The Jesuit brothers called it a journey, but most of us thought it a silly excuse to further encroach into our holiday time. But it was compulsory, so we all had to attend.
The evening was cold and cloudy and the school compound was a graveyard when we arrived. So silent – like the fluttering trees were observing some sort of benediction for us travellers.
After checking into the hostels and having dinner, we reassembled at the auditorium to see a movie.
My school had a culture of separating boys from girls. Even when we saw movies together, the boys always had to sit in a separate section. They claimed it was to avoid “temptation”. This explained our surprise when we were to sit together to see this movie. It was an even bigger surprise when we were paired with the girls the next morning, before our Emmaus journey began.
Her name was Nene – my partner. Nene! The memories I conjure. Nene had this aura about her, a tall and slender structure like something breakable. We had never really spoken before. I only knew her as the slim girl who always wore sparkling white pair of socks drawn up to her knee. Then later as the school’s band prefect.
We finally got to talk when our journey began. The first agenda for the day was tagged “knowing your partner”. So each couple were to leave the hall to any comfortable spot in the school, and get to know each other better for about an hour.
My first attempt at initiating the discussion with a joke failed. So we were quiet for some minutes, listening to the birds and staring at other couples.
Nene’s beauty was un-fair, but it was the depth it suggested -like the paintings of an artist- that made me feel like there were many stories left unsaid. And so her openness was a shocker. Yes! My second joke was successful.
The next few days with her brought me to some kind of emotion. I felt like a character in a romance novel; the songs, the shared moments, and the other auguries, where like the slowly rendered verses of a poem I would one day write.
Our journey came to an end on the third day, but I wished it lasted longer. I composed a poem for her, but I was gone before she ever read it. I guess love turns all men into poets.
I wouldn’t call what I felt back then love, but it wasn’t infactuation. It was something different, something more lasting.
It’s been years now since my journey with Nene, but I still have these lingering emotions when I think about the retreat