July 05, 2008

The Sublime Truth

Short story: The Sublime Truth

The Jakarta Post, Sunday, April 27, 2008

By Garniasih

It was a Sunday afternoon and no one would blame the day for being so cold, after all winter had arrived just on time.

Silence ruled every path covered by snow, one could hardly hear the breeze rustling in the leaves.

Why would anyone be plodding along outside at this hour when they could be inside, having a hot cup of coffee rather than the surge of chill that seemed to freeze the blood? But this man with his head buried beneath an ebony hood kept walking, though his feet were literally dying.

Not far from here ... I'm sure of it. Come on ... a few more steps. You won't let it go this time ...

Something was waiting for him, and through the darkening day he tried to move his feet a bit faster, as if time were the only challenge he would have to defeat.

Suddenly he stopped, trying to remember how the cottage looked the last time he saw it. Closing his eyes, he had not intended to get the memories back in his head.

Then, moving slightly toward the "standing wooden box", his feet were heavier than ever, hundreds of tons it seemed. He was not afraid though, since by then he had more than five years to come to a final decision in doing this. But as he came closer to the door, he knew he was more than just terrified.

Trembling and shivering not merely for the cold, his left hand reached for the handle of the rickety door.

Have faith in what you're doing ...

Every second from then on counted the time he had left to live a normal life.

"Enjoy the moment Richard," his wife would always say. "You will regret every single moment you skipped just to avoid the sad part of this world ...."

How he desperately wanted the presence of his late wife, and not only her, there were two more parts taken away from him. Sassy, the eldest and the only one who was always able to bring him back from work late at night to make sure he got enough rest. Just 17, she would have had a lot of new experiences in high school, but it was gone in vain.

Randy, an extraordinary boy. How he had always loved the jokes that slipped out from his tiny 8-year-old hero. Three people out of thousands, who made his life perfect, were gone, and it surely took another important thing: his life.

Grasping the handle, he slowly pushed the door until it opened a creak. Squinting through the dusty air, he once again smelled the typical wooden odor. He took a deep breath and stood there for several minutes.

This was where the whole family spent most of their holidays. A nice little cottage perfect for the four of them. But there were not going to be any more family holidays, not after the terrible incident that had left him all alone. And since, he had left all the sweet memories locked up in that place, forbidden for others, hoping not to ever have to open the door again. Perhaps he was just wishing, from the moment he lost everything, that something would remain, something that would keep him alive, love that was lost for good.

He had no time to turn and run away. After all these years of living more like a fugitive of an unforgivable crime. But what he was seeing now was supposed to be the healing spring for all those buried pains. The dim light was turned on, and gently he stepped in. Nothing had moved an inch. Pictures of smiling faces filled the living room; one would think they were retelling the exact feelings they experienced.

Coming up here was a challenge, he had to face things that once brought him happiness. If only they still could do it, if only they could still build some castles in the sky high above, if only ... suddenly he spotted something, there was a case under the dining table, perfectly wrapped by brown leather.

Is it? Can it be? Yes, this is it ...

Moving gently, he first leaned forward and had a long look at the case while trying to figure out what it might contain. Then he squatted and began to touch the edges, his soul was suddenly filled with feelings he could barely understand. Brushing off the dust, he made a decision to open the forgotten case.

There were so much to see, books, pieces of scattered papers, some sort of silhouettes and more pictures. A tiny notepad caught his attention not because of its bright scarlet color, but rather the fine handwritten words that ran across the cover:

Collected Poems & Quotations of the Reynalds

He carefully opened the notepad and started reading the first quotation that appeared, so familiar, "The greatest pleasure I know, is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident." (Table Talk by the late Elia. The Athenaeum, 4 Jan., 1834) This was one of his late wife's favorite things to say while she gave a big smile to her beloved husband, expecting that one day he would find out what it meant. Below that was another quotation, this time from the Bible: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest." (Joshua 1:9)

Silence and loneliness had always accompanied him, but this last sentence started to fill his soul, emerging as his new best friend. He touched every single word, trying to hear it repeating again and again in him.

He shut his eyes and there came three smiling faces, the people he loved most. Those words were waiting right there to be read one day by a desperate and lonely man hungry for love. Struck by the sudden truth, he realized that all this time he was never alone nor left alone, because He was there, and forever will He be with him.***