Auburn May

(c)1998 Jari Komppa

The first time I saw her, I almost died.

Distracted by her, my bike collided with the low fence of the bridge, almost tossing me over and to the busy streets below. I overcompensated and fell on my face on the sidewalk. I glanced at her, and she turned to look back, alarmed by the crashing noise. Then the lights changed, and the car she was sitting in accelerated, out of sight.

The front wheel of my bike was bent, and I couldn't drive. I half-ran, half-walked the bike to school, arriving exhausted, and late for the math test which I had to take. I couldn't concentrate. For the whole remaining two hours I just stared at the papers, my mind replaying in slow motion as her head turns, her auburn hair flowing like lazy waves on a Mediterranean beach.

I failed, of course. I had to retry the test next week, and then I passed - but not with the grades I used to have. Every day I took the same route, hoping to see her again. After two weeks I was about to give up. I had seen her for, what? three seconds? and she couldn't have gotten more than a glimpse of me, falling down, wrecking my bike.

I was then taking a train to the central to get something vital from some shop for my dad, when I noticed her sitting on the other end of the car. The car was jammed with people, and my station was coming next. I had a clear sight of her, though, and she could also see me, and as she finally glanced my way, her impression turned more serious. The car rocked a bit, and one of her neighbors must have said something, as she turned away and smiled. Did she blush?

My station arrived and I started to hate myself even before I had pushed my way out of the train.

That night I couldn't sleep. I just sat on the end of my bed and stared out through my open window, admiring the silky clouds that gained some momentary opacity as they flowed by the moon.

My mom, with the magical way moms do, carefully opened my door a bit and quietly asked if something was wrong. I said no. Of course there wasn't.

I continued to ride to school, even though the weather turned bad, and I should have gone with a bus. Eventually I got sick, and after passing out on one class I found myself hospitalized. Some of my pals from school visited me couple times, once bringing my books and worried greetings from my teacher.

After getting well I got my life more or less on the track again. I got on with my education as well, and caught on with the rest, albeit slowly. The weather got better again, and my parents figured they could have a week's holiday and take a trip. I couldn't go, of course - no way I could get a week off with the slow progress I was making.

After finishing one especially hard test, I took my bike I had decided to ride now that the weather was fine again, and left for home. And there she was, sitting on the fence, on the exact point where I had crashed. I slowed down, and stopped.

I dismounted, she sat up.

I looked at her, she looked at me.

She said hi, I said hi.

We stood there for what felt like hours - should have been hours! I was afraid to say anything, not to scare her away. I was afraid not to say anything, for the same reason. I almost cried. She smiled and waved a hand to the direction I was going, and we started walking, side by side, with the bike between us, towards my home.

Her name was May.

I asked her to drop by for a cup of tea, and to my joy she accepted. We sat, we talked, we drank the tea. Most of the time I was just listening to her beautiful voice, admiring her hair, the light in her eyes, the curve of her chin.

I told her of my life, my family, my interests; she told me of her distant family, her being abroad, studying. She told me how she had noticed me, and tried to find out who I was, never finding out.

There was a long silence, and I noticed how the time had passed, it being dark outside already. I looked at my hands, not daring to look at her. I told her I loved her.

She put her soft hand on mine, and I looked up. She smiled, a tear in her eye, and she whispered, I love you too.

We kissed softly, briefly, and walked out to my yard hand in hand, sitting on the bench in the garden. Time seemed to flow too fast.

Too early the sun began to rise. She said she had to visit the bathroom, and I told her where it was. After some time I could sense trouble, somehow, and heard a noise. I stopped only for a second on the door before looking in. She sat in a corner, crying. I came closer, words stuck in my dry throat. She whispered, I'm sorry, and faded away, still looking at me.


This story just came to me as I was returning from a weekend leave to the garrison in Riihimaki when I was experiencing the wonders of mandatory military service in Finland. There's a good half an hour walk from the train station to the garrison, and I walked it every single time, whether it rained, shined or just was bloody cold, as the usual case was.