I have built a reputation for being a mighty warrior; invincible, no battle I’ve joined and lost. Practicing for years has endowed unmatchable skills on my usage of the spear. My shield protects me from harmful strokes. It keeps me cold, yet safe. After each battle, I’d go into the woods, away from people… away from the cheering crowd. I would just sit by the big lake and rest my aching back on an old oak tree. I have peaceful days despite my battles. All has been under my control till this moment.
Reaching my favorite spot in the shade under the oak tree is all I am thinking of after a long battle in the arena with a strong warrior. I rest my back and head on the old compassionate tree trying to give in to the fatigue and sleepiness that surround my exhausted mind. A slight movement a few meters away from where I am resting makes me go alert and thrust my eyes wide open… to see you. I have seen you before; one of the crowd that cheers for my victories. I gently indicate my need for privacy… for being alone. You promise you wouldn’t intrude…you’d just remain still watching me while resting. I shrug, feeling safe in my shield and lean back on the tree. Before it’s long enough, I see you breaking your promise. You stand up, keeping moving around me in circles examining my shield with expert eyes. Then I find you disappearing for a few minutes bringing back rare flowers, fresh dew, and laughing breeze… scattering them all around me. I laugh happily with rapture like a child taking her first step into a magical world. Every night, I sleep to your voice lulling me with love poetry. Every morning, I wake up to your loving face and the embracing look in your warm eyes. We linger for long hours by running streams, play childishly in welcoming fields, and just sit silently listening with attentive hearts to the murmuring leaves in the wood.
In a full moon night, we have been sitting by the big lake and some strong wind blew. To my surprise, I did not feel cold. I lower my eyes to examine my shield but I find it gone. In a scared, shivering movement I try walking away but you pull me back next to you and embrace me… shielding me in your arms. I feel warm, yet unsafe. I bury my face in your chest trying to hide my insecurities away from you … trying to breathe your strength inside me hoping it would pat my restless heart. For days, I have been shielded by nothing but your protective arms till they have arrived; the king’s guards come to inform me that there is a battle I have to fight. I refuse to accompany them. I’ve had enough of fighting. I just want to spend the rest of my life idly in your arms. But they do not take my refusal. Instead they separate us. Now I have nothing to shield me. I feel naked… exposed. The prize would be you if I won, they say. I look at you feeling all my defiance and strength coming back vigorously into my veins. I will fight the world for you. I agree to fight the battle and move with the guards leaving you behind with some others.
I adjust the spear in my hand while stretching my muscles before stepping into the arena. The assisting guards note to me that I am wearing no shield. I remember that you have taken away my shield yet I hope your love would shield me well in the one-to-one battle I am about to have with the powerful rival I am facing in a few minutes. I close my eyes and think of the prize. A whispering “I love you” escapes my firm lips.
I see my rival once I step into the arena, shielded from head to toe in a black shield. A hard helmet is protecting his head and covering his face. I draw closer with careful yet confident steps. And the battle starts mixed with the cheers of the observing crowds. He is a strong rival with very clever steps and moves. I hit him a couple of times but not fatally. What surprises me is that he expects my moves and strikes. Then all of a sudden he hits me on my legs that I painfully fall down on my knees but I use the fall to raise some dust in the air with my hands before flinging my spear towards the back of his knees that he falls down before me. His fall is strong and heavy because of his steel shield. I approach him and put the point of my sharp spear on the exposed, non-shielded side of his neck. “Take off your helmet” I order him. He hesitates for a second but my spear presses a bit harder on his neck that he takes his helmet off. And I see him… I see … you. Everything froze; time, the cheering sound of the audience, and my heartbeats. You?! The prize and the rival?! I take two breathless steps back with unbelieving eyes and parted, shivering lips. You stand up before me with a face that does not answer the questions drawn on my eyes. “Why?!” I say it with a whisper that only you could hear it. Instead of answering me, you raise your spear, put it under my chin and start drawing a wound on my neck. The pain is too strong to bear that it mesmerizes me. Instead of moving away, I just raise my sight to the strong sun, thrusting my eyes wide open hoping that the blindness it would bestow upon me would erase my rival’s face from my memory. After drawing that linear wound on my neck you strike me mercilessly on my dizzy head that I fall on my back. I want to stand up and fight… but not you… I want to fight those apparitions of two ghosts intimately whispering love words, running by laughing streams, entangled in each others’ arms under embracing tree branches. I see you standing above me, you raise your spear and place its point on the left side of my chest and look in my eyes with an apologizing look! The crowds scream and hit their feet to the ground crying for their warrior to be spared. You succumb to the crowds’ wish but before removing your spear, you press it a little bit that its point sinks in my flesh causing a small fountain of blood to erupt. The wound is deep that it makes me moan with pain yet not too deep to penetrate my heart. Then surprisingly, you kneel down next to me stretching your hand trying to assist me to stand up again. I turn my face away refusing to take your helping hand. I put a defiant look on my face trying to hide my fear of that helping hand. You do not know that every touch of you would just wound me more… deeper. You walk away while some of the crowds approach to help me stand up again.
I dismiss them all with a silent wave of my hand. They understand the gesture. I want to lay there alone… in the arena… under the sun, naked and bleeding. I know I am strong, I will be able to stand up again but I am trying to engrave this moment of pain in my memory, this taste of blood. The memory will keep me safe in the future … cold, yet safe. I stand up again, head for the woods and do not rest but when I find my shield. I know that my wounds will take longer time to heal beneath it but I will feel safe again.
I rest my aching back on the old oak tree and put my spear next to me as it is useless in my coming battles… battles with moments of warmth trying to creep into my shield… with rebellious tears trying to escape the strong gates of my closed eyes. How cruel warmth and light could be?!