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February 28, 2017

The Dancing Swan

What happens when the thing that exists inside your head revolts against its predetermined role to become something else. A new short-form fiction in our Belles-Lettres column.

by Derick Adeboi

To remember is to forget. I'm not sure about that aphorism; but, as far as I know, I can still smell your aroma. Melon. It hasn’t changed since the first time I got to know you. I might not have anything to share with you anymore, other than the mountain of regrets and irreplaceable memories. But as long as you can dance, no matter how dirty the water, I'll do my best to repair the glass. So dance, and fly to wherever your wings take you.
If I were to draw you in my poetry book, I'll draw a grain of sand. Because you're just that ordinary. The lot of you in the beachy days. Brushed by the sea water, roasted in the sun, crushed by the wet feet of children. You represent nothing special, and your name is common and forgettable. So forgive me if in my eye, you’re less than a fly.  
I'm not trying to be cruel. They say I have an evil mouth. It's not evil, it just hates political correctness and euphemism. If a color is red, I won't call it crimson. Red is red, and I won't budge no matter how much money you throw at me. It's idealism; naiveté to be exact. You can't expect me to glorify your ordinariness. Unless you show some genuineness – talent – perhaps I'll remember you at least briefly. But, your fate is to be a grain of sand in my eyes, just accept it.
Then again, I could be mistaken. It’s wrong to judge people without understanding them.
"How do you describe yourself?" I ask her.

"Maybe some sort of fiction...," she replies.
I don't like her response. Dull and lacking confidence. She could have been more explicit with her language.
"Well, what kind of fiction, then?"
"A sweet one. But maybe sweeter than the usual."
I burst into laughter. This tiny  little grain of sand describes herself as something complex. I expected her to  describe herself as as a normal human being who lives in good times and bad times.
"Okay, I get it. Now the final question. You have a hobby?"
"Dancing. I love dancing."
This time I smile. And I wonder what kind of dancing she likes. But time is up. I only have one minute to interview her.
"Thanks for your time. Now you can go through that door, and continue to exist within my memory."
If she does dance, I can see her moved only by the breeze. She has no free will, she remains a fragment of data in my memory.
After some time has passed, I visit her through that door again. But there is no more beach. Only a forest.
What is happening? As far as I remember, I set that place to be a beach.
I own four doors. The first door is called La Familia. Behind that door is a wooden house in the middle of skyscrapers. The second door is Kokoro no Tomodachi, and behind it is a huge dark ballroom with millions of colorful small lamps. The third door is Memoar Gratia, a canyon of endless sunset. The fourth door is the Forgotten Land, an empty beach.
Behind the fourth door were supposed to be temporary and unimportant memories. Sometimes I visit the door to reevaluate their meaning. An increase in quality may result in my switching the content to another door that suits its best. As for the tiny grain of sand that I had just interviewed, I never considered placing her behind another door.
Yet, the scenery has changed without my permission. It is now a tropical forest. And it is raining. I hate rain. It tends to put me in uncomfortable feelings, so I avoid rainy weather on every door. This scenery is just too strange for me. It's full of giant green leaves. Huge trees everywhere, the smell of equatorial air. And I smell that recognizable aroma. Melon.
There she is, taking care of an injured grizzly cub.
"You're no longer a tiny sand. How did you become the root of an acacia tree?"
"Time is kind with me. I pray every day for a better place to live.."
"Even without my permission?!"
"I'm sorry to have upset you. You can change it back if you want. But please let me take care of this grizzly cub first."
"Is it a fatal wound?"
"Not really. But I just want to be around longer near this cub. He may need me at this time."
"Oh, well, whatever. Since I never consider this door and what’s behind it as important. By!"
I'm not angry – a little confused, maybe.
It has been a while since my last visit to that door. Has it turned back into a beach, or has it stayed a forest? I open the door.
It has changed again. I can't decide whether I like it or not.
A meadow, a vast savanna. A huge grasslands. Flowers spread wildly and abundantly. It’s beautiful, the kind of scenery I never wish to draw. The weather is gorgeous: sunny, white cloud and blue sky. What is this? Did her magical prayer changed all this again? I feel like I want to live forever in this place. It’s unimaginable.
The wind blows and I smell that aroma again. Melon. A butterfly is flying joyfully from one flower to another, flapping her wings.
"You did this again?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to change it again."
"Well, as I told you before, no matter how much you’ve changed it, I'll never consider it an important memory for me. Still, I need an explanation."
"The flowers were dying in the forest. I want them to see clear sky and the sun.”  
"Then your prayer came true again?"
"Yes. It's such a beautiful scenery. I don't think I want to change it again. This will be the last."
"Okay, whatever. Do what you want to do, I won't bother. The other three doors are what’s important for me. Even if you pray for a meteor to smash this scenery and turn it into Armageddon. I could care less."
I close the door. In my heart I still don't understand what just happened. I’m starting to wonder: are the other three doors really more important than this door?
But, I must admit that to leave her in that place is hard. I hate that I had to lie to her. How long do I have to tell her that she is unimportant? Why can't I express my amazement to her? She already created a better world than what I have been creating in my entire life. I want to be with her, spending all eternity in that meadow, while seeing her flying from one flower to another. A joyful butterfly. Will I still have a chance to do it?
For some time I watch the four doors idly. I open the first door, and it's still stable as usual. I open the second door, and it's still noisy as it's supposed to be. I open the third door, and it's still warm and cozy as I expected.
As I approach the fourth door, however, my heart beats fast. Will it still have the same scenery? Or has a meteor really struck the meadow? I open the fourth door.
It's empty. Nothing but a wooden chair and a wooden table. On the table is a blue origami paper. It smells like melon, sweet and peace-bringing
"Just what are you doing this time?" I asked her.
No reply. Is she still even here?
"Are you angry with me? Can you speak? We used to talk.”
This is killing me. Is she dead? Or does she just not want to talk with me? Is she angry because I told her about that meteor business? I begin to feel something that shouldn't exist within this fourth door. Guilt – and love so pure and sticky like golden sweet honey. For the first time in my life, I feel alive.
"May I tell you something? I don't know if you'll understand this or not. But I have to be honest. I can never really appreciate you for all the good things you did for me,” I say.
“From boring beach to intimate forest to beautiful savanna – yet, my selfishness had been preventing me from understanding that you're actually the one that gives meaning to all of these. To all the ups and downs that are not supposed to exist anymore in me. To a reality that makes me realize that I never need four doors to accept myself. Are you still mere sand? Are you still a root? Are you still a lovely butterfly? Or have you already gone from my memories, erasing everything?"
My tears drop onto the table. I take out a wine glass from my pocket to collect the tears. Then I fold the paper, turning it into a swan. Someone I met inside the third door long ago taught me to fold a paper swan. It is said that paper swan is a living prayer. For the first time in my life, I'm chanting a prayer: Let the swan dance upon my tears.
By the time I put the swan inside the glass, it starts to crack all over. Above my tears, the swan begins to dance. Its sorrow is no more. And I know this is you. You are no longer sand, forced to move by a breeze. You are dancing beautifully.  
I’m sad that we can no longer speak to each other. But it isn't important anymore. I’ve already lost everything – the memories, all of it. Just dance. Show me you're sweeter than any fiction that I ever read.
Derick Adeboi is a freelance sports writer and musician. As an imperfect nihilist, he just wants to see the world becoming a better place for future generation. He currently splits his time between studies and music.
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