Dolore d’amore

The walls of this room are so near I can barely breathe. Dark and depressing, I sit on my bed alone, longing for the warm bliss of pouring sunlight. My afternoons are cold, mornings are colder, and many nights I lie on this dreary bed frigid from the chilling void that encases my heart. There is no reason for these walls, there is no need for this confinement, but nobody listens to me. If only she was here, I would have been happy even in this terrible place.

My life was not always like this. There was brightness, and bliss, and beauty in my life. And books. I remember them so clearly. I worked at the bookstore in the airport lobby. My companions were hidden among the delightful lines and passages, and I used to draw them out playfully as I flitted through the pages. We invariably had a glorious time. Life was easy and life was a joy. But the most marvelous times of my days were with her. She is the one whom I wish was with me in this dreadful room, for then it would be paradise.

I first saw her standing in the arrival terminal, just across the bookstore. She appeared to be looking for someone. She left after some time and came back the next day. She was always alone. She appeared sad and happy at the same time. It was as though she was anticipating something, like a reunion or meeting after a long separation. During such times, our faces have that strange mixture of sorrow and joy commingled together to produce a magical appearance.

Six days passed, and she was there every day with the same sad and happy look on her beautiful face. On the seventh day, as I sat at the bookstore gazing at her, I had a sudden compulsion to meet her. When she saw me walking towards her, her face brightened. It was as though the clouds of sadness had lifted and only the sunshine of joy was left on her face. For some inexplicable reason, I entertained the fleeting thought I was the person she was waiting for. And it turned out to be true.

“Where have you been away so long?” she said, with a smile that pierced through my heart as though a million candles were lighted all at once in those dark chambers.

“I never went away; I was always here. I did not know you were waiting for me.” I managed to mumble through the bewildering haze that had enveloped my brain.

“Let us take a walk outside in the sun, these neon lights are so funereal,” she said and seized my hand, and together we marched out of the terminal.

I still recall those brilliant blue skies illuminated by the ever-expanding flames of a solemn summer sun. The day was warm, but warmer was the touch of her hand entwined with mine as we walked towards the park beside the airport. The bird songs were louder than before, and the wild bloom of flowers more colorful than I had ever witnessed in my whole life. The green grass spread before us in a splendid invitation, and together we walked hand in hand on that most mysterious day of my life.

We did not speak on our entire walk to the park. There was a silence deeper than conversation between us. I did not know who she was, nor did I wish at that moment to know any further. I could not even comprehend what was happening. But in those brief moments of stillness, I had felt the presence of her soul beside me, and it was sheer joy.

She was the first to break the gentle quietness that surrounded us. Walking in the park, we came across some fallen flowers; some had withered while others were deliberately plucked and discarded.

“I cannot understand the urge to remove so gentle a thing as a flower from her rightful place. The garlands we make and wear are but the tears of weeping blossoms.” Her limpid eyes were watery as she spoke. Her languid lips trembled, and I was utterly shocked to discover the depth of emotion in her heart.

I squeezed her hand to let her know that I understood the anguish she felt. I once had a dream. In my dream, there were faded flowers, and I was asleep amidst them. A fairy came with her fluttering wings and gathered all the fallen flowers in her arms. She hurled them high in the air, and suddenly I saw them back on their forlorn stalks again. And the fairy laughed and danced in delight, and in my dream, I was awake once more.

I told her about my dream. Then I said, “Though I do not know you, though I do not remember you, I am inclined to believe you are the very fairy from my dreams.”

At that, she laughed, and laughed so gaily and laughed so long. And together we danced in the park, and in my mind, I felt the fallen flowers back in their stalks again, and all around us was the blissful beauty of those blossoms as though I was with my fairy in fairyland.

Time is cruel. Time has a peculiar habit of changing everything. Time is like a chain from which you cannot escape. And it was time for her to leave, and I was held by those chains with no freedom to be with her.

After she was gone, I was back in the bookstore again. Nobody had noticed my absence. There were people doing their rounds through the shelves. Someone was standing in the poetry section. He was leafing through the pages of The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems by William Butler Yeats. At that instant, I was as happy as any man can ever be; my mind was full of thoughts of the astonishing woman I had just met. I approached near him and had the sudden urge to recite some lines from Yeats:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

I do not know why I chose those lines from my memory. I could have recited any of Yeats’ poems since I knew them all. But as soon as the lines were spoken, my heart had plunged into a deep and dreadful misery. Meanwhile, the man was so utterly impressed that he bought the entire collected works of the great poet.

That day was the happiest day of my life; that night the saddest night of my life. I had not the faintest idea who the woman was nor where she had come from. I was content with the knowledge that she existed, and I had known her that wonderful and mysterious morning. The thought that troubled me most was a terrible feeling that she might disappear just the way she had made her appearance, suddenly and spontaneously, out of lord knows where.

That night I had dreams stranger than the darkness of the night and deeper than the abyss of time. I dreamed that I was walking alone in the sky, gathering stars for my beloved. There were a million stars in the eternity of space, and I had gathered them all for the lady of my heart. But then the void came, the vast void that shall come to one and all, from which there is no escape. The void came with the most cunning of stealth and speed, and devoured all the stars and scattered them all across the universe. And I was walking alone in the sky, and I was wandering forever and ever, with empty hands that could only hold emptiness for the one and only one.

