I decided to travel for a while after my Mother died. On a rainy day when I was lost in the streets, I met Naila. I was soaking wet and in dire need of some hot tea and directions to my destination. She took me in and gave me both.
Even in her early forties, Naila looked a bit older. Her face was wrinkled with the seasons she had experienced over the years but her eyes still sparkled like 4 years old. I stayed with her for two months. Listening to her stories, sipping tea and eating her special home-made chicken.
That woman had stories to tell. Nothing exotic or sad even, just stories. Some days she’ll get lost telling how her grandfather brought home the wall clock that proudly hangs in her living room and the other days she’ll hum the lullaby her mother sang to her every night for 15 years and recite the bedtime stories she knew by heart.
She had lovers, many of them. Some she remembered with a tiny smile and some she just shrugged off with the shake of her head. She liked to talk. Talk about her days, her childhood, her neighbors and even the guy around the corner that owned a bakery. She had stories and loved to tell them.
“You should write these stories,” I suggested on a warm Sunday evening, as we both sat by the porch, me writing in my journal and Naila just staring at the setting sun, deep in thoughts.
“I’m not good with words, unlike you.” She replied with a soft smile.
“You can try, you have so many stories to tell.” I insisted. I always admired how she could tell a tiny incident in a way that would put some great stories to shame.
“Why don’t you write one?” she asked signaling to my journal. “You are always scribbling on those pages, I could only hope you are writing one.”
I looked at the journal in my hand. Words were written, not in a specific order but just right enough for me to understand. I said nothing.
That night at dinner, I informed her I’d be leaving the next morning and thanked her for her hospitality and offered her some money for letting me stay. She refused them and tucked the money into my pocket saying I’d need it more.
The next morning as I was tying my shoelaces and avoiding eye contact to hide the tears from her, she came and hugged me tightly. Before leaving she gave me a notebook with a short story written in childlike handwriting, probably her; it was about the time she met her husband, who later died of sickness.
“I tried my hand at writing, but as you can see, I’m not good with words. But you are. And I wish you’d write stories. I know you got many. And if you have got a story, it’s always worth telling.” I nodded with a shy smile and said my goodbyes.
We stayed in touch until the day she died. I wrote letters to her and got replies almost immediately, until one day when the letter wasn’t written by her. She had passed away. I went to her funeral, for our final goodbye.
On her tombstone were the words engraved,
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
I took a piece of paper and left a small note on her grave next to the tulips. She lived every day as if she was here to stay forever. Her stories kept her alive, even after she was gone. It rained that day. Not because the sky was sad for her death, but it showered in the hope of making a path for someone who’s lost. Just like what she did for me. I smiled at the words on the note,
She who lived on the clouds, dancing feet never touching the ground and a heart that told stories.