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In the Vineyard
In life and death, I sought only one being, and that person was you.
Sir, when we met for the first time, we were strolling in a vineyard, a group of us together. Bored at the thought of meaningless socializing with people I barely knew, I sat down alone with my best book. The grapevines draped down, glowing in emerald green in the summer sun, swaying in the humid breeze, passing a stream of cool air to the benches. Seldom was I distracted from the little piece of fantasy I held in my hands until a pair of well-polished leather shoes came into sight behind the printed lines of obscure words. I looked up and there you were. Our glances met, and covetously I stared into your eyes, with emerald-like pureness and chastity that carved an impression so deeply into the back of my mind that years afterward I still failed to erase that moment when I stared into the piece of emerald green void of all stains from this world.
You asked what I was reading, and I responded with a stutter and handed you the book. You sat down next to me, flipped to page one and began carefully wording every line. I peeked over your shoulder and started reading again, the chapter I was already familiar with. Sparrows chirping in the distance and grapevines swaying above our heads, time did not seem to pass by as we finished the first part. You looked up and asked whether you could borrow it for several days, and I nodded. Then you left, with a word of thanks, and I stared at the silhouette of you distancing away, down the stairs, into the greens of the vineyard. Just when you were about to fade out of sight, you turned back, and gestured a goodbye, with a smile and an emerald sparkle in your eyes. For the first time in the entire year I had been here, I found someone alive, someone who clang onto the mind and refused to let go as I did.
The second time we met was at the annual ceremony, with groups of people raising their glasses and muttering words of congratulations to one another. I stepped down the hallway, well-postured, greeting the elders with proper manners and a gentle smile. As I returned to my table with sore cheeks, I saw that on the seat next to mine, the random seat that happened to be next to mine, sat you. It must have been more than luck.
The entire event was meaningless and I was too tired to even pretend to care. You seemed to have detected my thoughts, and leaned over to whisper in my ear, “Wanna go somewhere else?”
In shock, my brain turned completely blank, but I managed to nod. And you peeked around to make sure none of the elders were paying attention before bowing down and sneaking to the exit.
I bowed down too and followed, but and in the corner of my eye, I saw an elder staring at us and gesturing for us to remain.
“He saw us,” I whispered in your ear.
“Then run.” You smiled.
And you took my hand in yours, and we ran, together, through the heavy oak doors, down the endless red carpets of the hallway, out the glamorous grand hall. For the moment time seemed to stop as my glances focused solely on the image of your smile, my attention on the texture of your skin in my palms, and my thoughts in the clouds. Down the stairs, into the vineyard, to the bench where we first met. And then you let go of my hands.
And we walked side by side, along the rows and rows of emerald green. You asked about my life before I came here, and I asked why you were not with them. We exchanged stories and our pasts, our sorrows that were endowed upon us as a gift, and the joys that turned out to be suffocatingly burdensome. How often, in the past year, I longed for a person to speak to, I made myself forget; how, as I slowly journeyed towards eternal slumber, there was still a silent craving of life left within me, was an incurably fresh memory. And then you appeared in my life.
As the sun began to set, we must return. The stairs before us were so long that it stretched into the clouds, and with every step we took, every word of guarantee we exchanged, you said that we were “entering the other world”, where our pasts no longer mattered as long as we saw into the future with the same pair of emerald eyes.
The next day, I returned to the vineyard, where we promised to meet. You did not come. All I found was my book resting silently on the bench where we used to sit.
I suspected that something of such importance happened that you had to cancel our meeting, so I forgave you and decided to wait another day.
But you did not come.
I asked around desperately for what happened. I described your appearance, especially your eyes, but no one claimed to have known anyone like you. I even checked the records and no one left in the middle of the night. I searched every yearbook I could find for your picture but I couldn’t find anything. I pleaded that, no matter what happened, you were still alive and safe and would return soon. But you did not come, as if you never existed in this world.
Three years have passed, sir, three years! I persisted because I was confident that I read your eyes as you read into my soul. Every time I passed the vineyard, my mind was full of the image of your emerald eyes, the clarity and depth when I stared into them for the first time. Whenever I missed you I would flip through the book, and I knew you were still with me somehow, thinking of me in a corner of the world where you had gone to—or another. You have mentioned several times that we would journey to “the other world”. Have you gone there?
Is it possible that you have already turned into another form of life—that every drape of grapevine, every chirp of the sparrow, and every gust of summer breeze, would mark your presence, and was your soul’s way of speaking to mine?
Or is it that you had always been another being, from another world, who landed here in my misery as my chance of resurrection?
I had no way of finding out, but I no longer mind. If there were any way of escape, if I could hold your hand once again and allow you to lead me away, I would follow by all means, and we would pass the empty hallways again and enter emerald vineyard to the other world.
In life and death, I sought only one being, sir, and that person was you.