I was born during a time when life was a simple journey with no twists and turns, the pattern was the same from generation to generation. The beginning of every man’s existence was that little cry once you were out of your mothers womb, the cry that signifies the birth of a life; the growth in slow phases that seemed to come very fast and finally the initiation into manhood. I was born during a time when the only proof that you could handle life on your own lay solely in your ability to replicate the life of whoever you had chosen to be your role-model.

I vividly recollect what mama was like, small in size with the warmest heart ever, perhaps the reason I grew into a boy with a heart as tender as a baby’s was because I had mama with me. Papa was quite the opposite; a chronic alcoholic, to me he was never a papa but the huge figure that staggered home very late in the night, his words always slurred, he was like a massive shadow that loomed above our life’s and his looks were dark and scary. Those nights when mama sobbed because he hit her so hard or said some very nasty words to her made me wish I was already grown up so that I could pummel the demon of a papa but that day never came. I guess the fear and hatred that lurked in my heart took all of my flesh as I grew into a very thin and fragile young man. My life was always on a limb with very minimal motivation except when I followed mama to church on Sundays. I enjoyed the preacher’s sermons, every Sunday he always had something new to say and his words seemed to illuminate my heart. He spoke about so many things; the creation of the earth and of a God that was up in the sky. He told tales of a great storm that destroyed the whole earth and of a young boy that got a beautiful coat from his papa and how his brothers despised him, I relished every moment in church until mama died.

I attended her funeral with my papa, a man that was too drunk to say his last words to her and too hard to shed a single tear. My life went on a rampage from then, I became a savage of some sort, I felt so empty within and nothing I tried seemed to quench the anger that ravaged me. I spent so many days on my own, engrossed in fear and a desire to embrace something new and it came by sooner than expected.

It was the new century, the year 1912, the world was finally opening up, from my little county in Belfast we could finally get information about the surrounding nations and we heard of the treaty falling apart. There were rumours of war and then the rumours became true, the army was enlisting. The pertinent thrusts of exuberance that emanated from me was quite probing, I figured the war was the best way to liberate myself from the fear, anger and pain that overwhelmed me and so I volunteered, there was nobody to stop me or to tell me what I was doing was crazy. It was all about my personal quest to find inner peace in the strongholds of war.

The environment was strange to me at first, with the tanks, submarines and war-planes but the only choice I had was to adapt and to do so quickly. The year 1914 came briskly, it was the dawn of blood-shed, tears and death, I sailed with my battalion to the south of France, with peers that were now like brothers to me and that was were I lived my life for the few years to come, I reckon my subconscious succeeded in clearing my mind from all the bloodshed and death I witnessed for just after the war I began to live a noble life, proud of the fact that I had served my country. I chose not to return home and instead resolved to start afresh. I lived a very simple life in the city of Paris, despite the war it still retained its ancient glamour, I guess my serene lifestyle complemented this very lovely city and I spent my mornings taking long walks, absorbing the warmth from the morning sun and it was on one of those walks that I met Elena.

Elena was nothing short of graceful, with eyes that sparkled like diamond stones and a smile that sent shivers down my spine, her tall figure made her stand out from the crowd, with her pink velvet and her white flowing gown she looked heavenly and we got talking almost immediately. She giggled whenever I tried to make statements in french and I felt relieved when I discovered she understood English and even spoke a little, we grew close with each passing day. After several weeks together,we finally got married in the spring of December 1917, in an old courthouse. I couldn’t afford myself a suit or buy her a gown but we could afford ourselves our hearts and that was all that mattered. It was all about two individuals with an unquenchable desire for each other, the world seemed to stop for a while in those months, we played like kids, made love everyday with the same passion like it was going to be our last and in a selfish way I was thankful for the war because it brought me to Elena. The years that followed were simply blissful, those nights when I’d look into her eyes and say words like “Je t’aime de tout mon être” or “Votre tout pour moi” or when I would read her a poem and watch her blush helplessly and just when we thought it couldn’t get better we got the news of our lives, we were going to have a baby.

The excitement I felt is definitely beyond words, we were going to have a baby! I was finally done with the cross-roads of pain, bitterness and fear. I had found satisfaction in a strange land, the sun was finally shining on me after the torrents that had loomed around me for so long. The months went quickly and we soon had a baby girl, I remember shaking nervously in the waiting room that summer night, scared to death until the doctors gave me the good news. Fate was compensating me for the gory past it had made me go through. We named our daughter Estelle, we were like two young kids that had just be handed over toffees, we vowed to always treasure her, it would only be fair to say Estelle helped to thicken the bond between myself and Elena I couldn’t have asked for more but just when I was getting too comfortable with the idea that a stable life was for people like me the worst thing happened.

Exactly sixteen months after Estelle was born we noticed spots on her skin accompanied by severe fever, the spread was quite rapid, we consulted with numerous doctors but they couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was wrong with our baby and after weeks of that strange illness, Estelle died. I had never seen Elena so sad, she spent most of her time crying and nothing I said to her could pacify her. At first I assumed it was a phase for every grieving mother but she never got out of it, she spent her nights sobbing and her days staring into thin air. I really hoped for her to get better and one day I returned home to meet a note from her saying she was going away for a while, I was dumbfounded and perplexed. I prayed for her to return home but she never did. After spending months eagerly anticipating her return I finally decided to return home.

I couldn’t find a bearing at home, I wandered the streets with no purpose, I felt like a stranger in my own country and it took me three months to know that France was where I belonged. I sailed back to France and spent two decades working in a local press factory. I never remarried and my most intimate companion were the memories of Elena, although I thought I was definitely going to cross paths with Elena but I never got that chance at least as a young man. Exactly fifteen years later when my mind was but an antique, filled with a reality that now felt like dreams, I met Elena one sunny day when I had already learnt to forget her. She was still pretty as ever, like wine she seemed to have benefited from the past years, she still looked gorgeous but beside her was someone else and the way they laughed, held hands and kissed it was obvious she had moved on a long time ago. Surprisingly I didn’t feel hurt but rather had this sense of gratitude in me that I got an opportunity to have Elena in my life for a while, she changed my rather grotesque character and showed me things I never knew existed. Now I can go to my grave contented, bearing in mind that life brought love my way.

*Inspiration from the movie-THE WORDS( 2012 Bradley Cooper,Zoe Zaldana,Olivia Wilde directed by Brian klugman)



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