It is a strange thing to happen when you wake up one morning and find the inner peace you enjoy suddenly disrupted by a dream, something akin to a rhythmic flow of the waves broken midway by an oncoming ship. Jeremy Coulter he was immune to such nonsense. His life may not always go according to plan, but the past fifteen years went by smoothly. Hell, it was perfect.
But one Tuesday morning of July, he became a changed man. The dream kept haunting him, robbing him of sleep, destroying his harmonious existence. An existence where nothing else matters but his desire to hop from one adventure to the next, without thought of permanence and settling down. He was insatiable. He wanted to conquer the world, to explore every space and cranny. It was his joy to discover the remote places – the depths of the ocean floor, the secrets of the jungle and the vastness of the desert. He test the limit, outrageously flirting with danger and seducing death. And in every trip, every journey, he captured life in its rawest beauty through the power of a camera lens and the immortality of his writings.
With an inward sigh, he flung his arm over the railing of the ship. For an outsider, he might be calm and composed. But when one looked closely, they will find a caged man imprisoned by his past. It was there in the stormy blue of his eyes, the tightening of his jaw, the constant clenching of his fists. The dream had achieved something that his gamble with fate never did – shake the foundation of his soul.
He closed his eyes and he saw once again, with absolute clarity, the woman whose face will be etched on his mind forever. Her youthful radiance was like a blinding sun that once flooded his life with colors. He could get lost in her eyes, the color of amethyst. And her smile, it was the force that drove him to endlessly chase a dream. She sat on a bench made of rosemary wood and in her lap was a flute.
“With a look like that, one would think you have lost something precious,” said a voice from his side.
Jeremy opened his eyes with a start. He saw an old man whose eyes twinkle with wisdom or mischief. “It is possible,” he said with a faint smile.
“Let me guess. It must be a woman. Men like you never learn. They are the crux of our existence.”
Jeremy shrugged. “I’m not sure if it is the case. I’m here to find out.”
“Hah. I say good luck to that. It is never too late to fix your past.”
“There might not be anything to fix.”
“You be the judge. Tell me, young man, have you given up something precious in exchange for something more precious?”
He thought for a moment, and then he laughed. “I’m afraid so. I used to own a flute I can never part with. Everywhere I go, that flute kept me company.”
“Interesting anecdote. And what made you give it up?”
“Something more precious.”
“And you went after it?”
“In a way, yes.”
“And was it worth it?”
* * * * *
They docked just as the sun has risen. Jeremy bade the old man goodbye and went on his way with his backpack slung on his back.
Many have changed. The seawall, the streets, the houses. But some things remained the same. The rolling hills and the emerald field dotted with grazing sheep and cattle, the lighthouse where he spent his childhood with John and Danna, the village where he grew up.
Those blend of old and new fascinated him. And for a moment, he forgot where he is, what he is supposed to do. He let the nostalgic feeling claim his whole being, only to be snatched back from his reverie with a light tap on his arm.
“Is that you, Jeremy? Oh my God, is it really you?”
That voice. He closed his eyes against the rush of memories. “It’s been a while,” he said with a smile when he finally found the courage to face her.
“Oh, you odious man! How can you take off like that! You left without saying a word. Without even a goodbye.” Danna started hitting him squarely on the chest, punctuating every word she said.
He gathered her hands in his. “Calm down, sweetheart. If I know that this is the kind of welcome you will give me, I would have never set foot in this island.”
Her amethyst eyes flashed like that of an angry tiger. “Oh, you have the gall to say things like that. You left us. You never wrote. We never knew if you’re alive or buried in your adventures to God-knows-where.” Her voice cracked and to his horror, glistening tears gathered in her eyes.
He did the only thing he knew and has been dying to do since he saw her. He took her in his arms.
* * * * *
She led him to a familiar path, a path he has treaded on since he was four. And sure enough, they stopped outside a pretty cottage now painted with canary yellow but still with the same cheerful vibe he had always loved as a kid.
“Come inside. What do you want, coffee or tea?”
“Coffee. No sugar, lots of cream.”
“Some things never change.”
She opened the door wide and they stepped inside. He followed her to the tidy kitchen where he had eaten many meals and listened to many sermons. The unsteady oak table was gone, in its place was a gleaming counter made of cedar. He sat down on a high stool while she made coffee.
