Story “A LITTLE FLEETING STAR”, by Milcíades Joel Zaragoza Burgos.
No one had to wake me up from bed in that early morning of autumn. It was the opening day of my new school! Anxiously, I jumped out of bed and wore the brand-new uniform, placing the school insignia on it. I walked through the kitchen, where Narciza was frying “rain cakes” (a kind of doughnut, scone), I picked up a few of them and rushed off to meet Lucas and Manuel, who were already waiting for me at the gate of my house.
The morning was radiant…. The soft April sun dissipated a few clouds in the sky and dozens of children walked the streets glinting in their starched uniforms towards school. There was a mood of euphoria, joy and expectation in the air. Seven blocks away from my residence, very close to the school grounds, we turned right and that’s when I saw a scene that struck me. From inside a long dark blue car, a man took a little girl in his arms and helped her straighten up on a crutch that looked as if it was made of steel and aluminum.
I was very astounded and awed while watched her, such was her unusual beauty. And probably I looked so foolish that she couldn’t help noticing me, ending up giving me the most beautiful and shining smile I had ever seen.
Manuel gave me a shake. – “What happened, Milcíades? Did you see a ghost?” he asked.
-“Who is she?” I replied.
While we continued on towards school again, my head was turned around looking back at her, walking blindly for a moment, as if hypnotized.
And Lucas interfered in my conversation with Manuel: -“She’s my cousin Lorena. They have just moved from the capital, on the advice of the doctor. She had polio!” he said with a look of pity.
-“Oh my goodness”, I replied in awe. -“She looks like an angel!”
Some girls ran past us at that moment, making faces and teasing us. We ran after them to school and for a brief moment I forgot Lorena. But then I saw her again, when her own father came with her into our room and caught our attention. He ended up having to struggle to do so, because except for me, everyone else was running around, screaming and teasing each others.
-“Hey, you brave ones! Just for a minute, can you guys pay attention to me?”. Everybody was suddenly silent and the man continued to speak. -“This is my daughter Lorena, who will be your classmate. And I make everyone here responsible for her welfare and safety. Do we have a deal?”
At that moment everyone was ready to help her, especially the girls.
They put her to sit down in a chair right in the center and in the front part of the classroom. I took the opportunity to sit as close to her as I could, just behind, in the next row. Approximately 70% of the children were new to me because they had come from the most different schools. I was about to turn 10, while most were barely 8 or 9 years old. Unfortunately, the fact is that I had to repeat a grade in the previous year, but that setback had its good side, once it allowed me to feel somewhat superior to my colleagues. My father was a prosperous farmer, and this also made me feel wealthier than my new friends.
So, everything conspired to turn me into a young leader.
Lorena had curly, light brown hair. The impression was that her folks had never cut her hair, once it was so thin. And they were even brighter in the sun. That hair, plus the blue and white uniform, used to transmit me the little angel image that I admired so much. She had a very beautiful face and large honey-colored eyes, she was thin and gave the impression of an uncommon delicacy, with a certain amount of fragility, which used to make everyone to want to give her some support.
She kept a certain social distancing from people and seemed way too humble, almost ashamed in the midst of those children – so full of life and perfect they were in her eyes.
She also had a sad look, though it was not bleak, nor did it convey any inferiority. It was a look as if she was asking apologies, provoking admiration and commotion – especially on me.
After her father greeted all of us, he said goodbye and left. So I quickly made a decision of walking to the front of the blackboard. I jumped onto the teacher’s table and yelled to get everyone’s attention:
– “Hey guys! I hereby officially declare, to all of you, that I’m Lorena’s Number One protector. And anyone who dares to bother her, even in the slightest way, will have to settle accounts with me. And it won’t be any pleasant, Capisce?” I said, striking an almighty pose.
And soon Lucas also got up in his chair and interrupted, –“As Lorena’s cousin, I am the second protector of her.”
-“I’ll be the third,” shouted Manuel. And then everyone started to joke.
-“I’ll be the fourth,” said one of them.
-“I’ll be the fifth,” said another one.
-“I’ll be the hundredth,” shouted a last one in the background, though there were only 30 children in the room.
Everybody joined the celebration, until the teacher entered the room and imposed silence, demanding everyone to sit down. So the teacher asked all the girls to come to the front seats, exactly in the first and second rows. I was kept in my place, once I was seated in the third row.
And on that first day we just had a very playful class, where we introduced ourselves, talked about our personal lives and “adopted” one another.
The teacher started like this:
-“My dear students. From now on, you’re already big. You have already dropped diapers long ago and it’s time to take care of yourself. Well, until last year the teachers had to keep an eye on you. However,from now on, can I trust that each one of you has already learned to take care of yourself?”
-“Yes, sir,” we all replied.
