Boggel is painfully aware of the faces behind the chintz curtain in the bar, staring at him while he sips his beer.He realises that they must have guessed what the letter said – maybe not exactly, but at least the gist of it – and now they’re unsure about how to approach him. Truth be told…he doesn’t quite know how to react himself.
There can be no doubt that Mary Mitchell had been the one. The love of his life. The friend, the mate, the confidante. the sounding board, the comforter. And yes, life took them in different directions; and sure, nothing ever works out the way men and women hope. It is true, he thinks, that the biggest cause of disappointment is found in the fact that we hope too much. We dream too big.
But somehow, that thought contains only the minutest amount of consolation. In fact, it brings no relief at all. Life, after all, is about hoping. Dreaming. Anticipating. Without some expectation of a better future, it may well be worthless to go on. Now, realising Mary will never be part of his future, he is suddenly aware of a tremendous feeling of loss.
Then again: does he not grant her happiness, freedom? Has it not always his quest to want to see the beauty inside her blossom? And does he not grant her joy…and hope?
Boggel rubs his eyes – hard, until little spots of light make him stop. A life without Mary in the background? Laughing, troubled, mischievous, uncertain Mary, the one he thought would one day be at his side? Even if they spent so little time together, the mere knowledge that he may hope to be with her one day had always been such a comfort…such a beautiful hope.
He opens his eyes to see Gertruida standing in front of him.
“Mind if I sit down?”
The two of them watch the dove walking around in little circles, like and old man pondering the mysteries of the universe.
“He seems lost,” Gertruida says, not only referring to the dove, “doesn’t he?” She glances over at Boggel, who stares at the dove.
“Maybe we all are. Maybe there is a randomness about life we’ll never understand.” She sighs. The dove has stopped walking, and now watches them with its head turned to the side. “You know Boggel, I’m not sure what that letter says, but I think it’s good news.”
This time it’s Boggel’s turn to stare at Gertruida.
“Yes, seriously. You’ve been hanging on to a dream for years and years now, hoping that you and Mary will hook up somehow. And I watched you, Boggel. Saw the longing in your eyes. Heard the way you spoke about her.
“Dreams are good friends when you’re lonely. Remember the song? Well, they are. And now, during the Christmas season, millions of lonely people dream about a happier new year. They hope. They pray. And many, many of them will approach Christmas 2014 with the same prayers, because the year didn’t deliver.
“But not you, Boggel Next year will be better for you.”
Boggel shakes his head. Better? Come on Gertruida…
“I’ll tell you why. As long as you cling to a dream – no matter how unlikely that hope might be – you remain prisoner to that dream. You arrange your life around that dream and in the end it closes more doors than it opens windows. But…if the dream is shattered, it sets you free to dream anew.”
The dove makes a few flapping motions with its wings, decides to hang around some more, and resumes its pacing.
“Oh, I know, Boggel! It’s so bloody painful. Dashed hope and broken dreams bleed a lot. They make one hell of a mess in our minds. I remember when Ferdinand disappeared…I was a zombie for months on end. But then…then I accepted. I cried a lot. Protested against the unfairness of it all. Even fought with God for a while. But in the end, I accepted.
“You see, Boggel, we tend to look at other people to make us happy. We say silly things like: that person completes me. Harrumph! As if God made incomplete people!
“No, it doesn’t work like that. We discover our completeness through trial, error, pain and hardship. We simply grow through disappointment and loss to the point where we are forced to look at ourselves in the mirror. And then, only then, we are forced to answer a very important question: am I here to be a sponge for other people’s caring, or was I put on earth to be a source of love for others?”
Boggel stares at his shoes, saying nothing. Everything Gertruida says is true, of course. But…being cared for and being loved…those things did fill a void, didn’t it? He just feels so…empty…
“We are the creators of our own needs, Boggel,” Gertruida says because she has an uncanny ability to read minds – or guess the thoughts swirling about in other people’s brains. “We tell ourselves we need this, want that. And it’s not wrong to do so either. But then we become dependent on those desires, building our lives around them.
“For some people it becomes a way of life, and some couples become happily interdependent. That’s not a bad thing, either. But we should never look at other people to be the source of our happiness. Happiness and joy starts here.” She taps her chest, causing the dove to fly a few yards off.
“So you’ll have a better year, next year, Boggel. You’ll sweep up the splinters of your dream, clean up your house. You’ll sit down to accept this dream is gone, and you’ll have to do a retake of your hopes and expectations. The pain will dull a little after a while. And, although you’ll still think of her, you’ll move on. Glance back if you like, but if you want to find a route to the future, you’ll have to look ahead more often than backwards..”
Boggel doesn’t say anything. He can’t. The lump in his throat is too big to allow words to sneak past.
“And you have us, Boggel. One should not work through a loss such as this without a bit of loving care from people around you. And we care. You know that.”
The dove stretches its wings, flaps once or twice, and then takes off effortlessly.
“Um,” Boggel says to say he understands.