“Indeed. But you did.”
“Uh-huh. Tell me what you have been doing in the past fifteen years.”
“I was chasing a dream.”
“Did you get to visit all the places you have always wanted to visit?”
“That and more.”
“Well, I’ve explored many jungles, swarm with the sharks, slept under the stars with the Bedouins. One time I tried to learn how to weave carpets in Arak.”
“What do you mean?”
“Is that all? You cavorted around the globe and what did you get out of it?”
He took off his backpack and fished a thick envelope. He handed it to her.
She opened it with trembling hands. “Oh, these are beautiful.” She gazed at every photograph he took, seeing the splendor through his eyes. All the exotic places he had been to, all the people he had met. For a long time, she leaf through them, exclaiming her delight at every turn. When she put them down and lookeed at him, there’s an unmistakeable mist in her eyes. “I don’t have to ask. You found that dream. And you are happy. I’m glad. For all the pain your leaving caused, I’m glad you sailed away from this little corner of the world.”
He did not speak. He only looked at her with his heart in his eyes.
“Now it’s your time to talk,” he said. “How have you been after all those years I’m gone?”
A captivating sound tore their attention from each other, drawing their eyes into the doorway. There stood a strapping man, his dark hair glinting against the glinting sun. Jeremy observed how different emotions danced across his handsome face, from surprise to pleasure in one instant. Then he was hauled into a bear hug, and he realized how he could no longer find traces of the gangly boy he left behind. John Seymour has turned into a man.
“Son of a gun, Jeremy Coulter is back in town,” he said with a chuckle.
“And how have you been, my friend?”
“Good. The years have been good to me. To us.” His eyes searched Danna across the room.
Jeremy watched the way the two most important people in his life look at each other with tenderness. Danna seemed to emanate a certain glow often associated with brides. Her eyes lit up like a thousand burning stars. John has a silly smile on his face.
“Who is he, daddy?”
A curious voice piped up. Jeremy saw a cherubic face peeping from the doorway. In his hand was a wooden flute from which the music came from.
“Come here, Jeremy,” Danna called softly.
“Me?” Jeremy pointed at himself.
Danna laughed. “No. Not you, silly man. That little guy in the doorway.”
The boy ran into Danna’s arms with a laugh. She ruffled his hair affectionately. “Jeremy Coulter, meet Jeremy Bradford Seymour. Greet your uncle, love.”
Jeremy Seymour’s eyes widened in awe. “I know you, sir. You are the boy who gave your flute to dad in exchange of Black Beauty so you can ran away from home. I got my name from you.”
Jeremy stooped down and patted the child’s head. “I’m glad to meet you.”
After a hearty lunch, Jeremy took a walk to the hills with John. He shoved his hands on the pockets of his jeans, while John told him about their lives in the last fifteen years. He listened carefully, forcing a laugh when he should.
“You know I’m in love with Danna,” John said after a long silence.
Jeremy heaved a sigh. “It was too hard to miss.”
“It still puzzled me why you left so suddenly. I would never understand how you could give up on a quiet life in this island, nor the fact that you gave up your flute in exhange of my boat. I coveted your flute because you can play the most wonderful tunes from something so small. And Danna worships the music you create. I have a boat that can take me anywhere, but there’s no place like here. It’s strange, isn’t it, how our life takes different paths? I can never imagine you as an adventurous man, drifting from one thriling experiences to the next.”
“And I can’t picture you tied down in one place. You never strike me as a family man.”
Well, I guess some things have a way of clicking into place, eh?”
Jeremy leaned back against the ship’s railing. The settinh sun cast shadows on his face, keeping his emotions in disguise while the old man scrutinized him from his perch. “They are happy. And they have a son they named after me.”
The old man tapped his back. “Tell me, son, do you love her?”
“I used to spend my days dreaming of our future together. I will play my flute and she will be there. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
“But you gave her up.”
“My bestfriend was in love with her. It’s either love or friendship. I cannot have both.”
Jeremy turned to watch the sun sink behind the horizon. It was supposed to signify an end. But he was looking at a new beginning.
“So was it worth it? Chasing dreams?”
“I was chasing a dream away from me. But yes, in the end, it was worth it.”
Note: Laziness is a terrible thing. This post is long overdue but I owe it to Karenina and Joval. So, better late than never, no?