-“OK then. Now I want to know if each one of you can adopt one or two colleagues in order to keep an eye on them too,” said the professor.
-“To adopt one another????” shouted one in the background.
And some girls grumbled, -“Give us a break! We have troubles enough with our own brothers.”
-“Eww, my uncle is also too much for me,” said another girl.
And a third said, -“My father works at home and he only bothers me.”
So one of them, still mumbling, raised her hand and asked, -“Professor…. can we, girls, adopt another girl?”
-“We have a problem here, girls. There are 12 girls for 18 boys,” said the teacher.
– “We live in a world where men and women, boys and girls coexist,” he added. -“You will have to learn to deal with each other, because nowadays it’s normal and convenient to mix all of them in the same room,” he finished.
And then I raised my hand and asked to speak. Once authorized, I stood up and proposed the solution that seemed the best way out (especially for me). Each boy would adopt a girl and another boy, or two girls. And vice versa, but with the condition of having an interaction between boys and girls in each choice. I needed that, because I had to get closer to Lorena.
As the teacher made a random draw, unfortunately I ended up out of Lorena’s group. Noticing my sadness, Lucas soon proposed a great deal for me. He offered to give me his place in Lorena’s group in exchange for my old bicycle.
And I didn’t think twice.
From that moment on I was all smiles, feeling all silly. I was in the right place at the right time, next to the ideal woman. I was convinced that she was the woman of my life. And then I figured I would have to get a job, so that I could buy a commitment ring and a house, plus a car, because she deserved much more than that old bike I had just got rid of.
The bakery owner had once said to my father that I would be a great worker, and I was sure he would promptly give me a job.
After that first wonderful day at our new school, I felt myself immersed in a sort of Dickens tale, where reality (of having to get up, to shower, eat, do homework, go to school, etc.) seemed to be in the background of my life. I was living, singing, praying and breathing only for Lorena. She didn’t leave my mind even as I slept, and my dreams were just a delicious extension of my wonderful days at school.
I can barely remember the content of the classes, for even them are foggy in my head. I remember of the physical education teacher, but just because he allowed me to help Lorena and other girls during the exercises we used to do. He seemed to realize how deeply I was head over heels for my schoolmate, and he kind of used to encourage me.
As a gift to Lorena, at the class break I used to bring some cakes, pastries, “rain cakes” (a kind of scone, doughnuts) and cookies, all previously bargained with our cook. The deal with Narciza was simple…. By showing her the money my father used to give me to buy some food at the class break, I bribed her so that she could cook everything I asked for. And when I sometimes happened to run out of funds, I asked my father for extra money to buy school supplies (colored pencil, paper, notebook, ruler, etc.), but many times I spent it on my important bribery. There wasn’t lack of new products on an alleged list that I used to make up in order to persuade my father.
Several weeks have passed by, until Lorena’s birthday approached on June 7, Thursday. I asked permission from the head of the school so that I could sing happy birthday to Lorena, as well as serving some foods and drinks to celebrate. And the principal accepted, authorizing the use of the theater at the second floor.
I prepared a big birthday bash, involving my mother, our cook, Lorena’s mother and a few other people. The party had chocolate cake, ice cream, sodas, snacks, sandwiches, hot chocolate, etc.
Although the celebration was only for our class, the almost 500 children of the school got to know about it and all of them ended up coming and eating something. Lorena was euphoric, running with her crutch, playing and feeling special. She didn’t stop smiling, forming those divine dimples that still haunt me in my dreams!
And all of that happened during the 30 minutes of break. After everyone left, I went to Lorena and she told me:
-“Thank you, Mil. I never expected you to surprise me like that. It was really cool, I was thrilled and I loved it.”
So I sat on the same stool she was on, facing her. I took her hands, turned her face to me, kissed her cheek and said:
-“I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a joy and a pleasure for me to prepare this little party for you.”
I continued to watch Lorena, head over heels in love with her, as if nothing else existed but us, our love and the certainty that we existed for each other. At that moment, we were everything. We were the world, we were the mess of the hall, we were the bench where we sat on, we were the building, we were the children that had left, we were the sea, the sky, the stars, we were…. GOD.
But suddenly a sense of hurry and extreme urgency took over me. Unable to hold back the impetus, the following words almost came out of my mouth without thinking:
-“I love you Lorena. Do you wanna be my girlfriend?”
Her crystalline and happiness-filled laughter hit me. And she asked, -“What does it mean to be your girlfriend, Mil?”
And I replied, -“It’s living for each other. It’s to make a pact that we will love each other forever and stay together whenever we can.”
I remember that she was all red, and her rosy lips just stammered:
-“But…. how is this pact, Mil?”
