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Andina

Three years have gone by since that summer. I was seventeen, spending the gloomy days in the vacation home, and I thought I knew it all. I loathed the cloudy days and chilly nights in this place. I passed the time by the water’s edge, fruitlessly wishing I was back home with my annoying friends, getting drunk, shooting hoops and pretending everything was all right. But it wasn’t.

I knew why we had come to stay the month in the dreary “summer” home. Perhaps, back in the day, my parents had thought it was a good investment to buy a cabin by the water in a place where the sun never comes out. Perhaps they had been blinded by what they thought was called love, and they imagined a happy family running around the creaky stairs. Well, their plan failed in every way. We stayed at the cabin, my parents, sister and I, until I was three, and then they forgot this place even existed. And just like she forgot this cabin, my mother forgot this family.

It wasn’t a big deal to hear them fight. My sister, two years older and twice as responsible, was doing homework while I kept myself occupied. And just as sudden as it began, it, too, ended suddenly with a slamming door. Just like that. There was no crying, no goodbye. I wonder if she even looked back.

It was instant, knowing that she wouldn’t come back. My sister cried for two days, but we’re strong, her and I, and after those forty eight hours she never shed a tear again. Sometimes, I would find myself pretending she had died. I think it was easier to believe that I had not been left by choice. I never cried and life moved on. Except for dad. Her essence haunted him and everything resembled her ghost. After the school year was over, he knew needed to get away.

Though I looked fine, I was filled with resentments and I shamefully took it out on the people that needed me most. I lashed at my father whenever he tried and failed to hold a conversation, and Shannon, always the smart one, simply learned to keep her distance. I guess I deserved it, all the loneliness.

I remember clearly, sitting by that shore. The sky was dark but I stubbornly stayed there, tempting fate or whatever was out there to bring on the storm. And suddenly she appeared in my life, just as sudden as she would leave it. She stood next to me, a quiet being. Her thin pale frame was enhanced by that tangle of long brown hair, framing those sad eyes that reflected this dreary sky.

“When it rains, it pours,” she said. Whether this was her way of introduction or not, I couldn’t tell, but soon enough, the drops began to fall, one by one at first, and then in unison. She sat next to me, uninvited. Perhaps because we were two misfits I didn’t feel the urge to be rude and send her packing, like I did with with people. I let ten minutes pass before I decided to break the silence.

“I’m Chris.”

“Andina,” was all she said. And that was all we exchanged that day. We sat there some more minutes, soaking in that rain, until she stood up and we parted ways without another word.

Misery seeks company so we met everyday since, and something close to friendship bloomed between us. It didn’t matter that we never talked much, Andina and I, until one unexpected day she broke our silent vows.

“So what’s your reason for coming here?”

I merely shrugged and pointed at our cabin behind us. To get away, I guess.

“Why do you come?” I asked.

“There are things you can’t get away from, but I like to pretend I can.” It’s like she understood. She closed her eyes and made everything disappear. I can’t explain why, but at that moment I felt everything she did. I closed my eyes, and I, too, understood. I still didn’t know why, but I could feel her pain, far stronger than mine, but not stronger than her. Then suddenly, she smiled a smile that reached her overcast eyes and my soul, and just like that the pain was gone.

The following morning was sloshing rain, but I was prepared to leave, as usual, before anyone saw me. This morning, however, my dad did.

‘Where do you think you’re going in this weather?”

“Out.” I pushed past him and walked outside.

“Chris! Get back here!”

“Or what? You can’t make me stay, just like you couldn’t make her.” I slammed the door behind me with all the violence I had accumulated. I kept walking, and though I didn’t see it, I felt my father’s pain and his stricken complexion. I had hurt him where it was still raw, but I was still blinded by rage. I could spot Andina at arms length, her feet touching the water’s edge.

I stood next to her, fuming, but she said nothing at all.

“Aren’t you gonna ask?” I needed to vent, badly.

“I’d do anything for someone to fight with like that,” she said. “Why is it easier to take it out on those who love us?”

My rage seemed to dissolve like salt in water.

“Because you know they’ll take you back,” I answered, so low maybe she didn’t even hear. “We do it because we can.” I tasted salt on my face, but I couldn’t tell if they were tears, the rain, or the splash of the ocean.

“They love you. You know that, don’t you?” she said. I nodded as she walked away.

“Andina, wait!” I blurted, “Come to dinner with us, will you?” she looked hesitant and I was sure she was going to decline, but for a second so brief I thought I had imagined it, she gave a curt nod.
That day we strayed from monotony and passed the hours walking the pier. There was something about the storm that attracted us. It wasn’t the possibility of danger that awoke our insides. It was the fact that it was us against the storm that fed our strength. And so we passed the hours the only way we knew how, in comfortable silence.

Before the sunset, I walked home, Andina trailing behind me. I saw my dad setting the table for two as I gently closed the door behind me.

“Hey.”
He scrutinized me under the dim light. Slowly, he nodded and reappeared with two more plates. That was all I needed to say. He, too, understood. This was the best apology my broken self could muster, but he knew, Shannon knew, and Andina knew. I embraced for awkwardness but Andina laughed appropriately at my father’s jokes and exchanged light banter with Shannon. When she smiled, the smile reached her eyes, and because we were two birds of the same feather it reached mine too and I found myself smiling for the first time in months.

My return to life was anticlimactic and not like you see in movies. There was no father and son embracing for lost time. There was no brother and sister bonding and crying. There was nothing, except for more family dinners with Andina. And just like that togetherness slips in when you don’t notice. I sure didn’t, but it was there. Like I said, my return to life was anticlimactic. There was also no chasing the girl, no love confession, and no Andina. Just as sudden as she appeared, she left.

It was an acustomed day, dreary, humid and drizzling. I went outside like I had been every day that summer, to meet her. Because I had known abandon, I knew when she didn’t show up that I would never see her again, only this time, I understood. I had no idea where she lived, and I never found out the reason for those overcast eyes. Did I love her? I think I did, but I know for a fact that I had needed her. I had known her pain, I had felt it, and I understood her, just like she knew, felt, and understood me. Andina was a part of me. Andina was me in the days where I was drowning and needed saving. I only wish I had known how to save her, too. After that summer, my family and I left the cabin and its clouded skies and gray oceans. We never went back, and for that, Andina, I will always be grateful.



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