“There she is again…. Every day, same time. Like clockwork.”
“Oh my God, this is difficult to watch….. Why does she torture herself like this?”
Adrienne feels this spotlight on her every day at lunch time, while she is hurrying between the sun-bronzed surfers. Every day she is aware that it can’t go on forever. Every day she is reminded that she will have to, one day, stop coming here for him and move on. And every day she is blinded by how unprepared she is for that day.
Well, today, that is what she is here to do. Today is the day.
Her pace slows when she spots him, waiting for her in the usual place, searching each face for hers. He takes a slow, deep breath when he sees that she has been crying and he begins to move towards her.
“Please…” she starts, bravely, causing him to pause. “ I…. I need to say this. Just…. Please, let me…” the words are choked off with an involuntary sob which she tries to control.
He waits quietly, and keeps watching her. He already knows what she has come here to say. He knows that this is going to hurt. He also knows how long it has taken her to reach this point. He remains respectful, he doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t look away.
She finally looks at him again, still exhaling shakily. Despite her improved composure, her tears don’t stop. She takes in every detail of his face and feels her heart breaking for the thousandth time.
“Today is the last day. I won’t be back tomorrow. I WON’T… I can’t do this to myself forever. This time with you is the only part of my day that I actually experience. There is nothing else. It’s gone on for too long. I disappear anywhere else, everywhere else. I convinced myself that it would get easier with time but I die a little more every time we meet here. Believe me, it has been worth every ounce of my sanity. This is not easy.”
She stops speaking for a moment and turns towards the ocean, grabbing the rail tightly with both hands. He moves closer and stands so close that she can almost feel him, and she feels that unmistakeable safety of his presence. It tears her apart.
“I have come here over and over again to say goodbye to you for ‘the last time’, but each time I can barely manage to walk away from you. It’s like walking away from my own soul. In a weird way I never really leave this place at all, because I am too scared to face the reality of a life without you. The thought still terrifies me. We were supposed to do this together, god damn you! YOU said that! You PROMISED that you would always be there and I believed you! And look at me now…. Look…. I have to escape from the remnants of my broken life just to share a moment here with you when I can get one. I can’t anymore….. I have to let you go. Don’t wait here for me anymore after today…. If you do I won’t ever stop coming. And I NEED to stop …… I must. The truth is that you left, and I don’t blame you for that, it wasn’t your fault…. It…”
She closes her eyes as she feels him wrapping his arms around her. She knows this is the last time, and she lets herself savour it. He warms her aching soul with his embrace, her weary heart is home again for a fleeting moment. “Shhhhhh…..” he manages, and silently protects her from the rest of the world for the last time.
She feels him release her gently and move away. She doesn’t turn around until he is gone. She turns and searches the passers-by for his face. The realisation that he is really gone numbs her, and the voices around her become clearer once again.
“It is her, check…. Same time as yesterday….. Damn…..”
“Wasn’t her fiancée that lifeguard? About a year back”
“Who is she talking to? Her mouth is moving…..”
“….. he saved that kid from drowning…. Never made it back to shore with the second child….. Such a tragedy”
“She just stands there every day, talking to herself…. Then goes back to work….”
She spots him not too far away, he is still watching her intently, his eyes full of warmth and love. She watches him back until he fades away. She smiles gently and breathes in for what feels like the first time ever. The warmth of his embrace doesn’t evaporate as she begins to walk back in the direction she came for the last time.
“I will be back someday when we have all the time in the world. This was only the last goodbye.”