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202

FINALIST
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I was young. Between childhood and an adolescence. The innocence of my feelings was fighting with romantic ambition. I was in love with her. She knew it and played on it. Inevitably. Long, languorous looks, mischievous pouts, cute teasing, well-mannered tickling: the earliest emotions, promises of true love. Perhaps even of tragic love.
But a love that was to be lived to the fullest.
So, one day, I asked her. If she wanted to go on a date with me. She looked deep into my eyes. Her gaze pierced my body, heart and soul. Then she laughed in a rather loud, artificial way. Her laugh vanished into the air without touching me. Without a word, she took out her diary, tore out a page and wrote on it, folded it in four and handed it to me. 
That was when she spoke to me at last. She told me that her reply was on that piece of paper, that she had written it with all her heart and that she would never change her mind. 
Then she kissed my cheek, picked up her schoolbag and went off to class. The bell rang. I followed her. With my little piece of paper in the palm of my hand. Her response to my love. The truth about my destiny. I gripped it so hard that sometimes I felt as if it was a living thing: the beat of my heart in my palm throbbed in unison with that little piece of diary.
But it was important to me to discover her answer in the right conditions. Just imagine, if it was my first love letter! So I waited until the best opportunity presented itself. For a week, I kept the precious piece of paper with me. I sniffed it. I stroked it, trying to guess what it contained. I dreamed about its words of love. 
While I waited, my fingers trembled, my heart panicked, I was carried away by my dreams and transfigured by my love. I was happy, I was in love, I was full of confidence: I was waiting.
One day, I at last opened the paper. Slowly. Although slightly crumpled, the writing was still legible. I was sitting on a rock, my bike lying at my feet. On the hill. Far away from the others, I could afford the indulgence of being my real self: a shy lover. After I read it, I cried over her letter. Over her letter which contained only one single word.
No. 
She had written ‘No’. That ‘no’ contained all her refusal of me, for me, to me. On my rock warmed by the sun, with my hands over my tear-stained face, I felt chilled. I was dying slowly. Then, almost naturally, I felt my blood course once more through my veins, through my heart, through my body. I was coming back to life with the certain knowledge that I had, for the first time, rubbed shoulders with true happiness.
Because while I was waiting, I had dreamed.

Translated by Wendy Cross

202

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