When Kate/Blue Flower goes back to her birth place she does not realize it is to be an Evanescent encounter with her past. It is just a normal assignment she decides to undertake last minute out of love when her sister Liz calls. It is not difficult to buy the air ticket and fly to this town. But Kate has not anticipated the sequence of events that follows. Yes, fifty years of staying away is a long time. Why did she stay away for so long?
No, she did not suffer from any sad memory of that place. She just left for higher education and youthful pursuit for a better future in terms of career and dreams. Yet, her sudden returning to the town sets off a chain of events which she has never thought would happen.
One morning she receives a phone call from Beautiful Flower, “Blue Flower, guess what, I have a pleasant surprise for you!” Beautiful Flower has told other classmates who still remain and they want to meet Kate too. So they have agreed to have an alumni gathering with Kate as their honorary homecoming guest. Kate is not prepared but she has to agree. How can she say no to these folks who have never left their past? Beautiful Flower continues to say, “‘You-know-who’ will be there. He is longing to see you again!”
She means a boy named Joe who used to fancy Blue Flower. Kate does not really look forward to see any one of them. She was never close to them and stayed at a distance not because she disliked them. Rather it was disinterest. Perhaps it was because she was always a dreamer, or a writer-to-be of another story, another world. While looking through old photos Liz finds a family photo. Their eldest brother Bill was 15, Liz 11, Kate 5, a younger sister Pam 3 with their mother carrying their year old baby brother Ron. Their parents were young and good looking. It was a happy family picture. Liz wants to get it printed and let each remaining sibling have a copy. But Kate does not want hers.
“Why?” Liz looks flabbergasted. “But we all look so nice in this photo!”
“I was not happy. Don’t you notice?”
“But why? Was it after mom started caning you to make you study?” Liz asks. (She always lives in forgetful oblivion and has no idea of how others live.)
“No, I was never caned. I was always the best student in class. I was just living in my own world and longing to become someone I wasn’t.” Kate tries to explain in vain because deep down she knows Liz would not understand her.
The vision first came when she was around four. She either dreamed or saw in her vision she was a prince from Manchuria. She was too young to have heard or understood anyone mention that country or dynasty. They had no television or movie then in their little town. They could not afford books. She bought her first story book at 13 when she won monetary rewards for winning top prizes in academic performance. But in her detailed vivid vision she was dressed with Manchurian royal garment as a prince and wore a sword. She led her army to fight many battles and set free those held captive by the enemies. One day she saved a princess. If it was mere story and imagination who put them in her mind and heart? She wonders now. There were many such dreams and/or visions through out the first two decades of her young life. If she was a prince she would marry a princess and not another prince. She made up her mind since then and lived that dream for six decades.
“O, please come to the alumni gathering,” Beautiful Flower continues to urge her. “They all miss you and want to see you! You know how popular you were in school! Everyone loved to read the stories you wrote! You know, they just asked me whether you have come to write a book about this town!”
What can Kate do? She is not going to disguise herself to resemble the teen they remember or expect to see. Even Beautiful Flower had a shock when Kate turned up suddenly and declared her former name (Blue Flower). She has changed into someone else. She has reached a point in her life that she no longer cares how she looks to others. At 69 it is too late to try a second makeover. She does not expect any old crushes (one-sided on their part) to fall head over heels for her again. “How to relearn a lifestyle you have never really learned, or lived, or believed? You will only end up a hypocrite.” Her conscience reminds her.
So on this evanescent evening Kate turns up at the alumni gathering as she thinks she really is now.
As she drives across that same old river she pauses on the bridge. It used to be a narrow wooden one. The government has rebuilt a new concrete bridge alongside the old one which they have kept for unknown reason. Why do people keep old things like this rickety old bridge? She wonders. The river is calm and quiet. She can see water creatures moving down there. Her sister’s Japanese car is perhaps seventeen year old, the same age of her house. It still runs strong and well. Kate finds the small car amazingly powerful. It is a rare old thing that still works so faithfully. Helping her sister means clearing off unwanted old stuff. Kate finds it easy to throw them away. But Liz hoards them. For hours she would hold a piece of old paper or a faded photo and tries to decide to keep or not to keep. She lives in terms of memories. She surrounds herself with them.
“Do I really need memories?” Kate wonders. She has discarded many long ago and told herself she did not care. Her younger sister, Pam, another fonder of old memories, last year sent her an alumni photo in which Pam was surrounded by old men who used to be boys, and Joe was in that photo. He still looks good. She was told he has always been a good man. Pam used to consider him a likely perfect potential brother-in-law. But it did not materialize. It never could have been. Pam once asked her hopefully, “What if…?” But Kate smothered that wishful thinking, “There is no ‘what if’ in my life dictionary.”
Kate looks now at the same shadowy watery path beneath the bridge. Has the water changed? Do natural elements change? She recalls reading somewhere that no water is ever the same at the same spot of a river. Why? Because water moves. So does her evanescent life. She was once so sure that her life would not change. But it has changed. She had happiness so firmly grasped in her hands but how soon it had proven her wrong. (To be continued)
For everything there is a season — a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
(Quoted from: Ecclesiastes)