‘I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I feel comfortable saying it to you,’ he said as he held my hands in his. ‘I love you. I’ve fallen in love with you…’
I looked into his velvety brown eyes, through the slightly tinted lenses of his glasses. He held my gaze and didn’t show any signs of wavering. I thought about what I’d considered telling him on my flight to his home town, a few months after I’d learned what a part of me already knew; that he was facing the final curtain.
It was some time during the previous summer that I started noticing a difference in the way he said certain things. I didn’t want to ask, because I figured he would tell me in his own time. So when I eventually got a message from him that started with “I wasn’t sure when I should tell you this…” included the words “I probably have six months to live” and ended with “Don’t feel sorry for me”, I somehow wasn’t surprised.
We continued talking as before, like what he’d just told me hadn’t happened, because that’s what he wanted. He said he was tired of talking about it, that he just wanted to enjoy the rest of his life and not focus on the illness.
He and I connected online sometime in 2012. We started off talking about music and from then on we talked about everything under the sun. Every. Single. Thing. He told me about his eventful life and I was delighted with the way he seemed to have enjoyed every moment of everything he’d done. How he admitted there had been a lot of women in the past, but that he had treated each and every one of them like they were the only one.
To say that I was fascinated by this man is an understatement of the same magnitude as calling the Pacific Ocean wet. He let whatever was in his head come out through his fingers without any filter. Even when he told me that he found me attractive, and didn’t spare any details as to what about me he fancied, it never felt like he overstepped the mark. Because it was genuine. As someone who believed in living in the moment and sharing positive vibes, I expected nothing less of him.
Then, nearly four years later, after exchanging countless messages on a nearly daily basis, we were to meet. I sat on the plane and thought, “I have to find a way to tell this man that I love him.” I, who’d always had problems saying these words to those I hold dearest, was planning to say it to a man I’d never even met. Yet it felt important that I did. Little did I know then that he’d beat me to it.
‘I love you, too.’
I heard the words coming out of my mouth, like I had no control over them, and planted a brief kiss on his mouth before embracing him.
‘I’ve been wanting to tell you for so long,’ he said into the crook of my neck.
‘I was thinking of how to tell you on the way over here,’ I responded.
He leaned backwards slightly, so he could look into my eyes.
‘Are you serious?’
I nodded and he offered a vague smile, his eyes showing me he was moved.
‘I honestly didn’t think I’d feel this way again, about anyone, at my age. I thought this was it, especially given my…’ he paused and hugged me again. ‘…condition.’
I held my arms tightly around his slender frame and had to fight back the tears. This was more than “just love”, this was a deeper connection that went beyond a simple crush. At that moment I just felt complete. Standing there in his arms, I felt strangely calm. Like everything had fallen into place, somehow – even though I knew it was more complicated than that. I knew he hadn’t told me because he wanted us to be together. He had told me because it was the only right thing to do.
He eventually sat down on the couch and I knelt down before him.
‘I have a feeling that this is connection with you is what will make me survive this,’ he said. ‘I feel like I’ve been given a final chance to live life to the fullest.’
‘You’ve had such a life…’
‘And I’m still having one. More than anyone else knows.’
‘I wish I could stay here… I don’t want to leave you,’ I sighed as tears drenched the fabric of his trousers. He made me look at him, held his hands on my cheeks and smiled.
‘Perhaps it’s for the best, this way. So you’ll only have good memories of me.’
I nodded, although every cell in my body was objecting.
‘Promise me you’ll come back here, after I’m gone. Come swim in the waters here where I will eternally be,’ he said, referring to the fact that his ashes would be scattered at sea when the time came. Then he quietly started singing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, whispering it almost, as I put my cheek back onto his knee.
My breath started calming down as I sat there, listening to his soothing voice. I found peace in knowing that no matter what happened from then on, that I would always have this moment, that I would always remember his honesty and his willingness to share what was in his heart. I’d always know that no matter how brief, I’d felt a deep connection to someone so amazing that I still can’t put into words exactly how much meeting him changed me to the core.
‘You have a prism of gifts and talents that are just starting to hold your hand and lead you on the path of a magnificent life-to-be,’ he later said as I hugged him at the door. ‘Make the most of it.’
When I was out of his sight, rivers of tears ran down my face. And yet I was smiling.