This story does not end with: ‘They lived happily ever after.’
It ends with:
‘They live separately, now. Their happinesses are different.’
Photo by Barrie Johnson on Unsplash
It does begin with: ‘They lived happily,’ as all good, true love stories should. Setting matters little: a bar, a park, a glance across a crowded metro car. Love at first sight or love nurtured over time. Passionate, fiery, or quiet. What matters is that it was a great love, and
‘Great love is never justified.’
As in any story, they had their differences. They used them to spark debates that went on late into the night and were then soothed with wine and their lips. They each had dreams and a view of the world. Many of those did not overlap. They both bought glasses with wider frames and experimented with new lenses. Baggage: each had much, and it was heavy. Not when they carried it together. It got lighter the further they walked anyway; they needed less of it.
There is a scene in the story in which they are invited to a party. She is wearing a well-fitted, black lace dress, smelling of jasmine and honey. He is wearing a tuxedo and is proudly carrying her purse on one arm and a sleepy replica of her on the other.
The little girl is one year old, blond, and in a white lace dress of her own. Her fingers clutch at the collar of his starched shirt, wrinkling it. He does not mind.
She falls asleep on his shoulder while the two make small talk and champagne toasts. They chat with others, not one another, but their bodies, imperceptibly, touch. After an appropriate length of time, the music having slowed, the lights dimmed, he takes their empty flutes, sets those and the purse down. They dance, sleeping daughter between them.
'It’s like the little tree that springs up in some inexplicable fashion on the side of a cliff: where are its roots, what does it feed on, what miracle produces those green leaves? But it does exist and it really is green — clearly, then, it’s getting whatever it needs to survive.’
- Wisława Szymborska
The song and scene end, and a few chapters later, so does this couple’s love story. Little trees die and even the most scenic paths diverge. At the fork, they say goodbye.
The setting here does not matter much either, nor does the lead up to the scene: shifting interests and priorities, the wear and tear of domesticity, the weight of responsibility, the banality of routine.
What matters is that neither is angry, or hurtful, or resentful. Both are sorry but not regretful. She is crying quietly.
It was a great love. It taught them how to love. On the last page, last line, they leave. He goes left. She goes right. They wish each other well.
They lived. They live.