Bittersweet

He looks out of the window of the train that takes him across Europe and feels the bittersweet taste that invariably invades him when he thinks of her.

 

At first, he tries to shake it off – no melancholy thoughts allowed on this much dreamt of trip. He looks at his friend sitting beside him and notices he’s fallen asleep. He turns to the window and, leaning on his chair, closes his eyes. Memories of her instantly overtake him.

 

He pictures her on the night they first met; he had just turned sixteen and was spending his first New Year’s Eve in a rented house with friends. One year older, she barely looked at him, but he was captivated by her slender body, her graceful movements, her wonderful smile and – why not say it? – her sharp wits. He found her challenging.

 

He never forgot her. Others seemed pale in comparison, and there was a sadness inside him that he could not explain. He didn’t know what, but something was missing in his life.

 

Two years later they met again, and life seemed to acquire a new meaning. This time she paid him attention. He had grown taller and was so more mature; but he was also sweet and sensitive, with a cheerful mood and an easy charm. They were drawn to each other – they fell in love.

 

The first summer of their love was the best of all – but then, isn’t summer the season for lovers? Long walks on the beach by sunset, lying on the sand close together feeling the sun on their bodies; sitting outside at night, hand in hand, counting the stars up in the sky; kissing and feeling the salt on each other’s lips; sharing an ice-cream after a swim, their bodies still wet but warm with the love they felt for each other. All of this, and so much more…

 

Then the autumn of their separation. How hard it was not to see her, feel her close to him every day! How hard to imagine her studying in a university so far away, meeting new people, living in an alien city, travelling without him on weekends, breathing a different air…six months seemed an eternity and jealousy and insecurity made a show of appearance and in the end,  they broke up. He had seen it coming, he had felt it was inevitable, but still he was devastated. How many nights he cried on his pillow – yes, boys do cry – and he knew she had too, but somehow there was nothing they could do, except feel miserable.

 

After each winter always comes spring; she came back, and their paths crossed again. What they had had been too strong to be forgotten, and it turned out that the embers of their love had not grown cold and grey, for as soon as they saw each other a fire inside them burned again with an overwhelming intensity; they finally realised how much they had missed each other.

 

They were happy again, for a time. Theirs was never an easy relationship, for they are two strong willed people; they quarrelled many times, as many as those when they passionately made up again. Sometimes he thought he should end it once and for all, but then he could not imagine his life without her. They were lovers, but they were also the best of friends. They had fun together, and together they roamed the city, in long walks or motorcycle rides, romantic dinners or weekends at home, doing nothing – simply enjoying each other.  Sometimes he dreamt life would go on like this – this happiness, this feeling of belonging, of rightness, but deep down he knew it could not be.

 

Slowly, insidiously, doubts started creeping into his mind – am I too young, do I want this sort of commitment; she had her own doubts too, he knew. They began drifting apart, their quarrels more frequent, their reconciliations less passionate. There was love between them, but was it enough? They didn’t know.

 

When holidays approached, their different plans finally set them apart. His much longed for, long ago planned Interrail trip with his best friend, her summer on the beach with her lifelong group, along with their doubts about they wanted out of life and love, forced them to face the bitter truth – it was over.

 

Now here he is, again looking out of the window, after spending some time in that twilight zone between dream and reality. He smiles, recalling how sweet the dream of the recent past tasted. The present tastes somewhat bitter, even if it is full of adventure and, if at this point, he is doing exactly what he wants – what he has chosen to do. However, to be true to himself, he knows this love is something he will never forget; he already knows he will treasure it among his most precious memories, for as long as he lives. On her beach holiday, thousands of kilometres away, she feels exactly the same– the sweetness of their moments together, the bitterness of having to say goodbye.

 

……

 

If only there were still fairies left in this world, I know one of them would look down on these two and, with a touch of her magic wand, bring them back together again.

I will survive

Lilac wine

Still loving you

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