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On the flight over to San Francisco Aaron couldn’t help but think of Jimmy, and how he had spent a third of his young life on planes searching for a soul mate he didn’t even know truly existed. Or maybe he did. Maybe his soul was John, subconsciously reassuring him that he was on the right path. Aaron wondered if this was really what our souls were. Were we like snowballs rolling down the hill of existence? The accumulation of all we had ever been, and continue to be, forever within us? Was this the ‘spirit’, the ‘energy’ that humankind had sought to understand for thousands of years?
He had been very tempted to take Jimmy, or the part of Jimmy that had been dormant for so long, up to the fifth floor to see Gloria, but he knew he needed a couple of more pieces of the puzzle in place before he could do such a thing, for they would probably only have one shot at reuniting. Even John had understood this, and encouraged Aaron to do what he had to in order to make sense of it all. The thing is, all would have to be complete before Monday, as there was little or no chance that they’d be able to get past the obstacle that was Moran.
Sitting there looking out at the passing clouds, thinking of the whole situation, Aaron had an impulse to go for his wallet, to take a look at the card that gentleman back at the hospital had given him.
Aaron turned the card over and looked at the name: Sarah Moore
He took out his phone. No internet access. Took the pamphlet from his seat and contemplated spending the ridiculous price for wi-fi. He knew he wouldn’t be able to wait out the urge to know, and so he pushed the flight attendant call button.
Sarah Moore. Instantly a number of photos came up with the name search, most associated with CityScape. He clicked Images for more, and froze when he saw the image of the person he knew to be Gloria staring back at him.
The cemetery was divided by century, with grave stones going all the way back to the days of the California gold rush. Generals, celebrities, politicians. According to the old groundskeeper leading Aaron this was the final resting place to a variety of souls. Final resting place. A statement he would have believed less than a week ago.
Approaching the middle of the estate, the twentieth century section, Aaron patiently followed the old man down rows of grave markings that must have been twenty yards long. The further back they went the closer they got to the middle of the second to the last decade, until they had reached the mid 1980’s.
The headstone they were looking for was among the ninth row, and when Aaron caught sight of it he couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed.
Here lies John and Gloria Borelli.
Loving parents to Jeannie,
loving souls to one another.
The grass was nicely trimmed, the stone cleaned to a shine, but this could have been the work of the old man. What really grabbed Aaron’s attention were the fresh stargazers that had recently been laid down, for they couldn’t have been more than a few days old.
‘Have their relatives recently stopped by?’ he asked as he looked over at the next grave site, wondering if Jeannie might be buried nearby.
‘Only got one living one far as I know. Daughter. Jeannie.’
Aaron almost fell over from his squatted position, and stood up so fast he got a little light-headed. ‘She’s still alive?! But she must be-’
‘Ninety-six. Says her secret is the Italian food she was raised on.’
Remembering the name Borelli’s Bistro Aaron got a lump in his throat. He was so excited he began to shake a little. ‘Please. I believe I’ve found a long-lost relative of hers. That’s why I’m here. Can you please give me Jeannie’s address?’
Atop a hill overlooking The City by the Bay and its long golden gateway sat a quaint cozy house surrounded by a picture-perfect landscape, a gazebo in the back and a well-manicured shrubbery serving as a perimeter to the soft green lawn that beckoned to be rolled around in.
But what really made the property burst in beauty were the hundreds of Stargazers cushioning the base of the home. From one shade to the next, exquisitely displayed like a natural color scheme.
This is where Jeannie was when she spotted the young fellow coming up the driveway, tending to her prized lilies like she so often did.
‘Excuse me, ma’am? Mrs. Jeannie Borelli?’
‘Miss,’ she said as she stood from her gardening chair and removed her sun hat. ‘Never married. But call me Jeannie. Never been one for formalities either.’ She had aged well for a woman of her years, and moved with the agility of someone three decades younger.
‘That’s quite the walk from the main road, ain’t it?’ she asked as she removed her gardening gloves.
