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There are people who come into your life to stay, and there are the fleeting ones who appear and then leave. Those who stay impact your daily life. You hear their words, fall under their influences, but are not left with a lasting impression. Those who go leave footprints on your mind and on your heart.
So was the life of the nomad, wandering from town to town, putting down no roots and leaving as soon as he felt an attachment. He thrived on change. He did not remember his birthplace as the hundreds of city titles blinded his mind’s view. He did not remember his birth name as his new identities, created aliases, all swirled and mixed themselves inside his mind.
He did not know the name of the city he came to next. He had a vague idea that it was around the thirtieth one. He saw in it only the dry heat, scrub trees, desolate landscape and unfamiliarity. The final quality was his requirement, and so his steps slowed through the scorching, dusty streets.
He sat on the worn sidewalk, contemplating the new person he could be. His restless mind only settled on new experiences and sought only the unknown, and so he came into a new name, the only defining characteristic in him that he would let others see.
As his thoughts came to a close, he rose once more, content in his change. And as he looked up through a new person’s eyes, he was startled to see undeniable beauty standing before him.
He surprised himself as he smiled and extended his right hand for an introduction. His usual routine in a new place was to only speak when spoken to, and he generally became known as eccentric, therefore sparking no one’s curiosity when he was suddenly gone.
But as he saw the smile that lit up her bright face, he knew instantly that he was encountering something he had not come across in all his trips from town to town. He didn’t know what it was, but it was in his demeanor to approach the unknown without fear. So when she offered to show him around, he followed. And as her hand reached for his, he took it.
He told himself he was simply investigating the unknown. He imagined he was only looking into what he hadn’t experienced. But in the back corner of his mind, he knew he was really following her sparkling green eyes and beautiful smile.
As the two walked together and the afternoon heat grew stronger, he was surprised to find himself going to her apartment for a drink. But he told himself that he would lay no roots. He convinced himself that he couldn’t attach himself to another, but somewhere in the same corner of his mind, he knew he was lying.
“So,” she said, placing a hand on his arm, “You’re new in town. Have you found a place to stay yet?” He said that he had not, and without thinking, accepted her offer that he sleep in her spare room for a few nights until he found housing.
She smiled at his acceptance. And as she lay her head on his shoulder, her open grin spread to his face.
He had only brought a few belongings with him. These were the things that had been with him from the start- a few changes of clothes, a toothbrush, soap, and money. He never bought anything permanent in his many locations, afraid he would become too attached.
But when she saw his scanty possessions, she was appalled at his lack of clothing and immediately offered to take him shopping. And though it opposed his lifestyle, the way he had always meant to keep affairs, he agreed.
A frown came over his face as he acquired several new bags of clothes, and he would have liked to throw them all away, but her pleased expression kept him from his instinct, the bags weighing down his wrists like handcuffs. He told himself that he was only exploring what he hadn’t experienced, that this wouldn’t last long, but in the back corner of his mind, he knew he was lying.
The two walked towards her home side by side, marveling in the warm air filled with sunshine. “Does it ever rain here?” he asked her.
“I’ve only seen it happen once,” she replied. “It may be a long time before you see a drop.”
As they approached her apartment building, he suggested that he put his bags down and then look for an apartment of his own. But her eyes drew him back, the effervescent hopefulness sparkling in them as she said, “It’s so hot outside. Why don’t you look tomorrow?”
He agreed, promising himself he would be out of her apartment by the following day. But in the back corner of his mind, he knew he was lying.
She would repeat this phrase each day for the following weeks, and with each passing day, hour, and even minute, he found himself getting to know her a little bit more. And though he had always opposed friendships, relationships, and even conversations, he stayed with her.
He told himself he wasn’t becoming more attached each day. He told himself he could leave anytime he wanted and not care. He told himself that he wouldn’t live with her for much longer. He told himself that he wasn’t growing to love her, but in the back corner of his mind, he knew he was lying.
He awoke one morning, not knowing how long he had been living with her, but he knew that weeks had passed. And so he said his dutiful, “I should go and look for a place of my own to live today.”
But instead of her usual reply, she set down her coffee mug and leaned forward, her eyes sparkling emeralds. “Why don’t you just stay here?” she asked. “Permanently. I like the company.” Her smile shone towards him. “I like you,” she said.
And though it went against all his principles, sacrificed his way of life and all the comforts he gained through solitary life, he nodded. And he didn’t try to tell himself he was just seeking the unknown, because the back corner of his mind had come forward, and he knew he would be lying.
The smile he loved graced her beautiful face. Hopping off her breakfast stool, she ran over to him on tiptoe, tilted her face up and his down and kissed him. The nomad had faced his fears, laid down roots and formed a relationship.
He soon moved into her bedroom, leaving only a few of his belongings behind in the spare room. The sensation of waking up beside a warm body was the greatest bliss he could imagine, and he soon forgot his plans to leave town and move on, too lost in his happiness to even consider it.
And so the months passed, the two passing into complacency. But as time went by, he found himself with a longing inside that he couldn’t place. He pushed his unhappiness at this away, but there it lingered, in the back corner of his mind.
He realized his longing late at night as he awoke with a jolt to the sound of pounding raindrops on the roof. He was dying for change. He had placed down too many roots in this town, made too many connections, and he felt the driving need to move on.
He told himself that change and movement were in his nature. It was true, but he did not address why this was so. His fear of continuing relationships hung in the air around her sleeping figure, but he evaded the truth of it as he stole a final kiss on her cheek, turning away before he saw her sleepy smile.
And so he slipped out of bed so quietly that she did not stir, and began to gather the things he needed in a growing frenzy of excitement. He put all of his new clothes into a big garbage bin on the street. He walked to the far side of town carrying only his basic clothes, his toothbrush, soap, and money.
He had now reached the edge of the town, his footprints erased by the heavy downpour. And for the only time in his travels, he paused at the city limits, considering the feelings roiling inside him. He considered, for the final time, her brilliant green eyes, her sweet smile, the feel of her embrace. And he walked on, the memories fading with each step.
She awoke later to a cold and empty bed. She walked through the rooms in a daze, finding no trace of the nomad, no goodbye, only the absence of him, his belongings and the feeling of warmth that his presence had created. She looked in the closets and drawers, and in the back corner of a bottom drawer, she found a small, unfamiliar, unmarked black velvet box.
She opened the lid slowly, with trepidation, and revealed a sparkling diamond ring inside. She stared at its brilliance as she slipped it onto her left ring finger, the raindrops on the roof muffling the sounds of her tears as she thought of what might have been.
No trace of his existance was left in the town he was leaving but for a diamond ring splashed with tears, tucked back in the corner of a bottom drawer. And as she moved to replace the ring in its box, she stood, carrying it to the windowsill.
The wood creaked and paint chips flew as she opened the window. Bringing her arm back, she threw the box into the resounding unfamiliarity of raindrops, and a slight smile came over her face as she watched it fly into the darkness of the rain. The nomad lived on only in her memories and the footprints echoing through her mind and her heart.