Robert turned the lights off as he closed the door behind him.
He was leaving all those memories inside, he didn’t want to look at them anymore. It hurt way too much remembering all those moments they spent together, immortalized in pictures, postcards and messy handwritten notes. They were proof of simpler times, times where he didn’t even stop to think about how it would feel at the end because, to be honest… He didn’t ever think it would end. And as he walked past the hallway, leaving the only evidence of her presence behind him, he promised himself he would never enter that room again. That would mean emotional suicide.
They had been together for eighteen years. And it probably would’ve been much easier to heal if those years were filled with heartache, and fights and day-to-day arguments, but they weren’t. If you were to ask him, he would say those were the best eighteen years of his life. He couldn’t remember how life was before her, and at this point it didn’t even matter. Now all he had were those memories, but those memories wouldn’t wake him up at night in the middle of his nightmares to tell him everything’s okay, as she used to do. As she always did.
He always had nightmares of her leaving, taking all her stuff with her without saying goodbye. And finally, those nightmares became reality somehow, leaving him alone wondering if he could’ve done something different to avoid all this from happening. But he knew it wasn’t up to him. Before, he was scared to death of his nightmares becoming reality, and now… And now he wishes they were true. At least in his nightmares, she was still alive.
He always dreamed of her leaving him. Starting another life, loving another man and giving him the children they always wanted. He wished he had just left him, instead of leaving everybody else, disappearing from the face of Earth. He never thought that she would leave like this, all too sudden, all too unavoidable.
He remembered how it all started. They were always so different from each other, from the moment they met until the moment she died. He was older than her by twelve years, but somehow he felt that she was much more mature, much wiser than him. And it wasn’t because of the fact that she was a woman, it was definitely something else. Her mind, her personality and her soul just screamed courage. She was curious, spontaneous and a little tenacious. And he loved her for that.
As soon as they started dating, her family went wild and crazy, all too opinionated. After all, she was only nineteen, he was already thirty-one. But there was something in him that called her attention, and something in her that prohibited him from staying distant. When she started arriving home late, something that never ever happened before, her mother asked her what was going on. She told her the truth.
And so, the opinions begun.
“You should stay away from him. In what world does a thirty-one year old chases a teen for something serious?”, her mom inquired.
“I’m not a teen, mom. I’m almost 20. Besides, it’s not… It’s almost as if he’s not his age”, she answered.
“Is he married?”
“What? No. I wouldn’t be seeing him if he was.”
“Well, you know… Divorced? Separated? Widowed?”
“No, why would that matter?”
“It’s almost as if he’s seeing in you the daughter he never had.”
But it never stopped. Her mom, her dad, her siblings and even some of her friends, they all thought everything was a little… Creepy? But she never paid attention to those opinions. In fact, somehow, they motivated her to keep seeing him. She always loved to go against the crowd.
Her dad thought that she would ruin her whole life. That she would stop working and drop out of school to be with him, and eventually become a stay-at-home mom with no career, no money, no name built for herself. Of course, that never happened. She graduated college and built her own business, and never gave Robert any kids. But that’s a story for another day…
He had never married because he wasn’t “that type of guy”. For thirty-one years, he had only flirted, dated, and hung around with several type of women, but nothing too serious. His longest relationship before her had lasted sixteen months, and so he convinced himself that commitment just wasn’t for him. Until, of course, he met her.
As in every relationship, everything was wonderful in the beginning. For them, their “beginning” lasted fifteen years. They traveled to different countries, discovering different cultures and ethnicities, at least twice a year. They lived the life every married couple with kids ever dreamed of. She succeeded at her own business, he also did well as the manager of a shipping company. His job ventured him to travel a lot, and so he took her with him every time she could. At first it was complicated, with all her work and school responsibilities, but eventually they found a way.
And so fifteen years went by in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, things started to change. His job required him to be even busier, and it seemed as if she could never find him in the right moment. And looking back at it now, now that she was gone, he begun to understand there was something he could’ve done differently. In the last three years, he could’ve been there more.
When they found out about her cancer, he didn’t think it would kill her too quickly. The doctors gave her at least three months. In reality, she only survived for two more weeks. When she died, all the weight of the years came upon him, especially those moments when he was too busy to pay attention to anything besides his job. They had finally agreed to have kids, even though she was already thirty-seven and the doctors said they couldn’t guarantee anything due to her age. They never got to have them. In part, because his on-going busy-ness kind of retracted him and made him think twice. “I’m too busy, maybe it’s not the right moment”, he said. It never got to be the right moment.
And now, he guilt himself for everything he did and didn’t do. In part, he wished they’d had children: that way, at least, he would have something left from her besides just the pictures, the postcards, the messy handwritten notes. In part, he was kind of glad they never had them. It would be too heartbreaking to raise them without the love of his life.
Robert closed the door behind him as he turned the lights off. And as he did, there was only one thing running through his head:
Take care of those you love, you never know when the last chance might be.