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Memory

Sunlight broke into the empty stable through the cracks between the wooden planks and seeped into his eyes. Adrian twitched and woke up with a jolt. His eyes examined himself and everything around him. His clothes, his watch, the stable, the hay, everything was so unfamiliar. He looked around for any sign of other people but drew a blank. He didn’t remember about yesterday. Had he had too much to drink? Did he get a blow on his head? Well, his head did seem a bit heavy. Ah, chuck it, he thought. He picked up the bag pack lying under his head and got up. He opened the stable gate and squinted as he stepped outside. He prodded down the yellowish-green field and reached a road. No sign of direction, no sign of life, he glanced down the winding road which he felt was familiar but didn’t quite remember.

He started walking, kicking up dirt as he walked, just the way he did as a small boy. He thought of his childhood very often. He’d been a naughty kid, wandering alone into creeks, waterfalls, graveyards while most of the others played lacrosse. He remembered his mother, trying to make him go out with boys his age, dressing him up for Halloween, making him candy cones for Christmas, gifting him small boxes for his birthday which she said were filled with her kisses. He remembered his mother, working all day at the mill and falling asleep at their doorstep waiting for him to come back from his adventures in the evening.

Suddenly a horn sounded, waking him up from his thoughts. A bus, out of nowhere, was rattling on the road. As the bus pulled over beside him, an old driver yelled to him from his seat to come on board. Adrian pulled out his pockets to show him they were empty. The driver chuckled and told him he’d give him a free ride as the bus was empty and he had no one to talk to. Adrian smiled as he was reminded of his father who had the same laugh and boarded the bus, to sit at the conductor’s seat as the bus started to move. They talked a while as they traveled along the dusty winding road, about how the conductor had missed today’s job without letting him know, about how people traveling by buses are becoming scarce since everyone now has a car, about the driver’s little daughter who dreams of horses and plays the piano, about anything and everything.

But Adrian fell silent as they were passing a patch of green wilderness. He told the old man to stop the bus and let him down there. The driver, albeit puzzled, did as he was told. Adrian climbed off the bus and told him he’d like to be in the wild for a bit and soak the sun and asked him to carry on. The driver smiled, waved goodbye and drove off.

Adrian walked into the high bushes and trees, falling in love with nature like he did as he was a boy. Sunlight danced on the leaves and the dew drops on them and the light breeze made him embrace the varied greens even more. He roamed about till the sun started going down. He could hear water. He walked further into the wilderness, thorns and branches scratching him as he went along in search of the source. And ah, there! He found a little stream gushing over a few fallen logs. He drank the sparkling water like it was elixir and he felt reborn again.

He walked through the tangles of leaves and flowers, secretly naming this place the Zephyr Creek.

As the wilderness started to give way to mud and dirt, he could hear the chatter of people and the sound of carts being pulled. He figured he’d arrived at a market place. And he had, indeed. He made his way through old cobbled roads, past signboards of shops and reached a small bar at the end of the road. He went in and sat at a corner, seeping in the dingy atmosphere, trying to make sense of the chaos. Suddenly someone slapped his back. He turned around to see the bus driver who’d given him a lift before! In a rush of celebration of someone’s son’s son who had got engaged, two huge glasses of beer were ushered over to Adrian who did not have the heart to refuse them. And suddenly, he became the teenage boy like he used to be, dancing around bar stools, clapping and singing aloud, trying to tap dance at every song.

As the celebrations wrapped up and people settled into corners to doze off, Adrian now a bit tipsy, walked out of the bar, singing to himself and  strolled in the moonlight. A distant bell rung in his ears and he ran towards it. A church. He smiled as he entered the brightly lit chapel. He was a happy man tonight he realized and he wanted to tell God everything. He picked up a sheet of paper and a pen from a table as he entered. He sat on a bench and wrote about the day: the memories of his parents, the cheerful old driver, the Zephyr Creek that reminded him of his childhood, the celebrations at the bar that reminded him of his teenage and now the church.

As he sat there smiling, he noticed a young woman praying at the pier. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen and there was something about her that pulled him to her. He walked up to her as she was leaving the church. They spent the entire night walking and talking. At midnight, he realized he’d fallen in love with Mel and confessed it. They sneaked into an empty stable, lit a fire and slept in each other’s arms.

The woman woke up at dawn smiling, took the sheet of paper from Adrian’s hands and put it in her bag. The 365th sheet of paper.

After a year of her marriage to Adrian, he had developed a kind of dementia which made him lose memory after 24 hours, though he could still remember bits and pieces of his early life. As his situation worsened and his treatment couldn’t be afforded, Adrian started becoming aloof and quiet. One day, he left home leaving behind a note for Mel saying he wanted to go back to being the adventurous little teenager that would make him thankful for his life and that he’d never stop loving her, no matter what, he’d come to meet her every night at the church where they’d had their wedding.

It never ceased to amaze her how destiny worked, how Adrian kept falling in love with his life every day and how they kept falling in love over and over again every day for a year. Today was their anniversary.

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