Embarrassed, trying to find words to explain what even I didn’t understand at the time, I looked around and saw one of the blue plastic rings that were part of the souvenirs that her mother had prepared for the party.
I quickly picked up the ring and made Lorena turn to me. I got off the bench, knelt down, took her left hand and put the plastic ring on her ring finger, saying, -“Lorena Manfredi, do you want to marry me? My name is Milcíades Joel Zaragoza Burgos, and I’m offering myself to you, now and forever. I’myours !”.
She was puzzled. But after starting to face all of that as a joke, she let out a delicious laugh and said:
-“Of course my Mil, my ten Mil, my One Million, my One Billion,” joking about my nickname Mil, once Mil means Thousand in Spanish and Portuguese. Therefore, the joke was, “my Thousand, my ten Thousand, my One Million….”
And she went on, -”I think I love you too. I’ll marry you, though I don’t know if I’m yours or God’s.”
-“God’s?” I said.-”Never mind, Ican get along with Him,” I continued, full of myself, as if I could easily deal with my Creator.
And we held one another tightly. I lifted her from the stool, putting her little feet on the top of my shoes. And we danced around the room, without music, while I was humming the few I could remember of the Blue Danube valse (click to watch).
-“Na na na na na. Na na. Na na.
-“Na na na na na. Na na. Na na.”
And she accompanied me. We were so overjoyed that I could say we floated, because I really don’t remember of having felt her weight. It was as if she belonged to my hug, as if she were the extension of my body, my life. She was so ethereal, yet so intense.
And I didn’t even notice that her father was standing there, watching us and smiling.
I stopped immediately. My father-in-law had arrived!
-“And so, birthday girl. It’s time to go,” he said. And he pulled her out of my arms, breaking the charm of that magical and ephemeral moment, yet eternal in my heart and in my memories.
The last image I remember was my father-in-law moving away with Lorena in his arms, as I was running after them with her crutch, which had stayed on the bench while we danced. Since then and to this day, I still feel the sensation of her white sneakers on my feet, wearing black leather moccasins.
Unfortunately…. this was the last time I saw her.
And later I was told that still on that very day she suddenly began to have a high fever and convulsions after lunch. She was immediately rushed to a hospital in the capital, where she remained for 48 hours, but unfortunately she passed away.
Only three days had gone since her birthday, and word came that she was buried with that blue plastic solitaire ring on the same little finger where I had put it on at that special moment!
Even today I remember I was completely desolate at that time. Suddenly everything seemed different, even though I knew it was all the same. The sun continued to rise and set. The rain kept falling down. On my 10th birthday, on October 14th of that year, I didn’t want a party. And yet my father gave me a beautiful pony as a present. I even enjoyed it, but not even millions of ponies like that would heal the sadness that settled in my heart. I no longer played the same way. I became taciturn. And although I eventually began to recover (to some extent) and to have other expectations and hopes for my life, I felt a kind of loneliness that nothing and nobody could assuage. I dreamed about her almost every night, feeling her delicate little body and her sweet and soft aroma – not to mention her pure and naive girlish look, with her unique smile of breathtaking dimples….
Getting into adolescence is usually a huge challenge for most people. But for me it was a relief. Losing my innocence – and realizing that life was harder than I imagined – eventually reassured me. It was as if the whole world was adjusting to my loss, to my pain. I remained rich, handsome, smart and very successful, trying to adapt myself to a society which ignored a pain that I could not overcome, despite my efforts.
In everybody’s eyes, I’m a winner.
For me, I’m just a shadow.
Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself “what would my life be like today had Lorena stayed on Earth?”
“Was that love so overwhelming just because it caught me at an early age? Would years have weakened that love if she had stayed? Would she have followed a different path?”
But what I really like is to imagine the two of us together, dating, loving each other, getting married. And she as an adult recovered from the after-effects of polio, finally giving me children.
Well…. I don’t want to be ungrateful, but as a man madly in love with her, I give myself the right to accept that when she was gone, a lot of my innocence, my confidence and my certainties were gone too, along with my potential and everything I wished to have accomplished in my life – with her by my side, of course!
Comments by JORGE ZAHELL
Wow! I got shaken up when I heard this story. Imagine the impact of something like that on a child! But Milcíades’ life went on. He still had his moments, but based on the above story, they didn’t seem to be so comforting.
What lessons can we draw from this story?
And you, reader, what would you say to him?
How would you behave in his place?
How would you comfort him?
Well…. if I had been in his place, I would probably have died two weeks after Lorena passed away. What a suffering it was…. But as someone who wants to help people to have a better understanding of love and life, today – in his place (if he allowed me such an intrusion) – I would say:
“I honestly admit that it took me many years to realize that a love doesn’t have its value reduced just because it was interrupted sooner than I would like it to be.
