This is a story I wrote some time ago, close to two years I think. Few have read it other than me. It is the last short story I have written from beginning end. I am unsure if there will ever be another
Paradise Found, Once Removed
We met by some strange coincidence on a cold, rainy windswept day. Both of us had been caught by surprise by the sudden, violent downpour and had each of us scrambling for the front door of a local neighborhood coffee shop. We literally ran into each other from opposing directions as we madly sought refuge from the combined onslaught of cold wind and heavy rain.
There are times in such instances where one or both of the people involved curse or exhibit various stages of impatient irritation. But there was no such emotional expression by either of us. Our eyes met and stayed held fixed of the features on the others’ weather beaten face for a brief passing of time. Then, as if engaged in premeditated synchronicity, we smiled at exactly the same time. Our hands had been resting one on top of the other on the door handle without the slightest realization.
“Sorry,” I said and removed my hand
“Why?” she replied, “I didn’t mind.
“Let’s get out of this hellish rain before we both end up hospitalized for pneumonia.”
“I’ll buy the first round. You get the second.”
“And then …. She paused for a second or two and let the imagined possibilities run through my less than pristine imagination. “And then, maybe we can find someplace to warm ourselves and get out of these brutally wet clothes.”
We went inside and found a place to sit in a far side, isolated corner. I sat down, wet and shivering, while she moved off to buy the first round of our coffees. The place was dimly lit and decorated to a modern, minimalist degree. Due to the sudden onslaught of rain, the place began to fill up in a matter of minutes after our arrival.
Most of the people were engaged in the usual coffee house activities. One thing, though, did catch my eye. Two fifty something men were playing chess just up in front of where I was sitting. One man was black, the other white. The black man was playing white; the white man was playing black. When she returned with our coffees, she sat down facing me and introduced herself.
“My name is Eleta,” she said.
“That’s an unusual name,” I replied.
“I’m an unusual woman. The origins of my name are French. It means: ‘The Chosen One’
I’d only known her for a few minutes, but I didn’t need convincing of her uniqueness. It was subtle, therefore not discernible to most eyes in this head down, stare mindlessly at your phone culture of ours. But I noticed. For I, too, was unusual from what lay in the realm of mass accepted cultural norms.
I knew right from the start there was something different about Eleta. Yes, I know this has been said too often by too many people. So much so, it has almost been robbed of all of its possible truth and believability. More times than not it is off the mark. Sometimes, so far off the mark it is at least a world or two.
Yet, in this case, it was no exaggeration at all. This truly was a rare find. A truly unusual person of depth of soul. There was something of the old world in here. Something more than just her name. She sat here right in front of me in a modern day 21st century coffee house. Yet she seemed to be from another place and time. Of an era long long ago.
In between sips of coffee, I tried thawing the chilliness and dampness out of my hands by wrapping hem snugly around the cup. It worked to a small degree, warming the outer most parts while the innermost parts remained as cold and damp as ever.
Eleta saw what I was trying to accomplish. She placed her hands around mine, cupping them firmly in her grasp. Her hands, like mine, still bore the feeling of coldness and dampness in them. Yet somehow, without any reasoned explanation, her hands brought warmth to mine. The warmth then began to spread throughout the rest of my body. It was a strange feeling, similar to the feeling of having dye infused into body before receiving a CAT scan.
Our eyes met then, and we exchanged knowing smiles and communicated deeply without ever saying a word. We kissed for the first time, briefly at first followed by a deeper, more prolonged intimacy. Eleta had a mischievous playfulness to her and began to openly exhibit it here by taking my lower lip between her teeth and giving soft lingering bites. She did the same to my upper lip and to each of my ear lobes.
“You’re a man much in need of love,” she said.
These were the only words spoken between us for the next fifteen minutes. We finished our first coffee in silence and remained in this unspeaking state after I bought the second round of coffees. It wasn’t until we had finished our second coffee before either of us spoke again.
“It is time for us to leave this place,” she said.
“I have a place, a special place we can go.”
No more words were spoken were a prolonged period of time.. Though there was plenty of silent communication being exchanged by the two of us. In the background, I thought I heard the low tones of zen meditation music being played. But the music was not real. At least, not real in the sense it was playing out into the shared air of all those who occupied the coffee shop. It was, in fact, only playing inside my head.
There is much to be said for silence. And there was much said during our silence. Her eyes. She could speak with them more deeply and expressively than most people could using words. People have told my eyes exhibit the same rare qualities. It was a gift. A great gift that each of us shared. It was not until Eletta was ready to leave that either of us spoke.
