La Tremana (A Story)

It was raining. Of course. The bullets hit our heads like tiny bullets, each of us wincing and not wanting to react. We stood in a cluster, looking at the green carpet someone had carefully laid around the opening in the ground. Each of us was secretly holding back tears. Our incredulity was plainly and painfully written across our faces.

The minister somberly pronounced the words: “La Tremana,” he said, and something broke inside me. As I began to cough and sob, my burst of emotion triggered those around me to do the same. Within seconds we were indiscriminately turning and hugging those around us. We could feel her loving presence floating in the rain-soaked air.

No one around me knew what the minister’s phrase meant—no one except the woman laying in artificial repose in the closed mahogany casket and me.

“La Tremana” was a phrase she and I coined to describe a fantastical and imaginary place. Perhaps somewhere we would go one day if life and troublesome timing would let down its guard long enough.

As the years passed, we added details and layers to what it might be like. The coffee shop down the corner, the cigar-smoking man who would politely tip his hat at both of us but never utter a word, and the exchange of stupid jokes, ones which would make most people cringe. If we met someone interesting, we would add the person to our mental catalog of people who might join us in our other world.

We loved each other when we were young. As young people often do, we fumbled and failed to appreciate each other. Our love always remained as a backdrop, even as we married other people, had children and enjoyed the little things that make life feel like a real one. For several years, we wrote letters. Ones detailing our lives. And then technology stepped in, and we would sometimes trade messages over instant messenger or email. We never graduated to text messages or phone calls, silently acknowledging that those might be too much. Or perhaps too emotionally dangerous for us to handle.

After my wife died, we wrote to one another more urgently and frequently. I feared she would go silent if I told her I wanted to meet. This thought seems trivial and stupid to me now.

The day I conquered my fear and wrote her, asking her if she’d like to meet, still haunts me. I told her I wanted to find a “La Tremana” for us to visit. I checked my email six of seven times that morning, waiting for a reply. I answered my phone late in the afternoon when I saw an unknown number calling. It had to be Rebecca.

Instead, a younger voice spoke.

“Dan, this is Rebecca’s niece Jane. I know you and Rebecca were close in a way most people wouldn’t understand.” A chill went up my spine as she spoke. The past tense echoed in my head. “There’s no easy way to say it, so I’ll just blurt it out. Rebecca died yesterday. I’m so sorry.”

I sat in silence for several moments. My vision dimmed, and I felt nauseous.

Because that’s what people do, I asked, “How did she die, Jane?”

“She was rock-climbing a rugged cliff. A rock broke away above her and crushed her as she stood on a narrow ledge, looking at the scenery. She fell over a hundred feet and never knew it. She died instantly. Her friend Susan was a foot away from her when it happened. Susan is beyond inconsolable. But we both like to think Rebecca didn’t know what happened. And that she was happy and seeing beauty when it was her time.” Jane’s voice broke as she finished the last sentence.

“I loved her, Jane,” I whispered. I told Jane the history between us, all of it.

“That’s beautiful and tragic, Dan! She would have said yes to you, you know. In a heartbeat.”

Before hanging up, Jane told me the funeral arrangements. Without hesitation, I told her I’d drive the couple of hundred miles to be there.

The pastor waited several moments as we collected our sobs and wiped at our tears. We were at the service for our own reasons but bonded by Rebecca and her life.

“Many of you know that Rebecca performed the marriage for my wife Lilian and me. She’s the one who told me to ‘go for it’ with a smile on her face. And I did. Rebecca wrote something a little over a year ago that her nieces asked me to share. I think you will find comfort and peace hearing them. In place of a sermon, I’d prefer to read her words, which better express life’s meaning.”

La Tremana

though it exists in a place we can’t reach by walking
it is as real as anything tangible
love isn’t touchable, but it is an abiding comfort and joy
laughter isn’t felt by one’s fingers, nor is longing
they feed our souls and give us hope and purpose

even as my life filled with obstacles and heartache
there were always friends, always love, and always laughter

though I walked the earth with everyone
a part of me permanently resided in La Tremana
it is the ideal of one’s life
created to suit you, filled with things you desire

you don’t need to travel to arrive
close your eyes and imagine your best life

go find it
and waste no time doing so
With love, R.

After the service, I hugged all of Rebecca’s friends and family. Slowly, they made their way to their cars, stopping for impromptu whispered talks with other gatherers. The rain had lessened. Most ignored it. It was the least they could do. I stood near one of the large oak trees, watching them. As Jane made her final goodbyes, she turned and looked back at me. I waved, then nodded. She smiled and touched her heart with her right hand, a mannerism Rebecca once loved.

After a few minutes of standing under the tree and being lost in the past, I walked toward my car.

And perhaps, to my own La Tremana.

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