Like all stories, this one ought to start with “once upon a time”. I will start mine that same way not because the story of today was not a fairy tale. I will start mine with those same words that every child falls asleep to not because the story I have to tell was in fact a fairy tale. I will start it precisely that way because of the question it keeps ringing in my head, loud and unanswered, a question provoked by the sentiment that the phrase builds up in me like an endless view. Every time that the Brothers Grim, Hans Christian Andersen, Aesop, and the like, have started their imagined story in such fashion, did they see their protagonists, both good and better, sheep and wolves, princes and beggars, to be real as they have led many to believe or did they see them as imaginary as many others would dream to meet?

    Once upon a time, there was a love story between a boy and a girl. It started when the boy was only 8 years old. He was brought up in a family where abundance was frowned upon, yet nothing was scarce. Whereas only material abundance was frowned upon, the sense of belonging, the joy of freedom, the wing of protection, the strictness of the rational, and selfless emotions were the pillars of his home. His parents made sure these ideologies got inflicted deep inside that little boy’s mind making them his guiding principles in life.

    Having all that as foundation, the boy developed, if not inherited, a personality he claimed was his own. He was shy and opted out of socializing more than he wanted in. He was closed like a can, yet he was always surrounded by many friends. He longed to share, but he didn’t know how. He was unafraid to experience, but was limited, crippled with anxiety of betraying his molded dogmas. The only peace he found was the music he was lost in, music that his own kind would not understand. If there was one word to define him, it would be: a dreamer. Dreamer, one who is afraid of adventure. Insecure, because the others were more normal than he was. Doubtful with others, more so with himself, because insecurity was doubt’s most solid base. Everything about him was contradictory. He felt no one tried to understand him. He had no intention of explaining. In fact, he found it difficult to understand himself as well. The platonic idea of love was something that perhaps gave fuel to the bubble he would not go out for no one, and let no one in but himself. In fact, he was always in love. Always in love, although he never knew how. The biggest “loves” he had were the ones that got true always and only in his dreams. Or he would find “love” in the wrong girl. Or in one much more age-inappropriate for him – kids are always fascinated by older women. They almost view them like a fail-safe until they stop dreaming and start building the bricks of their own reality. At night, that little boy would dream for hours with his eyes wide open, creating the Shangri-La for him and the girl of his dreams. He had a dream, but he always thought that realization of one’s dream is reserved for other people. In times when he had a crush on a cute girl right before his teens had erupted, he felt closer to the river down the Stone Bridge then to the girl walking next to him. He stopped, staring somewhere in the river’s brown figures while she was trying to reach out to him. No one knew what he was looking at. He didn’t either. Unaware of his mental absence, he realized that de-realization only years after. He was a very strange little boy indeed.

    As he was growing up, he had many girls. Some of them he remembered for their kiss. A few of them he remembered for their heart. Every time any of them would be his, he had already broken up with them without their consent, even without their awareness. To them, their first kiss meant a storybook love. To him, their first kiss meant the bittersweet beginning of a guaranteed end. Why? Was he too good for them? Maybe for a handful. For a whole lot of them, he might not have been even close. Yet, they all felt for him the same way he had expressed his honesty in front of them. He thought he was special. He liked to think that any of those girl’s exes were called “my ex” or “an ex” but that he would be known by his name only after the imminent end. He left them all standing in the rain without an explanation, caring not even for their slightest possible tear. As long as he didn’t see that. So he would depart long before that would happen, and without a trace. He had not been taught to play with other people’s feelings, and he felt dire that he had been playing one of its biggest symphonies. He knew exactly why he did all that. He discovered it in the years to follow.

    Many summers went by, the boy’s worn out, action-less dream became a panicked schema of a dead end street. He could not find a way. He was not even looking for one. The subtlety of his childhood’s guiding principles felt ever more distant. His subconscious longed for love, yet he strived to become what he was never made to be. The worse it felt, the harder he tried. He was afraid to give in, yet he was giving away everything he had. Then he met freedom. She came in the form of the most pleasant and unexpected encounter that he could imagine it not even in his carefully constructed dreams. When he fell in love with her the first time, he was 8 years old. Before, she had never had a name, face or history. She has always been the girl of his dreams. He could call her Cookis had he known about her. 19 years later, he put his imagined pieces of her puzzle together. Freedom was only 31 when he first met her. Her face was beyond any beauty he could imagine, her eyes exposing her soul at a humblest plate, her hair even more beautiful with the curls she hated. Her character was the one he thought every girl should possess. Her history was that of a spirit warrior.