“I’m ready to go now,” she said. “And you?”
“Sure. You lead, I’ll follow.” I answered.
“This is a very special place. A special place for special people.”
“And you. That is why I’m taking you there.”
“Will it take long to get there?”
“The time will pass quickly, you’ll see.”
“Will we be able to build a fire there?”
“Many fires will burn this day.”
A warm, subtle, little bit of the devil smile passed her lips. Eleta then took me by the hand and led me out of the coffee shop. Our next destination would be a place unlike any I had ever seen before.
Her very special place was exactly that. A very special place indeed. As Eleta and I left the coffee shop, a light rain began to fall. But for reasons beyond my knowledge, the usual chill and ill feeling that went with it did not occur. I seemed to be protected from its negative effects on both my body and soul. Eleta, with a firm loving hold of my right hand, was walking a step out in front of me. Her pace was quick and I had to match it in order to stay with her.
“Where are we going?,” I asked
“To the woods,” she answered.
“This is my special place. It is my home. My origins are there.”
At the time, I believed her to be referring to the wooded area which lay about a half mile or so to the northeast of the coffee shop. It was the only extended wooded area within ten miles in any direction of our current location. Everything in this area had been wooded areas in the decades past. But an overwhelming majority of it had plowed down and paved over in order to make room for shopping malls, medical offices, upper class housing communities and one and on and on. Nature, in other words, had been bulldozed in unrecoverable coma.
But the wooded area Eleta was referring to was not the one I had imagined. It, in fact, would have been impossible for to me to imagine it because I did not know it even existed. And there was a reason for that. It didn’t exist. Not in the accepted sense of the word.
“Close your eyes,” Eleta said with a sudden urgency.
“Close your eyes. Now.”
“But I won’t be able to see where I’m going. I’ll fall.”
“I’ll be your eyes. I’ll guide to where we’re going. You won’t fall because I won’t let you. Now close your eyes please.”
Under almost all situations and conditions, I am a naturally suspicious person. I am a hard sell when it comes to trust. Especially when I am in the initial stages of getting to know someone. But my natural, inborn suspicions fell easily away when it came to Eleta. I took her at her word without question. And that, for me, was a extremely rare occurrence. So, I closed my eyes and let Eleta lead me to where she wanted us to go. Along the way, I could feel the light touch of snow falling. Then it began to fall more quickly.
“We are going to run now,” she said. “Are you ready?”
The two of us ran in synchronized symmetry, moving at a speed I was not capable of. Yet, I was doing so. And with my eyes closed no less. My strides were fluid and effortless. There was the sensation of air between my feet and the ground. We ran together this way for an estimated ten minutes or so, when Eleta gave the word we could stop.
“You can open your eyes now,” she said.
And when I did, I was not prepared for what I was about to see.
I just stood there staring in amazed wonder at this picturesque scene of a wooded thatched cottage for what seemed like a very long time. But in actuality was no more than two or three minutes. Words could come to me. I didn’t know what to say. Sometimes a scene can be so awe inspiring, words cannot do it justice. This was one of those times.
“This is my home,” Eleta said. “Come, let us go inside and warm ourselves.”
Who was I to argue with her? We went inside and warmed ourselves in front of the fireplace. Exhausted, we quickly fell asleep and spent the night together intertwined and blanket wrapped on the floor.
My god. Let me tell you. I have never experienced such a pure, simple joy in my life than I did just being with Eleta. It was both surreal and sublime in equal parts. She wasn’t only everything I could’ve dreamed of, she was more than that. Happiness like this could not be imagined. Not by me(And I have a very wildly active imagination)
And it wasn’t as if we did anything which hadn’t been done before. That isn’t possible. Everything we could’ve done has been done already trillions of times over. We slept a little, laughed a little, ate a little,had sex a little, and did absolutely nothing a little.
What we were doing wasn’t important at all. It was the company we were keeping. For me, it was Eleta. For Eleta, it was me. I was her special one and she was mine. I was as simple and as wonderful as that. Meaning and joy in a relationship are not found in what you’re doing, but who you’re doing them with.
I, in a matter of all in honesty, have always been a restless soul. Even in repose, there has always been a certain degree on uneasiness and agitation within me. But Eleta, with her other world magical soul of just simply being in my company has changed all that. I never wanted our time together to end. I wanted our fire, like that in the well stoked fireplace to go on forever. For food, we trapped small game. This was comprised of three rabbits and a couple of pheasants.
