The other day I looked into my box.
Yes, I have one of those secret boxes. A treasure box if you will, where I keep sentimental memories. These include souvenirs from memorable trips, notes, cards or letters from old lovers and other small mementoes given to me by special people, who touched my life in one way or another. The box also houses old diaries, quotes and poems I have written down as a young girl as they spoke to me in an unusual way. Overall it contains items that connect me to unforgettable moments in time, which are locked within their shape, texture or scent.
I do not look into my box very often. When I eventually do, it is on those rare occasions when something is being added to it. And then I can not help but look through the contents once again, as I have done numerous times in the past, surrendering completely to sentimental feelings that overtake me and allowing myself that bittersweet sensation of traveling back in time, recollecting emotions and people I once knew.
The other day I added something into my box and in the process of remembering my past I stumbled upon three one dollar bills. They brought a smile to my face, as I recalled with a sting of melancholy the boy that once gave these bills to me, those twenty years ago - perhaps exactly to date.
I was young, in my early twenties and traveling in southern Spain one late summer. I was having the time of my life, spending carefree weeks in the company of my best friend, with whom I keep in touch even today. When I see her, which happens every few years only, our reminiscing eventually always brings us to a fond recollection of our only summer trip.
The sea and the sun and the concentration of youth is a peculiar mixture. The weeks were one big party it seems today, when we slept under palm trees during the day and frequented bars and discotheques in the night, until the wee hours of the mornings.
I felt young and beautiful and as such I was admired by the opposite gender. I never danced alone and I always had someone to buy me a drink. I recall one evening meeting a handsome boy, the center of everyones attention, gaining mine quiet easily. His tall posture, muscular body and blond locks could make any girl week in her knees - and I was no exception. Soon I only had eyes for him, paying very little attention to his plain friend, who failed to capture my interest, but whose interest I captured in return. I did not give him the time of the day, ignoring him completely, as he was not handsome and I was foolishly shallow.
Admitting eventually his defeat, one day he approached me and as he gazed at me with his intelligent eyes, he handed me three one dollar bills with these words: "My mother always told me, that any kind of trouble can be solved with three one dollar bills. Please keep these as a souvenir - if you are ever in trouble, I hope they can be of help." I remember this as clearly as if it was yesterday, accepting the bills with a slight surprise, managing to utter a weak "thank you". He nodded gently and then left me standing there in silence, as I watched him walk away, never to lay my eyes on him again.
Today I pity my young self, who failed to see the potential in this young mans behavior and conduct. It was not until a few years later that I realized the true meaning of the gift I was once given on a sun drenched beach by a plain boy. Even though somewhere deep within I must have realized the value almost instantly, as the bills were saved in my box, where they have remained until today.
I can no longer recall his face, or voice, nor his name, I am ashamed to say. But I will always recall the day when he taught me how to distinguish between beautiful eyes and eyes filled with the beauty of kindness, intellect and integrity and how to never choose the value of beauty over the value of substance.