Sunday, June 27, 2010

Closer and Farther

Nathan steps out of his car and suddenly, everything feels light, different. Is it the cool weather that the busy city lacks? Is it the bright and lustrous flowers in front of him that he has never seen in his entire life? Or is it the thought of knowing that he is in this place at this very moment close to her?

He closes his car’s door and walks on the stepping stones at the side of a garden. Everything about the place is peaceful, surreal. Perhaps this is what she wanted. His eyes wander at the beauty of the nature around him until he reaches the last stone step.

He turns his gaze at his left and immediately notices a statue of a Virgin Mary a few meters away from where he is standing. Below it is a woman kneeling in prayer. She has a dark blue veil and wears a long-sleeved habit and a skirt that matches the color of her veil. Looking at her back, he could say she’s a slender woman and without even seeing her face, she looks lovely with the whole picture of her kneeling in front of a Virgin Mary with pretty flowers around her. Everything looks perfect. Perfect. Suddenly, a spurt of regret chokes him. How could that word enter his mind? She cannot look perfect in that view. She cannot look perfect in a world that is different from his own.

The woman suddenly stands up and turns her back. She freezes when she sees him walking towards her. Nathan.

That face. Nathan has always known that face, that face of an angel, his angel.

“Hello Celine,” Nathan says with a smile on his lips.

“Hello Nathan,” she replies.

Celine is unprepared but grateful at the same time. This is one of the most surprising moments in her life. How she has wished to see Nathan again.

“I’m not sure if this is a right time for me to visit,” he says.

“It’s okay…The sisters are out. We have lots of outreach programs this week. But one should stay here to watch over.” She is so happy to see Nathan

“Well, I guess I hit the perfect time.”

Celine smiles, “Come, I’ll show you around.”

They are walking on a paved walk beneath the tall mahogany trees. Brown and paper-light fruits gracefully fall from every tree while the gentle breeze plays with them and turn them around like pirouettes in the air.

Nathan catches one fruit. He remembers when he was ten and Celine was eight. They used to go to their neighbor’s backyard and wait for the wind to blow the fruits and they would catch them before they reach the ground. Their game’s rule is simple. The more fruits they could catch, the more wishes they could ask. Nathan was always hailed as the winner. But he would always give some of his fruits to Celine so they could have an equal number of wishes.

“You can have that wish now,” Celine says with a light heart. She remembers the times when he had given his fruits to her so she could make more wishes. She had loved him for that.

“If I make a wish with this fruit now, I’m not sure if God will hear me,” Nathan stares at the fruit while stroking it with his thumb.

“God answers prayers to those who trust him,” Celine gives a pretty smile.

“I suppose so,” he replies.

“So how’s life in the city?” she asks in a cheerful manner.

“It’s busy…fast.”

“Do you like it?”

A busy life is good, at least for Nathan. It makes you preoccupied with things that would keep you from too much thinking. When you’re busy, everything runs fast. Feeling is out of the subject. For Nathan, a fast-paced life is a form of therapy. He needs it, badly.

“I don’t know…” he replies in a low voice.

“There’s nothing wrong if you rest sometimes. We all need it,” she smiles again.

Why does she always have to do that? He’s doing his best not to notice her pretty smile and she’s not helping at all.

Nathan stops and faces Celine. Celine faces him too.

His gaze is fixed on her. ”How’s your life here, Celine?”

Celine stares at Nathan. That face. She has always known that face, that face of an angel, her angel.


He nods and immediately turns his gaze at the scenery in front of them. Of course she’s happy. She had lived this life for years, how could she be not?

“What’s that building over there?” he asks referring to the white building a few meters away from them.

“That’s our Provincial house. The building next to it is our Novitiate. Behind it, you can find the Presentine residence and the Retreat house.”

“Do you also conduct retreats?” he asks and they start walking again.

“Yes. It’s actually one of my favorites.”


“I love it every time I listen to people, share with their pains, and understand them. I feel honored just being a part of their journey towards healing.”

Celine is still the same Celine he has known nineteen years ago, warm-hearted, kind, sweet, comforting. When his father died Celine did everything to cheer him up. She would cook his favorite dishes and went biking with him though they both know she totally hates it. She would read him stories of love, of hope, of courage and of faith.



“I made an apple pie this morning. I want you to have some,” the curve of her smile shows excitement.

“Sure, but I didn’t know you know how to make one”

“The sisters taught me. It took me a year to get its perfect taste,” she gives a short laugh.

“Perfect taste…” It’s Nathan’s turn to smile.

“Come, I’ll take you to the garden and you wait for me there. I’ll be fast.”

“Whatever you say, Madame…”

Nathan is sitting on a wooden bench in the garden. He likes the bench. It’s smooth and shiny. He looks around and sees the colorful flowers he has seen when he came in. In front of him are the mountains of Benguet. They look so near like he could almost touch them.

Nathan is a successful engineer and a businessman. He had been to different places. He had seen the grandest and the most luxurious spots the world could offer. But sitting on this seat at this point with the beautiful scenery in front of him, he could honestly say that this is the best place he has ever been to.

