Love transcends age, time, sickness, space and race. That’s the power of love.
|At first, I didn’t know what to answer for anything.
I stared blankly at the equally blank paper. Well, slightly less blank. The questions stared back at me teasingly. “What is the meaning of life?” “What is the power of love?” “Why do we hate?” “Why are there wars?” and the hardest…
“Who are you?”
Let’s have a little background introduction. My name is Camilia Conrad. I’m a 17 year-old girl from the Western part of Australia, from the quiet town of Perth. I’ve got ‘weird’ brown hair and ‘weirder’ brown eyes. I actually look quite Chinese, mainly because my grandmother is a Chinese immigrant. I was a model student in my high school and in the performance club as a senior. I had never struggled with exams and tests, ever.
This was my entrance application for Castell, the performing school of my choice. I thought the test would be a performance or a theory test, not these impossible queries.
These questions really confused me and forced me to think.
1) What is the meaning of life?
What is the meaning of life? I don’t know. Peace? Love? Money? Health?
2) What is the power of love?
What kind of question is this?
3) Why are there wars?
Why? Because some people are too power-hungry?
4) Why do we hate?
Hate? Why do we hate? Good question…
5) Who are you?
What do I write? The exact same background introduction from earlier?
Just as I was ready to give up and choose another university, I suddenly spotted the clay pendant hanging from my neck. The pattern molded inside was still bright and clear as if it wasn’t almost five years old. The black string from which it was dangling around my neck was old and worn but I refused to replace anything that was from Desmond.
I don’t know where he came from. One day he just appeared at the drinks shack near Blackwood River, a place I frequented by bus to picnic or compose music.
I still remember his indignant expression when he was talking to the girl behind the counter who wore a sweet smile. A little too sweet. And a head of uncombed curls waving about like Medusa’s snakes. On closer inspection, I saw that it was intentional. Wow. Talk about a major fashion faux pas.
Walking forward on the rich green grass, I approached the both of them.
“I swear, this is the last time! I will not do your chores for you anymore!” the boy said angrily before turning away. I caught the girl smirking victoriously as he walked away.
“Um, excuse me?” I asked nervously. I never approached strangers like this, but something was compelling me, tugging at me to talk to this guy, and get to know him.
“Huh? Oh. You’re that girl I always see by the Firefly tree.” He said, slightly puzzled, slightly curious. I was confused.
“What Firefly tree?” I asked. He2 shrugged and pointed at the large, old tree next to a bank in the river.
“That one. Every 17th of September, the fireflies appear there in hordes and the whole place lights up like…” he said, struggling to find a suitable word.
“Like The Fourth of July?” I offered. He snorted in disgust.
“I hate that phrase. It’s so clichéd and overused. It lights up like a pink elephant.” he said. I didn’t understand his metaphor, but I burst out laughing at his facial expression and the tone of his voice.
It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Where weekly conversations by the river under the Firefly tree were interrupted, hours of phone conversations picked up. Lunches were shared, tears were cried, humor exchanged and music was made. But probably most important were the philosophical moments.
“I think life is being happy. Without happiness, you can’t buy any oranges.” He once declared as I was struggling with a piece of music. Later, I titled it ‘Oranges’ after his statement that made me laugh for a few minutes and cleared my mind.
Scratch, scratch. The pen drew a few shapes on the paper.
Life is being happy. If you’re not happy, you can’t buy any oranges.
After a happy companionship of 10 months, I found out his parents were divorced.
“Why didn’t I tell you?” he asked, a look of genuine surprise crossing his face when I screamed at him about it. The innocent look only served to infuriate me more.
“Why? Why didn’t you? I thought we were friends!” I almost shouted. The water rippled as I moved and accidentally kicked a small pebble into the river. Astonishingly, he laughed, even though his voice barely had any humor in it.
“Cam, sometimes, people mistake infatuation for love. If that never happened, the power of true love wouldn’t be so magical and joyful.” He said. His voice contained regret, sadness and yet, there was also… forgiveness?
