S3: The Old Wall

An old crumbling wall stands in the middle of town square. It is in a town where old crumbling walls are the norm. This wall had once been used to guard a palace against intruders. The palace had turned to dust decades ago, and had been replaced by more modern architecture. This wall is now accessible to the public from both sides. There is a legend that says one of the stones that was used to build this wall is magical, and if a person inscribes their wish on that stone, it will be granted. So this ancient wall, which had originally been used to keep the poor and hopeless away, has now become their confessional. Locals and tourists alike scratch out their wishes on the wall with hopes that they chose the right stone. One area of the wall holds an inscription of a person asking their son not to die. In another area a person asks to be able to have children. In the middle of the wall, there is an engraving of a person who hoped to find a job. Two feet from the ground someone wrote about how they want to own a doll with blue eyes; this wish was probably written by a child. Various names are seen through out the wall; these names belong to disbelieves who want to leave their mark in this town. But this story isn’t about the markings on the wall. It’s about an old man who walks next to the wall; a man whose youth had disappeared from his face years ago, and whose eyes carefully examine every stone, as he searches for a message he should have looked for fifty years ago.

He remembers her at seventeen, her hair going in different directions as the wind blew through it, her dark eyes with their blank stare, and her delicate small hand that clutch her red skirt to keep her from tripping over it as she runs towards him. He remembers her standing next to him, her hair disarray, her eyes still blank, as she flashes him a colossal smile and says “I have the most hilarious story for you.” They had been neighbors his whole life, and she had always been his companion while they were growing up. When they were children he would spend the afternoons playing ball with her, and chasing her tiny body through the alleys of their town. When they became older, they would spend their free time walking next to the old wall, and mocking all the wishes they saw written on it. However, this was the first time that he realized how beautiful she was. And he kisses her, a kiss that interrupts her story. It is their first kiss, but not their last. She glances at him with her vacant stare, grins, and continuous her story. “My uncle finally lost it! He wants to name his upcoming baby Lawyer because he thinks that will make it become a lawyer.” She continuous on with her story, but he doesn’t care about her crazy uncle, and he can only think about how strange it is that he never noticed her beauty, and before she leaves that day he gives her another kiss.

Over the next few months they take walks next to the wall as usual, but now their walks include kisses at very possible moment. She never reacts to the change in their relationship, not with her eyes which still remain empty, and not with her voice which only mentions trivial subjects. One day he asks her why she never comments about them kissing, and she replies “what’s the point? We are of different religions, and our parents would never let us marry. I see no point in discussing something that has no future.” He tries to convince her that she’s wrong, that they will be able to figure out a way to be together, but she refuses to listen. “Let’s just enjoy our time together,” she tells him and changes the subject.

He goes off to the university because in this town it is the norm for boys to go far away to school. They exchange letters while he’s gone. His letters are filled with promises of love and passion, he compares her to the bright yellow sun, the composed fluorescent moon, and to the multicolored wildflowers that grow outside his window. Her letters are filled with amusing anecdotes about her family and friends, and she only mentions nature if she is talking about the weather. He sits in his room at night, not studying, but staring at his rigid white ceiling, and he recalls her laugh, her dimpled smile, and the way she refused to take no for an answer when he didn’t want to help her save a baby bird. He decides he must figure out a way for them to be together.

When he comes home for break they decided to meet  at the old crumbling wall. “I’ve missed you”, she tell him. “Perhaps we might figure out a way to marry.” He knows he should be happy that she’s willing to discuss a future with him, but he feels uneasy. For when he sees her walking towards him, with her messy hair and dark blank eyes, he realizes that despite what he wrote to her in his letters, he can imagine a life without her. And when he kisses her it is because of obligation and not desire. As the weeks go by and their plan becomes more concrete; his body gets consumed with doubt. He is certain that he loves her, but he no longer feels that love is worth the consequences he would have to endure if he marries her. However, he was raised in a time when honorable men keep their promises.

He goes back to school, and they continue to exchange letters. All of the sudden the letters stop. His letters start coming back to him unopened. He spends a month in agony, not understanding why her pen has been silenced. Finally the long-awaited letter arrives, and in it she informs him that her dad has found out about their correspondence, and has forbidden her to write to him. She also mentions that she will meet him at the wall when he comes home for vacation, and they will finalize their plan for a secret marriage. He reads her letter over and over, trying to find meaning in between her neatly written words, but all he sees is the realization that when the consequences from their marriage will arise , he will have to be content with their love for each other. He commits to memory the misery he felt during the month she had not written him, and he decides to recollect that month anytime he feels doubt about his decision.

He watches the sun disappear behind trees as he waits for her next to the old wall. She finally arrives, walking slowly towards him. Her hair is neat; her arms hang calmly at her side, and her dark eyes which are usually void of any emotion, are filled with sorrow. “Was it difficult for you to sneak out, and do you have to be home soon?” he asks her. “I didn’t sneak out,” she answers. “My father let me see you so I can say goodbye, and I can stay for only a few minutes. We are moving from this town, from this country, only my father won’t tell me where because he doesn’t want you to find us.”  Her eyes well up with tears, and they start to roll down her oval face, vanishing from sight when they fall off her chin. “I have an idea,” She continues. “On the day that we move I will ask my father if I can go look at the wall one last time, perhaps to make a wish; when I get to the wall I will carve my new address on one of center stones, and when you are done with school, you will be able to find the address on the wall and come find me.” “But how will I know if the address is yours?” he asks her. “I’ll write a message under the address, and when you see that message, you will know that it was written by me.” He gives her a kiss. His eyes observe her face, and he wants to tell her a few words of comfort, anything that will take the unhappiness out of her eyes. So he utters the only words he can think of at that moment. His words seem to do the trick because the tears evaporate from her face, and her eyes regain their usual blank stare. She smiles at him, gives him a kiss that would be their last, and whispers a response to his words in his ear. He watches her walk away, her back straight, her hair long, her hands unclenched, and he makes a promise to himself that he will see her again.

The old man walks next to the old crumbling wall, and becomes exasperated because he cannot find the message she had written him. He remembers the first day he stepped into his parent’s house as a university graduate. He had excused himself to go to the wall, fully intending to find her address. But as he walks near the wall, an overwhelming wave of uncertainty stops him in his place. He is not close enough to the wall to be able to read its inscriptions. Is she really worth it, he asks himself. If I never see the address I cannot be blamed for not finding her. He decides that he is not ready to know where she lives, and when he truly decides he wants to marry her he will go search for her address on the wall.

It has been fifty years since that day. The old man wonders about his first love, where she lives, what she did during her life, if she ever married, if she had children, if she forgave him for not keeping his promise to her,  and most importantly if she is still alive. Finally his eyes come across her address. He knows it is her address because underneath it are written the last words he ever spoke to her. “You can’t stop the world from turning, so you might as well turn with it.” He looks at her inscription; it is faded and barely visible, and soon it will probably become a place where someone new writes their wish. The old man, who spent his whole not believing in any kind of magic, picks up a jagged edged rock, finds an empty space on the wall, and scratches out the last words she ever spoke to him, “and may you be happy with every turn.” Somewhere in a town far away; a place where old crumbling walls are only seen in textbooks; an old woman smiles.

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4 Responses to S3: The Old Wall

  1. What a beautiful, touching story. I’m glad you shared it with us. thanks.

  2. Nicole says:

    Wow! Beautiful, beautiful piece! It’s filled with emotion.

    “You can’t stop the world from turning, so you might as well turn with it.” – I love this quote.

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