Celine, holding a tray of apple pie and refreshments, walks gracefully towards Nathan. He cannot move. His eyes are on her. She looks beautiful in every step. But a brawl starts inside him every time he sees that piece of cloth that hides her hair. Celine had the most beautiful hair. It was long and black, thick and shiny. He loved to touch it when they were together and now seeing that piece of cloth covering the beauty of her hair, all he wants to do is to rip it into pieces and burn it.

Celine smiles…again. Just one smile and everything becomes clear. The veil, the long sleeves, the skirt, the black sandals. Every detail of her fits perfectly right. As if she belongs to them and they belong to her. It hurts him to see her look perfect in that habit. He glances away.

“Are you okay?” she asks

Nathan pushes his stupid thoughts away from his mind.

“Yes…of course, “he forces a smile, “Let me help you.”

He takes the tray from her hand and places it on the wooden bench.

“Thanks,” she says.

They sit and start eating.

“I guess you were right…it tastes perfect,” he smiles and looks at her.

“Thank you.”

Celine used to sit here at this time of the day. But today, it’s different sitting here with Nathan. It’s nicer…better. She takes a glimpse of Nathan’s face. He’s busy eating the apple pie she made. She’d be lying if she says she hadn’t missed Nathan even for a single day. She had always thought of Nathan and she had always prayed for him.

“How did you know I’m here by the way?” she asks

“From your mother,” he says and takes another bite.

“You came to our house?”

He looks at her. “Yes.”

Celine has not visited her family for a year now. They’re Provincial house has been very busy for the past months. How she misses them.

“How’s everybody, Nathan?”

“They are great and they miss you.”

Celine looks at the mountains in front of them. Her mother cried when she told her she’ll be joining the nunnery. The rest of the family was frustrated with her decision. But with God’s grace, her family was able to accept her calling.

She looks at Nathan again. He’s almost done with his pie. Next to her family, if there’s one person in the world she didn’t want to hurt, it was Nathan. He was the first and the last man she had ever loved. He was and is her best friend too and he will stay that way as long as she wishes.

“Why just now?” her voice is low.

He finishes his food and places his saucer back to the tray.

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you decide to visit me just now?”
It was difficult for Nathan to think of the best words to state his reasons. He feels confused, mad, hurt.

“I was not ready to see you wearing that veil.”

Celine falls silent. Perhaps he hasn’t forgiven her yet. Perhaps he’s still mad at her decision of leaving him forever.

“Sometimes, I hate God for taking you away from me,” his soft voice is calm and cool, almost like a whisper.

She looks at him, his eyes are still fixed on the mountains.

“If he is a generous God, He would not take away something from me when He knows that that something is my life.”

Celine’s heart is crushed. She doesn’t know how to comfort Nathan. She has always prayed for his healing and acceptance. But today, seeing him in pain and hearing his words, she doesn’t know how long she will wait for the day when Nathan will come to her with happiness in his eyes and feeling happy for her too.

“I was dreading the moment when I would see you with your habit on. I thought I would die seeing you wearing it. But today, when I finally saw you, you never looked more beautiful and I love you even more.” Tears well at the corners of his eyes.

Celine is happy with the life that she chose. She feels fulfilled, complete. She never felt more at peace in her whole life. But that part of her that she had given Nathan before will always be his and God knows it.

Nathan turns his face to look at her.

“Did I ever tell you that I offered a novena before I could make you say yes to me?” this time, Nathan’s smile is sweet.

He never told her that. She shakes her head.

“I guess He’s taking you back and I have no right to stop Him or make you stay.”

Celine is close to tears. How she wish she could make things easier for Nathan.

“He loves you Nathan. He loves us and He knows what’s best for us.”

He touches her creamy face and wipes the tears falling from her eyes.

“If we die today, would we still know each other in heaven?” Nathan asks

“I don’t know…”

“Promise me you won’t forget me. Promise me you won’t so I could love you again.”

Celine smiles, a hopeful smile. He would truly miss the variety of her smiles, her smile that seems to go on forever in his mind, round and round encircling him.

After wiping her tears, he drops his hand.

“I’m going back to the city,” he says. He would die if he stays here for another hour.

“I’ll pray for your safety.” Like she always does.

“Thank You.”

Slowly they start to get up and face each other.

“Would it be too much if I hold you for the last time?” he asks

“Of course not…”

Nathan holds Celine like he used to hold her. Gentle, warm. He doesn’t want to let go and he doesn’t want to leave. This is where he has always wanted to be, close to her.

A lazy drizzle starts to fall. It’s time. Nathan slowly lets go of her.

“I’ll go now,” he says

“Take care.”

Nathan goes back to his world where he can always shut Celine’s memories out of his mind, knowing that at the end of the day, her face and her smile would still be the things that he will see and long for when he closes his eyes.

Celine enters the prayer room. She kneels and closes her eyes. With love and sincerity, she firmly holds the tiny beads of her rosary and starts a prayer for Nathan.


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