“See this is where it came from,” He showed her a picture of the carnival he obtained the bracelet from.
“Oh, how pretty,” she replied politely. Whether she meant the carnival or the bracelet hanging from her wrist, he did not know. It was evident, however, that her attention was elsewhere, immersed in thoughts and feelings she dared not share.
He continued to talk about the carnival, music, scuba diving…everything but that looming subject that lingered in the air between them, an invisible wall between an otherwise intimate setting- shoulders touching, heads tilted, eyes meeting. To observers, they were the quintessence of young romance. But underneath the idyllic image was a stench of rotting flesh–even the sweetest fruits succumb to decay.
Complicating the issue were troubled young souls attempting to grasp mortality. Inside him was a deep-pitted terror that grew stronger every day; for the first time in his 20 years of living, he felt flesh’s weakness, fearing the seconds, minutes, hours that passed by. Life to him was now a time bomb slowly ticking toward death. She felt the loss of a feeling, one so pure and exhilarating that any emotion preceding it would leave her heart hollow. Unfulfilled. Yearning. And the more she tried to strengthen her grip, the faster it slipped through her fingers.
She had the happiest moments of her life with him—sharing the depths of her existence with his, admiring the kindness, positivity, and strength of his character, placing her heart into his large, capable hands. Now the magic was gone; her relationship with a man had once again become ephemeral. It left her wondering if love only seemed intense, grand, and beautiful because it was so damn transient.
“Beth, are you listening?” He waves his hand across her faraway eyes. She had become so concerned with what would be lost, that she had forgotten to live in present. Now was when she still had him. Now was when he was still looking at her, in that sweet worried way of his, slightly furrowed brows, intent questioning green eyes. Now was when his body radiated heat, when his arm was wrapped around her waist, when she could feel his warm breath against her skin. He was so real, they were so real, yet she could feel the storm gaining energy; a sense of dread overwhelmed her.
“Yeah, I’m sorry John,” she sighed and looked into his eyes, smiling sadly. Growing up, she had trouble being vulnerable enough to fall in love. She built defenses around herself, created just enough distance with the men in her life as not to relinquish control. She was afraid of being hurt, afraid of losing, afraid of the immense sorrow that came after immense happiness. But now she knew the pain would be inevitable, and hoped to fall as quick as possible.
“Beth, you know we still have time right?” He says optimistically, though his heart suddenly raced faster, a physiological manifestation of his own uncertainty. She doesn’t reply. To her, time had stopped when they walked out of the hospital that Thursday afternoon in shock.
“John, I know you still have time. But you deserve to spend it with someone who loves you.” With that, she writhes the bracelet from her wrist, places it into his hands, and walks away.