He died on a Sunday. He chose the day of rest to rest his case. I found him in bed and without moving from the spot where I stood by the door, I could tell he was gone.
You see, even in sleep, he was always in motion. His eyelids would flutter and I would watch him, wondering what images filled his dreams. His mouth would tremble and I would hope it was because somewhere in never never land, he was kissing me. His chest would move and I would wonder if it was to the rhythm of his love for me.
So that November morning, as I stood by the door that led to the bedroom we used to share until the pain of rheumatism had forced us apart, I immediately knew it was over. I didn’t have to take the next step to know love had taken flight. I stood by that door and watched for a while. I waited for those lips to tremble, I bid the eyelashes to flutter, I prayed his chest resume movement…all to no avail. I walked back down the stairs not too long after, each step blinding me with the pain of age, each step, a goodbye to the man on the bed.
I called his doctor first, some young upstart who reminded me of myself when I was young. And then I called the children. Again I waited. I waited till they were done with their crying and mourning. I waited till they had buried him. I waited till the noise of grandchildren, running around, oblivious to the sadness that hung like a cloud, had departed with the last car. I waited till it was just me and his ghost. It took a while for it to happen but it finally did.
I sent away the housekeeper. ‘You deserve a holiday and I will be fine for one day’.
She took off and I made for the stairs. His address book was still on the bedside table where it always sat. I picked up the phone and called her.
‘He is dead.’ I said when she answered the phone.
A shrill wail pierced my ears and I allowed myself to cry for the first time since I found him. Finally, here was someone who shared my pain. Finally, here was someone who could share this burden of loving someone who had died. Finally.
I spoke first. The wailing had become cries and then sniffles and suddenly it was much too quiet.
‘Were there any children?’
‘No, no. He never wanted any with me. I had children before meeting him.’
The silence grew louder and I searched for the right thing to say to a woman who was millions of miles away, a woman with whom I had only one thing in common.
‘Maybe someday you can visit.’ I said.
‘We will see how it goes.’ She answered after a few hesitant seconds.
I could hear the clinking of glasses in the background. Was she going to drink to dull the pain? Maybe it was time to say goodbye. There seemed to be nothing left to say.
‘He never stopped loving you.’ She said as if sensing I was about to put an end to her last connection to the man she loved. ‘Even when he was with me, it was your love that filled his life.’
I closed my eyes and saw him smile.
‘I know. And I am glad he had you for those days when my love was not enough. Some people are like that. They need more than just sunshine to flourish. They need the moon as well. So thank you for loving him even when you knew he couldn’t love you completely.
We said our goodbyes with less ceremony than I had played out in my head. I extended the invitation to visit again even though I knew it would never happen. I placed the phone receiver back in its place and tried to imagine her sitting by the phone, in a lonely house in faraway Brooklyn, surrounded by the cold of winter, and now sorrow.
I looked outside my window where the world was filled with sunshine and greenness. I smiled for the first time.