Marko Milo

Dark blue ocean eyes

— A dying man recalls falling in love with a circus girl he met in his early youth.

“Dad?” said a little child, while his father was tucking him in his bed.

“Yeah?” he replied, with a tired yawn. 

“What was my grandpa like?” the child continued. The father was a just a tiny bit surprised, and said 

“Your grandpa Michael, huh? Well, only if you promise me you’ll go to sleep immediately after I tell the story, okay?”. 

“I promise” the child replied.

“It’s kinda interesting that you mention your grandpa this late in the evening, though. Then, after all, you never got to meet him, since he died only a couple of years before you were born. I’m gonna tell you something that stuck with me, ever since he told me about it, during his last months, which he spent in the hospital.” 

The child was carefully listening in silence, with his widely opened, little curious eyes. “There is something magical about this story, something similar to the other ones I tell you before bed, except this thing really happened. I could swear that he was telling the truth. Even though your grandpa, at that time, was going through a huge memory loss, and most of the things he was saying were a bunch of nonsense… This was so different.” The father made a short break, and then continued. 

“I’m gonna tell you how it all went, from my point of view.”

I thought it was going to be just an ordinary visit, nothing unusual, just like every other day. I knocked on his door and came in. Usually he was unwell and laying in his bed, but this time… He was sitting in a chair by the window, looking at the morning horizon. 

“Her hair was bright as gold…” out of nowhere, he said. “Her lips… a sweet surprise. Her hands were never cold, she had dark blue ocean eyes.” 

I stood there silently for a moment, both confused and happy that he was saying something concrete… kind of.” 

“Dad?”, I asked your grandpa Mike. “Is everything okay?” He slowly turned to me and said:

“Yes, Richard, my dear son, everything is just fine”. I stood there for a moment, heartbroken… but in a happy way. He finally remembered me and my name… I had to hold in my heavy tears. 

“Let me tell you something son…” he continued shortly afterwards. “The realest thing that has ever happened to me, in this life that I have lived through.” 

I took a chair, and sat right beside him, looking at his face which was being illuminated by the morning horizon. I sat there just as silent as you now, you little muffin, paying him full attention. 

“I was merely a teenager… I was fiften, and there was this circus in town during the week. Now remember, Richie, you know that I lived in a town with only a few thousand people, and to us, the circus was something new, including both the elders, and us, kids… Most of the village immediately bought a ticket, and everyone was impatient to go see the show… Now of course, the problem was there weren’t enough tickets for everyone to see it in one night, but luckily, the circus had a show every night for the rest of the week. I was one of the lucky ones to get a chance to see the performances on the first night and I was very excited. The show included a lot of stuff, they had a unicycle act, gymnastics, hula hoops, and they even had an elephant. But… the final act was, by far, the best one yet. This girl, whom I thought at that moment was maybe my age or a few years older, did an astonishing trapeze performance. As she was dancing through the air, my heart was pounding like a giant’s anger, ready to break everything in its path. While she was spectacularly moving her gracious body, her yellow hair was marvelously dashing through the air. I have to get to know her, I thought to myself. When the show finished, I was left completely stunned. I had to see her again. Tomorrow I bought another ticket, and I did the same thing the day after.” Mike slowly inhaled, as he leaned his head on his left arm, still looking at the peaceful morning horizon. “After three shows, I finally found enough courage to walk up to her. I finally got to know her. Amanda was her name. I was right, she was two years older than me and she was travelling with her parents who were also performers and who managed this circus. We took a walk, and I showed her my favorite spot in the countryside. Moonlight hill I called it. There was this huge and lonely oak tree, on which I loved to spend the summer nights, looking at the Moon and the stars. We were talking, and talking… and both of us were smiling most of the time. Now, keep in mind”, grandpa Mike grinned “That I was a really handsome lad, and probably looked a bit older than I actually was. So that was probably a huge help in winning that girl’s sympathy. Anyways, when we realized it was late, both of us decided to head home. She promised me that tomorrow, on their final show, she will let me see the show from behind the curtains. She said goodnight and gave me a kiss on the cheek. She smelled of lilac and gooseberries.”

