After my stay abroad, I returned to my hometown, which I had missed sorely, and everything seemed even more splendorous than prior to my departure. The trees were tall and their flowers had bloomed. The birds warbled beautifully. The air was pure to such an indescribable extent that it served as a cure to several respiratory diseases. I had spent the better part of my halcyon youth and probably the best days of my life in this small town. While away, I had hankered to go back so strongly that I ended up having to bust a gut just to enjoy my stay abroad after a fashion. On top of that, one day I learned that my mother had fallen ill. There is nothing like knowing your doting mother is suffering while you are far away from her to make you feel less than enthusiastic about embarking on new adventures. I had just been offered a position as a physician in my hometown, and my new priority was to make certain that every resident received the best medical attention a town our size could afford to provide. To all appearances, my mother wasn’t seriously ill, she had just accumulated stress, but my heart ached for her all the same. I just couldn’t stand the thought of her feeling under the weather. One could say I had developed a penchant for jumping to the worst-case scenario. “Mother, do you reckon this is the end?” I had asked her upon my homecoming.
One of my hobbies was to go for a daily walk along the riverbank of my small town. I took great delight in soaking up the nature around me: the waters of the river, the small birds, the children playing casually and cheerfully. How foolish I had been to think that I had returned because the town needed me, when in truth I had been the one crying out for what the town had offered all along! And it had so much to offer! My mother started to get worse rather swiftly, and just as I had feared, before anyone could do anything, she drew her last breath. We had only had each other, for I had never gotten married and my father had passed away a long time ago. I could count on the fingers of one hand all of our personal belongings, and my knowledge of the world, which I had mostly acquired without having had to set foot outside my hometown, wasn’t a whole lot more lavish.
The incident happened on a fairly typical summer night, that is, a wonderfully still one. A gentle breeze had come up. I was enraptured by the splendid views of the town’s beautiful scenery, which I hadn’t been able to relish in years. Generally speaking, the elapsed time amounted to countless nights. However, the most memorable thing about our town was beyond doubt Jasmine, my beloved. Honoring her name, she effused a very pleasant aroma: a bouquet of authenticity, innocence, and maturity. All the girls from my hometown are beautiful, but for some inexplicable reason, I found Jasmine especially enticing. While abroad, my yen to return home became almost unbearable when I remembered her. I had not seen her in many years and had also refrained from staying in touch, because I believed that the gloriousness of our very first reunion would swell if we could keep our passions at bay until the moment came when we would profess our love for each other face to face. I pined for her but couldn’t go see her while my mother lay twitching in her death throes. That tore me up inside. I spent the night dreaming about her instead of ministering to my moribund mother. In the end, my mother died. She met her fate the same night I got wind of the fact that Jasmine, my beloved, had gotten married to another man and was moving overseas with him.
Alas, there was nothing left for me in my small hometown, nothing to return to. All I had to remember it by was a broken heart.
Written by Radwa Zaki.