He had always loved the peaceful countryside, where the cooking smoke mingled with the fragrance of the pagoda tree flowers, and the wheat waves undulated like a golden sea. He loved the warmth of the cow dung that he used to step on as a child, and the sight of the two birds flying overhead, as if they were his guardian angels. He loved the river of wheat that flowed far away in the night, carrying his dreams and hopes to distant lands. He loved the early donkey cart that brought him fresh bread and milk, and the night dew that moistened his face and hair. He loved the ancient clock of the village primary school that marked the rhythm of his days, and the flock of sheep that grazed peacefully on the green grass. He loved the ant that crawled through the shadows on the back of a red leaf, showing him the beauty and mystery of life.
But today, he was in love with another life, a life that was so different from his childhood memories. A life that was made of concrete, steel bars, dust billowing, and heat. A life that was filled with automobile exhaust, shiny rails, and digging machines. A life that was pompous, indifferent, lonely, and cruel. He fell in love with its feasting lights under the night, its dazzling temptations and illusions. He fell in love with its challenges and risks, its rewards and punishments. He fell in love with its pain and pleasure, its joy and sorrow.
He did not notice how he had changed, how he had lost his innocence and simplicity. He did not notice how he had hurt others, how he had crushed the exhausted ants under his wheels, how he had splashed their blood on his windshield. He did not notice how he had forgotten his roots, how he had abandoned his family and friends. He did not notice how he had betrayed his love, how he had left her waiting for him by the North Canal, where they used to swim and play.
He only noticed when it was too late, when he had nothing left but regrets and remorse. When he realized that his vast heart was smaller than a grain of rice, thinner than a steel needle. When he realized that he had wasted his life chasing after shadows and mirages. When he realized that he had lost everything that mattered to him.
He wished he could go back to the peaceful countryside, to the river of wheat, to the ancient clock, to the ant on the leaf. He wished he could go back to her, to her smile, to her eyes, to her embrace. He wished he could go back to himself, to his true self, to his soul.
But he knew it was impossible. He knew it was too late. He knew he had made his choice.
And he wept.