“It was in 1989… It’s quite a long story, you sure you got time? You know how I can ramble on” he says, then chuckles briefly.
“No, please – go ahead. I’ve got plenty time.” I say to him.
“Alright, well…”. He looks to a spot on the wall in front of him, as if peering into 1989 while he rubs his hands together slowly.
“I was 17 at the time. It was in the middle of the summer, and my 18th birthday was due at the beginning of autumn. She was 18 already. I’d borrow my elder brother’s car but he’d make me do favours for him; it could be anything from cleaning his car, to looking after his kid, to buying groceries for him. Sometimes he’d just make me fill his tank. But I didn’t mind, I’d use his car maybe twice every week when he didn’t need it. I had no license, so I had to be careful not to be pulled over.
Anyway, I’d pick her up from her father’s house and we’d go to different places. We went to the beach a few times as the summer of ’89 was especially hot. Sometimes we’d just drive around, admiring different sceneries whilst having long conversations or listening to psychedelic rock albums. We had one spot though, our favourite place to go. A little drive away from town, maybe twenty-minutes. It was by the country-side, well away from city-scenery. It was an ordinary grassy plateau; nice and quiet, and there was an ambiance of purity and serenity to it.
She named it ‘Lugar de Harmonia’ which meant ‘Place of Harmony’ in Portuguese, the language she studied in high school. We’d go there maybe once a week late at night whenever I could use my brother’s car. On starry nights it was particularly magnificent. We’d gaze up at the lit sky, smoking pot while laying on the hood of the car or sitting cross-legged on the roof, making out and talking. In those moments, everything was perfect, nothing mattered. It felt as though the rest of the world was lost in the bleakness of night while we’d escaped into some far-off twilight galaxy, a utopia set aside for just the both of us. It was a rather euphoric experience.”
He pauses for a moment, and turns his gaze to the floor, hands rested on knees. The expression on his face fades out into a more sad look, like an enormous cloud creeping its way in front of the sun, dimming and eventually blocking out its shine. I remain silent and let him proceed.
“But… I knew this wasn’t going to last. It wasn’t meant to last. It always sat at the back of my mind, but I never spoke of it. She, too, knew that this had to end. And very soon. Neither of us brought it up or thought about it much. We simply enjoyed the fleeting summer days together, ignoring the impending shift which was soon to take place.”
“What do you mean? What happened?” I ask in curious desperation.
“Well, I’m not altogether sure myself til this day, if I can be frank with you. It’s just a ‘feeling’ I had, I knew something was to change. But when or why was beyond my grasp of understanding.”
His tone is far gloomier now as he speaks. His stare is still fixed on the floor and his eyes bare a faint squint of perplexity.
“The summer carried on as normal; I was working at a furniture store four days a week, this meant I had a decent amount of money which I spent mostly on books, drugs for me and my girlfriend and filling up my brother’s tank. She worked for her father’s business. Whenever we could, we’d hang out. During the course of the rest of the summer we went to concerts, on long, seemingly pointless drives, museums, art galleries, the beach a few more times, and to Lugar de Harmonia. We drove, made out, talked, did drugs, and relaxed. We enjoyed the summer dearly. I remember buying her a Kodak camera, one of the first models. We took many pictures and she kept them in a small photo-album at her father’s house.
Eventually the summer had to draw to a close, and autumn slowly eased in. It was about a week before my birthday.
“C’mon, we haven’t got long, my bro said he needs the car by 9. We’ll go drop it off then I’ll walk you home, alright?” I say to her. I hold her close then kiss her forehead.
“Alright.” she responds with her familiar smile. It reminds me of a perfect crescent moon, gleaming amid a pool of bright stars.
As we walk to her father’s house she grips my hand tightly. We both remain peculiarly silent.
“Wait,” she says. “Let’s go this way, I want to show you something”. She ambles towards a meadow a few meters away from the main road.
“What is it you wanna show me?” I ask her
“Be patient, you, it’s a surprise!”
She holds onto my right arm with both hands. Fresh grass surrounds us on this terrain she leads us through. About 10 minutes down through the meadow I see the silhouette of a tree.
“Is this what you wanted to show me? That tree?”
“Yes.” she replies, strutting earnestly towards it.
