Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Potter's Wheel

            I wonder how I thought about travelling then. Did it excite me or make me feel sick? Did I prefer travelling alone or with the company of others? I wonder how I thought about the fields, the mountains and the sky. Do I look at them differently now or just the same as I did before?
If you are to ask me now how I think about traveling alone in a bus with the mountains and fields around me, well, I should say it’s okay. It feels refreshing, comforting, and peaceful.
They said my name is Helena. They said I’m 26 years old and still single. They said I have two siblings, Josh and Abby. They said I’m a photographer. They said I love to swim and I’m addicted to ice cream. They said a lot. I asked more. But there are so many things about me that they couldn’t answer or do not know…and I need to know. I need to remember.
The bus stops at the last station. They said this is the place. I take a tricycle to bring me to the only pottery house in this town. The breeze is cool but it doesn’t take away the dancing butterflies in my stomach. Yes, I’m nervous. What will I say? What will I tell him?
We reached the place and now, I’m standing in front of a wooden fence which is half open. I enter the place slowly. There’s nobody inside. I continue walking all the way to the lawn and notice a beautiful garden full of colorful daisies. Then I hear a sound – a familiar sound, like a wheel turning. I walk to where the sound is coming from and find myself inside a small pottery house standing in front of a busy potter in a white shirt. He looks so absorbed in what he’s doing. He looks good too with what he does. It was as if he and the clay in his hands belong together. It was such a peaceful view.
He lifts his eyes and stares at me. It’s him. He’s the man in the picture that they showed me.

            “What do you want?” His voice is stiff.

            Is he mad?

            “Stefan, I…I met an accident.”

            “I know.” He moves to turn off his electric wheel and quickly proceeds to a little sink made of clay to wash his hands.

            “I can’t remember anything,” I continue.

            “I know.” His back is facing me. It is taking him some time to wash his hands.

            “They said…they said we know each other.”

            He takes a white towel to dry his hands and faces me again.

            “What do you want from me, Helena?” He sounds so cold and I wonder why.

            “There are a lot of questions in my mind right now… about me and you and us… You see, I have no idea what happened between the two of us. I’m not sure if we had the worst fight in the world before we broke up that could somehow explain why you are acting like this right now… Or perhaps we had the best love in the world but we still ended up leaving each other because of some reasons which I honestly do not know… I just need your help Stefan… please…”
“So how do you think am I acting right now?”

            “You act like a cold and angry man who wants to throw away the woman in front of him but just doesn’t know how.”
He is staring at me.

            “And I don't even know how to defend myself,” I continue. “Or if I should even defend myself… because in the first place, I have no idea about this whole thing… about you and me.” I feel I am shaking inside. Am I angry or just nervous knowing that the ex- boyfriend they said I had is right in front of me?

            He’s just stood still without uttering a single word.

            “I’m sorry…” I say and begin to turn my back. “I think I should go…”

            “Come with me,” he says.

            I look back and see him walking towards the back of the pottery house. I follow him.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“Just follow me.”
            We walk on a foot path made of pebbles. His strides are long and I find it hard to catch up.
We stop. “Does that look familiar to you?” He is showing me a floating hut in the middle of a small lake.
“Oh…it looks so lovely.” I reply.
“Do you remember it?”



            We walk on a bamboo bridge that leads to the little hut at the heart of the lake.

            “This place is gorgeous.” I cannot hide my delight at the view.

            We reach the hut and I go straight to look at the water around me. I smile.

            “So what’s the first question?” he asks.


            “You said you want to know about you, us… what do you want to know?”


            “Everything? We were together for five years. One day is not enough to tell you everything.”

            I look at him with astonishment… Five years…

            “Oh…of course…” I slowly turn my back from him to face the water again.

            Five years… I close my eyes to calm myself.

            “What is this place, Stefan?”

            “We call this place our breathing space… we visit this place to have a picnic with friends during weekends… and sometimes when we are stressed-out from work, we spend some time here to relax and empty our minds for awhile.”

            I turn to face him again. “Do you own all of these?”


            “Including the pottery house and the garden?”