‘Sure is.’ Aaron wiped the bead of sweat trickling off his eyebrow and down his cheek, the bridge at his back being illuminated by the rays of the sinking sun.
‘Care for some lemonade?’ Jeannie asked as she gestured toward the steps of her home.
‘Would love some, thank you.’
As soon as Aaron entered the house he felt as though he had stepped back in time a hundred years. From the furniture to the décor, everything must have been from the first half of the last century. But like Jeannie, the items from a more innocent time had stood the test of time. Wasn’t it his grandmother who had said “they don’t make things like they used to”?
There were about a dozen paintings hanging throughout the living room, including one which read Borelli’s Bistro, no doubt made for advertising. And when he spotted the one above the fireplace he felt for sure he would have fainted if it weren’t for his youth. Steadying himself, he took off his glasses, clinched his eyes shut to refocus, wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his sleeve, took a breath and put his glasses back on, once again looking up at the picture.
It was Memory. It was the same exact painting as the one he had watched Gloria working on. It even had the three horizontal lines drawn in the snow, connected by a vertical one going straight down the middle!
Thought, word, and deed. When in alignment with truth, anything is possible.
That’s what she had said.
‘That was one of her favorites,’ Jeannie commented as she re-entered the living room with their lemonade. ‘Her and daddy’s time in The Himalayas.’
Odd how she had just started talking about her parents as if they had been conversing about them all afternoon.
‘Ma’am- I mean Jeannie, do you happen to have any living relatives? Perhaps a great granddaughter in her early to mid-twenties?’
‘Nope. I’m the last of the Borelli clan. You’re trying to make sense of it, aren’t you?’ She handed him his glass of lemonade.
‘Thank you. Were you expecting me?’
‘I may have had an inkling. This is why you’re here, is it not? To learn more about my parents?
‘Have a seat.’
And so it began. The old paintings on the wall, the black and white photos, a few items actually owned by Gloria and John Borelli. Reminiscent of the trip look back Aaron had taken Jimmy on, Jeannie was now taking him on a journey of their past…
Fresh-faced and with a pep in his step, the delivery boy for Antonio’s Italian Eatery made his way down the lively streets of his neighborhood with a bag of calzones and a box of something special, every now and then a pal calling out to him, “Hey, Johnny, what you doin’ workin’ on a Sunday?” “Johnny-boy, we’re a man short. Come play some stick ball!” But this seventeen-year-old was focused, having eagerly waited all week for a delivery he just couldn’t stop thinking about.
Through the sawdust, the hammering, the chiseling, the teenager made his way to the back of a furniture shop where he found the owner, Louie Granatelli, varnishing a chair.
‘Got your calzones here, Mr. Granatelli,’ he said as he handed over the bag he had been so careful with.
‘Ah, still warm, That’s why you’re the best, Johnny! What’s in the box?’
‘Just a little something I baked for Glory, if you don’t mind, Mr. Granatelli. May I?’ He gestured toward the backyard.
‘Go on,’ he said, with a smirk of knowing all about being smitten over a girl. He didn’t seem to mind this innocent courtship that was going on between this young man and his daughter. After all, Gloria and Johnny had practically grown up together, with the boy having shown nothing but respect since their friendship had turned to attraction.
‘Oh, Mr. Granatelli?’
‘One more thing.’ His throat was as dry as sandpaper. ‘Next week is Valentine’s Day and all, and I’ve been working awful hard to save-’
‘Have her home by seven.’
‘Oh, Mr. Granatelli, thank you. I’ll be sure to have her home by seven. Seven o’clock sharp. Thank you, Mr. Granatelli!’
The nervous delivery boy headed for the backyard, where he found the girl he was in love with as he did every weekend; her back to him, painting a picture. She had a remarkable talent for being able to bring to life whatever she envisioned in her mind’s eye, and today it was the coastline to the port city they called home.
Sharing the same age, they had known each other since they could remember, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that they started to see one another in a new light. Both had kept such intimate feelings to themselves, but Johnny had dreaded the thought of spending Valentine’s Day alone in his bedroom cursing himself for not having enough courage. And so he had gathered all he could muster up for this moment now.
