by Joel Gn
It all happened 25 years ago. I was a geek, a shy sophomore whom no one desired in any all-star sports team. My grades were poor, so most of my mates left me alone, since they didn’t need my homework or lecture notes.
Jon was a maniacal, scrawny rock wannabe with slit eyes covered by his dyed fringe. People thought he was weird, since he spewed strange anecdotes on a daily basis, and I was the only one giggling. We practically bonded with each other during our freshman year in college, and we formed a band, with a couple of other interims joining us for gigs. Rock and Metal were never prolific genres in the institution, but Jon’s skills with the six-string were simply phenomenal, he silenced the guys and virtually made all the girls sick with love. No matter how fast or how creative I got on the drums, it was only second fiddle to the magic he infused on stage.
Our favorite song was “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” We played it during the College Day concert, after slogging our way through an arduous string of auditions. There were still butterflies biting inside my intestines, but we made it our best show of talent, and the audience lauded us with their shrill, screaming voices at the strumming of the final chord. We took a bow, and proceeded to the exit of the stage, making space for the choir to present their rendition of Les Miserable’s “Castle on a Cloud.”
I was about to be covered by the flowing curtain when I saw her. She walked towards me, strutting with heels that made her taller by a couple of inches. She was fair, with pale brown freckles adorning both her cheeks. Her eyes were piercing blue, and when she looked at me I shifted my glance away, for fear of being rude. Her raven black hair and tapered nose bore a streak of Oriental blood.
Unaware of where I was heading, I nearly stumbled upon the microphone stands backstage. Jon’s massive palms gripped my shoulders, and I stared at him, brows joining together to form a curious frown.
“Hey, Jay, my bro, take it easy. Don’t start falling off things next time you see another hot chick,” he warned jokingly.
“She’s no hot chick, I’m telling you, she’s...”
The singing had begun. It was a solo, a voice of a girl that seemed to touch heaven itself. It was her voice.
And it was the most beautiful thing I heard in my entire life.
* * *
Miraculously, I qualified for my junior year without any serious academic mishaps. The sad part was that Jon’s parents were migrating Down Under, so he had to leave with them. Our days of fame were gone. I gave up on my beats, and decided, much to the astonishment of the university professors, to pursue the dark pulchritude of poetry. I studied much, spoke little, and inexorably invited the crowd to duplicate my homework, including the fat female aborigine that had despised me as a freshman. Jon mailed me often, his letters revealing much about his music, gigs and sexual trysts with groupies.
It was my best friend who made love to hundreds of women, and I had not found one for all the twenty years of my pathetic life. I did have my fair share of admiration from girls, but I stammered in front of the pretty babes and nauseated among the hideous nerds. Things were not working out the way I expected them to.
Deep inside, I knew I could never forget her, the girl who sang a solo on stage one year ago. Her voice, so salient, so innocently sensual...
I never saw or heard from her again. It was not until I met the most powerful urbanite in college, Trey Oliver, that events took a remarkable change.
Strangely, I got acquainted with him, and we gradually became close friends. Perhaps it was all the homework he had borrowed from me, but being with him gave me a certain form of invulnerability among the rest of the thugs in college. There were jeers from a mocking crowd whenever I came down for lunch, but it ceased the moment they saw him. I worked my way into his social circle. My skills in music and poetry made me consultant to Trey’s trophy beau, Estelle, a willowy, svelte sophomore whose ambition was to become a model. She was directing a musical, and I was invited to attend the rehearsal. I was inclined to turn her down, but getting to know a few more girls would be nothing but a pleasure.
“Jay!” her voice echoed through the hall. She ran over and gave me a warm hug. The place was still rather empty; the performers were coming in and setting up their props.
“How’s the preparation getting along?”
“Oh, we’ve been doing well. Would like you to meet someone. She’s our lead singer. I bet you would like her.” She gave me a wink and brought me over to the passage by the side of the hall. A girl was standing behind the parapet, humming to herself in a sweet, melodious tune.
“Roxanne, this is Jay-Earn,” Estelle took the girl’s hand from behind, “he’s our Korean producer, so you better give him a good show later okay?”
She turned to face the both of us, and all I heard were the palpitations of my own heart. She looked no different from the first time I saw her. It was the same pair of eyes, dark, blue and deeper than the Ocean itself. Her lips widened to reveal a quaint smile. I felt that she knew who I was even before we were introduced.
“Hello.” Her spoken voice was soft but sharp. If she screamed it would have been no different from a child’s, but she held her tone low and it felt ethereal, like a ghost.
“Don’t worry, Estelle, I believe she will not disappoint,” I replied. I barely stopped myself from stammering at those words.
That night never seemed to end. Even when I laid my head to rest, her voice played on within my head, and her face never once departed from my dreams.
