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The memory book

The bus braked suddenly and I banged myself on the seat in front of me. I woke up in agony. The bus had arrived at Port Angeles. I geared up my rucksack and got down. Quickly bought a sandwich and sat on a rock alongside the park browsing for my host. Lonnie Boyd, a 73-year-old man, accepted my request and came to pick me up at the port.

I could indistinctly hear dogs barking as we entered his property. They knew Lonnie was home. The moment I stepped down, both the White Terriers started hopping around me. They were happy to welcome me for the night. It was a countryside land amidst a beautiful trail, the Pacific Ocean on one side and the gorgeous range of Olympic Mountains on the other. He brewed a perfect French press and we both sat on his band stage staring at the setting sun. Soon it was dark and we went inside the cabin. He started playing jazz on his radio.

“What made you host the couchsurfers for over 3 years?” my curious mind asked.

“I was lonely here. It was just me and my dogs for years. Hosting travellers made me feel good. I made friends! At least I have some good memories to cherish now.” I was surprised to see his gloomy expression. Lonnie always had an innocent smile on his face.

“And your family?” I asked hesitantly.

“This 10-acre land which you see as a forest now, was barren when I was young. My brother and I nurtured it as our own child. Soon I got married and had a beautiful daughter. That was a good time. After my parent’s death, my sister cheated on us for the family property. She took the 2/3rd of its share and left my brother and me with this land. We were not a wealthy family anyways. We believed in hard work. I haven’t seen my sister since then and I lost my brother 4 years back.”

“Where are your wife and daughter?” I prompted.

“I lost my wife soon after my parent’s death. My daughter flew to Oakland for her further studies. She found her love, got married and had a beautiful daughter.” He smiled at me saying, “My granddaughter!”

Silence spread like fire. I kept looking at Lonnie as he was dreaming about his granddaughter.

“You must be happy to play with her…” I said to break the silence.

“I wish! My daughter has forgotten me. I wasn’t even invited to her wedding. We are just friends on Facebook now. I keep looking at my granddaughter’s images when she uploads them. I want to get her toys, want to play with her, tickle her, make her laugh! But…” I could see a broken man which Lonnie was hiding behind his smile.

“I shall sleep now.” He left trying to hold his emotions.

“Good night.” I wished him in a low-pitch. His story kept lingering in my mind. I was sad and subdued.

Rooster’s crowing woke me up. It was a pleasant morning. I got ready for my hike in the Olympic National Forest and came out with my rucksack.

“Ready for the hike?” Lonnie asked. “Here’s your French Press.” He said serving me the warm cup.

“Come, I’ll show you something!” Lonnie said excitedly. I followed him to the Dining area.

“Take this pin and place it on the city you come from.” It was a world map filled with pins by the travellers who had stayed here.

“And that’s my family!” Lonnie told as he handed me 3 albums. I thought it will have photos when Lonnie was young and married. I sat on the chair to open it. But it had photos of different people with a note written on the back.

“That’s your family?” I asked in a confused whisper.

“These are all the travellers I have hosted. One album per year! And now we have to add your photo with a note written by you.” Lonnie cheered.

I was taken aback. These 3 albums were Lonnie’s family now. He was living with the memories he made with travellers like me.

“Whenever I feel lonely, I open these albums and read the note written behind the photos,” Lonnie said with a tear sparkling in his eyes. I didn’t know Lonnie a few hours back. And now, I was his family member. A member who will be gone and no idea when will meet again, but what will stay were the photos and the memory of good times! We clicked a photo together and wrote a note on it for each other. I waved him bye with a hug.

Love you Lonnie.

  • August 6, 2019

    Kanak Verma