Look upon the woman and the man with me.
It has to be this way for there is no other way than this: her cinereal face with lost eyes tracing an inexorable elsewhere beyond him and his face, red and tight with anguish. This is it, then? The ending of things? Was there not supposed to be ceremony, some sacrament ordained by the very god who brought them here? The oblivious earth traces some pathway through heaven and those upon it live and die, rising from the earth like evanescent waves always a part of the world but temporal so briefly. What begins in the earth shall end in the earth and no configuration of words will rebuke a truth as constitutional as this.
He knows this. Looking upon her he knows this. What grief. From Eden walked this woman, this finespun creature, and he crawled from some primordium perhaps not so resplendent and for two decades these animals of flesh and feeling did walk the earth in quotidian obligation. And what governs the meeting of one with their partner? What fate? What cruelly slim chance? By what right does Chance place two halves of a single soul on the earth and then audaciously say: “only if things are just so may you be joined?” By what right?
Two decades…twenty years…perhaps it is not so accurate to say this. Perhaps he and she encircled one another many times in many ways crossing here and there and perhaps glancing up at the other or perhaps even, by some great chance, speaking did their paths intersect. And yet Chance, that cruel and unmerciful and coldly objective god if one such exists, may not ordain their union at this juncture. Perhaps the time is not right, nor the place, nor the circumstance. Perhaps they are meant to go further on searching for what is before them.
I told you to look upon the woman and the man with me. Here they are.
His face is red and punctured with grief and with the same straightness of the lines he once traced on her body with his fingers several tears fall down his face and are captured in the cage of his beard. Look at her weak and meager. Look at her as he does. Do you see what once was? Can you not feel the Sunday morning air through the crevice in the window flourishing across their flesh bare and vulnerable before each other? You see how they love each other. You do not need to be told how when he was holding her and she was wordless against him he was holding the world entire. You do not need to be told how the fingers of her right hand would of their own volition spurned by some inward deep desire find their way to his hair and trace ancient and prehuman runes thereupon telling stories of yearning now only known to augurs of the stars.
Humor me a moment before I lay upon you the tragedy. All humankind seeking infinite knowledges at the last returns to what is so simple: the smile, the embrace, the monosyllabic words which we were first taught yet remain stalwart despite more dignified obfuscations. Do we think we will find some other meaning in more complex ways of saying things? Perhaps. And yet of all words spoken or heard we remember these three above all else: I, love, and you.
“I love you,” he said once. There was nothing special about the circumstance except, in their togetherness they had rendered the world obsolete. They held in each other the finality of it all. The path traced through the heavens rendered irrelevant they beheld one another and she too said the words which had been latent since the fated creation of them both.
Doubt? Yes. Fear? Yes. Sacrifice? Certainly. Who can look upon another and not conjure a thousand contingencies and then a thousand thousand more? “I am in pain; I am not ready.” You will always be in pain and you will never be ready. But here they are in pain and unready together. As unready as the first time they opened their eyes, illiterate naked and starving.
So, full of doubt and pain he said the simple words and she said them back. And who among us can know what existed between them? Only they who will store the memories in some hidden part of the heart and which will remain there until they are dust and the memories float invisible and untouchable heavenward. Only they will know. Only they will remember the feeling of his skin on hers or the jolt of the heart as her eyes crossed his.
Her face gray and her eyes devoid; his face garish and his eyes damp. He approaches her and clings to her though he feels the world slipping like sand or water or air from him. What does a man do when his world is gone? On what earth does he stand? It is a stolen earth, an imposter earth.
He will have to bury her. He will have to watch her die. He will have to watch the glow of her skin fade until like a candle it is blown away by an errant gust from that old devil Chance.
“I am dying.” They are the simple words that act as prelude. They are the words she speaks. It is a sickness as natural as the earth from which they were molded. It was as happenstance as their meeting. And yet all these things occurred.
She will lose her world and he his. There will be no ceremony, no divine meaning but what they themselves discover. I love you, I am dying, don’t leave me. What three words can mitigate the anguish in this triptych? Clutching her hand in the hospital bed, her hair and frame sick and wiry, he still does not let go the fire he found in her and in keeping it finds the three last words that justify her transition from daughter to dust: “I will remember.”
What begins in the earth shall end in the earth but what occurs thereupon may be stored deep in the hearts of its fugacious travelers for if one was meant to the walk the dirt and suffer the way of the world then by god they were meant to walk the dirt astride another. This is how things are. No ceremony but the covenant forged wildly between two living creatures.
She will die and he will die and you and I will die too but perhaps there is something worth finding here if the god named Chance ordains it and you and I are not too afraid to seize it.