He wiped his sweaty palms, took a breath and took that first step towards destiny.
It was a rather bare hilltop, but the view of San Francisco was amazing. It was the place where Glory and Johnny, along with many of their friends had spent many of summers playing tag, stickball, kick-the-can and anything else that came to mind.
It was also the place where the delivery boy had asked the carpenter’s daughter for her hand in marriage not even a month after their first date. Upon her acceptance, he had proclaimed, with such conviction, how they were going to spend forever together. With such a declaration had also come the promise that he would one day buy the land they were standing atop and make it their home. The special place where they had forged their friendship, fallen in love and had their first kiss.
An now they stood, in the very spot where they had committed to one another, in a beautiful gazebo Louie Granatelli had built for this ceremony of matrimony, friends and family surrounding the intimate dwelling as they bear witness to the vowels this young couple swore to uphold, with the last line stated by each having been written by their own hand…
‘May this ring represent the infinity of our love.’
That night they consummated such powerful love not in the suite of The New Palace Hotel Johnny’s parents had arranged for them to stay in but instead had snuck away back to their special hilltop, their gift of innocence given to one another within the coziness of that small handcrafted gazebo.
For the rest of the night they remained in their intimate embrace, staring out through the sides of the structure at the starry sky that encompassed them and their special little spot.
‘It just has to be, Glory. I just know it does! Europe, Africa, The Far East. There must be something out there that can help us. You’ve seen those exotic people that come through the port. They’re from all over the world! There must be secrets out there we’ve never even imagined!
‘And what better time than now? The new ships nowadays are making it possible for anyone to travel! In fact, I just heard about one they say is unsinkable! They call it Titanic, and they say it’s like the grandest hotel you’ve ever seen! We can get a job on one of these luxury liners and use it to explore the world. To find the answers to forever!’
In theory it was a solid plan, with the young bride following her husband’s lead as both sets of families bid them farewell from a San Francisco port. The newlyweds were not entirely forthcoming with what they were about to set into motion, relinquishing only the sensible part of what they hoped to accomplish. The part that would have them saving money for their future home and business. ‘Seeing the world together. It’s going to be like a five-year honeymoon!’ is how they had described it.
But reality had set in on that first night aboard that first luxury liner, with John sweating to the bone in the kitchen and Gloria discovering a newfound respect for hard labor as she swelled from shoulders to feet with the countless trips from the kitchen to the upper decks serving society’s upper class. The silver lining: In an attempt to stay cool and awake John had added some ice to some coffee, He and his new bride liked it so much they knew it would be one of the first items on their menu when the time came to open their bistro.
It was not until sunrise that both stumbled from their obligations and made their way down to their bleak cell-like quarters to get some much-needed rest, but not before heading up to the deck to take in the awe-inspiring scene of the largest sky they had ever beheld, knowing, in silence, in one another’s embrace that no matter how difficult their journey would prove to be they had made the right decision.
The first two years, which had kept them along the coastlines of The Americas and Europe produced absolutely no results in what they were seeking. Then again, they themselves did not know what they were actually looking for. With each town, each city they sought out the local beliefs with the day or two of free time they had. But all kept coming back to the religion that had dominated these regions centuries before, with their inquiries always coming down to an old priest, or the equivalent thereof, whom would refer to their ‘holy scriptures’. And although interpretation varied, it felt to the couple as if their path had been one of going around in circles.
So at the beginning of their third year they jumped ship and began working for a fleet which serviced the continent of Africa and sometimes even parts of the Middle East and the tail end of Asia. The good thing about their new employment was the flexibility, being able to come and go as they pleased from one ship to the next since the carriers were always in need of English-speaking staff. But the bad thing about it was the living conditions for the crew. Far squalor than what they were used to. But focus is something they had plenty of.
And so they would spend a month or so on land, whacking their way through thick bush to speak to some tribal elder or witch doctor, a local in need of work serving as their guide/interpreter.