The power of love is magical because not everyone can have it.
“Besides, my father already died in Iraq.” He continued, as if he was just commenting on the weather. I stared at him in shock. His expression was calm and understanding, like losing his father wasn’t anything big or momentous.
“What?” I said numbly. He shrugged. “It was years ago and I wasn’t ever close to him.” He said, lying blatantly. I could see it in his eyes, the way the sparkling sea-green was replaced with a dull, faded kind of green.
War hurts… It’s because the people who don’t have love are angry, so they fight…
A few months later, Desmond and I would come to have one of our worst fights. We were 15, and my silver unisex watch, the one he had always admired, was gone.
“I hate you! Why don’t you ever understand? Why are you lying?!” I shrieked into the receiver. I could almost picture his handsome face marred by a slight scowl.
“Why is this always about you? It’s always you! If I had found my watch missing, would I blame you?" he shouted back. There was a moment of silence as the words sank in.
‘I-I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that…” Desmond said guiltily. I saw in my mind his eyes taking on a deep, mesmerizing emerald glow, like it did whenever he was sad or upset.
“It’s okay. If you blew up like that, you never stole it.” I managed to say. He gave a small chuckle.
“Good to hear you finally understand. See you at the tree tomorrow, Cam.” He said before hanging up. I put the receiver back on its cradle and retreated to my room, with my mother staring at me, sighing at my mood swings.
People hate because they didn’t know what really happened or someone hurt them and they can’t let go.
When we were 16, Desmond took me to my prom. I was a teensy bit of an overachiever, so I skipped a grade but took a ‘gap year’ before university.
Throughout the evening, girls were attracted to his smoldering good looks and charm like bees to honey and syrup. He declined to talk to them, preferring to sit in a corner, sipping punch and chatting with me about Lydia’s (the girl at the drinks shack) ridiculous hairstyles.
“Yeah, her waves were terrible!” I laughed, remembering her ridiculous noodle hair. Desmond laughed as well, nearly upsetting his punch.
“I know! I thought they were noodles at first!” he said. Laughing, I retrieved my handphone from my pocket as it began to ring.
“What? She’s so lying.” I said sarcastically when I saw the message on the screen. Desmond peeked over my shoulder to see the message.
Hey Cam. Nice date you’ve got. Bet he was attracted to your looks! >:)
“You weren’t, right?” I asked Desmond. He laughed.
“Maybe. But I like you better.” he said. I shrugged.
“Who am I?” I shot back. He grinned.
“You’re the silliest girl in the world… But not with the silliest hairstyles.” He said, pretending to show off a head of ridiculous curls. I burst into another fit of laughter.
I’m the silliest girl in the world, without the silliest hairstyles…
I reviewed my answers on the entrance test. Suddenly I spotted the last one which I had missed earlier.
6) Who is your biggest inspiration?
I could have laughed as I answered this. My pencil skidded across the paper.
Desmond Julius Ray. Without him, I ought to have been an empty soul. And now I hate cancer.
Writing that down, I reread the page and changed another answer.
Anyone can love and be loved. Love brings people closer. Love transcends age, time, sickness, space and race. That’s the power of love.
Because you see, Desmond and I started dating right before he first got leukemia. His cancer was gone for about a year when the bone marrow transplant was successful, but the cancer came back last summer and sadly, Desmond died.
I still remember his last words to me, before he succumbed to the void.
"Bye Cam, I'll be in Heaven preparing our apartment..."
I smiled as I slipped the form into an envelope and addressed it. The clay pendant which once hung from his neck touched the envelope as I bent down to grab a stick of glue from my bag. It made a light, dry sound as it hit the table beneath the envelope. The sign of ‘Peace’ stared back at me.
Thanks, Desmond. You taught me what it meant to be brave and strong, all while being smart and charming. I owe you big time. Rest in peace, Des.
P.S. I still have that guitar :)