She was fine except she was feverish with slight headache. Her eyes as deluged as the Chinese coastal lines, her nose tip as red as morning sunshine in Hanoi, her cheeks as arid as Sahara, once a while she trembled like Japanese islands and most of the time she was smiling as sweetly as Pizza-maids in Rome. Yes, there she was ever smiling with her cute little dimples which resembled one of the great curvaceous slopes of Andes in western Panama. Her smile astounded many in the hospital. Some thought she was mad, some thought she was pathetic, some thought she was greatly affable and rest of the others thought she was too afraid of dying. As far as I had known her, she was the most wonderful girl ever- lived. It was only a week before that I last saw her with some bit of life along with her smiles. She seemed to be fresh then; as fresh as springs in Athens.
My office hours were short so I used to come home earlier than her. Also, my IT office was just the few strides down the lane. It was my job to cook her sweetest of the dishes as she used to call them. They never ever tasted that sweet to me but she used to eat them as if they were the best and I loved her for that. She never complained when I put sugar in place of salt and vice versa, never spat when the food was under-cooked or overcooked and never detested my tasteless recipes. I simply loved cooking for her although I knew I was the worst cook. She loved tomatoes and lady’s finger. She loved bread and chocolate cream. She loved apples and oranges.
She never came home alone. She always had someone special or something interesting with her. She loved her enormous circle of friends. Each of them was very special to her and each day she had a new friend. Her friends liked our home. She, her friends and I together used to enjoy the evenings with their favorite TV shows and board games. We talked about our likes and dislikes. She used to crack the frequent jokes and make us smile. She was quite frivolous and jolly. She was the heart of our conversations. And late in the evenings we used to drop her friends to their homes.
Back home, after the sweetest dinner, every night before going to her bed she used to knock my door and most of the time she found me busy playing with official documents or some Spanish texts. I used to take the Spanish class during my weekends. I was very much attracted towards it. Once, after only the second day of my Spanish class, I was so excited to speak with her in Spanish. I waited anxiously that day for her and when she returned I spoke my heart out in Spanish; but I knew that I was all messing it up, after all I had been learning Spanish for just 4 hours or so and I had learnt some basics about the language earlier by myself. As my excitement got better of me I didn’t realize that she actually loathed what I was doing. But, thankfully she said to me that she was irritated by my childishness. I felt so sorry for her. After that, she slammed the door very hard and I had sometimes, only sometimes, seen her so livid. When she used to be sad and gloomy, I used to make her smile in every way I could. I knew that my silly acts and words won’t be able to make her smile but to my surprise she always smiled whenever I tried to make her smile. I always wondered at those smiles- Were they genuine or just smiles to smile? But that day she was in bad mood because of my own stupidity and there was no chance that I would be able to make her smile. I dared not even to think that. After she had left, I searched for the Spanish notes but I didn’t find it. Next morning she again knocked my door. I opened it and was very happy to discover her fresh again with ripe smile. I heard her speaking something like this ‘ ¡Hola! ¡Buenos dias!’ (Hello! Good Morning!).I was so happy to see my notes in her hand.
The everyday routine of our lives went quite ordinarily, I mean, very happily. The hours converted into days, days into months and months into years. Yet we were still the same; both very young at heart, despite the considerable difference in our ages. If we were to be together forever I guess we would still be the same.
Joanna was admitted to the hospital, a week before because of the frequent blood vomiting and nausea. She was a healthy girl ever since I had known her and she rarely fell ill. The unknown illness attacked her, all of sudden, without any symptoms. I was so worried about her illness that I nearly fainted myself the next day in the hospital. She was later diagnosed as the critical patient of meningitis. I could not believe the doctors. I was completely numb by the discovery.
I took a leave from my work so that I could devote my time to take care of her. There was no sign of any recovery; instead she was growing pale every hour. She used to open her eyes only for few minutes, smile at me and again she went to a deep sleep for the rest of the day. Her body trembled. I was in tears all the time.
A week flew away with lots of prayers, tears, hope, anger and frustration.
One fine day, when I was feeling her cold hand, she opened her eye for the last time and asked me a favor with her incessant smile,
“Papa, please take me home. I hate this place.”
Before I could answer her, she rested listless with a violent shrug of her head and blood oozed out of her dry lips. My emotions sickly froze within myself.
Maya left me when Joanna was only two years old. She thought I was ruining her life and said that she wanted to be free. I wondered what kind of freedom she was asking for. I let her be free. Ever since then, Joanna was my only inspiration. I lived for her. I never thought that I would be left alone so soon. I had many dreams for her and she had twice many for me. But, every dream was now shattered!