“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha
“You can stay with me. We’ll figure it out.” Her face was serene as always. That’s why she would be good for him. She never worried, never fretted.
“You don’t know how much I want to stay.” He held her hand tenderly. “You’ve been so kind to me.”
She smiled at him.
“You’re going home.”
“I know.” She looked far away. “I understand.” Acceptance. It was part of her. She did her best, and was at peace no matter what the result. Once he thought that she simply hid her emotions well. No one could just accept all the things that didn’t go their way. She was an exception. It was Buddhism, she said.
“You only lose what you cling to.” – Buddha
He didn’t know what to say.
She said nothing. The breeze sent strands of dark brown hair into her face. She brushed them back into place with her free hand.
He was suddenly fighting back tears. There was no way he was going to let himself cry. Not with her.
“It’s a beautiful afternoon,” she said quietly. “Let’s walk back.”
She stood and tugged at his hand. He followed, still struggling to compose himself.
The unfamiliar streets passed by in a haze. She guided him through, wordlessly, gently. Her strawberry scent melded with the smells of the streets. The put-put of the scooters and the unintelligible voices of street vendors reached his ears, but left no impression. They arrived at his hotel after an indeterminate amount of time. He’d lost touch with his senses. All he could focus on was her, and his slowly swelling grief.
Back in his room, she guided him to the bed and undressed him, then made love to him. For that brief moment, he forgot that he was leaving this amazing woman. Her ministrations comforted him, washing over and through his welling emotions like the waters of the Lethe.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
She lay beside him, running her fingers through his hair, her eyes bright. “Thank you,” she said, “for everything.” Never bitterness. As always, she showed her heart. Never anything but the truth, no matter how hard for her.
He smiled back, held her head in his hands, and kissed her forehead. It was one of the most difficult things he’d ever done in his life, that smile, that kiss. He knew she was saying goodbye, but she would not say the words. He knew he had to let her go, because he would not stay.
The welling emptiness that had begun to fill him that afternoon had dissipated. As her parting gift she had taken it away. He knew he could never emulate her. “I will miss you,” he said.
She melted into his arms, wrapping him in a tight embrace. Her wet cheek touched his, her scent enveloping his consciousness. “When you remember me,” she said into his ear, “help someone. Be kind to others, and to yourself. We are all flawed beings, doing our best to live our lives. You have your own path, and I have mine.” She kissed him, one final deep kiss. “When I remember our time together, it will always bring a smile.”
She stood and dressed in the darkness, the only illumination streaming in through the window from the neon of the city below. Then she stood at the doorway, looked at him one last time, and walked through. The door closed behind her with a quiet click.
He could not see her face, but he knew she was smiling.
“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”
“Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.”
Thank you to Sugar, who encouraged me to finish this piece, and the others to follow.