“Tomorrow morning, mother woke me up because I slept in. She was angry because I promised her I would help her with work on the farm. I was so tired… but I had a smile on my face. Through the whole day, I couldn’t stop thinking about Amanda. I was happy and excited, yet kind of sad because tonight was her last performance and her last day in our town. In the evening, I cleaned my shoes, put on my finest clothes and went to see the show. She sat beside me in the backstage, through all the performances before hers. She was talking about her exciting days as a traveling performer. I was talking about my boring days as a farm worker, but in a humoristic way. Then she performed. And oh boy, it was still as beautiful as the first time, if not, even better. She finished her performance and she was hanging on those curtains, levitating like ballerina, smiling for the crowd, who honored her with a tremendous clap. And then… she looked to her right, at me, with a smile as pure as snow. She looked at me and every inch of my body got covered in goosebumps. She had dark blue ocean eyes.” 

Mike made a short silent break and swallowed hard. 

“After the show I took her by the hand, and we ran to the lonely tree on the Moonlight hill. The moon was full that night, and I had such a huge urge to kiss that girl that I thought my heart would explode like a supernova. We sat on the grass and we started talking about our dreams. I felt…” Mike paused, “…we talked like we were best friends and yet I wanted to kiss her so badly. I never experienced something similar. It felt so strange, but so good. She told me how she wanted to visit as many places as possible. I told her I wanted to explore the stars and the universe. She talked about traveling through time, to see her ancestors. I talked about riding a white unicorn who is galloping  like the wind, on the surface of the sea. And we laughed. Then there was a blackout. Suddenly I realized, our lips were touching. And they’ve been touching for maybe three seconds now? Or three minutes? Or three infinities? My heart melted at that moment. Before that it may have exploded. Or it exploded, and afterwards it melted. I couldn’t know. Everything I knew then, was her soft and gentle lips. And it blew my mind away.” 

Grandpa Mike took a small break here. He told me to go get myself a cup of coffee and a glass of water to him. As I was waiting for the machine to make my coffee, I was thinking about the story and everything he said. And then I came to realization that my mom didn’t have beautiful blue eyes! Nor did she have golden hair or her name was Amanda. Damn, dad. I have a feeling that this story is still far from over. I got back to his room, with my head full of questions that needed answering. But again I sat there next to him and continued to be as quiet as a mouse. 

“Now, what I’m about to say to you” dad carried on, “may, and probably will sound crazy and unreal, but you can bet your bottom that it sure is real.”

“Few days after Amanda and her circus departed, I started having some strange dreams. One dream was about us holding hands and singing on a huge ship with a big pirate crew. Other dream was about us making barbeque and playing table tennis on the Moon. The third one was about how we were exploring ocean’s depths with a pack of wolves by our side, I remember one was named Kevin, he was the funniest of them all. The dream ended on a small green mountain peak, and as we were dancing around the campfire with those wolves, all of us were hilariously howling at the night’s sky. There were a bunch of other dreams that I can also describe to you, but let me jump to the point. As time time passed, over the months, those dreams started appearing less and less. I was kinda bummed out, because I missed Amanda and I couldn’t wait to meet her again someday and tell her all about my dreams. I was sure that she would love them. Anyway, as life was going by, time took a toll on me. I was growing up and I had other responsibilities. About six years after the circus was in my hometown, I moved alone to a bigger city, so that I could build myself a better future. But, those things I never could forget. Those warm kisses. Those exciting and cheerful summer nights. Those dreams. Even though I was preoccupied with my studies and job, I still found some time to ask around about the circus that was in my hometown years and years ago, “The blue flower” circus. But I couldn’t find them anywhere. And time went by. I met your mother, and we had you. And don’t you be afraid! I truly loved your mother, and I miss her very much. But still, there was a place in my heart for that girl, Amanda. I was really curious about what happened to her… Was I just being silly? Was that just a foolish young lad’s love? Are dreams only a bunch of useless, intangible and ambiguous pieces of a puzzle with no purpose? I got my answer sooner than I had expected.

