_the other story

It’s been so long since his name was last heard...

Since everything has changed and started to seem dark. All of a sudden, everything that was beautiful fell in pieces into time’s sharp claws.

Day by day her memories got scarce… And she knew that it all ended up like that because of him. He was always so afraid of getting hurt again. Always repeating the same old question every time they met: “Are you staying?” No, she was not staying and wouldn’t be back either unless he would use every single word to say, letter by letter, what she was willing to hear: “Don’t go. Stay with me.” She’s always thought that he didn’t want it, but he also couldn’t understand why she never called, why she never said anything? But she did: she wrote, every day, stories about kings in distant kingdoms, loved by their queens like no one before. She told their story more times then he could possibly read. But he didn’t understand it.

There was a time when she simply couldn’t avoid him to be her first thought in the morning and the last before closing her eyes at night. He was everywhere: in every meal, every movie, and every book. Even being so far away, his absence was a tangible presence.

Life has passed by, years were gone, but even having their names forgotten somewhere in the past, both of them had each other kept in some corner of their minds. It was a name to be thought of when the sky was red. It was a story to remember when the fluid would leak out of the zippo’s sponge greasing their hands. It was something to be remembered in full moon nights, alone in the beach, alone in the dark, alone… Just a memory.

She used to come back - she was always the one to come back. He needed time and she gave it to him, as a gift…. But time was gone with no warning.

Silver hair fell over her face in that cold morning, while she warmed her hands in the coffee mug turning the computer on so she could write. In days like these your fingers hurt if they’re not warmed up to key. This cold weather freezes the back of her feet. This cold weather freezes her hands making her feel each tendon when she tries to reach the keyboard. Pajamas, scarf, wool socks, coffee, cigarettes and her zippo, that was all she needed to spend winter writing.

The addiction that had become reading her e-mails, interrupted her fifteenth attempt to start a story. She opened her work emails first, then some discussions groups and countless junkmails coming from the most absurd products, and she didn’t have any urge to read anything, except for a name that caught her eye, a name that was seen before.

You probably don’t know who I am, but I know who you are. I need to talk to you about my dad. He’s an old friend of yours, and I think it’s time for you to know what is happening to him. Please, reply this e-mail with your phone number, and I’ll call you today.
I really need to talk, so please don’t ignore me.


She read it and read it again, trying not to be taken by any lost memory. Who else could that be? Was that a joke? No… no one would ever joke about such a serious issue. How old could that kid be? Twenty three? Twenty four years old?

He protected this kid from her as if she would harm him. Neurotic! He’d never allowed her to meet the boy, ever. Not to let his kid get hurt had become his life and he knew that she was so lovely and the boy would certainly feel safe in her presence, but as she was not staying, the boy would miss her as much as he would.

If he only knew the pain he caused…

Mariana was open, given, cheerful, and transparent! He received everything she was willing to give to him, and got drunk with this love so violently, but after all, he’d keep every little crumb of love she had left behind from a gesture, a piece of clothing or a gift she’d brought him. And nothing left to her. She has always left her heart behind, taking only the greatest dream of all: to hear him saying “STAY!”

With no second thought she answered the email and couldn’t write any other line. She wouldn’t exist until the phone rings once, but it would only happen in the next day, when her cell phone finally vibrated. She picked it up.

- Hello

- Mariana?

- Yes, who’s this?

- Tarik Ross.

- ...

- You don’t know me… I’m Daren’s…

- I know who you’re Tarik. I just wanted to be sure.

- Mariana, I don’t even know how to begin.

- How’s your father doing?

- Well, he’s not that fine.

- What happened?

- He’s ill, Mariana. He’s dying.

- What? What’s the problem, Tarik?

- He’s not sick or anything. He just lets this huge depression take him over. He doesn’t have any physical symptoms, but when he does it’s all about his depression taking its toll. He’s giving me a lot of work because he won’t eat, won’t go out of bed, he won’t get out of the house. He’s underweight and sometimes I have to take him to the hospital so he’ll be nurtured. It’s too damn hard.