            “Ok…so, what do you do? Pottery?”
            “Yes…” he answers. “It’s just a hobby actually which accidentally turned out to become a business. I’m a veterinarian by profession.”

            I nod… Interesting…

            “How did we meet?”

            “You were in your senior year in college and I had a clinic near your school. We met in a music store nearby.”

            “A music store?”

            “Yes… aside from photography you also love music.”

            “Do I sing?”

            He sits in the bamboo bench inside the hut and still facing me. “No, but you wished you can.”

            I smile. “They said I swim…do I also swim in this lake?”

            “You only swim in swimming pools.”


            “Because the last time that you swam on these waters, you had skin allergies for three days.”

            “Oh…” That’s exactly what I needed. He could answer all of my questions. I need to find out more.

            “But…” I continue. “The water looks clean, how come I had skin allergies?”

            “Your doctor said you have sensitive skin… it runs in the family….”

            I nod. “Do you also swim?”

            “Yes, but you’re a better swimmer than me.”

            I slowly walk towards him and sit beside him.

            “Do I come here often?”

            “Yes. You love this place and the people in the pottery house.”

            “Where are they?”

            “I let them have a break for two days. All of us have been working hard these past weeks.”

            “I see… but I saw you molding a pot today...”

            He gives a slight smile. “I was just…bored.”      
            I nod and we are silent for awhile. I want to ask him what happened to us. Why we ended breaking up or hurting each other… I don’t know… I want to ask him now but I’m afraid.

            “Let’s go back…” he says.

            We walk back to the pottery house. This time, Stefan’s pace is slow so I don’t have to double my strides to catch up.

            “The flowers in your garden are gorgeous.” I try to open a new conversation.

            “You planted them.”

            That surprised me. “I did?”

            “People say you have a green thumb.”

            “Oh… I like that…”

            “Well, you might have a green thumb but I tell you, you can’t cook.”

            “Oh really… nobody told me that…”

            “I was the only person in your life that could honestly tell you that your beef steak doesn’t taste like beef steak and your vegetable soup is too salty.”

            I give a short laugh. “Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Potter.”
            We reach the pottery house.

            “How long have you been doing pottery?” I ask.

            “More than two years I guess.”

            “How did you learn to do it?”

            “From my uncle since I was seven. It took me years to finally open my own pottery house.”

            He moves towards a shelf full of vases and pots and picks one small jar.

            “You also do pottery sometimes…” he says. “This is one of what you called your masterpieces.” He looks straight to my eyes, perhaps wanting to see what my reaction would be.

            I’m overwhelmed. “That’s… I mean, I’m glad… I’m glad I could do pottery.”

            He smiles, and for the first time, I know it was real.

            “Are you hungry?” he asks.


            “I know you are.” He places the jar back on the shelf and takes a basket full of native delicacies.

            “Where did you get these?”

            “I cooked them.”

            “So, you’re the one who cooks.” I smile.

            “Let’s just say you’re correct.”

            We sit and he starts to place five different delicacies on the table. They look so delicious.

            “Take a bite,” he says and I do.

“Wow…this is awesome Stefan…incredible.”
“By the way, where is your family?”

            “All of them are in Australia now.”

            “They live there?”


            “Why are you here?”

            “I love to be here.”

            I look at him intently to see if he’s telling the truth.

            “What?” he asks.

            “How long has it been since we broke up?”

            “A year,” he answers.

            He looks down. I don’t know if his eyes are on the table or on his food.


            He looks at me. “What?”

            “Why didn’t come and see me after the accident?”

            “You wouldn’t recognize me anyway.”

            “Did you suppose that I would come here?”

            “Did you wait for me?”

            He looks down to finish his kutsinta and gives no answer.

            I clear my throat. “Which of these is my favorite?” I ask, referring to the delicacies.

            “That one.” He points at the small, flat sweet rice cake covered with grated coconut on my fingers.

            “It really tastes good, you know…”

            He smiles. “How’s your family by the way?”

            “They’re okay…”

            “It surprised me to see you coming here alone.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “You don’t like travelling alone… it makes you feel lonely.”

            Now, I know.

            “So how do I come here if I don’t want to travel alone?”

            “It’s either I pick you up from your house or you come here with Josh and Abby.”