One day I was on a train, headed to work. There was a nice old fella in front of me, reading newspapers. On the back of the newspapers I saw a title “The blue flower circus lightens up the streets, this Thursday only!” I got off at the next station and I didn’t care where I was. I immediately took a cab and went to buy the ticket. I was too excited. I wanted to go there all by myself, and I told your mother that I was going to stay at work late that night, and believe me, my dear son, that is the only time in my life that I have ever lied to your mother. So I went there on Thursday evening. The space was much bigger, crowd was much larger, and everything was shinier  than before. I expected to see Amanda again, doing the last performance. I sat through all the performances, and though they were amazing, I couldn’t focus and pay too much attention to them. I only noticed that Amanda’s parents didn’t do the elephant act this time. Okay, I thought to myself, they probably got too old, so they only manage the circus this time, they don’t perform in it as well. The final act was being prepared… Then she came out. But not “SHE” she, it was someone else. And it wasn’t a trapeze performance. It was just a hula hoop act, by some very young lady. The show was over and I was left disappointed. I walked outside to try and find her or her parents, one last time. And I found her parents! Or actually, they found me. They caught my gaze from the crowd and they started waving and shouting for me to come. We were excited! They hugged me and said how they recognized me by my smile, after all those years! They said that they missed me and that Amanda missed me… before she…passed away. They said that she couldn’t stop talking about me and some silly dreams that she had. She caught smallpox, and she spent a lot of time in bed, only a few months after they left my hometown. They said that they were so sorry… they said she wrote a huge letter for me, just before she died, and that they didn’t have heart to send it to me… they didn’t want to crush a young boy’s dream. I wasn’t mad, only disappointed. Not in them, but in reality of life. But then… they told me that they saved the letter after all this time. My heart started beating so hard. It was just like that time she looked into my eyes, with her snowy smile, just when she finished her last performance. Then I knew everything she did was for me. The performance, the letter. She dedicated her final moments to me. I quickly bid my farewells, hugged them, grabbed the letter, and I started running. I started  running so fast through the empty streets of the midnight city, as oceans of tears were pouring out of my eyes. I didn’t care I had to leave for work again early in the morning. I didn’t care about how I had to walk a few kilometers home in the middle of the night. I started reading the letter. She wrote about “The exciting adventures of the dream odyssey”, she called it. The part about the wolves. The, a bit, overly cooked sausages after our table tennis tournament on the Moon’s surface. She said that she was heartbroken because she thought  that those dreams weren’t real, because she really missed me and my company. She said that she didn’t care that we hadn’t seen each other since the Moonlight hill, because she wanted to believe that her dreams were real, and that reality was fake. My tears never poured as much as after I read the letter. I went home, kissed my wife,” Mike took a look at me and smiled, “kissed my baby boy Richard… and I was at peace. Because then, I got the answer I had been searching for, after all those years. Reality is wrong, dreams are real. She had dark blue ocean eyes.”

Your grandpa smiled at me with his happy, calm eyes, and told me “I love you Richie. Now, let me get back to my rest.” That was the last time your grandpa talked to me normally. Few weeks later, he found rest in exploring the sea of endless dreams, and never came back to this world.

“Now it’s time to go to sleep, young sailor. You’ve got school tomorrow.” Said Richard, to his little son. 

“Dad… Thanks. Love you.” Richard tucked in his son, kissed him on the forehead, turned the lights off, and went out of his room. 

“Dreams are real.” Little Mikey smiled and thought to himself. “She had dark blue ocean eyes.”