And as he smiled, he thought of their first kiss, just east of Astoria park, joggers and cyclists swooping around the two of them. The sun had just set but there was still a red glow, a ring around the park which gently placed a halo above her golden hair. He’d held her head in his hands and cradled her chin with his thumbs they’d kissed, lips soft and connected, pulled together as natural as magnets once torn apart.
And he smiled, the possiblity of seeing her again so close. He’d only just purchased the ticket, flight still hours away, and yet he could picture her, in the airport, waiting by baggage claim with open arms, wearing the dress she’d worn the first time they met, her mind, like his, buried deep in nostalgia for that moment months ago. And he hoped she would be there, but his mind told him she wouldn’t.
And he laughed, quietly, as he remembered a story she’d once told him about the writer Edgar Allen Poe having once stayed in her ancestor’s home. Poe had carved a story on the wall wall that ended “I’m inside, let me out!” She claimed she’d seen the writing, but he didn’t quite believe her.
And he felt his laughter falter as he remembered the lie she told about when she was leaving. She said she’d be around for months, but within days she was flying, north, back to her home with her mother. She didn’t say why, but she’d just left him alone, no explanation. Perhaps she lied about wanting to stay with him forever because she didn’t want to hurt him, or perhaps she wanted to hold the moment for what it was, and nothing more.
And later, that would make the most sense. He believed her, that she had wanted to stay, because he loved her. But then she flew home, and the smell of her hair had faded, and the feel of her lips grew numb, and the sound of her voice whispering in his ear when they made love disappeared into only a faint whisper, like she was never there at all.
And he felt a tear crawl down his cheek during the memory of her crying over the phone, wishing him well but that the day was not a good one for her, because he was so far away. He’d almost called her back a dozen times that night, after she hung up, but instead he let her have her moments, her sadness. He had moments, too, and quietly respected those moments for her.
And then he cringed, recalling the weakness in her voice as she whispered from her hospital bed, overcome with medication and sadness. He’d not seen the sadness inside when they first met, didn’t hear it in her voice when they spoke on the phone. When she called, he thought she was crying for help.
He didn’t realize she was reaching out one final time.
And, later, he would smile again when he entered her hospital room and her face lit up, a bright red that contrasted with the her previously pale face that was hopeless and lonely. He held her for hours, it seemed, and when he let go, she let go.
And then he smiled no more.