Danny watched the enthusiastic joggers and wondered if he would ever be able to catch up with the pace of the park which moved with its younger regulars sweating it out profusely before returning to their air-conditioned lives. A lot of elderly too visited the park to exercise, walk or just enjoy the lighter side of the city, meet friends, inhale the fresh morning breeze from the sea and reminisce about the past to avoid the present. Children usually came on holidays or in the evenings. He had seen the way this beautiful Park had changed over the last decade.
He noticed that today also the elderly gentleman was sitting alone at his usual place aptly named “Garden of Peace” away from the hustle bustle of the main park. This section was designed in the style of a Japanese Zen garden overlooking the sea. He and his companion had spent many a glorious mornings in these tranquil surroundings laughing, talking or just sitting quietly watching the sun break through the clouds just above the eastern horizon. It was almost a fortnight now since his companion had not shown up but he was always there. Oblivious to the surroundings he watched the water lilies float in the pond or gazed at the deepening rosy glow of the sky.
Today, in his freshly ironed lavender shirt the old man had sat there for more than his usual time.
Danny wondered what had happened to the old lady. Unable to stop himself he collected his sketchbook and pencils and walked up to him.
The old man was busy observing the little yellow butterflies flirting above a row of colourful flowers.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” He said looking up. His face was that of the Buddha, calm and peaceful. “She would have loved them. I have been coming to this garden since its inception and why not, it is I who planned and designed it.” He added.
Danny saw the riot of colours in front of him and the little winged beauties fluttering over them.
“You designed this garden? How wonderful. It is beautiful” Danny looked around the serene ambience that had attracted him to this place years ago and since then he came here every morning to sketch.
“May I see your sketchbook?” He nodded and gestured Danny to sit beside him.
“Sure”. Danny noticed that the old man’s hands trembled as he took the sketchbook.
“I used to paint at one time, now it is difficult to keep the brush steady”, he smiled at Danny.
“Really, I would love to see some of your work”. There was something about the old man that drew Danny to him.
The old man did not reply. Engrossed in the sketches he turned page after page as if looking for something and then he stopped. His slender fingers traced the patterns on the lines and curves on the paper.
Danny leaned forward to see what had caught his attention.
It was a sketch of the old couple he had made just before the lady stopped coming. They were standing next to the lily pond holding hands. Her face shaded by the summer hat and his beaming with love.
“They have sent her to an old age home. I could do nothing.” His face betrayed a glimpse of the emotional storm that was swirling inside and then seeing the puzzled look on his face he placed his soft wrinkled hand on Danny’s and winked, “She isn’t my wife. She is my first love.” A faint hue from the sun-kissed sky spread across his face.
Surprised by this sudden revelation Danny didn’t know how to react so he simply smiled.
I saw her one winter morning strolling here, talking to the birds and flowers. The morning mist had just begun to clear. I recognised her instantly but did not approach. After all these years I wondered if she would remember me.” His face shone like the sun which was now shinning in all its glory. “For some days I lingered around avoiding her eyes, quietly enjoying her presence. She evoked memories that were long since buried in some crevice of my heart.
Then one day as I bent over struggling to tie my wayward shoelace I heard a voice, “you still can’t tie shoelaces properly, can’t you?” I looked up and there she was with a mischievous smile on her face. She held me by the shoulders and helped me stand. For a moment it seemed like a scene from a fairytale.
“You thought I may have forgotten you, didn’t you? I was wondering how long we would play hide and seek,” She laughed.
“I remember, he continued, I had laughed sheepishly and muttered something silly. Since that day we met here every day, spent some time reminiscing the good old days and then parted with a heart full of hope to meet again. We found peace and solace in each other’s being and not being. Life had been a roller coaster ride for both of us and these hours of togetherness were in which we truly lived.
We often noticed your presence and she was the first to realize that you were making a sketch of us. “
Danny’s face flushed a deep shade of pink. “You knew I was sketching both of you?” “I am sorry I did not ask for permission. Both of you looked so much a part of this garden of peace that I could not stop myself.”
“I am glad you made it.” He glanced lovingly at the sketchbook in his lap.
Danny took the sketchbook slowly pulled the page from the spiral binding and handed it to the old man.
“She will always be with you.” He smiled and he gently pressed the two trembling warm hands.
For the first time the old man’s face really showed the pain of longing and separation. A tear escaped the soft brown eyes.
“Thank you.” He said softly.
Both men sat there in solitude under the shade of the fragrant Frangipani connected only by the warmth of their hands. The ‘Garden of Peace’ watched quiescent.
This post is written for GBE 2 week #67 Peace