Whether it was dancing to the rhythm of a beating drum while dawning loincloth and consuming the sacrificial blood of a goat or making love in a pit of non-venomous snakes as a few dozen indigenous people surrounded them in a unified orgy while voicing such a vibrating chant that it could be felt throughout all bodies involved, including that of the snakes, who in turn reverberated against the bare heated skin of John and Gloria.
Several mystical experiences that brought the young couple closer together, yet they still felt that the core element to their search had yet to be discovered. But there was one trace of hope that had begun showing itself by the middle of that third year. When they had started to head deeper into the unknown. The name of Omit had started to surface from the lips of the old and wise. An ancient-looking man who was described as sharing similar skin as the two, covered in beard and with eyes as iridescent as fish scales.
He had been a treasured visitor to the most remote of locations, appearing to have come along once in a generation. Could it have just been a folklore passed on over the centuries, or was this mysterious man part of a lineage who would send one of their own to venture out into the world every half century or so?
At first they had missed him by a year, then eight months, and by the time they got down to six, by the first quarter of their fourth year abroad they knew they were on the right trail. All leads had them pointing to the Himalayas, and so with their remaining savings, (throughout the years they had sent home most of their wages, for the deed to their special hill and the construction of their home headed by Gloria’s father) the two hoped they had enough to get to where they needed to go, return home and start their business.
There had been a number of times on their adventures when John or Gloria, or sometimes both, had come close to death’s door. And both were intent that if something were to happen to the other they would be right behind their beloved in crossing over to the other side, whatever that may be.
John and Gloria’s six month journey from India to Tibet was by far the most treacherous they had endured. From threatening soldiers to plagues and fevers. Steep cliffs to near frostbite. It had taken all the fight they had left to reach the summit where some of the wisest men on earth called home. A esoteric place of monks where Omit was said to have frequented.
Through the snow-capped mountains they had trekked, knowing that it was now or never as they battled an awful snow storm during the last leg of their expedition. Just has all hope seemed lost in the whiteout conditions that had claimed the life of their guide and rendered their frozen compass useless a half dozen or so miraculous beings rose from directly below their ice-hardened feet. Wearing nothing but simple sleeveless robes, the monks had been buried under a foot of snow for over a day as part of their meditative exercises.
At first the soulful companions had thought it to be a hallucination, but when the Tibetans had reached out to take hold of them not only did they then realize that they were of real flesh and blood but that their own bodies had given out.
In and out of consciousness, John and Gloria were barely aware of the fact that the monks had stripped down nude, using their humble robes to create a makeshift hammock of sorts to transport them on the one-hour walk to the small village known as Tibet.
A day, maybe two had passed before the couple had felt like themselves again. They had each murmured the name Omit several times while in and out of sleep, always being reassured by the kind robed men that they would have their time with him.
And then the morning had come. Rising well-rested and with a healthy appetite John and Gloria appreciatively ate the warm breakfast they were given and soon thereafter was joined by the one who seemed to embody the two different sides of the universe. The hardened side, with each wrinkle of his ancient face impressed into it as if it represented one eon among many, his beard of white strands hanging from his chin like he had been uprooted from the soil of time. And then there was the opposite side, soft and smooth in his walking as if he had mastered the art of movement while under time’s mysterious clock.
‘So glad to have been found by you, my children. So rare of an encounter to come across ones of your age who possess such a thirst for knowledge.
‘So you wish to spend eternity together, do you?’
‘How-?’ was the one word John was able to get out before Omit provided an answer.
‘A funny thing, age is. With the priceless gift of youth comes amazing strength and stamina, but wisdom and intuition, the former must usually be traded to acquire such. But you two have used what you possess with what you hope to possess. Impressive.
‘And within my answer lies the answer to your question. With such an old companion as time, my intuition is rather sharp. Now tell me, what is it you believe to be eternal companionship? And why would you want it?’
Gloria and John looked at one another, and without needing to say anything John was the one the two agreed would answer first.