I lived, I loved…. And at the age of 9 years, I did more for love than many grown-up adults did in their whole lives.
I held a beautiful party for Lorena, I gave her much more than she could have expected from an anniversary. I gave her my heart, my life.
Maybe I didn’t realize the greatness of my actions at that moment. Today, analyzing everything in hindsight, I believe I was inspired, as if I felt she would soon pass away. I’m very happy to have followed my feelings and allowed myself to live that magical idyll and speak EVERYTHING I felt for her at that moment.
Maybe I was not grateful enough for what life would still have to give me after that catastrophe. Instead, I chose the sadness, the melancholy and lived in the shadow of that loss.
Only now I do realize that I could have experienced innumerable other fantastic love stories, because life, in its infinity, always has more alternatives to present us. Maybe I have kept myself from living the fullness of my life because I was selfish in wanting to keep just for me the one thing I consider to be the perfect love story: Lorena and I.
Perhaps I didn’t understand that love can manifest itself in many ways and under a variety of facets, and that love is infinite in itself, being even able to transcend itself in the most diverse versions.
Today I realize that I need (and deserve) to open myself to any forms of love, from the most varied sources and people. In having neglected other loving alternatives, I only kept myself away from what I wanted most: TO LOVE.
Love – being infinite – can always offer something new and even more fascinating, as long as we are in tune with that love. This doesn’t mean that I’m not sympathetic to the pain I experienced at the time of Lorena’s death, and also to the pain of all those who, like me, had a seemingly so irreparable loss as that one. In cases like that, I understand that we all need a moment of mourning, of adjustment, but at some point we must also open ourselves to new possibilities and move on.
Only now, after a lot of suffering, I do realize that I carry my beloved Lorena inside of me, as well as my love for her. And I feel that our re-encounter is inevitable. But I also realize that while it doesn’t happen, I can (and I even must) live my life fully and delighted by it (though sometimes I can still feel sad about what I consider a loss).
Only now I’m beginning to understand that a life fully lived will bring me everything I need to continue on my journey, including another love – which may not replace the one that has gone, but, who knows, it may be as interesting and wonderful as my first love.”
I realize that after Milcíades lost Lorena, he was no longer able to open up himself completely again, which contaminated his whole life and possible new experiences that he would attract to himself from that moment on. When one understands What Life Is, he (she) intuitively KNOWS that he will re-encounter any lost love in some moment of the eternity, and then he doesn’t choose to feel and behave as if he was emotionally disabled. And this truth is a balm that consoles us, though it does not extinguish the pain (especially at the beginning that follows any tragic event).
Finally, I conclude by saying that in spite of my previous considerations, I know that the brief and early love they lived really fulfilled its objective, independent of how Milcíades interpreted the events after Lorena’s death. Remember that love is always worthwhile. It is us who try to place it in our pre-established molds, becoming frustrated when it apparently ignores our longings. Milcíades was graced with this gift of life, lived something magical and was a real man when he was only 9 years old. But if later he did not have the necessary understanding and reach to remain in peace, this is not even the most important, because the main point is that love had an opportunity to manifest itself in the most overwhelming way possible. And Milcíades was indeed very successful in taking advantage of it – at least for a short time.
With an expanded consciousness about life, the experience of the loss of a great love is placed in a higher perspective, and the impact is no longer as devastating as when the person does not have the proper understanding.
So, when and whenever you come across a love opportunity, take a chance, pay the price, “get burned” if necessary.
It will be worthwhile, I assure you!
Because even if everything goes wrong, life will still reward you later, once you did not step back, you did not succumb to your fears.
The point is that THIS is exactly the purpose of every experience of life: to make you realize that you are able to do everything, that there is nothing to fear, that in all the adventures and misfortunes of your journey, you will always be supported by a Larger Part of yours – which knows you are Eternal, Indestructible, Marvelous, Irresistible and Invincible – even if you still doubt it. And this Larger Part of yours will not give up on you until It can help you (at any moment of your eternal journey) to express, in life, “here”, all the greatness you have “there” – and which has always been yours. By the way, “there” is no better than here (as it may seem).
As for our friend Milcíades, he could not get those childhood’s sublime moments out of his mind throughout his life. And there was a special song that used to touch his heart every time he listened to it – the song that most reminded him of his beloved Lorena (click here to check it out).
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This story was taken from the book THE PASSIONATE MAN’S HANDBOOK – PART 1 — yet to be released soon, here at this very Blog (onigya.com), in the section BOOKS of the Menu. It contains many stories filled with Conscience, Love, Passion and Romance – all of them commented by me from a higher perspective of life (coming right from a Cosmic Consciousness, so called in the mentioned book). Other books and suggestions will also be available in the sequence.
Good Luck!JORGE ZAHELL