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daniel in love

teodros kiros

Asmara was lively. Daniel was biking through the long, asphalt streets illuminated by elegant lamps in the early summer morning through eucalyptus trees dancing in the cool breeze. The singers and their drums were doing the circle dance inside a ring, their music exploding from huge speakers stationed in the city square. The dancers line up right next to each other, and form a circle. Inside the circle they move like turtles with perfect slow movement in the beginning. They warm up a little, and face each other and move the upper body in isolation from the lower body. They rock their shoulders in perfect up and down movement, stare at each other, and smile when they are absolutely happy, accommodating the drums and the hand claps. Sometimes women dance with women; at other times, men with men. The city was celebrating St. Michael's day, and Daniel inhaled the fresh air looking up to the sky, his grateful eyes sparkling like diamonds at night. Taking in the city, walking as if he were dancing, he took a break before school, spending the morning in the city square. He bought an ice-cream cone, and sat under the generous shelter of a willow tree taking his sweet time. His body was quivering with the desire to spend so as to forget the love that had taken over him. Daniel was in love.

It was raining lightly with the sun in the background. The rays penetrated the lines of rain in shafts of glowing light. Since childhood, Daniel loved these rainy-sunny days. He picked his way slowly through the crowded streets, breathing in the mist of the morning. He was behind his time and as reached the school, he saw he was too late. Hirut was there, already walking up the steps. She moved elegantly like calm water, walking with a couple of friends. They were full of smiles. Spellbound by the beauty of the girl he had known since age five, he remembered her as she played in the neighborhood park. Hirut was shy like Daniel. Her large black eyes stared with arresting honesty. When she spoke, she never looked back directly. Her rich, almond eyes had examined countless souls through their dark corners. He had arrived at the last minute for that day, the school went for its annual picnic. It was Daniel's favorite day of the school year. He would be able to see Hirut the whole day in the green fields of Karen. Today, he had resolved to speak to her about his feelings. During lunch, he spotted her along with her two friends sitting under the shade of an old willow. He looked at her bravely. But looked away when her friend saw him. He looked again and this time locked eyes with Hirut. She was embarrassed, but returned his stare. He found himself walking toward her, straightening his hair, swallowing with his dry throat.

"How was the Math exam?" he asked her consciously loosening his tensed shoulders.

"Oh great. I love Math. He gave me 100. How did you do?"

"I got 100, too." He asked what she thought of Anna Karenina which the class had been reading. She sympathized with Karenina, she said, but she also liked Vronsky.

"His courage and his way with women is intriguing," she declared.

"I feel for Karenin, myself," Daniel said, "He was an accomplished civil servant. Serious, surely, a little bit cold, and too much interested in his public image, perhaps, self-obsessed, and a bit stuffy. Brainy, though."

"Not just a little bit cold. But, cold, cold, cold. The kind who does not know about other people's needs, particularly, his own wife's loneliness."

"But look," he said waving his copy of the book, "Vronsky was just a ladies man. Karenin was much, much more. Vronsky sensed emptiness in Anna's life. He knew she was rusting with boredom. He got right to her life without giving her his heart. Anna was another one in his long list of lonely women."

"You have it all-wrong. Women are different. This is not to say that they stupidly fall in love. Anna made the mistake of falling for Karenin's prestige and power. Then comes a light, humorous and fun man. He unlocked a chamber in her body."

He moved a bit closer to her. Daniel was pointing to a page, and for a moment they touched. She moved back shyly with a smile. He actually thought that she did not mind. Her blush said it all. The redness in her face startled Daniel. He was planning to do it again, but he was interrupted. The approaching boy, Bamboola, commanded Hirut's attention. Bamboola was one eyed. The other eye was a beautiful, light blue artificial one. Tall, immaculately dressed and with a quiet demeanor, he lived with his wealthy sister. He drove her red sports car to school each day which did not fail to attract the girls at school. He was known for his wild parties on the weekends, drove the girls to the meandering mountains of the city of Massawa, and entertained them at fancy European cafes on the mountainside. Bamboola had a way with girls.

And so it went with Daniel losing his chance. They passed each day in school exchanging smiles but nothing more. Daniel's favorite time now was gym where he could see Hirut from all sides rather than simply from behind her in his desk. Hirut was a graceful volleyball player. Her rangy legs moved her easily about the court. Often the two played on the same side, but it was the few times they competed against one another that were Daniel's favorite. On one of those days, he spiked powerfully but clumsily and fell into the net. He plunged into the other court and there for the first and last time fell on Hirut's body and hugged her tightly. Hirut grimaced in embarrassment struggling to get up from under Daniel's weight. But Daniel had entered a trance of joy. He eventually apologized, although he did not mean it. The feel of each touch was etched onto his muscles for weeks. Daniel held onto the feel of that touch as long as he could. But he could not take it anymore, so he decided to approach Hirut. On a cold, late summer day, he waited for her after school, and asked her if he could walk her home. They passed by the quiet, groved streets of the richer parts of town.

The light had been changing each day and now the late afternoon sky was purple. It felt as though the season had turned while they were in school that day. Spurred by the chill in the air, he invited her to a party at a friend's house on the following Sunday. Without saying either yes or no, she managed to express a disinterest. He got the message, and his face was intense with defeat after they arrived at her place. He opened his mouth to say something before he left, but the words refused. Instead, he turned away quietly and left her at the gate. He looked back several times to see if she was there looking at him which is exactly what he does not want. It would have been sympathy. And nobody loves anybody out of sympathy. One either falls in love, or one does not. It was her silences that told him that her heart has been given to someone else, and that she cannot share it with him. The next day, from a lonely corner, he saw her and Bamboola touching and talking intimately. Hirut swung her lanky body to let her hair brush his forehead with it. He enveloped her in his chest, and closed her mouth with a deep kiss that lasted so long, that Daniel had to abort it by shutting his eyes. The young lovers sat on the green meadows, where cattle were grazing, and shepherds were playing their flutes in the growing autumn. The couple gave their back to the world behind them. They were lost in each other's company. Daniel watched it all-- their embraces and light kisses. He saw it all. When the shepards began to gather the flocks, he left them alone.

Daniel sullenly graduated from high school. He won a scholarship and left for London. After a year, he receives a visit from a friend he had confided in. He had come to London to tell of a conversation. His had known Hirut well, and had made a point to visit her one foggy afternoon in the middle of winter. He told her Daniel's story. She heard the tale while biting her nails, and nervously combing her hair with her hands. She told him that she was totally unaware. She recalled for him, with tears, the best conversation she had ever had on Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. "Had he been as courageous as Vronsky, to have boldly approached me directly, I would have never turned him down."

Daniel closed his eyes to remember the past. He looked to the ground, straightened his tie, dried the sweat on his forehead and opened his mouth. It was all he could do. And after an awkward silence he thanked his friend and was left alone. He pulled out his diary, and read to himself, "That you took my heart the very first time I saw you. Those large chocolate dark eyes which sparkled with hope, the long curly hair, the fine legs, the broad forehead that housed intelligence, and the small mouth with which you opened a smile, and so freely threw it at everybody who dared to look at you straight in the eyes. My eyes followed the contours of your body down to your hips, leading to the legs which anchored you to the world. I examined you in vain, hoping to find faults with your body, and I was sad not to find one. That is when I knew that I was meant to suffer, that is when I sadly unraveled the truth in love, that just because one loves, it does not always mean that one will be loved in return. I learned this lesson, perhaps the hard way."

These very words later became the opening paragraph of his first novel, Daniel in Love.

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Anno 0, Numero 3
March 2004




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