Stories can be like medicine. Writing this one helped me cure some very old sores. Maybe by posting it, someone else can use it to heal him- or herself.
The introduction has actually happened to me, 15 years ago. I always kept it in mind, like the photos I never took1, wanting to use it in a story exactly like this. I guess I wasn't ready for it until now. I was 'stuck in the middle'.
1 The Call of Caffeine
Inti Raymi, summer solstice, is celebrated in my country by specific ethnic groups and cotton shoed tree huggers only.
Last year I was a spectator at such a festival. This year I was to help out, for my child's great uncle organized the festival in the area of our capital. Like every year. He could use all the hands he could get. I would come to serve drinks and sell food on the second day of the celebration. I'd go there alone, my child was staying over at a friend's house.
However, I declined the invitation to come on Saturday and sleep over at the site The Observatory. Even though public transportation on Sundays would be a quest in itself. Because I knew at night drugs and alcohol would be passed around like a peace pipe. And I'm not keen on either of them. And because I could not leave my mother alone in the house for such a long time, due to her condition.
It would take at least three buses, I had figured out, so I set off early that Sunday morning, armed with books, walkman and water to brighten up my journey. I added sandwiches for lunch, because I wasn't sure the festival food would be to my taste.
It didn't just promise to become a hot day, at dawn it was already turning into it. As I was waiting at a remote bus stop for my second transfer. I leaned against the glass window of the bus shelter. Wow, what a scorcher. I drank a bit and then shifted my attention to my backpack. I had some lovely sandwiches in there. And who knew how long I would have to do without food, once I arrived at the festival. Better start lunch while I still can, I decided and picked out the best sandwich.
Just as I was munching away my first bite, a young jackdaw landed on the sidewalk and came over to me. Oh no, not just any jackdaw. All jackdaws have blue eyes, but this one... his were superb-ly blue and so big they seemed on the brink of popping out. -They reminded me of… well never mind whom -. He tilted his head at a smart, endearing, angle and studied me and my sandwich intensely. Half and half I expected him to start talking... Nope, he kept on begging in silence.
I threw him a few bits of bread. He looked at them, as if he wanted them dearly... and wandered off. Behind the bus stop was a large field of grass. He took position there and continued his begging. Demurely I picked up the pieces and brought them to him. That was a good guess, Jack Daw started eating. Just didn't want to eat on the sidewalk. Probably too close to the -now quiet- road. I walked back to the bus stop, looking back just once. The bird was coming after me! When I stopped and turned he slowly moved back to his meal, eying me constantly. I stayed with him for a few seconds, then turned away again. Once more he came after me. He obviously wanted me to stay with him, while he was eating his -or more precisely: my- food. So I stayed during the entire ritual. Picking up a piece, looking at me, swallowing. He was almost done when I heard a familiar sound behind me. A bus passing by at full speed. Not stopping at the apparently deserted stop. The route number on the rear of the bus just told it all: I would have to wait an hour for the next one. I looked at Jack D. despairingly. “This is all your doing, you and your blue eyes.” He picked up one last crumb and flew off. Bye bus, bye bird, bye festival.
Before leaving home I had studied the map. If I remembered well, the walk would last less than one and a half hour. So I would arrive at approximately the same time as I would if I took the next bus. Because even traveling by bus, I'd have to walk, say, fifteen minutes. I did not know the exact route, but I knew in what direction to go. Summer solstice? I would use the sun to guide me. Who needs a compass or map, right?
I soon left the outskirts of the city behind me and entered a large recreational area. It was deserted. On Sunday morning even the avid nature lovers (I didn't know how avid, at that time) prefer their bed over the outdoors . As I followed a narrow path leading me to a lake, fringed by trees, bushes and small patches of grass, I thanked Jack Daw for making me miss the bus. This walk I would never forget. There were but a few cabins with no one stirring about. Just over the surface of the lake hung soft hazy clouds performing a ballet, subtly shifting shapes. In the stillness I could hear the water lapping gently over the pebbles around my feet. This was a zillion times better than the festival I was going to.
But a promise is a promise. I tore myself away from the performance and continued my journey. As slowly as possible.
If I kept on following the lake, I would have ended up traveling in a circle. So after a while I left the
bank and mingled with the trees, hoping to find a new path I could follow. Eventually I reached it, right were it made a curve. Like I was standing at a fork in the road. Now this was a problem. Judging by the sun, neither branch of the road ran in exactly the right direction. What to do?
Another jackdaw, an adult, perched in a tree, just in the middle of the curve, cawing busily.
“Well, your younger brother brought me here and now I'm lost. Where do I go now?” I transferred to him, by telepathy. He cawed again and turned his head. His beak pointing to the left. Well, why not? I took the left arm of the road.
Looking up through the trees. I had to acknowledge the forest was no less beautiful than the lake. The leaves filtered the sunlight, turning it into a kaleidoscopic game of light and shadow, darting over and past one another. And further along the road, there still was a lacy curtain of mist between the trees. I always like to play with that: as I come closer, it gradually thins out, like tab curtains, opening up deeper and deeper into the stage. Being raised for a magical play...
***** Here the story turns into fiction
The sun gained strength suddenly, probably reappearing from behind a cloud. Golden light flooded the bushes and grassy patches that still interlaced the trees. A log cabin, several yards from the road, became gilded, bathing in the rays. I had passed by all the other cabins with a quickening of my steps, but now I stood still. The golden light gave the cabin a special air. Friendly, beckoning. With a hint of magic.
This lot was not as neat and tidy as the others. There was all kinds of stuff strewn about the porch and yard. Probably a busy owner. Too busy to be bothered with housekeeping. Actually, the person in question must already be awake, since the door and windows were open.
“Inti Raymi” sounded somewhere in my conscience. Yeah right, somewhere people were waiting for me. A faint smell of coffee came from the cabin. Coffee always seduces me and makes me a most unfaithful friend and relative (and lover?). And all this awe and reverence had made me thirsty. I had been walking for almost an hour.
I'm the kind of person who never asks a taller person to get me something from the upper shelf in the supermarket. I rather spend hours wandering about than asking which way to go. And I would never enter someone's house uninvited. But I was caught and drawn to this cabin.
“Maybe,” I told myself, “I can act as if I'm only coming up to ask for a refill of my water bottle.” The porch was unoccupied, inside the house no one was to be seen. The owner might be somewhere at the back of the house. I circled around it, even calling out a couple of times. 'Though I hated to break the silence. Nobody. I stepped onto the porch. Should I go in or not? Just walk over to the tap for some water? Another whiff of coffee came my way. This was not just any coffee, it was my favorite. Almost as strong as espresso. Now who would leave his house and waste good coffee? Maybe the owner was inside, dozing over his or her breakfast? I set one foot inside the cabin. And then another. On the kitchentable stood a large thermos with 'coffee' written on it. Beside it was a large mug.
Someone had stuck a folded sheet of paper between those two, with writing so large I could not escape reading it . It stunned me. “Hi visitor. I know you love coffee. Help yourself.”