In the darkness of her bedroom, she sat. Listening to the voice of the man on the other end, listening to the voice she had known for many years, saying what people say when they don’t know how to say goodbye.
“What will you remember? You know… about us… What will you think of when you’re out there?”
In the corner of a small room, staring out through a small window into the vastness of outer space, towards the blue sphere of Earth, he stood. He wanted a little privacy from the hundred other men who stood around and behind him, and staring out into infinity gave him that sense. Seemingly alone, floating through a black sea.
“Oh, there’s too much. I’ll remember everything, I’ll think of everything.”
She stared at the dark ceiling of her room feeling the soft sheets below her. She smelled the smell of toasting bread coming from the kitchen. She heard her dog barking outside, maybe to a squirrel, maybe to a couple walking past her street. She would renounce all the pleasures of her life, she would give it all away if he came back to her.
“Just tell me something… tell me what you remember… right now, what are you remembering now?”
He didn’t want to remember, not at that moment above his lonely planet. The memories of her were painful to recall, a reminder of what he was leaving behind, a reminder of what he may never see again, and yet he did… for her.
“I remember that time when we got lost in the woods on our way to your house. Remember?”
Something had descended into her throat. A knot was forming there, a knot that made it hard to swallow, a knot that made it hard to speak.
Such a short word was her reply. It hadn’t lasted more than half a second, and yet it made his eyes water. The memories of a past life. A life when the future seemed bright, a time when he thought he would never be without her.
“It must be about twelve years now. It was getting dark and you were getting worried. I knew we were close, I just didn’t know where exactly. It was a nice night. I guess in that moment it didn’t seem like it would be, but… remembering it now… It was a nice night. The air was cool, the trees swayed with the wind and you were crying because you thought we’d never find our way, you said you thought nobody would find us. It wasn’t easy for me either, for a moment or two I panicked. I did. You didn’t notice, but I did, and for a second I thought I might pass out. I didn’t say anything though, I didn’t want to worry you. I set the tent out there, below the tall trees, and placed a small candle in the middle.”
She wanted him to hear her voice again. She wanted him to remember her forever so that he might have a reason to come back, so that he didn’t forget to return.
“I liked that candle.”
He had liked it too. He remembered the warmth of it. The warmth that he shared with her that night from long ago. It had been a warmth so small and it had passed so fast… but he had shared it with her, and in the midst of all that fear he had loved her more than ever before, just as they shared it.
“I know. I remember we sat in there, facing each other, listening to the sound of leaves and the sound of the small animals of the night, seeing only our faces in the dim light of the fire. I couldn’t stand to see you like that, all frightened, with tears in your eyes. I wasn’t feeling too great either, but I just couldn’t stand to see you like that. I took your hand, and you held on to mine. We walked outside, leaving the safety of the small candle and we leaned against that tree. I grabbed my mandolin and I began to play. At first it seemed inappropriate, it didn’t fit with our surroundings, our dark predicament. It was like playing a cheerful song into a well, where no one would hear it, where it would echo for eternity in solitude, but it wasn’t so. Soon the sound of it made you smile, and your smile made me smile, so I continued to play, and you continued to smile. Your tears dried up and the hush sounds of the night left us, and the stars above us shined on us, and your eyes glowed with the light of the sky and I thought there was nothing more beautiful than you in the world. I still do. I played until sunrise, and until sunrise you stayed with me, and it was when the sun touched our faces that we realized we could see your home from there. It was a strange night, but it’s a night I think back to frequently. It’s the one I’m thinking of now.”
The knot that had formed within her tightened, it threatened to end her life and her heart pounded hard as it strived to survive. Her eyes flowed with tears and her voice cracked.
“I don’t want you to go. Why don’t you just stay? Why can’t you just come back and stay?”
What torture were those words to him. Every time he heard them he considered them, every time he listened to her saying them, for a second or two, they made all the sense in the world and he wondered what he was doing up there, with the others, without her.
“I have to do this. We have to try. If I don’t, that’s it. I have to try. Even if I never come back, I’ll know I did what I could to keep you safe. Alive…”
A song played through the speaker, it was her favorite, it was their song. She pressed her face into a pillow on her bed and let out a silent scream. She wasn’t sure she would make it through the night, the knot had descended into her stomach and there it caused her more pain than she had ever felt.
“You took your mandolin with you…”
He had begun playing the song he played on that dark night, below that tall tree, hoping that the next time he saw the sun rise he would see her home again, and again he would see her, and again they would smile together. Outside his room an alarm began to sound.
“Yes. I can feel you here. I missed your voice, that voice the makes me want to shut up, I can feel it touch me, and when you touch me, I hear the sound of mandolins, and when I hear them there’s nothing I can do but play. You are the joy of my life, you are the sweetness of it, you are the star that gives me hope, the beauty of the world… I have to go now. Think of me often. They’re taking us away now…”
He was going away and she couldn’t know when she would hear him again, or see him again, or touch him again, and that death that had taken shelter inside her exploded into sadness.
“No…. wait…. please!”
There was nothing left to say, there was no time for him to say more words. He would miss her, he would cry for her every night, he wanted to tell her many more things, but there was no more time.
“Goodbye love. I’ll be out there playing for you, somewhere amongst the stars.”
She stood up from her bed and ran across her room. She opened the window and looked up to the sky, hoping that she may catch a last glimpse of her shooting star.
“I’ll be looking for you! I’ll be waiting for you!”