The daylight began to fade, and the breeze speeded up a little making him curl his cold toes in contact with the damp floor. He was alone in his cabin, sitting on a stool and peering at the curvy gravel road through his window.
A dusty lantern sat on his table beside the long-forgotten bowl of scratch meal containing boiled eggs and porridge. The air was thick with the scent of incense sticks burning profusely in front of the altar of Jesus. The bouquet of wilting lilies in his room had lost their scent.
While his black beady eyes searched for a human figure in the deserted lane, he was distracted by the unsympathetic beaconing of the warden that reverberated through the corridor. The warden was calling out the seminary boys for the evening prayer and tea. Cheerful voices of boys floated down the stairs. He didn’t move, his eyes were fixed on the road.
It was growing dark; owls began hooting from the leafy braided treetops lining the gravel path. The emerald-blue lake beside the lane was slowly transforming into a swathe of seaweed green. The wooden bench in front of it was shrouded with fall foliage and skeleton branches. It was the autumn before last when he first saw the girl with her pals sitting on that bench.
They were dressed in checked blue shirts and plaited white skirts. All of them had diaries in their hands. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her chestnut brown hair was irresistibly enticing. He felt an instant longing for her. He wanted to know her name and inquire about her whereabouts. For a fleeting moment he was captured in a state of incongruence between his heart and mind. All the theories about hard-learned mortal and venial sins evaded him for a fraction of a second. But he restrained himself, terribly nervous about the consequences. He had vowed to dedicate himself to a life of devotion and philanthropy on the day he entered the seminary. He chanted the name of Jesus Christ asking for forgiveness, for foolishly afflicting his mind with the want of flesh.
But his eyes unobtrusively moved to her. After all, he was a teenager. She was smiling, baring out all her gleaming white teeth. Her laughter echoed through the otherwise silent lane. He closed his eyes to avoid the temptation and with an accent of forced bravery, he prayed for the strength to resist. He drew the curtains and willed himself towards his bed. After an hour of solid abstinence, he curiously tiptoed to the window to look if she was still there. He felt both agitated and satisfied that she was gone.
After three months, he saw the girl again on a sunshiny day. This time she was alone with a diary in her lap. Two more diaries lay beside her on the bench. Perhaps she was waiting for her pals. She was dressed in a pink pinafore and her chestnut brown tresses were neatly tied with a purple ribbon. He abruptly sprang to his feet. The glimpse of the girl made him ecstatic. An indescribable jolt ran through him. He felt as if the four walls of his room were buzzing and encouraging him to tread the untrodden path.
He slithered his way through the wooden stairs of his hostel, his cassock fluttered like a bird in flight. With the speed of a vivid flash of lightening he reached the gate of the seminary. He paused for a moment, hesitating to step out. The community setting of the seminary was everything for him. His life routinely revolved around the chapel, early morning classes, his quaint cabin, desert days of meditation, and the apostolic work he was assigned.
He pulled up his sleeves to allow the tangerine rays of the sun to play warmth on his skin. The air wafted the smell of fresh grass. An intoxicating happiness flooded him. He slipped out into the gravel road and motioned himself towards the lake, arranging approachable sentences in his mind to sound pert and interesting. The nearer he drew to the bench the more he could see how distractingly beautiful she was. Her eyes were too large and deep. She was moving her fingertips through the raised dots of her diary, impervious to any human intrusion. An uncanny silence prevailed. He stood there foolishly unable to speak, soaking up the tantalizing perfume emanating from her chestnut brown hair. Only the leaves made a rumble.