* * *
Months passed, and I could never summon the courage to ask Roxanne out. She was in Estelle’s class, physics major, and she spent most of her time in books and concerts. We did talk occasionally, but it was during the parties that Trey organized at his uncle’s resort off the coast. It was all about dance and drinks; most of the time I got myself so drunk they had to hurl me into the pool. I could not help it. Every time I searched for her, there was some other junior punk hitting onto her, buying drinks before getting intimate on the dance floor. I hated the cocktail mix, but the waiters always served me the same drink. I figured it was Trey’s ploy of making me the clown.
“Jay, my dear friend, she’s wanted by everyone,” he quipped. It was one of those nights, when all the people had left, and there were only two of us at the bar.
“You don’t understand, Trey, you just don’t.” I folded my arms, placing my head to rest on them.
“C’mon buddy, look at her. She’s rich smart, talented in the diva sense of the word, and look at the queue in line, my man. She’s got two of the state’s most eligible bachelors on her waiting list! And you know what? She’s not committed to a single one of them!”
I stared at him in disbelief. He was pretty sober I could tell; after all, his tolerance for alcohol knew no limits.
“What do you mean?”
“Look here, kid, her qualifying standards for men are Ivy League. None of her dates last more than a week. She’s a tough one to crack. Parents died when she was really young, left her a huge fortune that is seemingly inexhaustible. She’s been living off stacked reserves ever since.”
It suddenly dawned upon me that there was simply too much I did not know about her. She was smart, cold, aloof and fiercely independent, always cautious of making friends. At times I wondered how someone as carnal as Estelle could be drawn to her. Her identity, origin, and home, it was all an enigma. Maybe it wasn’t love at all, I thought to myself. My mind was ignited with a compelling desire to find out more, but opportunities were few and fleeting. When could I ask her those questions? Would she feel offended, or awkward at my abrupt inquisition?
I struggled through a long restless night, of dark dreams and strange apparitions. I pined for Roxanne, but she was not there. I dreaded the silence of my sleep.
* * *
It was a Wednesday, and I could not be blessed with greater fortune.
The banal lecture on global culture concluded early, thus by some strange, insatiable desire for iced mocha I made my way towards the small café just outside the college. I was just about to place my order at the counter when my saline eyes caught a glimpse of her, just before a blink.
She was seated alone at the far corner of the entrance, dressed in a long-sleeved orange T-shirt with a hood, her delicate fingers holding the straw as she sipped on a glass of grape juice. Her right brow rose as her eyes met mine, and she acknowledged me with a smile shrouded in mystery
“Hey, I hope I’m not disturbing you” I was feeling highly self-conscious, afraid that she would see me blush.
“No you’re not, I was thinking of something, but then it disappeared soon after you arrived,” she rubbed the empty glass with her hands, staring at it intently.
“Oh, what’s it about? It’s fine if you’re not keen on disclosing anyway.” It was a slip of the tongue, a careless gesture of self-contradiction on my part.
“Tell me, Jay, have you ever dreamt of the future?”
She lifted her head and gazed at the white dove, which settled on the opposite table, plucking its share of bread crumbs. Her irises were the color of the azure sky above.
“Sometimes,” I replied.
“What happens then?”
A strange picture materialized within my psyche. It occurred all the time, when I was a child. I saw less of it as time passed, but every time it visited my sleep, it would always be the same, ever so vivid and real.
“I am living in a faraway place. The people I love are gone, and loneliness seeks to overtake me. I am on my knees, weeping, and there is this little girl running towards me. She wears a white dress. A crown of flowers is on her head, and she takes me by the hand, enticing me to play with her.”
“Are you able to remember the place?” she asked.
“No, but there are autumn leaves falling wherever I go, and it is very cold.”
Her eyes glowed with anticipation. Something I said had struck a chord, bringing life to her dull, mundane existence. She had never appeared more spirited or lively. She checked her watch and gasped. She had been too absorbed in the conversation to keep track of time.
“I’m sorry, I have a class to attend. We will go there sometime, shall we?”
“Yeah, that will be cool, see you around then.”
She got out of her seat and walked briskly towards the campus, turning briefly to give me a skittish wave. It was really cute of her, and only after reaching home did I realize she had initiated our first date.
All the sounds faded into silence the instant I shut the door behind me. I speculated that she had injected morphine into my veins, causing me to conjure strange hallucinations or foolish notions that she was hitting on to me. Her last words were a chanted mantra in my head. I attempted to decipher and decode its implications, to read the truth behind the voice.
We will go there sometime, shall we?
It dawned upon me that she knew what I was going to say when she asked that question, and I had the answers she was looking for. Her face brightened upon hearing the dream, like a child who yearns for the fairy tale to come true, for her desires to attain plenitude. This was the only time I could remember the dream so clearly. The earlier awakenings only resulted in a vertiginous megrim, blurring the images as I desperately tried to capture the memory.
I closed my eyes and I saw the little girl once again, running gaily towards me. I heard the rustle of leaves beneath her feet, the sound of the wind blowing against her white dress, the sound of her laughter, and I saw her eyes. They were blue, like Roxanne’s.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Joel Gn