I felt pretty exhausted, tired and worn out, when I got her call. She kindly told me that it was time to keep her company on the other side of the world. I had promised her my visit a long time ago, but strenuous and tedious work always kept me away from that promise. She called me on Friday. Again I told her that I would come, I just didn`t know when, but this time she persisted in the way women often do. I had a free weekend, and although I knew I was going to lose a lot of time on the way there and back, I did agree with her—indeed we have not seen each other for a long time. I quickly bagged a few basic things I could not go without, took a taxi to the airport, and flew above the clouds.
My aunt was waiting for me.
I wasn`t good at managing in new places and the one where my aunt lived was no exception. The airport was located about thirty kilometers from the town, so I traveled the route by bus. The driver did not ask for money. I must admit, like the other passengers, I was more than surprised.
Shortly after we entered the town, we left the bus. My Aunt told me that I should bring only summer clothes, but, just in case, I brought a few warmer shirts. Despite the fact that I was on the other side of the world, I did not expect such a drastic change in weather. The dark clouds were replaced with the clear blue sky, strong wind with a slight breeze, low temperatures and high humidity with pleasant, fresh and, most of all, warm air.
The center of the town was unknown to me. It was my first visit to my aunt since she moved to a new location. I felt as if I had used a time machine and went back a few years in the past. I had not seen phone booths neatly arranged next to each other for a long time. Nowhere in sight was a supermarket, only small shops where traders brought whatever customers wanted to the cash register, as neither the bus driver, nor the merchants required money in exchange for their products. I was hungry, so I reached for chocolate with the intention of raising my blood sugar. A nice saleswoman gave me a free dessert and wished me all the best.
When I was in the store, I noticed a few people with whom I had traveled by plane and later by bus. They also looked surprised when they discover that everything was free. Nevertheless, no one grabbed for products. Perhaps someone would expect, in such exceptional situations, great greed, but there just wasn’t any.
I had hoped that my aunt would be waiting for me at the bus station, but I was wrong. I had her number in my cell phone, but it wouldn`t receive a signal. I went into one of the phone booths and put the phone to my ear. I immediately heard a machine ask me which number I would like to call. There was no need to insert coins or a phone card. I searched on my mobile screen for aunt`s number, and then I typed it in. Instead of ringing or connecting with the other side the machine interjected and told me “The person you are looking for is already here.” A little bit confused, I tried to figure out what to make of it and concluded that the machine must be broken.
I didn`t know her address. I stopped the first passerby and asked him if he knew my aunt. He happily nodded his head and sent me three streets to the right and then one to the left. “The first house on the right side,” he said. He even offered to personally walk me there to make sure I found the right location, but I just thanked him, saying that it was really not necessary.
Through my cell phone I noticed that my aunt didn`t call me from her home phone that I had saved in the phonebook, but from some unknown number.
I found her yard full of flowers. I walked to the door and knocked.
Soon it opened and instead of seeing an older woman full of spots and wrinkles—how I remembered her—her face was smooth and clean, with a big smile from ear to ear.
That was my aunt.
We entered the house. She led me down through the long corridor and to the living room, all the way to the terrace that overlooked the garden, which was full of greenery. I sat down on the comfortable wooden chair, and as soon as I put my bag on the side, she asked me what I would like to drink.
“I'm so glad you came,” she said on the way to the kitchen.
“Me too,” I said and looked at the beautiful garden.
She came back in, offered me juice and sat down opposite me.
“I haven’t seen you for a long time,” I said. “You look gorgeous.”
“Oh, thank you, my child,” she paused. “That's because I'm happy.”
I had no doubt in her words. I've heard of various miracles, but someone rejuvenated based on happiness was hard science fiction. She asked me how I felt, I answered honestly—confused. She just smiled, saying that was perfectly normal.
“I tried to call you from a phone booth, but the machine told me that you were already here.” Now I was smiling, not knowing how to react.
“This is because the phone booth wasn`t created for calls within town.”
“What do you mean?”
“Come, I'll show you something,” she said and got to her feet.
She took me through her beautiful garden, showing me the diverse plants surrounding us. My confusion was increasingly turned into pleasure. As much as I felt strange walking through my relative’s unusual garden, I felt like my soul was finally at rest. Fresh air, the summer breeze, and the singing of birds affected the situation a lot. While we trampled through cut green grass, I was constantly wondering where I was and how I got there.
My aunt recited the names of fruits and vegetables in her possession; apples, pears, grapes, figs, strawberries, lemons, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, chard, spinach, onions—everything was there.
Since I am from the city I was ignorant of the life of plants. “I didn’t know that this all could grow in the same place,” I said when we were standing next to palm tree.
“Everything can grow here,” she said.
I believed her.
