose from her shoulders and even at a distance he could see the hollow at the base of her throat. Seems like Isla,but so much different from the day he met, she can’t be Isla. He turns around and leaves.
Isla has not seen him on the front of her house.She has no desire to know. The shock and exhaustion of chemo has ravaged her life. Her bones fell lighter as if the marrow has been sucked out. The coppery taste of chemicals at the back of her throat has grown sharper. She leans on the wall and thinks of the man, she met last year. Steven was a nice person to fall in love with. She is thinking – the first kiss on her cheek, faint as a feather, had taken her breath away. The random love! His side glances startled her so many times in the trail, as if he touched her intimately. That day the lake was so calm and so tranquil. She wanted to clasp his fingers and grip tight, so he can’t pull loose. Oh, she misses him! It is almost a year! She should have given her phone number or address.Her heart is beating painfully. It is so hard to breathe. She wants to call him, “Come back Steven, come stay with me.” but her voice is getting weaker, even it is hard for her to hear her own voice. Her eyes glances upward, in alarm. Somehow, without her awareness, the sky has darkened overhead. The temperature is rapidly dropping and the wind is rising.