I know you cared for him. And his reaction proves to me he cared for yur as well. Even as you explained that you had always loved me, and that it wouldn’t be fair to him, he did not release your hand. I know he was hurt and angry, and tried for almost an hour to change your mind, but when you stood firm and said, «I can’t go back with you, I’m so sorry,» he knew that you had made your decision. You said he simply nodded and the two of you sat together for a long time without speaking. I have always wondered what he was thinking as he sat with you, but I’m sure it was the same way I felt only a few hours before. And when he finally walked you to your car, you said he told you that I was a lucky man. He behaved as a gentleman would, and I understood then why your choice was so hard.
I remember that when I finished the story, the room was quiet until Kate finally stood to embrace me. «Oh, Daddy,» she said with tears in her eyes, and though I expected to answer their questions, they did not ask any. Instead, they gave me something much more special. For the next four hours, each of them told me how much the two of us had meant to them while they were growing up. One by one, they told stories about things I had long since forgotten. And by the end I was crying, because I realized how well we had done with raising them. I was so proud of them, and proud of you, and happy about the life we have led. And nothing will ever take that away. Nothing. I only regret that you were not here to enjoy it with me.
After they left, I rocked in silence, thinking back on our life together. You are always here with me when I do so, at least in my heart, and it is impossible for me to remember a time when you were not a part of me.
I love you, Allie. I am who I am because of you. You are every reason, every hope and every dream I’ve ever had, and no matter what happens to us in the future, every day we are together is the greatest day of my life. I will always be yours.
And, my darling, you will always be mine.
I put the pages aside and remember sitting with Allie on our porch when she read this letter for the first time. It was late afternoon. The sky was slowly changing colour, and as I watched the sun go down, I thought about that brief moment when day suddenly turns into night. Dusk, I realized, is just an illusion, because the sun is either above the horizon or below it. And that means that day and night are linked in a way that few things are; there cannot be one without the other, yet they cannot exist at the same time. How would it feel, I wondered, to be always together, yet forever apart? I know the answer now. I know what it’s like to be day and night now; always together, forever apart.
THERE IS BEAUTY where we sit this afternoon, Allie and I. The birds, the geese, float on the cool water, which makes them seem larger than they really are. Allie too is watching them, and little by little, we get to know each other again.
«It’s good to talk to you. I find that I miss it, even when it hasn’t been that long.» I am sincere and she knows this, but she is still cautious. I am a stranger.
«Is this something we do often?» she asks. «Do we sit here and watch the birds a lot? I mean, do we know each other well?»
«Yes and no. I think everyone has secrets, but we have been acquainted for years.»
She looks to her hands, then mine. She thinks about this for a moment. We do not wear our rings. Again, there is a reason for this. She asks, «Were you ever married?»
I nod. «Yes.»
«What was she like?»
I tell the truth. «She was my dream. She made me who I am, and holding her in my arms was more natural to me than my own heartbeat. I think about her all the time. Even now, when I’m sitting here, I think about her.»
She takes this in. I don’t know how she feels about this. Finally, she speaks softly, her voice is angelic, sensual. I wonder if she knows I think these things. «Is she dead?»
«My wife is alive in my heart. And she always will be,» I answer.
«You still love her, don’t you?»
«Of course. But I love many things. I love to sit here with you. I love to share the beauty of this place with someone I care about.»
She is quiet for a moment. She looks away so I can’t see her face. It has been her habit for years. «Why are you doing this?» No fear, just curiosity. This is good. I know what she means, but I ask anyway.
«Why are you spending the day with me?»
I smile. «I’m here because this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s not complicated. Both you and I are enjoying ourselves. My time with you is not wasted. It’s what I want. I sit here and we talk and I think to myself, ‘What could be better than what I am doing now?»‘
She looks in my eyes, and for a moment, just a moment, her eyes twinkle. A slight smile forms on her lips. «I admit I enjoy your company, but I know nothing about you. I don’t expect you to tell me your life story, but why are you so mysterious?»
«I read once that women love mysterious strangers.»