There was something about that town—some strange energy full of positive vibrations. In the afternoon I left my aunt so she could prepare us dinner. I went back to the park and sat on a bench. Faces of people sitting at tables in cafés, walking in the parks, and riding bikes, were all relaxed, satisfied, and happy. I had never before had the opportunity to be surrounded by such people and found that I felt the same contentment. Summer was sprayed everywhere and smiling children played on main streets where only bicycles passed. When the bus came to town with new passengers, it immediately turned and disappeared into the distance, as if it were a forbidden zone.
All the houses were almost identical—marked by greenery which was full of life.
As I sat watching the environment, for a moment I thought I saw a familiar face—a girl with long blond hair who was once upon a time a part of my life. It was a time when butterflies flew in my stomach and my body trembled with positive feelings. My logic told me that it couldn’t be her. She left me a long time ago without saying a word.
Despite the logic, I stood up and walked towards her. She was on the other side of the road, near one of the phone booth. I sped up so I could catch her. She turned into a small street to the coffee shop. Only a few people stood between us; however, those few were enough to separate us. When I went into the coffee shop I couldn’t see her anymore. I asked a younger man at the table if he had seen a slim girl with blond hair who had just walked past him, but he replied that he was not looking in that direction. He apologized deeply and offered his assistance in my search. It seemed silly to bother someone to help me look for someone who could not possibly exist. I thanked him, refusing his help.
For some time I sat again on the bench, listening to the birds, watching healthy people, and enjoying the quiet in a world that was so different from the one I was accustomed.
In the evening, I returned to my aunt.
We sat on the terrace again. I filled my stomach with delicious food while I listed to my aunt's adventures.
Surrounded by countless stars, the moon shined on the sky as we walked again through her garden. She ran her hand through the leaves. With many questions on my mind I followed her every step. I couldn`t relax knowing that the place surrounding me could not be real. However, everything was as real as my existence was. And I was real, just like the lemon on my right, like the cluster on the left, and apple at the end of the path.
“Aunt,” I began quietly when we stopped for a moment. “You'll have to tell me what's going on.”
“What do you mean?” She looked at me with her youthful face, which in the moonlight seemed much younger than when I saw her that morning. Her brown hair shined in darkness and white teeth gave new meaning to the color white. Although the night had just started, it seemed the day was already knocking on the door.
“Everything is free and all the people are incredibly friendly and happy. How is that possible?”
“Why do you think such a thing is impossible? Were you unhappy for such a long time that happiness became a stranger to you? This is a place where all the people are good and forever satisfied: without greed, without stealing, without hypocrisy, without murders, without money, without dividing people based on their natural looks. Here we are all equal.”
Instead of receiving answers, my mind just met with new questions.
“I have no signal on my cell phone.”
“Because you're on another side of the world,” she said quickly.
I paused, thinking about the girl with blond hair. I was afraid of my illogical thoughts, but my heart was stronger than logic. “I thought I saw my dead wife today.”
At first, she did not reply, and then laid her right hand on my left shoulder. “She has been here for some time. Just like me.”
“Just like you?” I smiled unpleasantly. “But that would mean…”
“That I also died, my child.” She laid both her hands on my cheeks. “Basically we're all dead here. But that does not mean that we are not happy. On the contrary, this place fulfills us.”
“I am also...”
“No,” she quickly cut off my sentence. “You're still alive. When we, who are dead, are missing someone, someone who is still alive, we enter into one of the phone booths and call our loved ones. They answer the phone and then we give them instructions on how to come to the other side of the world. They spend one day and one night with us, and then they must return to the world of the living. Exactly at midnight you will disappear from this garden and go back to your bed. You'll wake up, thinking that everything was a dream. But one day, when your time comes, you'll join us here. Just like everyone else does.”
I was shivering, probably with tears in my eyes. I wanted to run to my wife.
“You`ll be with her again,” said my aunt as if she were reading my thoughts. “Do not worry. You miss her, but she wants you to go on with your life. That's why she hasn’t called you. She doesn`t want you to suffer, because eventually you will be together forever.”
I deeply exhaled, watching the grass.
“It's almost midnight,” she said quietly and took me by the hand. “When we meet again, I will be even younger; until I reach the age that I think I was the most beautiful. Here you can look any way you want. I believe that you will recognize me. I will wait for you. She and I will be waiting for you.”
My encounter with my Aunt finished.
When I open my eyes, I realize that I am lying in bed. For the first time in a long time, I had slept without nightmares. I don’t feel the burden of hard life, I’m not exhausted, tired, and worn out. I’m happy. For my own sake, but also the fact that one day I will be even happier. Even though logic tells me that my visit to the unusual town was a dream, my heart tells me otherwise. I cannot wait to go back to a place where summer lasts forever, where there are no worries and where the best wishes are always possible. I cannot wait to sit on the bench in the center of town again, walk through auntie’s garden and hold my wife’s hands. I cannot wait to be on the other side of the world.