The boy and the tortoise

I waved goodbye to the tortoise, and stood and watched as it retreated back into its alcove in the garden. I knew it wasn’t going to be the last time I saw it.

***

“You know what she’s been through. You know how hard it is. You just need to be patient. You need to give it some time,” it said as I paced back and forth the garden in my backyard. God knows how many ants or flowers I trampled on that day, but they were the least of my concern.

“You know, I think I’m crazy. I know it’s only been two weeks. This is madness. I don’t know how or why I feel this way. I haven’t felt like this in years. I feel like I’m back in high school all over again. Before I even knew how to properly interact with girls. I’m helpless, hopeless!” I said in between puffs of my cigarette.

This wasn’t the first time I spoke to the tortoise in my garden, it had been there for me before when I was going through another rough patch in my life, but that’s a different story. How the tortoise could bear my incessant complaining and whining without telling me to shut up, I’ll never know. But it was good, it seemed to enjoy my company. Maybe my complaining and I was the only company it got since it didn’t have many (any?) friends. At least not friends that I knew of.

“Well, it sure as doesn’t feel like it’s only been two weeks. After all you’ve shared together and from the tales you’ve told me it sounds like you’ve known each other for months. How is she handling this?” asked the tortoise.

“No, it’s been only two weeks but it feels a lot longer than that. Like we’ve known each other for some time now. I don’t know. She seemed to expect it? And like I anticipated, she wasn’t ready. And no, I wasn’t pushing her for an answer, I just wanted to let her know how I felt. Yes, it was much too soon, but I felt that if I didn’t do anything she would think I didn’t care…” I replied distraughtly.

“The best things are those worth waiting for. Things that come together quickly are usually gone just as quickly. Flowers take time to blossom and bloom. Great things need time. And yes, so do human relationships,” the tortoise replied calmly.

“But, but what if I’m not the chosen one? What if she decides that I’m not for her?”

“Then you’re probably not for her. There’s no easy way to say this. Life sometimes doesn’t turn out how you want it to be. Not for you, not for me, not for anybody in the world. Sure, we can all work our way towards a goal, but that doesn’t mean you’ll reach it.”

***

I inhaled my last Pall Mall cigarette as I pulled up at her driveway. As I sat and waited with the key in the ignition, a billion thoughts ran through my mind. Was this the right time? What is the right time? What will she say? Will she hate me? Will she be appalled? How is she going to react? What will she think of me? Will she reciprocate?

But all those thoughts just disappeared as she appeared at the entrance of her home. Wow. She was gorgeous.

“Hi,” I said with a grin as she climbed into the vehicle.

“Hello,” she replied with a smile that could outshine a thousand suns.

I put the car into reverse.

***

C’mon. You can do it. Just count to three, and tell her how you feel.
One.
Two.
Three.

“Hey.”

***

The drive was short and uneventful. After picking out a place to spend the next few hours in, we got out of the car and walked towards the restaurant.

“How are you?” she asked when we sat down.

Jealous. Infuriated. Passionate. Seething. Conflicted. Confused. Hopeless. Lost. Crazy for you. “Fine!” I replied. “You?”

“Aren’t you going to ask me about yesterday night?”

Oh about who he was, what he looked like so I could find him and beat his face into a bloody pulp? “Nah, you told me it went okay, so I guess there was nothing more to say?” I laughed, brushing off her question.

She laughed in response.

***

I told her how when we started going out, I didn’t expect to fall for her. I thought we’d just be friends. I didn’t want to be a rebound. So I kept my distance. Poorly. I couldn’t stay away. Mesmerized by her beauty and enthralled by what lay beneath, I kept spending time with her. The more time I spent with her, the more time I wanted to spend with her. And then it hit me. I liked this girl, and had fallen for her. Hard.

I knew it was too soon for me to confess, or too soon for her to be ready for something more, but I had to do something. So I asked her out today. To talk to her, to let her know how I felt.

“You know, I don’t know how to say this so I’ll just say it as it is. I like you. I know you’re probably not ready for a relationship right now, but that’s okay. I just wanted to let you know.” was a summary of what I said to her.

It felt so good to get it off my chest.

Then it started to sink in.

***

“I hope I didn’t ruin things with her. I really do. I mean, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I guess it would be better to find out sooner than later. But I hope I didn’t jump the gun. I hope I didn’t read her wrong. I hope I didn’t just write the final chapter to our story.”

“If she’s as great as you think she is, then she probably is worth waiting for.” said the tortoise in the same all-knowing, stoic and sturdy voice which it always used.

“But she told me not to wait.”

“Are you going to listen to her?”

“No.”

“Good,” it said with what seemed like an almost grin.

***

“You need to have patience. God knows I have patience, heck, I’m practically the definition of it. I’ll probably live three times your lifespan. Maybe more. I’ve seen and will see more things than you ever will. So believe me when I say good things come and go. It probably won’t be today, but it could be tomorrow, or next week. Nobody knows.

“I am patient, I’ve been through heartbreak, and I’ll go through it again. It’s just life, and you really can’t do much about it bar living an emotionless, solitary life. The heart, the brain, the human body – it’s all very complicated. And something as simple as the thought of waking up next to a loved one every morning can be as fulfilling as creating the cure to a disease which you lost a family member to.

“I know you mean well, and she probably does as well. She doesn’t want to hurt you or herself by jumping into the very same fire which burnt her just a few weeks ago. Give it some time.

“Just hold on and lose sleep. But don’t let go.”

The tortoise sure was wise.

***

I knew it was stupid, futile and a waste of time but I did it anyway. I walked out the back door into my garden, lit up a cigarette and waited.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. Just when I was about to walk off, the tortoise reared its head from its corner in the garden.

“It’s been awhile since we last spoke,” it greeted me.

***

This story was inspired by Seng Yip’s ‘Cat and Man’. He told me to write one today, and so I did.

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