Posts Tagged ‘fragility’

Short Story

25 November 2020

Once upon a time, a boy and girl fell in love. They seemed perfect for each other. They enjoyed their times together in a calm and simple way that no one else seemed to notice or care about. He pledged to her that they would spend their lives together. But he was only a little boy. How could he keep this promise?

Sure enough, one day his parents announced to the family that they would be moving to a land far away, where Father had found work. The boy’s attention went off his friends as the excitement of the move filled his days. And then the family was gone from that place, and the boy found himself living in a new town, thousands of miles away.

The little girl wondered where her friend had gone, and cried. But eventually, the busyness of life restored her spirit, and she made new friends and continued on.

Meanwhile, the little boy had become fascinated and captivated by his new surroundings. The town he had moved to was older than the one he had left, and the climate there was much different. As the winter’s snows melted from the lawns of his family’s new house, the boy, aware that he needed new friends, made many attempts to play with the girls he met at school, as he had done where he used to live.

But the children here had been raised differently, and the girls he met all dismissed him. He did not get discouraged at first, but then one night as he slept, the face of his former best friend appeared to him, smiling calmly as she always had. And he realized that not only would he never see her again, but that he had not had a chance to say goodbye.

And so, lifetimes of unkept promises pressed their full weight upon his emotions, and he began to cry. He cried for what seemed like hours. At first, it seemed he was crying only for his lost love. But then it became more obvious that he was crying for all those unkept promises, indeed, for all the tragedies of his fragile world, and of all the worlds that had existed before it.

Sixty years passed.

Though his world survived, it showed it weaknesses at every turn of the planet around its axis. And a boy and girl again fell in love. The boy was, perhaps, the same boy. His body was bigger, and his skin had wrinkled. His belly had grown a bit too large, and his ability to run freely and laugh with his friends had diminished. And yet, he had, again, fallen in love.

He and his new friend spent many mornings together talking. Their concerns were now the concerns of “adults” and no longer the trifling concerns of children, made large and important only by their imaginations. These were real concerns of real importance. At least, that’s how they saw it.

And then a disaster befell the land, as will happen in our fragile worlds, and the two who so cared about each other were separated. Amid the distractions of the moment, the boy forgot about his new friend. He had assumed that she was safe and cared for, though he actually had no idea. But then a man who was part of his community mentioned to him that his friend had been sent away. Where had she gone? Was she in fact safe? How were her children doing? And her parents, brothers and sisters?

He guessed that she had returned to the place where her family lived. It was too far away for him to travel there, but this world had communication devices that made it possible to stay connected even so. And though he now regretted that his kind had, thousands of years ago, lost the ability to connect with each other directly, he used the tools he had at his disposal to try to find her and reestablish contact.

This was a difficult struggle for him. It involved many new tears, and he often wondered why exactly this seemed so important to him, and why he was crying so much.

And then one day, a message from her appeared on the screen of his device. He answered it impulsively, then sat in his chair and cried some more. She had promised to meet with him and let him know all that had happened to her since the disaster had separated them. When the appointed day arrived, he sent her a short message. But she did not respond. Later in the day, he left a voice message urging her to at least have a brief meeting with him. Still no response. He went out and walked around his neighborhood, as had become his recent habit. He found some cheer in the little children’s laughing and taunting of their parents, excited about the winter holiday festivities that were quickly approaching. And yet, his friend did not reply. That evening he sent another message, forgiving her, and reassuring her that he would be very happy to hear from her in any form, at any time.

That night the boy (man?) went to bed with a troubled heart. What was keeping him apart from his new friend? She seemed fearful of something. What was it? And then he recalled the friendship that he had broken sixty years earlier, through his own over-excitement in anticipating a new experience. It was his own carelessness that had ruined (had it?) the most precious friendship he had known that lifetime. And now he was prepared to put the responsibility for his difficulty at reconnecting on the shoulders of his new friend! What folly! He cried again, most heavily, realizing his own complicity in his own heartbreak.

He arose that morning weary, but ready to face the new day. He did indeed live in a fragile world. But that fragility, it seemed clear now, was of his own creation.