    The moment he met her, she started being the reality he had always dreamt of. That little boy inside of him was happier than ever. He was still unaware but no longer reluctant to acknowledge it. She was the one. She was his first. Without even a dust of doubt. The first time he introduced her to his friends, they were all astonished by his act of bringing a girl to his barbed-wire inner circle. To his friends, and even to him inherently, he was single ever since anyone had met him. The second time he brought her home to his family, she was not a guest any longer. They made love. One time after that, while they were caught up making love, he stopped, looked into her eyes, and continued. She felt it. She felt that in that particular moment their eyes met, they were both in love. Almost a freckle of a moment after they were in bed puzzled together, he expressed her feelings for her. He said, almost inaudible: “I love you”. He was surprised as that phrase was foreign to him, restricted to movies and to his carefully hidden dreams. Her beautiful lips whispered the same words as reflection of his as she embedded her body into his. That night was the most beautiful night of his life. That night, his childhood pillars found their way back into their righteous place. No one believed him. He couldn’t grasp it either. He hoped she did.

    Before, any other girl was a well-paid theater extra to a show of life. Now, as she held on to him as tight as no one ever had, she was the reality of his dream; the rest of the world, the coincidental passengers and even any other girl were all extras. She was his first. She was the one. She might have had many flaws. In his eyes, she didn’t have any. She could have been married and divorced; she was still that innocent virgin in quest of the unknown. She could have a child already; he would love it like it was his own. She was the only one that could keep him at home. Never before had he counted the anxious moments while running to her embrace. They both saw their unborn children to remind them of their love even more, like the cherry gets reminded of its blossom when the time came. He was in an admitted and even more committed relationship, yet he never felt as free in his entire life. The wind he had always been she did not whither. She made it even stronger but gave its unknown path the course it had always longed for. He didn’t want to stay alone even though loneliness was always his source of emotion. She replaced all that with her presence. There was no catch, merely reality. He wrote her almost every night the most romantic inspirations for her that had been reserved ever since he was a child. She got the best out of him. And he gave her all. He only wanted her in return, with all the baggage that she might have incurred over the years. They had many months spent together. Every day lasted less than a moment. Every moment grew better with time. Until the very end.

    She didn’t have the key yet, but she made him overcome his biggest fears – she had practically moved in with him. She plunged right into his heart where she had always belonged. She was his missing piece; he was hers. She was waiting for him every time of those few moments he would take longer to touch her, just like she did on the day of his birthday. She had been preparing a moonlight dinner at his apartment – their lair. She wanted to surprise him even though she shared his similar disbelief of an absent surprise. He put his keys in the lock and to his surprise, the lock wouldn’t budge. The door was not locked, she was there, he mumbled to himself, as he couldn’t hide his honest smile. The apartment was not too big, but its emptiness echoed all over the place. He didn’t like surprises so much as he liked the idea of them but he knew she had the best prepared for him. He could feel that. She didn’t make a sound, as if she wanted him to uncover her and keep her under her grip forever. It didn’t take him long to find her, as she was spread all over the bar table like a shining diamond. The closer he got to her, the more real the two became. He touched her. His hands stopped trembling. He felt the most beautiful words coming out of her mouth. He never heard anything as close to reality, yet he heard no sound. There was no dark curly hair in the room, there were no beautiful eyes to stare at him like a heathen dancing towards the sky. There was no Cookis in the room. She was there in the form of the most beautiful birthday present that 8 year boy had ever received – a plastic card inscribed with gorgeous cursive words that no one ever before had attempted them, words that were more real than the earth above and the sky beneath. He picked up the card as he involuntarily whispered its words out of it. It read: “when you go home you will find nothing…the only thing you’ll find is the smell of burned out candles, traces of perfume on your pillow and memories of girl that should not be missed…” Those 3 dots lasted an eternity, even more powerful than the actual words. It was signed Cookis.
  That was the last scent of her he felt. What remained was the image of a story that little kind boy had long ago molded. He never went looking for her. He never asked questions. He only wanted to preserve the months that gave his long lost dream a reality, regardless that the past reality was irrevocably gone. The card was what remained to be the dust in the wind. The dream still remains. To be lived.