            “Ok… Josh and Abby… they are lovely twins, aren’t they?”

            “You’re fond of them… and I should say that you spoil them sometimes…”

            I smile. “Can I have some water, please?”

            “Sure.” He stands up to get a pitcher of water from a small refrigerator beside the shelf. Then he gets two small glasses for the two of us.

            “There you go.” He places everything on the table. “I’m sorry I can’t offer you your favorite pineapple juice…I ran out of supply.”

            So I like pineapple juice. “It’s alright, thanks.”

            “How are you, Helena?”

            “I’m okay Stefan… I had a difficult time these past few weeks but I guess I’m better now.”

            “Are you still in pain?”

            “Sometimes when I try to think too much, my head hurts.”
            “What did your doctor say?”

            “She said I hit my head badly, and it will take a while for me to remember everything. But she said I’ll be fine.”

            “Are you taking medication?”


            “What have you been doing these days?”

            “Well, I’ve been going to places where I used to go, as what my friends and family said… and I guess this is going to be my last stop.”

            “Did you remember anything?”

            “No.” I smile slightly, trying to hide my frustration.

            “I’m full,” I say.

            “Good… let me fix this fast.” He starts clearing the bamboo table.



            “Can you teach me again how to do pottery?”  

            He looks at me. “You’re one clumsy woman… I don’t want to teach a clumsy woman.”

            For the first time, I laugh. “Hey, if I were a clumsy woman then I wouldn’t be able to make that jar up there.”

            He gives a short laugh too. “You wouldn’t have made that without me.” He smiles.

            “Fine… so you’re the great potter here…” I stand and slowly make my way beside the wheel. “Can I ask the great potter to teach me how to make a pot this time?”

            “I’m a very strict teacher, Helena.”

            “Then, I’ll be a good student.”

            He stands up and moves toward the wheel. “I’ll take your word… now sit down.”

            It’s a good thing I’m wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. It will make me more comfortable doing this thing. I sit on the short potter’s chair. Stefan turns on the wheel and it starts to spin including the unmolded clay on top of it.

            “Okay…so what will I do first?” I’m a little nervous and excited.

            “You can start molding the clay… you make a hole at the center.”
            I start to mold the clay with my hands and follow his instructions. He’s sitting on the other chair in front of me.

            “The clay is too soft, Stefan…”

            “That’s okay… just try to control the movement of your hands.”

            I try to make a hole at the center of the unmolded clay. The clay feels smooth and good in my hands.

            “Now, try to make a round base.”

            “What? How?” I start to panic.

            “Just try to make a round base using your hands… here…”

            “Stefan I can’t…”
            “Ok, I’ll do it.” He starts to create a round base at the bottom of the clay and pulls the clay upward.

            “Now, this will be the basic shape of your pot. You can still reshape or remold it according to the shape that you want.”

            “Ok…” Suddenly, everything feels so familiar. I can feel I’ve done this before.

            “Just imagine that you are that clay, Helena. And you are the creator. How do you think the creator made you?”
           “What if I don’t know the answer to your question?” I look at him while my hands are still on the clay.

            “You know it deep inside, Helena. You just can’t remember it.”

            The wheel continues to spin and my hands are still.

            “You can do it again, Helena.” His gaze is comforting.

            So I mold the clay by myself and I like it. We are quiet and the only sounds that we could hear are the chirpings of birds and the brushing of the wind.

            I continue to shape and reshape the clay in my hands. I love the way it feels. He watches me but I don’t want to be distracted so I try to concentrate. The wheel goes on spinning as if it will never stop and the little pot starts to take shape. I smile. Suddenly, for the very first time after I went out of the hospital, I felt real. Like I really exist and that I’m alive. I may not remember anything but I know and I’m sure, that wherever I am, that is where I am supposed to be.

            “I’m done.” I say.

            “Are you sure?”


            “Ok, let’s place your pot in the kiln. You can wash your hands now at the sink.”
           He turns off the wheel and then starts to fire the clay in the kiln while I carefully wash my hands at the sink. My heart starts to feel heavy. His story about us is not yet finished. Yes, there’s one thing I still need to know.

