At that time, they came to him and asked, “So who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” He called a little boy and had him stand among them. Then he said, “To tell you the truth, unless you change and become like him, you’ll never enter the kingdom. But, whoever humbles himself and accepts enchantment like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The boy’s colorful imagination was his guiding light as he traipsed his way through the throngs of people pretending he was on a quest for the ‘kingdom keys.’ He needed them in order to rescue the princess, and she was all he could think about. Letters to her infiltrated his notebooks. He was committed to her, the woman he was to marry.
Dreams of loving her and adventuring with her to magnificent places, like a honeymoon to somewhere foreign and beautiful, like Spain, filled his thoughts and writings. As soon as he found the keys he would have her. In a sense, he lived in what was both now and not yet…The crowds were bigger than usual today, waiting to hear from the man who had taken him aside. He pretended that the people pressing in on him were just obstacles standing in the way to his princess, needing to be dodged so he could get passed them. The evening was bustling with activity, enough to stimulate his overactive imagination and vivid senses. And that’s when he saw her, and she saw him. Unfolding like an ancient scroll bearing the mysteries of the universe and streaked with images and patterns of perfection, these two paths were on a collision course. Somehow, by divine providence, their routes must have been destined to cross that day because from then on, both lives were everlastingly tainted. The young boy never overanalyzed the perfect emotion budding inside of him. He had been gifted with a glimpse of something so far beyond himself that so many people went their whole lives never experiencing. Each day was an opportunity to surprise her, to somehow communicate his adoration by the most creative means possible. As these two grew up together, their admirations developed into something so much greater and the world around them dissolved, ceasing to matter. Spontaneity was who they were and their friends were left gawking in jealousy at this exclusive oneness that was at the heart of what all sought after but deemed “impossible” to find. This boy never knew that impracticality because in her, he had discovered an unmistakable treasure, a primordial relic he was fortunate to have found, and that is what their relationship looked like. This boy held onto what was lost in the rush of time. Growing up together, his love began to feel like forever love, one he would be happy to carry to the grave. For him, it was imperative and practical, something to trust in and hold onto.
In school, the boy’s illusive imagination isolated him. While his so called schoolmates experimented with reality, he was constantly locked inside the confines of his boundless mind. But now, none of them meant a damn thing to him; he wasn’t one of them and he never felt like he was anyway. Now he was miles above it all and he only wished they knew where his confidence came from, this girl who had given him his smile. Surely he had what the world sought after. Humbly he kept it close like a child squeezing a puppy, and he treasured every second.
These two lovers weren’t obsessed, they had separate lives and friends, both overlapping, but they had something Romeo and Juliet died for. The boy treated the relationship like a very rare and fragile artifact that had to be protected and honored at all costs. They were a spectacular image of two humans joined in seemingly earthy lust and exceptionally clear and expressive spiritual passion that was the very foundation of their correlation. The school year brought with it a more regimented lifestyle but they still kept their spontaneity alive. Hours they would discuss literature, art, music, movies, politics, and the deeper questions of life, feeding off one another and then satisfying their skin with a an endless procession of kisses.
Summertime brought beach trips, long walks along the coast and their music blasting from the car windows on the Garden State Parkway. Bright rays lavished the gleaming windshield and reflected their sunglasses. These two adventurers’ seemed inseparable because for a time they were beyond boyfriend and girlfriend, they were best friends.
Driving across the bridges that connected the coastal islands, they clasped hands, ones that fit perfectly in the other. Warm sand stung their feet and crept into their black chucks as they kicked them off and raced to the shore. On a humid July day, the cool Atlantic breeze misted their faces and gusted through their hair. The boy couldn’t take his eyes off of her as she danced and collected shells, her beaming smile squishing her cheeks, revealing her dimples. It was in those moments he could say he was really living a dream. How was it that fate had been so good to him? That all he ever wanted and could ask for… he had. While they played along the jetties dodging waves that crashed over slick slime covered stones, they stumbled upon a small wooden shipwrecked boat that lay in shambles in-between rocks and shells of dead horse shoe crabs. Algae covered and rotted, the broken hull bared the sun bleached word: Sueños, which was lavished across its busted side. The two of them sat on the rocks just beside the boat, her windswept hair fluttering with her head resting against his shoulder. The boy was about to whisper in her ear, “I think you are my princess…” but just before the words escaped his mouth, a giant waved crashed to shore, leaving them sopping wet and writhing in giggles. Summer brought that scent of wet sand, salty mist and warm skin, always reminding him of her…
love was challenging, but worth it.
They delighted in each other. Falling in love was so easy to do, especially in this magnificent setting. When the boy fully realized all that he had, something inside him screeched, an inclination said to take her hand and run fast before it all fell apart at the seams. Forever love was too precious to lose, but also only strengthened by distance.
True love finds you once …. if you’re lucky.
[You see, there’s a drama between knowing your life and telling your life. How you want it to be vs. how it was. How true is the way in which we imagine our lives?]
In an instant, though he should have seen it coming… his forever love was snatched away.
It was like a wave came and took her, but for some reason she wanted to go…
Someone would whisper to him through his sulking, “It wasn’t you, son it wasn’t you…” but he could never figure out who it was, nor did her care. The grief of his battered heart knew no depths to its pain. The “catch” to this whole situation had finally arrived and it left him in shambles.
With passing years, his heart mended, but never fully.
“It’s okay, I don’t regret our lovely relationship. My heart being broken didn’t stop me from falling in love with her. She was worth it, surely she was. She just wasn’t the princess. The girl who is to be “my” One will show up one day…”
He continued to hold out because just the idea of her alone was worth it. In a sense, his love affair continued and only intensified for the girl he would one day spend the rest of his life with. She was his future family, his princess he had wrote to since he was a child. He continued to live in now but not yet… Call him ridiculously hopeful or incredibly naive, he still believed in her. She was the woman he adored from afar, a figment of his imagination if anything. He struggled between the ‘ideal’ and the ‘real,’ and clung desperately to the ideal. In a world that refused enchantment, he retreated to his imagination, where he had always gone before. For years the boy underwent a frustrating attempt to break free from reality, to fantasy. He dreamt about “The Good Life,” an incredible kingdom, or as he liked to call it “The Island,” – a place he could escape to outside the realm of time, where creativity was limitless and he was with his forever love, his future princess. If only he knew the way to this place…
As life went on, his culture and circumstances pressed in to jeopardize his capacity to wonder and love and journey… but couldn’t. He dodged it all and only saw it as obstacles in the way to his desire. The world around him waited in a predatory way to take down his childish ideas. With each new girl he met, his imagination jumped far ahead of itself, swearing she was to be his One… but only left him let down. Again and again, letdown after letdown, falling in love with the ideas of people and those who played around with his heart…
“It will happen one day. I know it will…”
One evening, swathed in loneliness, he began to question his idea of the princess. The cynic in him said it was all a lie, while the romantic in him begged to differ. Distrust whispered in his buzzing ears… but before he could drown himself in doubts, he heard a soft and subtle jingling in his pocket. Reaching inside he pulled out two golden keys, the very ones to the Kingdom. Someone had been by his side the whole time, brushing hair from a forehead damp with fear and sadness, whispering lovely lullabies that went like this…
“You are the greatest in what is both now, and not yet… the Kingdom of Heaven.”