Joined: 08 July 2007
In the autumn of 2001, the ground was filled with glowing leaves blown from the sleeping trees, the birds and animals danced on the branches reaching for heaven and the country town of Oakland was preparing for a new season.
It was here in this year, in this place where the dwelling of my innocence and freedom ended and where I found the meaning of life, a simple word, called love. I unknowingly boarded the bus for Columbine to start a new year at Preston's College, only to find myself the reason why the town caf of Oakland was to burn down.
The local court sentenced me to help rebuild the caf and until I was done I was forbidden to leave. At eighteen, I neared graduation and the start of my independence this sentence seemed preposterous. The town court ordered me to live with the sheriff of the town, the Martin's. I slumbered into their routine lives and for the first week I grudgingly helped out with the construction, not eating with the townspeople, not talking to them. It was not until a girl named Riddhima that changed my life forever.
I do not even know how I met her, or how I feel in love with her, but I know I loved her the first time I saw her. I think it was by the beautiful forest edge overlooking a glistening waterfall, where I felt distressful missing out on my graduation. I overlooked the water as I recited to the animals and the trees my graduation speech; it was my way of celebrating my end to childhood. As I felt the moment sink in I turned around to see her there, Riddhima. Her black hair falling loosely over her shoulders and her deep green eyes captured a hunger to live burning inside of her. She looked at me, on that fateful day with a tear in her eye, a bright smile on her face making the meaning of the moment so much clearer. We stared at each other, with nothing to worry about.
Surrounded by the blue sky and the glistening clear water, I kissed her, with the birds soaring above and the fishes swimming beneath. No words were needed to be said and the desire for the moment took over. We spent the day together, the week together, she was an innocent Indian girl, and I was a city guy. But love had its own game. That day was pure love of passionate teenagers clinging on to the last moments of childhood, of innocence and of freedom.
As I put my forehead against hers and held her waist tightly against my body I whispered "I love you Riddhima." I felt on top of the world as she put her arms around my neck and pressed her lips on mine and said "I love you too Armaan."
With no boundaries to abide by, no horizon in sight, Riddhima and I feel in love. But more than that, it was a love that was real, that was undying…
But every story comes to an end, every book has its chapters, for Riddhima her story ended as a fairytale but for me, she marked the end of a chapter in my life. She stood with me on that ledge overlooking the water, the sky and the trees, and she looked deep into my eyes and cried. Between her tears she told me the words that will stay with me until the end. She looked into my eyes, with tears running down her cheeks, she said to me 'I have cancer, and every breath is taking me closer to heaven.' I looked at her, I looked around and I kissed her, cutting out the pain inside, praying and hoping what she said wasn't true. She told me how she had cancer, even before she meet me, and how the dying wishes of a living girl was to fall in love.
I stared at her, I cried and cried with tears that never ended, until I couldn't take it anymore and I ran. Ran all the way back to Preston's College away from all the troubles and heartaches the town of Oakland had brought me. But every night as I drifted off the sleep I stared out into the night sky and saw the same picture, the girl I met on the ledge, with her black hair and her deep green eyes. How could I leave her? How can I bring heartache to the girl I love? I couldn't take it anymore, I needed to see her, say to her that I love her, and always will. So I caught the bus to Oakland's and I ran to her home. But what greeted me was the darkness of an empty house. I ran to the Martin's and they told me how Riddhima was now in hospital in intensive care.
That didn't matter to me anymore, what mattered was that I needed to see her. See her face, the face of true love, of a girl who would stay with me forever. So I ran and ran until I burst through the corridors of intensive care. And raced to her ward, my heart beating as I saw her face. She looked at me and smiled, the smile I saw when I first met her and all of a sudden my life lifted, all the pain of the past few days went away and I just stared at her with a tear in my eye and said 'I'm sorry'. She smiled and shook her head and pulled me closer towards her, and slowly brought me closer to her pink soft lips. She quivered as I felt her lips on mine. 'Your not going to die Riddhima, my sweetheart you cant, live for me, I need you to live by my side,' she looked naively into my eyes and said in the most adorable voice of hers 'I am going to live, just not as long as you.' and I stared at her, the pain coming back yet I smiled, for her to be happy, for my lover to feel her life was meaningful.
I held her hand, telling her stories, singing songs to her, whispering sweet nothings into her ears and playing games with her for the whole night, but slowly she drifted off to sleep. And I looked at her, my only love, irreplaceable dear and thought of what she said to me before she went to sleep, 'Some people live their entire lives without ever falling in love, I lived my life and I fell in love, I fell in love with you.'
As the days became colder, the season was now nearing winter, Riddhima's condition worsened until she was barely able to speak, but every day I held her hand and for many hours I would stare into her eyes, and feel feeling of true love. These times were only broken by her tender kiss, which brought me back to earth. It was a particularly cold night and after reading Riddhima some poems, she feel tightly asleep, and I smiled and drifted off. I wasn't sure what happened but I woke up abruptly hearing the deadly beeping sound. Nurses and doctors were by Riddhima's bedside desperately trying to sustain her and I looked on at the sweetest face of all, was somewhere on the branches reaching down to earth from heaven.
Riddhima's parents found me the day after; they were expressing grief over their daughter. They told me under her pillow was a letter, a letter to me. They thanked me for giving their daughter the best days of her life and for bringing so much happiness and love into a girl whose life was cut so short. I stood there, lost for words, it had never came to me she was gone. The girl I loved had left me? I stood there looking at her parents, lost for words so I just cried tears of pain of grief, tears of a lost love of a broken heart and empty soul.
It wasn't until that night when I read the letter she left me that I thought to myself how lucky I was to find her, and indeed I was one of the few people in this world who ever found their true love as she had told me.
'Hey handsome' she wrote, 'it was fate that brought us together and fate that broke us apart. But we got a taste of something to sweet, so beautiful, not many people ever do. We got a taste of love, a taste of true love.' I cried as I read her letter, the pain was too much and mourning of an emptiness inside. 'I knew that there was indeed a god for when I saw you on the ledge that day I knew someone up there was listening to my prayers. I am not angry I cannot be with you forever, I'm not angry that I cannot marry you that I cannot always be there for you. I'm not angry that I can't see you when you are happy, to see you when you turn 21. But I am happy that I met you. That I was given something so great it made me look at life in a completely different way. You gave me another chance at life, you gave me your heart and your love and I will be waiting here for you in heaven, watching you, smiling at you when you are happy, crying with you when you are sad. I'm sure that true lovers never part and I will wait for you always.' My heart sank, but deep inside I knew she was happy and I was glad. It was only time before I see her again. I smiled as I read her last few lines it said, "You were mine and will always be my love my desire…My Armaan."
It is a great feeling when you come away from childhood, when all freedom and innocence are lost. It is a great feeling when you are no longer scared of death because you know your love will be there waiting for you. That day was my coming of adulthood, end of a heartfelt chapter of my life. And that is how I will remember the autumn of 2001. The time when I met the love of my life. My Riddhima.
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