Writer’s group assignment. Title given was New Beginnings. Words required – Less than 2 000 . Words used – 1864
On the park bench, the sound of the gentlest voice he had ever heard, dragged Jonathan back to awareness. The words had the lilt of a waterfall. “You must be very tired.”
He opened his eyes, he turned his head slowly, and he gazed upon the most beautiful face he had ever seen.
“I am tired” he agreed. ”But who are you”?
The beautiful face was that of a young woman. Her waterfall tresses cascaded over her milky shoulders & seemed to become part of her long shimmering gold dress. She did not answer his question but her smile radiated warmth and made him feel happy. Happier than he could ever remember being before. Eventually it was Jonathan who spoke again.
“I have been tired for a long time. I am alone and I feel very old. Sometimes it seems that it is all just too much. What is the point of carrying on? What is the meaning of it all”?
“Why are you alone” she asked simply? The liquid voice seeming to shimmer like her dress.
“My wife died two years ago” he said. “I have been alone since then. I have a lot of pain in my body. Everywhere. All my joints ache and I cannot sleep. My cholesterol is high, my sugar levels are through the roof and it takes me ages just to stand up. The world is empty for me”.
“You poor man. I am so sorry. What can be done for you”?
“They tell me I have to exercise and lose weight” said Jonathan. “But there is no way. I can hardly stand up and I feel exhausted all the time”. He wondered why he was pouring all this out into the ear of this strange, beautiful woman.
Again the soft smile. The aura of total acceptance. The nurture in her words. “Can’t you try really hard and just do a little bit of a walk once a day? You might be surprised at what you can do”.
“I think it is too late for me” he answered. “I have lived hard, but I have destroyed myself in the process. It takes me ages just to walk the three blocks to this park bench each day and sometimes I just stay here through the night because I can’t face the walk home”.
“Well that is very sad” she said. “It would be wonderful if you could find a way back to health again”.
In the long silence that followed, Jonathan’s tiredness overwhelmed him and his eyes blinked shut again. But even as he dozed he felt easy in the warm aura emanating from this stranger. When his eyes opened again she was gone. There was no sign of her anywhere. His first reaction was dismay, but then a feeling of total peace washed over him and he felt strangely refreshed.
Jonathan seemed to get home a bit quicker than usual that day and he felt less depressed than before. The night brought him more peaceful sleep than normal, and in his dreams, the golden woman sat by his side again. She did not speak but she surrounded him with love. Without words she seemed to be saying, “it is not too late. You must find your inner strength”.
In the morning, Jonathan seemed less tired. The encouragement of the dream made him want to get out and walk a little way. But it did not come easily. He tried to focus his mind by boiling water for coffee but he found he could not think of anything except his encounter on the park bench and the fantasies of the night. Somehow though, somehow, he slowly emerged from his reverie and mustered the courage to pull on shorts and a T-shirt and inch his way out onto the beach in front of his apartment block. There he found a fresh breeze lifting little dervishes from the sand and the breakers bubbled up the pebbles and then sucked back like a tempting kiss. Every step was painful but he forced himself to move a little way along the edge of the sea. The sand felt good under his bare feet. He didn’t go very far but he took home a sense of satisfaction.
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On the mountain path, a long way from where most people could reach, Jonathan was enjoying climbing slowly towards where he knew he would find the little waterfall. The water was cold and fresh and danced in the sunlight as it fell. He loved to splash it over his old face and drink of its goodness. When he reached it, he would sit there and meditate under the overhanging rocks. He had not seen another soul for quite a while and he never heard anyone coming up the path behind him. Yet there she was, walking beside him. She looked just the same as all those months ago in the park. The breeze lifted the sun strands of her hair and she seemed to float rather than walk beside him. She smiled at him and he experienced again the warmth he had felt the first time.
“How have you been” she asked simply?
“I have been quite well thank you” Jonathan heard his voice answering.
“You look very good” she said. “You have lost a lot of weight and your body looks hard and fit.”
“Yes he said. It is so. After our meeting in the park, I took a few paces on the beach. It made me feel so much better that I forced myself to do it again the next day. Each day I went a little further and within a month or so I could walk the length of the beach and back”. Now I even venture out onto the mountain”.
He looked at the woman to see if she would react, but what he got back was that incredible sense of acceptance and approval. So he continued to speak.
“Well, each day I walked and slowly, slowly I lost weight and the pain in my body became less and less. It is not all gone. I still have pain. Sometimes I still have quite a lot of pain but it is not as bad as it was”.
“That’s wonderful news” she spoke at last. “ I’m sorry you still have some pain but it’s really good to know how much stronger you are. Has the purpose returned to your life at the same time”?
Jonathan did not answer at first. He felt he did not want to disappoint this wonderful stranger. But somehow he also knew that he could not tell her things that were not true.
Eventually he said – “No. I am physically stronger but I still feel that my life is pointless. I have nobody to keep me company and I am no longer employed. I have no close friends and I become very depressed. When I get home from my walking each day, I go inside my little flat, and when I close the door, its seems as if I am completely alone in a very big world”.
Her face was filled with compassion and when she spoke she simply said, “I believe you are on the path to recovery. You have suffered much and you are still suffering but you are winning. Maybe somewhere in these mountains you will find the answers you needs”.
Jonathan did not know how to respond. He also felt that he had no need to answer her. He turned from her and walked to the viewpoint a little way off the path. There he stood and surveyed the magnificence of the green valley below and tried to understand what was happening. it all seemed so strange and yet this second meeting with the golden woman had rekindled and reinforced the motivation she had been able to instil in him the first time. After a while he turned to speak to her, but she was no longer there. The vison had evaporated once again.
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In the public gardens, as he walked homewards, Jonathan saw her for a third time. It had been nearly two years since the encounter in the mountains. He was strong now from his exercising and his doctor was very happy with how his health had improved. She was sitting on a rock just as if she had been there all the time. His heart skipped a beat when he saw her.
“How are you feeling about life now Jonathan” she asked in her very genuine way?
“Life is wonderful thank you he said. I have started listening to the birds in the morning outside my window and the breakers crackling up the beach. I have started reading again and talking to new friends I’ve met, about the meaning of everything”.
“Well that sounds very progressive Jonathan. And what is that you are carrying in your hand?”
“Well, that’s my little violin he chuckled. I always wanted to play an instrument but I never learned. I thought it was too late but I bought this little fiddle from a charity store and a friend of mine has been teaching me to play. I will never be Paganini but I have learned a few tunes already and my teacher is pleased with my progress.”
“Well that’s pretty impressive for a young man in his 70s Jonathan. A smile played round her mouth. And what about the pain? Last time we spoke you told me you still had pain despite the exercise”.
“Yes” he answered. “I do still have pain. Sometimes it is bad and sometimes not. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I used to dwell on it and become depressed and feel sorry for myself, and my negativity limited me. As we age our eyes dim and our hearing fades and sometimes pain becomes our constant companion. But the pain is not us. It does not define who we are. I have learned not to think of pain as being the deterioration of myself. It is just a side issue and I can choose to move forward despite these distractions that would limit me, and be me”.
“Well Jonathan, you have come a long, long way in the past three years. You have become much younger again. You have found new meaning and you are moving forward. I am very happy for you. I really am”.
“Oh, This is just the beginning” said Jonathan. “This is my new beginning. Just you wait and see where I go from here”.
Without warning she was gone again. He knew she would be. But Jonathan also knew that his angel would always be with him. He would never be completely alone again.