The first time we met it was ordinary. You glanced over me casually, probably not even giving me a second look. And, if I’m being honest, I had no idea you were there. We were two strangers who happened to, through some strange string of coincidence, cross one another’s paths. But something about me made you linger, and I suppose I’ll never truly understand what that was. You took the time to give me a little thought. Being pensive, truly and honestly thoughtful, is such a rarity these days. Things are so easily accessible and exchanged; you surprised me by staying. And soon each and every thought I had throughout the day was dedicated to you. It wasn’t something I did intentionally, of course. Just the way water flows through a river, it was effortless and steady. The steady flow of you began to create a larger feature; the same way water will gently create beautiful natural wonders, something began to grow in me.
I can never say if that same feeling was being carved out in you. But I can sincerely say that what started as infatuation grew into a deep affection. Your patience with me is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. But more than patience, you greeted me with a steadfast will. As you reached deeper and deeper into me, you began to see a potential to do and to accomplish that I never even knew existed. When others had only ever regarded with a quiet tolerance, yours was a steady push to be greater.
I began to see a life with you beyond what pages can hold. I saw foreign cities and nights lit up by oil lamps and uneven, ancient streets. I saw your smile in the dim light of those evenings and I felt your hair around me as we would be lying in bed as the sun rose over one of those exotic places. The curve of your nose as we strolled hand in hand through a vineyard of brilliant greens and deep purples; how you would smile at me not just with your mouth but with your heart. All of a sudden you weren’t just some person I had feelings for, but someone who was a part of my life.
So we went out, out into the world that was as strange to us as we had once been to one another. We saw those vineyards and walked those streets. The oil lamps were beautiful, but never as beautiful as the flicker of excitement I caught in your eyes when we arrived at each new destination. Your nose and your smile and your hair all were just parts of you now; parts of this individual that was merely playing vessel to who I really loved. It was there, in those cities far across vast oceans, when I realized that it wasn’t the body I was standing next to that I truly cared for; it was you, all of you, the things that are intangible and ethereal that I simply could not live without. That was the only way I could describe it. And so, as we laughed and held each other’s hands over tapas and wine on the patio of a restaurant you had spotted as we strolled, I lean in close and I whispered it into your ear. Never had I seen such an expression of pure joy in all my life. As your smile was mixed with the tears that welled up in your eyes, you took one of your delicate hands and covered your lips, nodding quickly. We embraced and began the next part of our journey.
We spent years together, travelling and living. I never knew happiness like that; I never thought anyone could feel that way. With all the ups and down, the arguments and even the moments when we thought it might be easier to just give up…we stuck together. It was in those days, those months, those years, that we became more than just two lovers. And while I can never say just how deeply you felt for me, I can sincerely say that you were the center of my world. I’d do it all over again, given the chance.
“Well, that’s all I could get down on paper” I said as I stopped reading the letter. The beep of the hospital equipment was a distraction, anyway. I had lost my place so often that I feared she had become annoyed with me. Instead she held my hand tighter, smiling the same way she had smiled at me that night I asked her to spend the rest of her life with me. She had lost so much weight, and the color was gone from her cheeks, but she was still as beautiful to me today as the first day she had accidentally walked into my life. “You’re so gorgeous…” I let slip out the same way someone lets a sigh out. She couldn’t speak, or bring herself to I suppose, and for the rest of that day all we did was hold one another.
The following months were difficult. No amount of ink will ever be able to carry the weight of that word. I often look back and think that I might have failed. I’m no knight in shining armor; I couldn’t save her from the pain in the end. I asked the doctors again and again if it had been peaceful. They were honest with me, which I suppose is a comfort, and said she was as peaceful as she could have been. Those last days were all a blur- paperwork and lawyers flooded what was a dull movie that played out around me. Sadness doesn’t quite cover the sensation. Emptiness doesn’t quite express the depth. It was all just…difficult.
“She wasn’t just someone I loved…” I spoke that day, in front of a podium dressed in black. I coughed, cleared my throat, and looked down at the notes I had made for myself. I took a deep breath, “I met a stranger, years ago. Someone I barely noticed. She was thoughtful, however, and unlike anyone else I had ever met she took time to get to know me. At the time I thought that was the kindest thing anyone had ever done for me. However…” I swallowed hard, “…however in the days, the months, and the years to come the profundity of her kindness would make itself apparent. She shared her life with me, and in turn I shared mine with her. We saw breathtaking places together, old towns that time had forgotten”. I cracked my neck the way I tended to when I was uncomfortable, “But nothing we saw out there, not a single oil lamp or uneven street, could compare to what we found in each other. We spent the best five years of my life together…” I simply couldn’t go on. I slowly broke down, tears streaming down my face. I cleared my throat again to try and speak, “She would rush me, push me to do things I never thought I could. But she…” I took in a deep, harsh breath, “…she always left time to waste”. They came up then, my cousin and her mother, and lead me off the stage.
Years of living without her finally came to this moment. I found myself at the patio area of the party where we had first met, where she had glanced up and down who I was, and decided that I was worth exploring. I wish I had noticed her then. It seemed a cardinal sin on my part, to not have. I sat down on the bench where we sat, as per her instruction, in order to talk easier. “It’s quieter outside” she had told me, and took me by my shirt sleeve to the place I was now. I hung my head, the last words she spoke to me the first night we met coming to mind.
“I think we’ll remember each other for a long time”