The morning sun came bursting over like a fire in the winter cold. My heart was warm again after the bleak despair of my night. As usual, I was at the bookstore, and she was there at the same place as before. When she saw me, she came to the bookstore. Together we walked through the aisles of the shelves, among the many wonderful books, among my old faithful friends. Every book we passed by, I told her my favorite line from it, and she would laugh, and we both were happy.

And then she said, “It hurts me so much that these enchanting pages are but the dead remnants of majestic trees, home to a thousand little creatures of the forest. The books we print and publish are but the stolen essence of felled trees and the living blood of murdered creatures.” Her eyes were full of tears, and her lovely lips quivered. Then I squeezed her hand and told her about the dream I once had.

“I dreamed that I walked in a forest. I saw little creatures busy living their lovely little lives. And then a gigantic hand swept through the trees, and the trees lay fallen around me, and the little creatures were dead. I had fallen asleep in that graveyard when a unicorn came running. And an angel was with her, and she bid the trees rise from their deathly slumber. Then I was awake and saw the little creatures all alive and living their lovely little lives again.

“Though I do not know you, though I do not remember you, I am inclined to believe you are the very angel from my dreams.”

When she heard the details of my dream, she burst into song. A melancholy song it was, and it weighed on my heart like all the waters in the wide-open sea.

I lost my love in the vale
Once upon a time long ago;
The years grew old and pale
As I waited for my love to show;
One day I thought I beheld my love’s face in a stream
But when I woke up, I realized it was only a dream.

Then she looked at me and smiled. It was the saddest smile in the world. Her smile caressed my heart with the eiderdown softness of her lips, and though her smile was sad I was strangely content.

Life is a breeze. And like the breeze it brings changes. Life is like a breeze that comes suddenly through the trees and sweeps away the yellowing leaves. And it was time for her to leave, and I stood there watching my flaxen dreams blown away.

All day long, I kept humming her pensive song. And though it was doleful and desolate, I walked through the waning hours in rapturous content. That night I slept the sleep of the wild beasts in a tranquil forest, untroubled by fear and trepidation for the never-ending tomorrows.

Then the morning came and the still air was full of the sounds of flying machines. We met at the bookstore and went to a cafe; and sat in the solitude of its dim-lit corners.

There in the tenebrous blur of the cafe, she told me, “I searched for you in the harbor; I searched for you at the station; I sought for you among the busy markets; I looked for you in the solitary streets, before I came here to the airport. Through all my search, I carried in my heart the melancholy song I sang for you yesterday.”

Her woeful wanderings brought tears to my eyes. I told her, “All this time, I searched for you within the pages of my books; all these years I sought for you in fantasy. I was a fool not to look for you in reality. If I had sought you in life, I would have already found you.”

Straight away she stroked my face, her delicate fingers moving like a poem on my skin. Then she whispered to me the secret to finding your beloved. At once, I turned gay and cheerful; and all around us was glowing with the flowers of heaven and the stars of paradise.

Time and Life always play their tricks. I watched her walk away into that long day of June, and by and by the short night rolled in.

After she had left, I stumbled through the hours in a stuporous daze, and try as I would I could not remember the last words, the secret to finding your beloved, that she had whispered to me in the cafe. I struggled through the sleepy hours, and when the new morning came I realized that the words she had spoken to me before she left had utterly vanished from my memories.

For the next three days, she was nowhere to be seen. It was on the fourth day that standing at the exact place I first saw her standing, an immense sorrow came flooding into my heart, and I sat down and wept. Fiercely, relentlessly, ceaselessly. Soon people had gathered around me, but tears kept flowing in torrents from my eyes. I could not reveal them my sorrow, so profound and plumbless was my grief.

Then I found myself in this room, wretched and desolate, alone in my despair. In the beginning, I searched for her among these walls, among these nooks and corners, among these shadows. Then having not found her in these places, I sought her in the drifting images of my dreams. On countless nights, in numberless reveries, even in the terrors of my nightmares, I failed to find her, the one who had once filled my soul with such rapture and yearning.

If only I could recall her last words, if only I can remember the secret to finding your beloved, if only….then we could both be together again.

***

Extract from the clinical notes of Dr. Romulus, M.D (Psych.) –

Mr. Percival Morphy, a 27-year-old man, employee at the airport bookstore, admitted on the day of 27th June 20__.

After a thorough examination, he has been diagnosed to be suffering from a rare disorder known as the Oneiroid syndrome, a little-known illness that can manifest under various circumstances including states of sudden and severe stress, with symptoms including hallucinations, fantastical thinking, dream-like internal experiences, and intense emotions of both ecstasy and catastrophe.

The patient’s illness became apparent after the unexpected demise of his fiancee in the recent Boeing 737 explosion on the runaway as it was about to land. Mr. Percival was standing in the arrival area to welcome her when he witnessed the disaster happen before his eyes.

Within a few days of the event, Mr. Percival was admitted to the Institute of Psychotraumatology, where he is undergoing intensive treatment in the Mental Trauma Ward of the Hospital.

As of this moment, his condition has not shown any response to treatment. He remains under meticulous observation and care.

***

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