- My God, Tarik, but…

- I’m sorry I’m calling you, but I’ve been looking up his stuff. I read things you’ve written to each other, I thought I had to find you.

- You’re saying he still have the things I wrote him?

- Everything. It’s been a long time I’ve been hearing your name, Mariana. Since I got a bit older he started talking about you. Last year was when he most mentioned your name, told me stories, showed me your pictures.

- He really did it?

- Yes. I’ve seen a picture of yours that has been in his bedroom since forever. He used to say that that was the most gordious girl he had ever met.

- He has a picture of me in his bedroom?

- You have no idea of the things he has… And I… I don’t know how to say that...

- Speak up, Tarik.

- Mariana, I’m afraid he’ll die without seeing you once again.

Mariana’s eyes were wet since she first heard Tarik pronounce her name, but now the weight of the old promises done barefoot on the sand fell on her shoulders, bringing back a river of tears.

- What about you, Mariana? Are you okay?

- Oh Tarik... I’m the same. Sitting here looking to these twenty six letters in my keyboard, wet eyes, trying to find out if I'll explode in joy for knowing I’ve always been present to your father’s life, or if I'll die for I’ve lost him for such a long time. Today, like twenty years ago, nothing has changed.

- But... do you have somebody?

- No. I’m a widow for ten years now. What do you want from me, Tarik, be clear.

- I want you to invite you to come over and stay close to him, Mariana. I think you can save my father.

It was such a whirlwind of memories coming back, fears, joy, tears, everything at the same time. What is this life that makes people wait twenty years to find each other and actually only do it shortly before death?

Mariana cried that day, more then the last five years, remembering all the nights she lied in her bed asking to dream of him. In her dreams, his hugs were real. He, the king of all embraces… There was no hug like his, not even in ten thousand love stories.


The sea was calm as every other day at the canal. White sails and boat engines drawing white traces in the water, warning us the day had begun. Little by little the windows opened to let the summer sun come in with the tide breeze and seagulls playful noises. That’s how it was every single morning at the Ross’ house.

The whole place was filled with weird feminine details if you considere that it was a house of two men. There was this bucolic tone given by shelves surrounding the room, exposing delicate pottery from the depression era.

Through the opened window we can see the city’s endless blue sky, the canal and the sea, the seagulls and the lifeguard’s tower that kept the secrets of Mariana and Darren Ross’ story.

- Dad, would you come down for breakfast?

Tarik sets the table putting a cereal box on it.

- Dad! Come down!

With no answer, impatiently he goes upstairs and opens his father’s bedroom door.

- Dad, breakfast’s ready!

- Go ahead and eat it.

Daren is lying in his bed looking impossibly skinny. He was once a strong healthy man, handsome with his golden skin and shinny eyes that were now dull for his constant sorrow.

- I’m not eating without you, dad. By the way, what a great idea! If you don’t eat I don’t eat. Then you’ll have to get out of that bed to take care of me.

- Oh, kid... Don’t do that to me. Leave me here and go for your life.

- Dad... There’s no “my life” with you lying there.

The telephone rang at the head table interrupting the conversation – which seemed to make Daren happy, since he had gained a few more minutes of peace.

Tarik answers the phone:

- Hello? ... Hi. Where are you? ... Good! No, not at all, I insist.

Tarik turned his backs and spoke softer to avoid being heard by his father.

- No, I invited you, come home.

He hangs up and goes back to his father:

- Dad, come on, get up.

Daren asks sitting on the bed.

- Who was that?

- Nobody.

- Who is “coming home”?

- Life! Life’s knocking on the door! If I were you I’d get all dressed up to have breakfast, because “Life” itself will find you wearing these terrible pajamas!

Daren got up complaining and walked towards the bathroom.

- Life! ...Ha! Life has taken me down. Now it wants to ruin my breakfast!

Tarik threw a towel at his dad.

- Go ahead and take a shower, you look like dirt!

- Ah!

Daren shut the door whining and babling from inside the bathroom.

- If I knew you’d grow up to boss me around, I’d leave you wih your mom, to become a fucking nerd!

