My knees are not as strong as they used to be.
”You old goat, don't you realize you are getting old,” my body said as the old man in me refused to take the elevator.
I almost regretted my decision when I gazed at what was once a no challenge in my youth, had become my personal Mount Everest. With each climb I was reminded that the years have gone ridiculously fast. I have never climbed the real Mount Everest, but as I reached the last step of stairs, I truly felt on top of the world. A euphoria I cannot find anywhere else.
My shaky fingers fumbled for the house key when I heard a whiny bark and a woman's squeaky voice saying ”Luna, come inside”. A ringing noise like a metal hitting something hard made me hold my breath. I prayed a silent prayer that Mrs. Robinson did not hear me. I could not deal with her chattiness and larger-than-life personality today. I closed my eyes and listened intensely for heavy climbing footsteps, but all I heard was a door shut and then silence.
“Thank you, Luna,” I whispered. I could always count on Luna demanding a second walk.
“Let me help you with that,” said a gentle voice. I opened my eyes and what came next could only be described as bouncing between exhilaration, euphoria, trembling, a racing heart, as well as anxiety and panic, as God's most beautiful creation appeared before me. Looking into her eyes reminded me why the color green has always been my favourite color. It felt like I've stared into those eyes almost my entire life, and yet I can't remember ever meeting her.
She picked up the key and put it in my hand. Her touch made my body act in such a way I have forgotten. It was overwhelming but in the best possible way.
“My name is....,” I said. Confused and agitated I repeated the words, but my mind was like a blank canvas. Why couldn't I remember my own name?
For a second I thought I saw a look of confusion on her face, and then she smiled at me and introduced herself as Beth. She told me my name was Henry. I believed her.
“Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?” I asked. I was stunned by my own straightforwardness but Beth did not seem to take offense, and to my surprise, she accepted my invitation.
”What are we having for dinner?” she asked. I felt a huge knot in my stomach, a frustrating powerlessness in the moment, where no matter how hard I tried, I suddenly can't remember what we are having for dinner.
“Henry,” she said and took my hands into hers, “Let me help you.” The way she said my name gave me a sense of calm and stability in the midst of, and what felt like, a hazy fog. It was so thick it literally slowed me down.
Beth had me seated on the chair while she set the table.
“Strawberry chicken salad, your favorite dish,” she said and put the plate on the table. I waited for her to sit down and eat with me, but she insisted on getting something in the living room. When she came back she had that smile that said 'everything will be OK'.
I heard soft music played from the living room. The rhythm was unfamiliar to me at first, but then as if the smoke curtain had fallen down, bits and pieces of my life came back to me and I remembered something – I used to hate strawberries. When I was a young boy there was a bakery nearby my home. A lovely girl used to work there. Her eyes were startlingly vivid colors of emerald and her hair shimmery color amber. I called her my strawberry girl. I always bought a strawberry cake from her, because it was her favourite kind of pastry, even though I hated strawberries.
That same girl was now sitting in the kitchen with me. The lustrous amber color had faded with age and turned silvery-white. But she was still as beautiful as I remembered her. My lips moved with the melody. The song she played was our song.
“Beth,” I said.
“Yes, Henry?” she replied.
“Happy anniversary dear.”
“Happy anniversary my love,” she smiled.
Beth had such an effect on people around her. Her simple smile would fade all the worries. I know my memory is not what it used to be, and one day I will no longer be me, but one thing I'm certain of, and that is I will always love my strawberry.
- The End -
© Sandra Nguyen