The International Writers Magazine: On Travel and People

Summer of Sadness
Colin Todhunter

t is 2045, summer and a near perfect day. There is an old woman sitting alone at a street café in Scandinavia. No one notices her and no one cares about her, just another aged person, whose time has passed, surplus to requirements and a relic from the past.

Beneath the wrinkles, creases and the withering body, I still recognise her. How could I forget? Under the facade of old age I can still see the woman she once was. The skin may be worn and the body fragile, but those once bright blue eyes faded by time still manage to sparkle.

I recall that sparkle from 40 years back, when I knew her in India. She was in the full bloom of womanhood. I told her so. Her beautiful bone structure, long flowing hair and friendly disposition drew me to her immediately. Looking at her now, all these years later, it would be hard for most to imagine that I fell deep and I fell quickly for that woman across the way now shrouded in her winter years.

The thing is however that I could never really imagine back then that such a woman as her could ever grow old. But if time teaches us one thing, it is that youth is fleeting and illusionary. It's something that none of us can hold on to.

But I always knew deep down that her beauty was doomed. That exuberant woman I knew back then could only ever be a fleeting moment. And I was acutely aware that the time I spent with her would pass and fade so quickly. When I was with her I thought about the eternity that she would be gone. And when she had gone I became obsessed about the time she had been with me. That's why I used to treasure every moment. She would not come this way again.

Can any of the people at the café possibly imagine that this old woman was once young and glowing? And when she perhaps sat at the same street café 40 years ago, across from some other old woman, could she ever have imagined that that woman was once as young as she or that some day she would look like her?
And now when she looks in the mirror, does she yearn for her long lost youth, her wrinkle free beauty, of a time when men, unlike now, would give her a second glance in passing and certainly a third? Can she recall how she captivated and enchanted? Or is the mask of old age all she sees. I hope not; she should remember.

I knew her when she had most of her life in front of her, when she radiated. Although I see the aged person she has become, in my mind's eye she will forever look like she did back in India; frozen in time, exquisite.

I couldn't hold on to her and she couldn't hold on to her youth. I never forgot her. The years may have dissolved but my memory of her never did. Doomed as those times were, the echoes from the past have never died.

I get up from my table, hobble toward her's and sit opposite. I introduce myself and say a few things. She remembers me and speaks English in that Jutland accent I have not heard for so long. She smiles, her eyes glow and the years fall away. Suddenly and somehow we are in India all over again and it is our first encounter. She has just flown in and she tells me her name. And as I tell her mine I think to myself... "If God ever existed, and if he was ever a sculptor, he would have sculpted a person out of the earth’s finest materials and lavished the clay with haunting elegance. Then when finished, he would call it woman. This woman."

© Colin Todhunter October 2006

More from Colin and India in Hacktreks 2 and Hacktreks 3


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