The park ranger approached the shore of Lake Natron in Tanzania and gazed in awe at the magnificent sight of an enormous flock of flamingos more than a hundred thousand strong, feeding in the caustic red waters of the salt lake. Although a common sight for Baraka, the stunningly beautiful birds always filled him with wonder.
At some unseen signal, the teeming flock lifted into the sky in a cloud of fluttering pink accompanied by a cacophony of honking, grunting and growling. Baraka’s gaze followed the departing birds as they disappeared into the flaming orange of the setting African sun.
As peace and calm descended once more, Baraka returned his gaze to the lurid waters of the surreal lake and was shocked to see a solitary flamingo standing just a few metres away. Completely still, the majestic pink bird stared directly at him. Rooted to the spot, Baraka was transfixed; his eyes locked to the other-worldly bright yellow eyes of the flamingo, which he felt were peering deep into his soul.
As the minutes ticked by, the bird/man connection triggered a memory in the park ranger and he suddenly recalled the significance of both this day’s date and the very spot upon which he stood. It was here, exactly three years before that he and Amelia had said their goodbyes, gazing over the magnificent lake flooded with gorgeous flamingos. After only three months together on a break from her New York law school to volunteer at the game park, he and Amelia had fallen deeply, hopelessly in love.
But they were from different worlds – he from a poor family living in a remote African village and she a law student from a wealthy New York family. There was no place for Baraka in New York, and Amelia had felt duty-bound to return home and work in her father’s law firm. And so they had given up any hope of a future together and gone their separate ways.
A deep sense of regret and a burst of longing washed over Baraka as he stared at the lone flamingo. Suddenly, the spell broke; the flamingo spread its pink wings and took to the air. The young man’s heart leapt skyward with the beautiful creature as it followed its distant flock into the fiery sunset.
On the other side of the world, high above Manhattan in a shiny steel and glass law office, a young lawyer felt a flutter in her heart that broke her concentration and stopped the frantic tapping on her keyboard. Wondering at what had jolted her focus, Amelia’s gaze was drawn to the forgotten photo perched atop the bookshelf in the corner of her office, and she stared at the image of a happier time in a faraway place. Of her standing on the shore of a burnt red lake beside a glorious lone flamingo as her beloved Baraka captured the photo.
A lone tear welled and rolled down her cheek; as she wiped it away, she couldn’t help but wonder, what if?