The days drifted slowly by, each one passing with the speed of sap drip, drip, dripping from a maple tree. Then, as the feel of Susanna’s body dissolved into particles of memory, each particle carrying a different part of her, and it took longer to call her face to mind, and I had to strain with my eyes closed to feel her lips, the days seemed to speed up and pass with the smooth and constant flow of the sands of an hourglass schuss, schuss, schussing from one half of the glass to the other. While once, it had seemed like I would never see my love again, I began to feel my pulse quicken when I thought of Susanna and how soon I could hold her body to mine.
Our letters passed in the air, hers leaving a fragrant trail of orange blossoms while mine flew along threads of hope and desire. Our phone calls might have dissolved into crying and tears, but I sent smiles and silly jokes to make her laugh because I missed her laugh so much. Yet, sadness there was at our million-years of separation and unhappy tears flowed despite our attempts at courage and cheer, but also tears of happiness were shed on both sides of the ocean as we kept long-distance passion alive and hopeful. I heard the ache in her heart as she spoke of our home on the beach, and the breakfasts next to an empty seat and at dinner, too, and the unwrinkled pillowcase, and my favorite bath towel with the trace of dust along the top where it hung on the bar that she looked at when she bathed. She told me of her sunset beach walks and I pictured one set of footsteps trailing behind her instead of two. She told me how lonely she was watching her television shows and I looked at the box of tissues on my desk and smiled. I knew she wore my robe when the cold became too much for her, and I would bury my face in it when I returned to her so I could smell her fragrance and I would breathe deep of her fresh scent when at last I held her again.
I told her of my work and that I missed her terribly and that thoughts of her filled my mind as I went about my days, and I told her I couldn’t watch television without her, but read and wrote and avoided looking at the clock and checking off the passing days on the calendar she sent with me with the pictures of Barcelona and our favorite places, and she told me to slow down because I spoke too fast and it made her laugh. Then we laughed together at that and while we laughed I didn’t tell her how hard it was to fall asleep without crying, and how difficult it was to shop for fruit when all the fruit were apples and it reminded me of our first meeting.
Once, while I shopped for groceries and found myself looking through the apples, a nice old woman approached me and asked if I had been crying. “Young man,” she said and patted my forearm. “Have you been crying? Your eyes are red and your nose is, too. Are you sad? Would you like a tissue?” I shook my head and thanked her and she stuffed her handkerchief back into her purse, and she stood and watched me as I walked away. When I turned into another aisle I looked up and she still watched me, and she smiled, and I think she knew. I returned her smile and I was glad she had asked me if I was sad. It felt good to share my pain with a woman who knew what I felt. Sometimes you meet people like that, people with the gift of emotional discernment that lets them see inside you and feel what you’re feeling. Though, it might also be that lovesickness and loneliness cannot be hidden behind a stoic front, a brave visage, a false smile. My smile to the old woman, though, was authentic and if the moment had lasted a bit longer I might have unburdened myself to her.
I also didn’t tell Susanna that I would return earlier than planned by a month. I would surprise her. No, no, not that way. I wouldn’t want to be the cause of a woman fainting. I would tell her when two weeks remained before I returned. How happy she would be, and I imagined her jumping up and down with the phone to her ear, and her face one big smile from ear to ear, and her excitement and joy bubbling over into laughter and tears.