We also caught a small handful of fish. Four were trout, two were small mouth bass. I say we, but Eleta was the brains behind it all. I just followed her instructions and contributed the necessary physical labor. She was a nature’s child and went about it with such a carefree ease, it seemed more like a pleasure filled game than anything resembling a difficult task to perform. I knew she could have done the entire thing herself because I knew she had done so many times before. But she knew my pride and dignity would be hurting if I just stood by and watched her do everything. And because she cared about me, she did not want to see me hurting. If I experienced hurt, she experienced hurt too. Such is the way of things, when truly cares for another and lives outside the self.
It was the simple life, the way life ought to be lived. At least, I have always believed so. The best things in life, the ones most cherished and appreciated, are the simple things. They are, in the end, both the most memorable and meaningful. But we, as a species, have allowed ourselves to be driven away from such a way of living.
So far away, we will never return to it. We have been driven away by the mass profiteers who care and pursue nothing except deeper and deeper pockets. I knew my time with Eleta, after two very full days, was drawing to a close. And so, I intended to make the most out of the little remaining time left to us. I wanted this last day, to be the most special day, in my entire life. And yes, Eleta’s life too.
We both woke up early. Darkness still reigned in the morning sky. I was up first and it was not long before Eleta followed. Uninhibited and prideful of our physical forms, we moved about the cottage naked. Eleta liked to warm herself by the glow of a warm fire, so I went to the fireplace and built a fire for the two of us to sit in front of. I was a connoisseur of coffee, so she went to make her own special blend on the stove.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked
“I haven’t slept this well since I was a small child.”
“Did you dream?”
“Not only did I have no nightmares, I had no dreams at all.”
Eleta smiled softly and flushed a little from the compliment I’d just given her. Her smile was nourishment for my soul. She then excused herself to go to the bedroom and get a blanket. We would wrap around ourselves as we sat in front of the fire.
While she was gone, I poured two cups of coffee and brought them back over the fireplace. But we never did sit in front of the fireplace.Instead, we danced. We danced slowly, coupled close together in an intimate embrace, to music which played only inside our own intertwined imaginations. It was a beautiful thing. Such a beautiful thing. The thought of it now as I relate it to you brings a muted joy to my heart and an open smile to my lips.
We danced there in front of the fire until the rumbling of our empty stomachs called us to do their bidding and go the kitchen and eat a hearty breakfast. This was only the beginning of a day which remain forever ingrained in my memory.
Our time together was running short. We uld only have a couple of more days to share each others’ company. So, we each agreed to choose one special surprise for the other.
I chose a Quinzee as my surprise. A Quinzee is an outdoor, makeshift shelter made out of snow. The origin of the name belongs to the people who first arrived in this land. The Athabascans. The shelter, at its core, is a large pile of snow hollowed out and used as a place to sleep and take refuge against the cold, unforgiving living conditions which often occupy this place. Building a Quinzee takes time and is a daunting, time consuming task for two people. I hadn’t really thought that part through to be truthful.
Fortunately, we were to receive some much needed help. Eleta, calling out to the four winds in a tongue I didn’t recognize, communicated her desire for help to arrive.Within fifteen minutes, nearly a dozen Athabascan looking people arrived and immediately began the process ofbuilding the Quinzee. Could these people actually be descendents of the original Athabascan people who first appeared across the land so long ago? It seemed impossible. But here, in this place with Eleta, even impossible things seemed possible.
The key to building a good Quinzee is a process called sintering.Sintering is really nothing more than going away and letting a large pile of gathered snow sit for a time. This allows the snow crystals to bond together and help make the structure more secure. The longer the pile sinters, the more secure it becomes. When the Athabascan looking people had fully gathered and began cooperatively engaged in building the Quinzee, Eleta came up to me, smiled sweetly and said:
“You have chosen well for for your special gift. I love the idea. But not nearly as much as I love you.” We then embraced in a long, deeply passionate kiss.When the kiss had ended, Eleta took me by the hand and began escorting me away.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Time is needed for the Quinzee to be ready for us. While we wait, we will go and see what I have chosen as my special gift to you.”
Our cottage was nestled inside a large grove of well aging pines. To the north was a mountain range which, when you looked at the rises and falls of the peaks, seemed to spell out Eleta’s name. To the east was a clear water stream which, just by being its naturally created self, possessed the power tocalm the spirit and rejuvenate the soul. To the south lay a small, old world village made up of thatched roof houses in rolling valley below. To the west was a wide open clearing about a half mile long and quarter mile wide. No trees grew here. In fact, nothing grew here. This is where Eleta was leading me.
