Every evening, the girl who lives in the house at the end of the lane hangs lanterns of twinkling candles from the branches of the oak tree in her garden. It looks like a fun thing to do. And she seems like a lovely girl. So when I turn up at her doorstep, eager to be part of the ritual, she gladly agrees to teach me how to make and put up lanterns on her oak tree.
It doesn't take long to figure that making the lantern is the easiest bit. The tricky part is the getting the right ingredients for it.
The first thing you will need, she says, is a jar of glass. A jar old enough to hold a story, she stresses.
Next, a handful of pebbles that bring back a wonderful memory.
And finally, a scent you wish to forget, she concludes.
The next evening I show up at her doorstep, my loot in my hands.
A little jar that had once held the hearts of all my loved ones. I found it in the toolshed, forgotten and cloaked in a thick blanket of dust.
The pebbles, Hummer fetched for me.
One by one.
Choosing each one meticulously.
It took him all afternoon.
But when he will be gone and I will have grown too old and forgetful, the pebbles will remind me of his warm fur.
The pebbles fill my jar halfway.
And the girl plants a candle in the centre.
Shen then turns to me and asks me to light the candle with the fragrance I wish to forget. I put my lips to the brim of the jar and gently blow on to the wick of the candle. A hiss and a spark and the candle bursts into life. The girl looks at me curiously. The scent of a lost lover's kiss, I answer her unvoiced question.
She smiles and loops a string around the neck of my jar.
You could wish for anything you know, she confides, when you hang the lantern.
Anything? I ask.
What do you usually wish for? I ask her.
Every evening, she says, I wish for the lights to show me the way long after I have run out of stars and dreams.
I take a cue from her and wish for hope and strength to last me long after I have run out of loved ones.