- No way, old man! I’d be here anyhow.

Daren opens the door again:

- Is that your mother who’s coming down?

- No dad, relax! No one’s coming down.

- Oh, good! That would be a killer!

Tarik went downstairs laughing, happy for his father was up and more talkative than usual. Complaints are all he has to say, but still, it’s better than when he seems not to be in this world.

Later on, the bell rang. Tarik opened the door to find Mariana, with her silver hair messed by the wind, staring at the sea, backs to the door. She had a big red suitcase; a handbag and a lost look into the sea.

- Mariana?

She stood still, and with a sigh she turned her head to him.

- When you gave me the address, I couldn’t imagine this was the house.

- Have you been here before?

- I’ve been here once, many years ago. Does the tower still exist on the beach?

- My father’s tower? Sure. At the same spot.

Mariana smiled to Tarik.

- Welcome to my house.

- Thanks Tarik. You look just like your father…

- Can’t deny. And you...looks like time’s a friend of yours.

- I wish! Let’s do it? Face the beast?

Tarik got her suitcase and made room for Mariana to go in first.

- He doesn’t know you’re here.

- What? But he should know!

- I couldn’t tell him. Trust me...It will be fine.

They both got inside the house quietly. Mariana could only hear the loud heart beat inside her chest, like it’d come out of her mouth any time soon, but her face couldn’t hide the smile.

Tarik took Mariana by her shoulders looking straight into her eyes:

-Thank you for coming. You don’t know what it means to me.

Mariana pulled Tarik close to her and held him for a long time.

-You don’t know what it means to ME… You know what? I always wanted to hold you like this?

He led Mariana to the kitchen and went up the stairs:

- Dad?

- Who was that?

- Mail! There’s a package for you.

- Oh! I thought it was “Life”! Leave it there. It’s probably nothing.

- I think it is something.

Daren appeared at the top of the stairway.

- Why so?

- Because it’s from Brazil.

- From Brazil?

Daren went down the stairs faster than he actually could and slower than an average person

- Where is it?

- Don’t run like that, dad.

- Oh… I’m old but not dead. Where’s the package?

He walked around the living room looking for the package without finding it. Mariana got at the kitchen’s door, leaning over it calmly:

- Here.

Tarik would not move waiting to know what would be his father’s reaction. Daren, who was agitated, froze… Turned around slowly, still in disbelief of the voice he had just heard. At the door, Mariana had an open smile on her face, her black eyes were shining like it used to years before. During a few seconds – almost eternity – this is what happened: Daren was paralyzed by Mariana’s bright eyes, she was smiling at the door staring again at the only face her tricky mind would not allow her to forget, Tarik slowly sat on the steps while the silence remained. Only the seagulls dared to move outside…

But Mariana’s voice broke the silence:

- In my story, this is your cue to hold me.

Daren couldn’t move, but something in his eyes has changed. An old spark seemed to be suddenly born again, bringing a discrete smile, but a happy one.

- In my story, this is your cue to walk towards me.

Without a word, Mariana went out of her spot and walked to the living room getting closer to Daren. As she got close enough, she moved her face slightly barely moving her lips, asking what else should she do.

A few more seconds of these shinning eyes and eloquent silence…their eyes speaking louder than tongues ever could in all the years that passed. Daren and Mariana were just standing there, straightening out the reasons that brought them apart for such a long time, watching that sad movie inside each other’s eyes, while emotional Tarik just saw it all happening. Not a single word spoken.

Daren took his hand to Mariana’s face. She closed her eyelids and leaned her head against the big hand she had written about so many times. He moved his fingers around her eyes, her lips, pushed the silver hair strands out of her face and smiled. Mariana had tears in her eyes again, just like many times before, just like always. Daren have always had the power to move her just for being him. Daren’s look has always been her weakness, and his presence always her surrender.

Daren leaned his forehead against hers and said:

- What took so long…?

They both hugged crying.


Should I continue?


Alice Salles said...

Ah, you don't need to continue...

MgMyself said...

No...it's finished. Over. Kaput.