The air was crisp and slightly biting to the skin. Snow began to fall as began our short trek westward. At first the flakes were small and fell like light feathers fluttering to the ground in the still wind air. But then the flakes grew in size and dropped earth bound at a much greater speed. Before we had even reached the halfway point of our journey, I began to tire and drifted off into a half conscious, half sleep state where I seemed to be awake and aware and yet sleeping at the same time. My eyes closed heavily and my feet felt slightly airborn and above the ground.
After an indetermined amount of time, we arrived at our destination. Once there, my conscious rose to full awareness and feet were once again firmly on the ground.
“You can open your eyes now,” Eleta said.
And so I did. The first thing I saw was Eleta’s soft wetted lips moving toward mine for a kiss. It was brief, but full of deepened love. Afterwards, she pointed to something in the near distance approximately fifty yards to our left. There was a pack of wolves there and they were individually bound to the reigns of well crafted, hand made sled.
“This is my special gift to you,” she said. “We will ride together as one until the Qunizee has been completed. Then, we will bed down there for our remaining time together. Well? What do you have to say?”
I was quite literaly speechless. There were no words to adequately express my innermost feelings of pure, joyous gratitiude. While wolves have always incurred the wrath and disdain of much of humanity throughout history, I found them to be a noble species possessing intelliegence while exhibiting deep expressions of love and loyalty. When you get right down the barest truth, I believe they are much nobler than humans. They do not torture or kill for the mere pleasure of killing. No, that is a trait of humans.
Eleta and I went to greet them one by one along the sled team line. She knew all of their names and introduced them to me. There acceptance of me was instant and unconditional. They knew Eleta well and understood that she would never introduce them to anything or anyone who would do them harm. I thank Eleta for her gift, whispered my love for her into ear, then kissed her slowly and sweetly on the lips. It was now time for us to ride.
The sled had been custom designed just for two to ride in the standing helm. And so we did. Well footed and well gripped in the helm, we stood shoulder to shoulder and side by side as the wolves took to an arcing path which would eventually straighten out and stay true along the base of the now snow capped mountains.
The wolves, working as fully committed team, ran in precisley co-ordinated, unified stride. There we were, Eeta, I, and the wolves racing along the snowy ground in wild, unrestrained freedom. To do so in the company of your special someone was a feeling unlike any other. We were heading eastward toward the calming stream.
When we arrived there, we stopped for a brief respite from our travels. The wolves drank thirstily from the stream, while Eleta and I played in the snow for a little while along the water’s edge. When our time here had passed, we moved southward along the uppermost boundary of the village.
The most amazing thing about our travels there was the fact that the villagers had all exited their homes to come stand along the boundary path to watch us as we passed by.They’d been expecting us somehow and greeted us with warm, genuine displays of affection and well wishing. I’m sure it was all because of Eleta, the chosen one. They knew her well. And she, in return, knew them well too.
The moon had risen high in the sky and was at its zenith now. The snow had topped and the clouds had all summarily cleared away. The sky was alight with heavenly light as the moon and the stars put on a display man made creation could ever hope to match. So taken by this display, I arched my head upward once or twice to get a view and nearly came off of the sled. Only a firm hand from Eleta on my forearm prevented me from doing so.
Time passed quickly and, soon enough, we discovered we had come full circle and were back where we had started from. The construction of our Quinzee had been completed and the Athabascan looking people who had built it had vanished back to wherever they had come from.
On that last night Eleta and I spent together no words were spoken. There was no ground shaking sex extraordinaire. There was just two people who cared deeply for each other sharing each others’ quiet company. We lay nestled together in an emotional bond of understanding where no words were necessary.
We lay she on top of me with her ear pressed against my beating heart. My arms enveloped around and rested comfortably at the small of her back. I had never slept on my back for even a single day in my life. But it seemed as natural as breathing itself now. My mind was at rest and my soul was at peace. I fell asleep quickly and easily. And when my mind awakened and my eyes opened seven and one half hours later, I found myself back home in my own bed. I had returned to my world while Eleta had remained in hers. Before I had fallen asleep the night before, she had whispered something softly in my ear
“I love you,” she said. “I love you like I have loved no other. And even now, when we are physically apart, I am with you in spirit. Take heart my love and don’t be sad. We will be together again someday soon, I promise you.”
And as these words still echoed in my ears, I rose up out of bed to go and make a pot of coffee. It was 5 a.m. And I needed to somehow get myself together enough to face another day of work. It wouldn’t be easy, I knew. But a man has to do what he has to do. And this is what I had to do this day.