Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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Jonathan The dust of time lays heavy upon my soul. When I sit here, up in this room, I feel the truth of my years press against me with such force as to push a long tired sigh from my lungs. This room was a part of my childhood, although all my childhood things are joined with the memories of generations past in the attic. I remember those days in a unique light. They are so far removed form my mind and yet those memories have a clarity no other part of my life hold. I am sure nothing would be real to me at all if it weren't for the fragment of the past that was able to follow me.

When I look back to remember, it is as though I am peering through time fogged glass of an antique picture frame. It is a dark portrait of the willow tree outside my bedroom window.

Through that window I can see the fields of scattered groves of thin frond-like trees and the little wisps of creek that feed the lush grasses that grow there. The land is green again when one looks through the window.

My family's home was a common country house. It rested between a pair of swelling hills, rich with life and sunshine. The land was gifted with the songs of various birds, the haven of rabbits, scattered wild cats, rodents of most shape and size, the occasional deer, and a few heads of livestock. My livelihood was taken form this land. From the warm spring rains and the smell of blossoms, from the dripping sunshine or the crisp shining snow. My thoughts were simple and bent on the beauty of the land. My love was for the air, earth, and the animals it nurtured.

Most of my days were spent running free across the auburn colored hills with the pair of family spaniels. We would splash and wade into the shallow creek. Cool enough to relive the summer heat and yet shallow enough to let the sun warm it a bit, that water was a touch of Heaven. We would hide and frolic in the shadows of our orchard. Our Eden Orchard, as I called it, was really nothing more than a pair of apple trees flanked with four small cherries, but it was the heart of my world. All things good and beautiful began here and radiated outward like the branches of a tree or the warmth of the sun.

Just as my time was filled with the duties of childhood, my parents had their places to work and tend. My father put in time at the farm and feed store he owned and operated, far up the dirt road from our house in town. There, he and his delivery and stock boy made quite a successful profit, peddling for the farmer and the country man. Fodder for the animals and supplies for the home b Å ( Ž ó û ü b Ê +  ò 5 Å¡ û [ nd, spent her time at home. She "š ã F § f Ê . "¢ ð ö Y ¼ " I Â¥ er. She kept the house tidy and Û ç N · " /  ì N œ ô Q ¸ ) j È lection animals. Our family was I y Þ D! " '" "°" ì" 9# "¢# Ú# B$ Â¥$ % .% "˜% Û% e bed time or tender words at the table, unlike families in my story books. This lack of show did not, however, result from a lack of feeling. My parents were simply quiet people. The occasional trinket from town or special desert communicated their love for me as well as, or even better, than all the kisses in the world. I never craved that sort of affection, I knew I was loved. I was secure enough in my own mind not to need much additional display. They did much by providing me with a cozy home.

I was an only child and not really the worse for it. I had no siblings with which to contend. There was no intruder to impose upon my quiet time or lay rival claim to Our Eden Orchard. At this time I didn't want others around me. I was far more pleased with the joys of solitude. This lasted me until shortly after my ninth birthday.

It had been a week or so after my small party. My mother had presented me with two new summer dresses for my favorite doll and my father had fashioned for me a miniature basin and washboard. Practicality always had a place in my house. What good were new dresses if my doll couldn't clean them after they had been soiled? I was in the act of helping my doll with her laundry when a peculiar feeling crept over me.

The air coming through the window seemed to cool slightly. I looked up, more out of reflex then alarm, and peered out the empty window. My play was forgotten on the floor and I walked to it, gazing out into the blackness of an overcast country night. The outline of the willow tree was barely visible against the low clouds. My soul became leaden as I stared into the dark, feeling for the first time the longing for another being. Standing before that great window I had my first taste of loneliness.

It was a foreign and bitter pain. It wasn't common loneliness. it wasn't the dull sigh blank sigh of emotion that often claims the name, but the sort only a child can have. This was the tearing in one's gut, the screaming of the soul, a young heart crying out to taste life. What was there other than the life I had known? Sinking to my knees I wept bitterly;and hardly noticed the cool arm around my shoulders.

