Ted's oak tree

Hanan Adi

Germany

Impressionist.

A word is worth a thousand pictures.

Message to Readers

All respectful comments are invited! I especially would like your opinion on the title of this piece (which translates from Latin: "Blessed is he who is not without friends"). Please come again, sometime!

Blessed, the Befriended One

February 6, 2016

Loneliness doesn’t die. Never fades. Can’t be gotten used to.
     You live in a foreign land. You cannot speak the native tongue and there’s no chance you’ll learn it, either, because the public institution designed to teach it is itself run by a foreigner who cannot care less for the promotion of the native culture. When you meet anyone, chances are, you won’t be able to tell him or her anything between greeting and goodbye.
     This land is what demographers call a developing country: the government is yet to provide the public with adequate and affordable education. Therefore, you are forced to study at home, all on your own.
     Of course you have siblings and loving parents—but being the black sheep of the family has always been sort of isolating.
     And now—you’ve grown up.
     Adolescence has taken your body and your soul by storm. And there’s no one to turn to.
     You know that suicide lands you in Hell so you’re not going to try it, but that’s not to say the temptation isn’t maddeningly persistent.
     This loneliness—doesn’t die. Never fades. Can’t be gotten used to.
 
One morning you wake up with a headache. You stomach a breakfast you aren’t fond of, which gives you stomachache; by some evil chance you flunk the test for which you’ve been studying three days; later you drop and break the pretty guest-plate your mother adores; you try to comfort yourself playing the piano but just mess the whole song up; the cat scratches you when you try to groom him; your sister calls you a “sulky Sue” and you skirmish; and now you are exploding with the desire to rave like a mad beast, wreaking havoc with every blow.
     In the deep of your heart you know, all you truly need is one gentle word in your ear; a firm, warm hand clutching your trembling one; a sturdy shoulder on which to howl like a toddler—
     There’s no word, there’s no hand, there’s no friend’s shoulder. There’s no one, no one, no one.
     You can’t take it anymore. You can’t. You storm out of the house to cool down.
     Outdoors, pedestrians stroll hand-in-hand, jabbering in the incomprehensible native tongue, never noticing you, tormenting you, tormenting you—not that this is new.
     The sun is falling and you know you have to retrace your steps if you want to arrive home by your curfew, which is dusk: yet you press on rebelliously in the same direction. If you get in trouble—well, the pain of it will drive away loneliness, while the former lasts.
     You turn a corner you’ve never turned before, and march down unfamiliar streets, relishing in your disobedience, hating yourself, because in doing so you forget that you are lonely.
     But at length you must stop striding for breath. As you watch other passersby, one catches your eye.
     She wears a straw hat with a bright blue bow that sails on the wind and a long, flowing yellow dress. A song floats from her smiling lips.
     An English song.
     She spies you as she draws near, and alters her course so that she comes right up to you. Your heart is racing and racing and you cannot help smiling, laughing.
     “Hullo,” she says.
     “Good evening,” you say. “I like your hat—and your dress—and your sandals,” adding the last for good measure.
     “Thank you! So do I. That’s why I bought them.”
     “Where are you going?” Please, you pray, please, nowhere urgent.
     “Oh, my mother essentially chased me out of the house because I was just getting in the way. I didn’t mean to. I’m just born with the talent of being a nuisance.”
     You laugh. “Well, I broke my mother’s favourite plate today, so I guess I am a nuisance too.”
     “Oh, but I redefine nuisance. I really feel sorry for everyone who has to put up with me. They’re awfully brave.” She laughs.
     “I think they’re lucky,” you say. “You say you’re a nuisance, but you’re really very friendly.”
     “You think so? Why, thank you. Do you live near here? Funny I haven’t seen you before.”
     “Well,” you confess, “I’m not supposed to be so far from home.”
     “Oh, why didn’t you say so? I don’t mean to keep you.”
     “I’d rather you did. I haven’t spoken to anyone in ages—literally. I’ve been here years and never had a friend.”
     “Been here years? Do you speak the language?”
     You shake your head.
     “Goodness, how have you lived?”
     You shrug, although mentally you concoct an appalling list of adjectives.
     “You poor thing! Well, then, what shall we talk about?—I play the flute.”
     “Do you? I play the piano.”
     You dive headfirst into the musical world, divert to pets, and wind up by some unchartable, nonretraceable route into Machiavelli and philosophy. The world darkens around you, but your friend yellow-garbed floats by you like a warm, soft light. Her radiant face is the most gorgeous one you have ever seen—her voice the sweetest melody you have ever heard—in your enamouredness she is an angel incarnate, sent upon a merciful wind unto a lost and wandering soul.
     There comes a silence as your thoughts temporarily diverge.
     Your friend says, “Well, I have to get home now. My mother wants us to sleep early so we’ll have energy for tomorrow’s move.”
     “You’re moving?”
     “Yes. Back to my real home, at last!”
     You take yourself by complete surprise—you cry.
     “There now, what’s the matter?”
     You can only hold her close, close—and cry, and cry—wishing you needed never to let her go.
     She holds your trembling body with her firm, warm arms; whispers a gentle word in your ear; lets you soak her shoulder.
     Night closes in all around, but you cling to this beautiful light, willing sooner to die than be severed from the joy you’ve sought for eternity, the fervent love that blesses every waking moment, the consummation of your broken soul.
 

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