The drive to the airport with Ian was too short, although it seemed to take an eternity. I kept thinking of things to say, yet no words would come. The silence from the driver’s seat did nothing to free my voice. Already, the bleak loneliness of leaving him was creeping in, barely held in check by his warm hand on my thigh. There, on the curved muscle, I felt the connection. I focused my thoughts on that hand, memorizing it’s lines, scars, shape and marks, the feel of it, the weight, its gentleness.
“I don’t know how to say goodbye to you,” came a whisper from his tight throat, “or even contemplate it.”
I looked to the left, just in time to see the sunlight catch the tear falling from his cheek.
“I’ve never felt this much for someone or been in a situation like this, so I don’t know either,” I said, looking down, not able to look up for fear of losing the tiny grip of composure I had on my voice.
We pulled into the airport parking garage. It said Short Term Only, an appropriate epitaph for the day. We found a space and parked without his hand ever leaving me. And then he turned in the seat and pulled me against him, caressing my hair and covering my face with light, gentle kisses.
“I love you Marian,” he said, his voice at full strength again, “And no matter what happens, remember, there will always be someone in Australia who loves you very much.”
My chin trembled and my green eyes filled with tears and, as I nodded, they spilled over. Ian gently wiped them away, before kissing me once more, ever so softly on the lips. I did not want to leave the car, but airlines wait for no one. Even those with breaking hearts.
We walked hand in hand to the terminal as I contemplated what a fitting term that was. Terminal. The end. In those last seconds, I was full of joy because I was still with him, but also overcome with a sadness so deep I had yet to discover just how far down it went.
“I’ll never forget this as long as I live,” I whispered in his ear as he hugged me tightly.
When I stepped away to get in line for security he stood, hands in pockets, watching me, his eyes saying what his mouth could not. I turned and then heard, “Marian, wait!”
He was coming toward me with long, purposeful strides. And then I was in his arms again and his mouth was covering mine with hot, fierce kisses. He held me hard against him and devoured my lips like we were alone and like no one was watching. My normal reserve with public displays of affection was completely forgotten and I returned his kisses with total abandon.
“Email me when you land, my darling,” he said when he finally broke the embrace.
“I will,” I promised and made my way once again to the security line, oblivious to the stares and well-meant smiles.
He stood where I left him, surrounded by masses of moving people, an island of stillness watching until I had made it through the tedious shoe removing, bag checking and body screening process. On the other side I turned, thinking that perhaps he’d be gone, but no. Ian had not moved. We both stood there, making eye contact over the heads of those around us, neither willing to make the final split. And then I heard my final boarding call. With a last wave, I gathered my carry-on and my heavy heart and trudged to the gate. The sight of him, blowing me one last kiss, is forever burned into my brain. A sweet memory, frozen in time.
The plane lifted off and I plugged in my iPod, set to random play. As the city fell away beneath me, where all my teenage fantasies of meeting a foreign stranger in a classically planted garden had come true, Andrea Bocelli’s soul-piercing tenor rang out, “Quando sono solo, sogno all’orizzonte, e mancan le parole…”
Translated the lyrics go: “There is no light if you are not here with me. Lands that I never shared with you, I shall experience with you on ships across seas that exist no more. With you, I will go. I know you are with me.”
I put on my sunglasses, leaned my head against the tiny, cold oval window and stopped trying to hold back the tears. They fell down my face and onto my clasped hands as I silently wept for what could never be.
The flight touched down several hours later but I remained motionless in my seat, emotionally drained from the pain that came with each minute that took me further and further away from Ian. And then I remembered he had asked me to email him. My heart soared at the thought of that little bit of contact, that distant touch, so I took out my phone and began pecking away.
I’m home and so very far from you. I miss you more than I can say. —Marian
I hit send and listened for the whoosh of my words being transmitted across the country to Ian, the man I wanted with all my heart. I was walking through the airport, the wheels of my bag beating a staccato rhythm along the tile floor with each bump of grout, when the chime of my phone alerted me to an incoming email. A tornado of butterflies filled my stomach at the thought of him writing back so quickly.
Then I read the subject line: Delivery Failed-Email Address Does Not Exist
What? Had he given me the wrong email address? I checked my typing against what he had written down. No. There was no mistake. I felt cold and began to tremble. Making a dash for the nearby restroom I locked myself in a stall and allowed the contents of my now nauseated stomach to empty. An icy sweat covered my body. I didn’t know what to think. I just knew something was horribly wrong.