I wasn't afraid, I still had the armor of childhood to protect me. Instead of shock I was flooded with warm relief. The tears were wiped away from my eyes by a cool finger and my hair was smoothed by the other hand. Once my vision cleared I glanced up at my friend.

A man was kneeling before me. His face was pale and smooth, his eyes were dark and radiating concern. He whispered to me in a deep rumbling voice which I immediately loved. It reminded me of the river. It was the river that feed my little creek. It was the creek that watered my orchard. In retrospect, I can't believe I didn't notice his inhuman beauty. That, however, would have it's time.

"Who are you?" I asked, my voice still wavering with tears.

He looked at me and smiled a great sweet smile. He took hand in his own and answered me, "You know well who I am. I already told you, I am your friend." From then on, all my memories included him. He was my life. the dogs and the sunshine were my friends during the day, but at night the world belonged to me and Jonathan. Jonathan, I had named him that. When I asked him his name he shied from me. He told me that any name I liked was his for me to call him. This, like his every other offering thrilled me. His friendship was golden.

He would come for me at dusk and carry me out the window, down the old willow tree, and set me on the earth. At night the whole world was different. the colors were drained from the fields and left them in a silver-blue light. The air was cooled by the darkness so I could run and play without the heat driving me to rest. moonlight trickled down the stream in a far more charming way than the sun ever could, kissing it with silver drops.

Even the house was transformed, although not for the better. It was dark and silent. The wood was cloaked with sadness like a prison. Sleep stripped it of it's homey comfort and made it look cold and unfamiliar. This, however, had no effect on me. I was young yet, and had little ability to connect that shadow of a house to my own life. It had no power over me when I was out in the fields. I spent very little time inside anyway. The only effect the dark foreboding edifice had on me was food for my fancy. With my home looming silently behind me I became an eleven year-old princess, escaping from an evil castle. I was a large jungle cat now loose from it's cage. All that mattered was that I was on the outside. I was free.

"Oh Jonathan, Jonathan, come look!" I called pointing up into one of my apple trees. "All my apples have turned black and silver." I looked back at him to make sure he was paying attention to me. Sure enough, he was standing behind me gazing thoughtfully at the fruit.

"So they have," he agreed. He reached down for me and lifted me up within reach of the branches. "Pick one and tell me if it tastes any different as well." I complied with him joyfully. I reached out to pull one of the fruits down from the tree. It broke free with hardly any effort and I put it to my mouth. The flesh tore beneath my teeth with a crisp crunch. The juice was heavenly as it poured out of the soft white flesh. He placed me again on the grass. I chewed happily for a moment.

"It really doesn't taste any different," I told him, "but I like it a whole lot more anyway." He smiled warmly as I munched on the apple. "Why is that?" he asked.

That was a strange moment. It was true, there was something different. How could I have put it into words? My body seemed warmed from within. Something about the night and my friend seemed to change everything. I looked up at him, gazing down at me with a kind look in his eyes. His mouth, in a slight indulgent smile, glowed upon me. All of these things showed me apiece of life I had never known. Everything became wonderful new, the familiar now took on new twists and became a constant source of delight. Never in my life had I been so deeply happy, so truly content. As I looked up ant Jonathan in that strange moment between life and blissful dreams, I knew he could feel what I felt. Without words, he understood. He had become a part of myself. Perhaps he had been so for longer than I knew.

"It just is," I told him.

He lifted me up into his arms again and wiped the apple from my mouth.

"So I see," he replied.

Six years passed.

As the years went by I noticed a change in myself. The changes in my body came with little surprise, but much anxiety. I had been fore warned, but I had not been prepared for the reality of swollen breasts and widened hips. I could no longer climb trees and run as I used to. I could no longer live the life of a carefree child. My emotions too started to ripen andwas wrenched with a nameless emotion, something like nervousness and shame combined. In a way I almost feared him now. My love drown out my fear. I stretched out my hand to him.

His eyes washed over the presented hand. His expression didn't change, but his eyes flashed with pain. He hesitated before moving to take it.

This was the first time he had ever done such a thing. I knew it was no great matter in my mind, but not in my soul. Tears began to sting my eyes. He moved closer to me. I pushed him back.

"If you don't want to be here, I won't keep you," I whispered as though I didn't really want him to hear. My throat swelled against my breath trying to make every gasp into a harsh sob.

