I remember his words as if he spoke them last night. We were sitting on the patio enjoying the twilight hues of the late June evening, conversing about the stars, the songs of crickets, and the inevitable probability that he was, not in the too distant future, going to die.
"You are the love of my life… but I am only a chapter in yours."
He said it matter of factly and honestly. We had become friends, at last. My husband and I were not friends until he was staring mortality in the face.
I tried to offer solace, to smooth the wrinkles out of a truth that he knew as well as I did.
"Did you hear me? Do you understand what I'm telling you?" he asked. Those sapphire eyes looked through and into me, and I could not deny him.
"I don't want to think of other chapters right now. But I hear you, yes." I swallowed hard and avoided his gaze. I was not ready to even entertain the thoughts of another life, of leaving behind the father of my children, the only man I'd ever truly loved, my best friend.
A week later, I was still not ready. Even as I made funeral arrangements, made the necessary calls, ordered floral arrangements and chose his casket, I was not ready. I wasn't ready the day he was buried.
Time… What a numbing creature it is. Its anesthesia cannot be bottled or simulated. I have dreamed of him many times, of course, that blue-eyed handsome man, my best friend. Always in those dreams he has comforted me, shown me the warmth of his arms until dawn stole my unconsciousness.
Last night it was different.
Beneath the cloak of dreams I crept, looking for him, and as always, I found him there. But something was amiss. He did not open his arms to me as before. Instead, I reached for him.
"No," he whispered. He pushed me back without a touch, without harshness, without a hint of regret.
I did not understand at first. And then those sapphire eyes looked through and into me… and I could not deny him.
"Turn the page…" He said it quietly and slowly, as if to remind me of something that I should have already known. And I did know. I remembered.
The next chapter… It cannot begin unless I turn the page, of course. I am not sure what I've been waiting for. I'm not even sure which story I'm in, much less which chapter I'm beginning. But I will know when I find it.
Better yet, perhaps I'll write it myself…