There I stood on the dilapidated bridge, leaning against the rails in monotonous slumber, gazing at the old river run along in perennial hurry. It was a slow morning. Nothing seemed to move other than water. Not even time. The weather was drenched in sorrows of its own. The rains wouldn’t stop. It never did. It was raining yesterday as well. I remember it clearly. The cyclone that ravaged our town and left it in ashes. Even though I probably slept last night like I’ll never wake up and I somehow feel a little tired, I do remember everything, every tiny detail. After all, it was just yesterday.
Dear old Martha of the Mary Inn couldn’t survive it, nor could her two little grand-kids. It was terrible. I still remember Martha’s face, half-alive, half-dead from making her way back from beneath the river, even at her age, and stepping out of the water only to find the cold corpses of little Sam and Cindy in front of her, littering the shore. She couldn’t fight anymore. There was no reason to, not anymore. She fell right there.
Brother James had lost his wife Lily to the cyclone earlier that day but he kept on trying his best to save anyone he could. He was wailing inside, I could feel it, but he never showed it. All the folks ever saw was that compassionate smile sewn to his face, a painful mask to hide the untold misery eating his very soul away from within. But there was no time to dwell on that, to dwell on emotions. They didn’t matter. Not right now. People needed to be helped, to be saved. And brother James kept running from one end of the town to another all day long.
There were the couple who lived next door to us, the lovable Smiths. Only last month had they celebrated their 50th marriage anniversary. Both me and my wife Sarah were invited to their little get-together. Robert Smith was usually a stoic man who wouldn’t let anyone have the faintest glimpse of what he felt and Samantha Smith was the exact opposite, always full of words, warmth and kindness. Sarah loved Samantha and I respected Robert. But that night was something else. We got to see a different shade of Robert, a shade neither me nor Sarah had ever seen before. He was open, happy and full of words for his lovely wife. And Samantha was the star that lit up that evening. Their love of half-a-century was still as strong and as magical as ever.
Later that night, Sarah would playfully nag me to give her a similar night 45 years later. “I deserve it Will,” she’d whisper and smile. We were just 5 years married and for us to see love like the Smiths’ had was overwhelming and fulfilling. Now Samantha was sitting just ahead of the corpses of Sam, Cindy and old Martha, beside Robert, clutching his cold, dead hands. Without tears and without words. A broken, hollow shadow of the joyful being she once was. Sarah would’ve broken down to see what I saw. I’m glad she never had to see Samantha like that. Or Robert. Or Cindy. Or Sam. Or any of them.
It was already evening as I stood on the bridge reminiscing about yesterday. The rains still hadn’t stopped. The sky was as dead as ever. I began to walk back the familiar path to home. The old cemetery fell on the left of my path. I made my way in. I walked past the flowers gracing the tombstones of Martha, Sam, Cindy, Robert, Lily, the Bishops, the Winchesters and uncle Henry. And there she was, Sarah, resting peacefully. Away from all the death and grief. Away from the gloom and dark that always disturbed her. I looked nowhere else, moved nowhere else. My eyes fell on the writing in front of me.
Here lies Sarah Wordsworth, a loving wife and a worthy friend.
Indeed she was.
The birds were making their way back to their homes. It was almost dark now. I wished Sarah goodbye and traced my way back to the gates and onto the road. A little girl and her father were walking just ahead of me. They looked happy and cheerful.
I’m glad it didn’t rain today, daddy. We wouldn’t have been able to go see the fair today if it rained! I’m so happy! It was amazing!
I’m pleased for you dear. Now keep your eyes on the road and let’s get home before it’s too late. Your mother must be very worried.
But daddy we’ll be here next year as well right? Bonnie and Rose kept saying the 2014 fair would be even better. All my friends would be here daddy, I want to be here. Please daddy?!
Okay okay, we’ll think about it but hurry along now!
They walked ahead of me and melted into the ubiquitous darkness. I just stood there, frozen. The feet wouldn’t move forward. I walked back to Sarah. I walked a step forward and stood in front of the grave beside hers that, somehow, I hadn’t noticed before. My knees gave way.
Here lies William Wordsworth, loving husband, loyal friend and a valiant warrior. Sacrificed himself to save his fellow men.
I smiled as I lay down on the ground, looking up at the starry skies. Taking a gulp of the fresh evening air in, I closed my eyes and opened them again.
I was standing on the old bridge. It seemed a slow morning. I slept well last night but I was still oddly tired. And it was raining. Just like yesterday..