I sat on the bench watching them. Ryan was taking photographs of his wife and child. I didn't want to be seen by them. My hat and scarf covered most of my face. It's been a long time since Ryan and I met. The riverside was our favorite meeting place. Sitting on this bench, we used to watch the tourists on the bridge. I was always fascinated by the style and trends of the travelers from the big cities. But, Ryan always complained about the outsiders for muddling the serenity of our village. For me, the bridge was a gateway to a new life and for Ryan; the bridge was something he never wanted to cross.
Ryan's daughter started to cry. He took her in her arms and started walking holding his wife's hand. I watched the family walking away until they vanished from sight. I stood up and started walking along the riverside to the bridge. The shades of dawn had embraced the water. I looked at myself in the water. I removed my hat and scarf and tried to smile. No, I don't resemble the village girl of this countryside anymore, and perhaps I could never become one ever again. I tried to smile again . . . A wave came from nowhere, and I was not to be seen.
The bridge has changed a lot since I left. The side railings have weakened, and there is no signboard at the entrance. There are not many tourists except an old couple. Ryan must be glad that the village no longer attracts the travelers. He was true. This place has a soul, a soul which fastens everyone to the tranquility of this village, a soul which made me return here in search of my reason for existence.
Seven years back, when I left this place with nothing but dreams and ambitions, Ryan was the only one to whom I felt I owed an explanation. I didn't let anything outweigh my dreams, even Ryan. "Beyond this bridge is a colorful life. Big jobs, mansions, money, fun . . . It's a swirl. But at a point in life, this swirl will make you lifeless, lackluster and then you will feel unadorned. You will search for something you left behind, and you will not know what you are looking for. If such a moment arises in your journey, come back here and take a walk in this riverside. This place has a soul to which we all are tied. You will find what you have lost here." Those were the lines in his last letter to me. As time passed by, his letters became unanswered and later unopened.
Why did I come back here? What was I searching for? What did I lose? Looking towards the city from the bridge was exciting for me years before. I would fantasize living in a luxury apartment with spectacular views of the city and working in skyscraper while Ryan quietly watched the water gleaming in the Sun. Now, I stand here absorbing the mesmerizing Sunset into my eyes. The distant view of the city from the bridge fills me with a kind of suffocation as if I am I tied to strings . . . Strings of desires . . .
Do I miss Ryan? I have been asking myself this question since a few days. Was he the reason why I dismissed two important client meetings and packed my bags to this village? He seemed to be in love with his family and for a moment, I regretted leaving him behind. But on the other hand, I have my dreams achieved. Dreams . . . That took me away from him. Dreams . . . That took me away from this land. Dreams . . . That took me away from the soul.
I miss Ryan. I miss this riverside where I spent my evenings with him. I miss the bridge where I watched the Sunset with Ryan. I miss those paths lined with maple trees where we walked holding our hands together. I miss the big oak trees and their shades where we sat down for reading books. I miss the small coffee shop where we had meals after Church on Sundays. I miss the hills which we climbed just to see the tulips blooming. He is the one who gave life to this place. He is the one who made my days here meaningful. He is the soul to which I am tied. He is the one I came looking for.
One should learn to forget, and the city makes it happen. I looked towards the city. I said, "Make it happen. Give me more swirls for I don't wish to cherish my memories." I walked towards my car. The church bells rang in the village . . .