His voice curled around me, "I would rather be no place else than with you.

I recoiled as though by a blow. It was the truth. I knew it to be true, but I had been wounded.

"Why didn't you take my hand?" The cool pressure of his fingers pressed harder against mine. I felt a leap of fire in my stomach.

My arms went about him and he made no move to stop me.

"What is wrong with me?" His lips touched my forehead, and I felt the words as he spoke them, "There is nothing wrong dear love. You are growing up. It happens to some of the best people." He wanted me to laugh and forget. I smiled for him and kissed his cheek. Something else hung in the air other than our tentative peace, however. Something he didn't want to tell me.

Something that would have made me cry again.

He was afraid.

The pain spread through me like a wave of ice. Heat behind my eyes made them feel as if they were sure to burst. My cheeks were flaming and damp with tears. My stomach seemed to be torn free from my body.

"Why can't it be that way?" I hissed at him. "Don't I mean enough to you?" He reached to me, trying to comfort me. I swiped at him with my nails, grazing his hand.

Undaunted, he came and kneeled beside me and put his arm behind my back.

"You come to me every night, you tell me you will always be here for me, you tell me you love me..." I broke off, unable to speak. I cried quietly for a moment. "Why can't it be?" His eyes seemed to darken with grief. His breath deepened for a moment before he began to speak. "I can't give you that." His eyes dropped from mine.

"You love me don't you?" He looked pleadingly at me. "And I love you. What could be more natural? I am almost eighteen after all." A muted despair held his features. "I love you indeed, but I can't marry you. There are things just can't..." he trailed off and looked toward the ground.

Nothing I could think of could separate us. What did he think could keep us apart? I was at a loss to come up with anything.

As if he heard my unspoken questions, he looked up at me and lay his hand on mine. "Don't ask me," he said, "don't ask, because I love you too much to let a question you put to me go unanswered." His fingers bent over my hand. He raised it and held my fingers against his cheek. I used my free hand to dry my eyes.

"No, there are some things I just can't do for you little one. But what I can do I will, now." In a moment he was gone. He couldn't stand the sight of the blood, my innocence.

This time, I doubted he would ever return.

"Jonathan! Jonathan!" called my voice in desperation. Weeks had passed without his coming. This had never happened before. The terror I felt put the fear of all else out of my mind. I couldn't live without him. I loved him. He was my friend.

Every night I roamed the hills and groves we used to travel together. All the secret places we named and loved yielded no sign of his passing. It was as though he had never existed. His shadow still loomed over me, but that is all it was. He had disappeared and become a shadow. The very shadow that hides the sun when the day receded. He was the night.

I collapsed. There was no more strength left in me. After a moment of silence, I raised my head and was sick. The surroundings were familiar, like a story from one's childhood read over again. I was in Our Eden Orchard. My exhaustion seemed to swell and bleed deeper into me. The vision of our trees sketched out in black began to waiver before me. A gray and white haze crept over my eyes as a faint nausea lulled my head back onto the ground. I felt the air grow still around me. The black night faded into death.

Dew and tears had sealed my eyes shut. Pain prickled my lids as I forced them open again. I was not dead at all. Nor was I alone. Poor Jonathan, he must have missed me too.

The beauty of his ageless face was tarnished by pain. His eyes seemed sunken, his fair skin gray. His limbs seemed stretched and thin. His clothes were worn and ripped from long neglect. He looked at me with mute pain. A smear of blood ran down his chin and neck. When he saw the direction of my gaze, he dropped his eyes from mine and began to turn away.

"Jonathan," I murmured in my half dead voice. I put out my hand to him.

He looked at the blood on his hands. Again, he hesitated.

Ages passed, so it seemed, as I waited for him to decide. My decision had been made. It was his turn.

That day, those days, were so long ago. he never took my hand. He told me he loved me and disappeared into the night. My wounds healed for the most part. I grew and learned. Still, I never had a traditional life. I never married, I never needed to. Without knowing, Jonathan had given me all I would need for a lifetime. Perhaps he had seen it.

Maybe he never returned because he had known he had given me the most he had to give. And now that gift plays in the fields. He roams the valley we had given to him. My last love