‘You see what just happened there? We didn’t have to say a word. It’s kinda like what you just mentioned. Intuition. Where we’re from, people might label it as telepathy, even though no one actually believes in it. And yet this kind of connection happens so frequently between us that it couldn’t just be coincidence. It’s like the love we have for each other is so strong that it allows us to be on a level of spiritual connection that most never reach. We want to understand this, enhance it. We don’t know what lies beyond this life, but we’re certain that our devotion for each other can keep us together when the day comes when we have to leave it.’
‘And this is why we sought you out, sir,’ Gloria continued. ‘For answers on how to achieve that eternal companionship. And why do we want it? As my husband said, our love is so great that we simply cannot, and will not, imagine life and whatever lies beyond, without each other. And I think the past five years of what we have put ourselves through proves this.’
The eons impressed onto Omit’s face curled up in joy as he smiled from the answer they had given him. He then put out both hands to receive a rather thick book from a silent monk who must have been waiting in the shadows. Like Omit himself, the book looked weathered by time yet bound to stand the test of it.
On its aged leather cover stood no title, no design, only three horizontal lines, connected by one vertical line going straight down their middle.
With those mesmerizing iridescent eyes which appeared to reflect all the colors of the universe Omit looked up to the two young lovers and uttered the four words that would change their existence forever:
‘The Book of Truths.’
‘They were so worried something might happen to that old book,’ Jeannie said as she drank the last swallow of her lemonade. ‘Omit had insisted they take it, along with a dire warning for them only to read certain passages from it, spread out over the course of five years.’
‘When they voiced concerns of taking it from him, he assured them that it could not be lost. That he and The Book of Truths were linked as much as they were well on their way to being, and no, they couldn’t just read the passages then and there, for the mind could only handle so much truth at any given time.
‘They thanked him profusely and kept the book on them every moment of every day until they arrived back here to their new home, and the very first thing they did in this new house of theirs was install the heaviest, thickest safe they could find, and only opened it on the specific dates Omit had given them.
‘Five years later, five years to the day of receiving that gift of knowledge their little four-year-old daughter ran into the arms of an old man who had found his way to that very porch you entered this house on. To retrieve his book. Of course I don’t remember such a day, but I came to grow fond of the man the world had been calling Omit for who knows how long, finding a life-long friend in a kind soul that seemed to make his presence known whenever he needed to be confided in. Not only monumental occasions, mind you, but also inevitable moments in time, like the passing of my parents.’
This final confirmation of who Jimmy/John and Sarah/Gloria were brought tears to Aaron’s eyes, with the warmth of compassion overtaking all the fear that had been created from these most unusual of circumstances. He had become a witness to what must be one of the universe’s most miraculous of occurrences.
Seeing the emotion on Aaron’s youthful face Jeannie offered him some truth he could be proud of. ‘They used to say that after their passing, finding one another wouldn’t be like searching for a needle in a haystack, but rather akin to finding a piece of hay amongst a stack of needles. Not nearly as time-consuming, but delicate in nature nonetheless. But thanks to you, young man, those needles aren’t as sharp as they could be.’
Aaron smiled as the two stood to their feet, eagerness to return to the hospital causing him to hope that he could catch the next flight out despite the time on his ticket not scheduled to arrive for another seventeen hours.
Unfortunately, every ticket holder showed, causing Aaron one of the stiffest night’s sleeps he ever had thanks to the gambling away of his hotel room in hopes of catching a vacant seat. But nothing was as distressing as the information he received when calling the hospital an hour before his flight time of 12:00 P.M.
Due to his lecture having already been given, Dr. Moran would be returning a day early, “stopping by on his way home to check on a few things.”
Aaron clinched the phone tight, bit down on his lower lip and internally cursed that pompous ass for doing what Aaron should have already predicted. Of course it would be like Moran to leave early now that he was no longer the center of attention.
With the flight time and time difference, Aaron wouldn’t be arriving at the hospital until seven in the evening, maybe six forty-five if they landed on time and traffic was clear. But when was Moran’s flight due in? He called his unit back. They didn’t know, and weren’t about to try and call him to find out, but since he hadn’t showed up yet it was assumed he would arrive sometime in the evening.
All Aaron could do was hope those needles weren’t about to get sharper!
Chapter 8 posted shortly.