First Love

 "Hi" I whispered.

"I came." I said with a nervous chuckle. "I'm here."

I watched him as if he were asleep in a hospital bed and I was nudging him awake.  The smell of flowers was strong.  I breathed in deeper, acknowledging for a moment that I could and drew in the fragrance of roses mixed with mums and lilies.

"Um, listen, I don't know how much time I have with just you, so I want to say a few things.  I'm sorry I didn't see you before now.  We should've called each other or something.  It's been so long.  I met your wife, just a few minutes ago....she's nice.  Yeah.  Nice. Really lovely, you did so well.  Look, I'm sorry, I feel like I got in the way of you meeting her sooner.   I'm sorry.  She seems so kind.  I bet the two of you are great together. Or were. Or are...I'm sorry.  I don't know.  My words are getting tangled up...you know how I can be..."

I paused a minute and looked around him. There were neatly folded handwritten notes, a Nascar racing card, single roses tied individually with ribbon and piece of gold jewelry tucked under his hand. He was wearing a blazer, the deepest color of navy and it looked almost like suede.   I touched his arm.  A tear slipped off of my chin and splashed on my hand resting on his coat.

"You look real handsome. I wish you would look at me."  Air caught in my throat and spilled out into a sigh that was louder than I wanted.  I squeezed my eyes shut and more tears came.  I was losing my composure and I knew I had only a few minutes here.

"Okay, so I need to say that I love you. I've always loved you.  You were so good to me through all those years and I'm sorry the way it turned out.  The way I hurt you.  All of it."

My voice grew tight and higher pitched as I tried to whisper.  My shoulders rolled in as I spoke between sobs.  I drew in my breath sharply and frowned.  My mouth was dry and moved around useless like it was chewing on something sour.   My jaw ached and burned from my clinching teeth.  I had to swallow but I felt strings of saliva pooling in the corners of my lips. I was determined to say something - anything - to this man that I came so close to marrying over 20 years ago.

"Looks like everyone has left you something.  There's nice things here, okay? Do you know that? Looks like you have some notes to read and gifts and stuff."  I squeezed my eyes shut and lifted my head to the ceiling and the tears streamed down the sides of my face and felt cool when they hit my ears.  I looked back down at him and coughed out "I'm sorry I didn't bring you anything."  I moved my hand from his elbow and cupped it around his hand.  "I'm sorry I didn't bring you anything.  Something for you to keep from just me."  I leaned over and focused on how he looked and thought he could be set in bronze.  So young, like a handsome marble statue at rest.  Peaceful.  I knew I didn't have much time.

 Not the same truck, but similar to his. 

Not the same truck, but similar to his. 

"I'm gonna' miss you okay? I hate to say goodbye."  I bowed my head and squeezed his hand and one tear rolled off the tip of my nose and landed on his suede like jacket.  The wetness made a near perfect circle.  As I watched it fade, I looked at his resting face and said, "There." I smiled a little and then cried some more.  "You can have my tears.  That's  what you can take with you. It's all I have.  I'll miss you."

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In my mind, he is still here.  He is smiling with eyes that make him seem older than he was. He is laughing and shaking his head.  He is working hard because it's the only way he knew and he is loving his family and friends with fierce loyalty.  To me, he's still here.  He was too good to be gone. I've not been in this place, this city for over 20 years.  Time stopped when I left and in my mind he is still here.