I follow her, puzzled. It looks like an ordinary Red Oak tree from our standpoint.
“You really wanted me to see this tree?” I ask her as I light a cigarette.
“It’s not just a tree” she says. “Once we’re a little closer, you’ll see.”
And undeniably, she’s right. This was no ordinary tree. I take a closer look and blink a few times to make sure my eyes aren’t messing with my head. .
“The leaves…” I utter, rather baffled.
“Seeeee… I told you.” she replies. “Come on, there’s more I’ve got to show you.”
“You mean to tell me the leaves were turquoise?!” I ask him, muddled.
“Bright turquoise. A brilliant hue of turquoise, not like I’ve ever seen it. The leaves literally glowed.” he says with a mild tinge of conviction.
I sit there at a loss.
“I have someone I want you to meet.” she confesses.
“Here? They’re here?”
She nods. “Mm-hm.”
She takes my hand and slowly walks further into the meadow. I turn back after a few yards, only to realise the tree with turquoise leaves is no longer there. In curiosity, confusion and slight paranoia, I give the scene an intricate leaf-through in search of the vanished tree. I hesitate to ask her where the tree had gone to, as the thought occurs to me that maybe more bizarre things are yet to happen on this night.
I am indeed right.
“Who’s this person y—“. I noticed she’s gone a few feet ahead of me. She stands there with her hands gently clutched together behind her back. She’s looking up to the sky, as if waiting for someone or something to appear.
“What was she waiting for?”
“Her mother.” He says. “You see, her mother died as she gave birth to her. But her spirit was reborn in the tree with turquoise-coloured leaves. So whenever she wanted, she could visit the tree and connect with her mother’s spirit which resides in the tree. At a specific time of the month, when she visited the tree, her mother’s spirit was able to manifest in her old body and appear to her in the flesh for a limited span of time.”
“So she wanted you to meet her mother. Did you meet her?”
“I sure did.”
“What was she like?”
“Right before my eyes, I saw a figure emerge from the distance. It drew nearer to my girlfriend. At that moment I had a sense it was her mother’s spirit manifested in her former human body. She always spoke of it, proclaiming to still be in contact with her mother. I never quite understood what she meant, but at that moment, I was sure that was what she had meant.
Her mother’s aura was outlandish. She radiated faint light from her body. She had this long turquoise hair, and her eyes, too, bright turquoise which contrasted profoundly with her pale skin.”
“Details become very vague and difficult to remember from here.” he says to me. “You have to understand, this was in the realm of the supernatural, so things were much distorted to my natural senses.
“All I remember is my girlfriend exchanging words with her mother before coming to me and taking both my hands in her own. She looked me deeply in the eyes and said ‘You know what time it is now, don’t you?’.
I knew. Of course. We waited upon this day, and it had to come sooner or later. Things couldn’t last forever; the drives, the highs, the beach, Lugar de Harmonia – it all had to come to an end. All good things come to an end eventually. If you force it, it’ll only get soiled and gradually, painfully deteriorate before your eyes. So I knew I had to let go.”
He pauses again.
“Let me make us some green tea.” I say to him.
When I return with our steaming cups, he sips his tea and concludes his story.
“I don’t remember exactly what happened after my girlfriend said those last words, but I never saw her again. Her, or the tree with turquoise leaves. As you can imagine I was overcome by a devastating sadness and emptiness. But I was prepared, I knew this day was to come soon. I visited the meadow every day for about two weeks and eventually accepted the fact that I’d never see her or the tree again.
On my birthday I stopped over at her father’s house and pleaded him for the photo-album which contained all the photos my girlfriend and I had taken during the summer. It seemed he, too, knew that she had to leave and be with her mother. It was a choice she’d made a long time ago. It’s something she had to do. Being absent from her mother since birth, of course she’d take the opportunity to be with her. And who could blame her?”
He sips his tea in peace, and a settled expression rests upon his face.
“Have you been to Lugar de Harmonia since your girlfriend went to be with her mother?”
“No. It’d be too heart-wrenching and lonely. That was our place of harmony. Going there by myself would feel incomplete, like a beach with no sand, or a night-sky with no stars or moon.”
“I guess you’re right.”