            I slowly turn to face him. He’s almost done placing the clay pot in the kiln.

            “What happened to us, Stefan?”

            He stops for a second, closes the kiln and turns to face me.

            He looks at me with a soft gaze, “You fell for another man.”

            Oh no... I can’t speak. My heart starts to crush slowly and painfully. I can feel my strength slowly leaving my body, and I sit on a wooden stool beside me.

            “But… but they said you are the only man in my life.”

            “They are wrong, Helena. You love that man more than you love me.” He sounds lonely, very lonely and I hate myself.

            “So, that’s why you hate me.”

            “I don’t hate you Helena.”

            “Now I understand… you have all the right to hate me Stefan…”

            Warm tears start to fall from my eyes and they keep falling until I begin to sob.
            “Oh please don’t cry Helena.” He moves towards me.

            “You don’t have to feel bad…” he says comforting me in his arms. “That man is way way better than me, okay?”

            I continue crying. “I cheated on you… oh, how stupid I was…”

            “Helena, if you were cheating on me, then you were cheating on me with your God. And it’s not cheating at all… ”

            My sobbing stops and I look at him, confused. “What are you talking about?”

            “You fell for your God too much that you couldn’t contain it and you had to leave me.”

            I free myself from his arm. “What?!? That’s absurd, Stefan! I don’t understand!” I am angry. So angry that my head hurts.

            “Are you okay?” he asks. “Please Helena, calm down or you’ll end up hurting yourself. I’ll get you some water.”

            He sits beside me. He lets me drink and I start to relax. My thoughts are far away. I don’t want to think. Everything just doesn’t make sense at all.

            He clears his throat.” I… I didn’t quite agree with what you believed in… I mean, the God that you were talking about before…”

            I’m silent. I don’t want to talk.
           “Sometimes we would fight about it, you know… and then we always try to work things out… until you finally decided to end it.”
I look at him. “And that ends our love story?”
He doesn’t answer.

            “So that’s how much I loved my God? I left my boyfriend behind and chose Him instead. Interesting…” I can feel I’m starting to sound cold and sarcastic. I’m not sure what to feel. I want to know more but I’m scared of the answers and I want to remember but I can’t.

            “Helena… Helena, look at me.” He holds my face in his hand and looks at me gently. “I admit, I hated you when you left me. You’ve hurt me so bad that I didn’t want to see you ever again. But everything’s okay now, Helena, and I’m better now… You see, you still do not remember everything, but when the time comes, you will realize that you did the right thing and you will fully understand.”

            He takes away his hand from my cheeks and says, “I’m sorry.”

            “You have just blown a very big bomb in my face today, Stefan, and I feel so weak.”

            “Would you like me to drive you home?”


            We are sitting in his car on our way back to my home. It’s almost sunset. Everything looks surreal - the orange sky, the mountains and the green fields.  I feel relaxed and better.

            “What made you decide to let me go?” I ask him.

            “I never let you go… You were the one who left… but for a purpose.”

            I take a deep breath. “Well, I guess I need to… to know and remember that man, God that you were talking about… again…”

            We reach my house and we say goodbye.

            “Thank you Stefan and I’m sorry about…”

            He smiles. “It’s okay Helena… actually, I should be the one thanking you right now…”

            “For what?”

            “For being so patient with me before and for deciding to leave… because of that, I started to get curious about Him and asked myself: how could this man steal the woman I love? Then finally, I knew Him and my life has never been the same.”

            I look at him. I’m still confused but I can see the sincerity in his eyes and it touches me.

            “I’m glad that… that your life changed… and I believe that it is for the better,” I say.

            “It is.”

            I smile. “Stefan… I’m really grateful for your time… I really appreciate it.”

            “You’re welcome, Helena…”

            “I need to rest.”

            “Of course…”

            “Good night, Stefan…”

            “Good night, Helena…”

            I slowly make my way to our doorstep.



            “Find your pink book. It will help you.”

            I nod. “Thanks.” I smile.

            I go inside my room and search for the pink book Stefan told me. I found it. I open it and recognize what it is. I start to read it but everything is still not clear to me. But there’s one thing I know at this point, I know I need this. It will help me remember. This Bible will set me free.

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