“YOUTH and beauty fade, flesh sags. We lose some of the very things that made us who we are… but inside we are still young. Still handsome and beautiful. Always who we were as we created who we are. As we age, we’re always two versions of ourselves: the person from our youth, part of which is always inside and who we are, in the present, today. And of course, there are thoughts beyond—of the third version looming—who we are tomorrow, next month, next year and on to when corporeal existence ends.”
I marked my page and put down the book, ‘Who We Were | Who We Are’. It troubled me. Not what the author had written; he was a good writer with some interesting stuff. But more about what it meant. How it made me feel. I had found the book at the cabin. Laura must’ve brought it on the last trip before she was too weak to travel.
I tossed off half my drink in one swallow. Setting the glass on the table next to me created a new mark—circles and half circles, squares and hints of them—interlocking across its surface. The densest population of them was the area closest to my elbow. The rest of the glass end table top was pristine—clear of any evidence of my weakness.
The cabin, where I’d spent the past weekend removing the last of her personal belongings, was full of memories that made me weak. By now, we would’ve left the city to spend four months there, where July and August were especially easier to bear. Autumn was the best; at the end of each day, before twilight had dimmed the luster of color in the changing leaves, we would walk the tree-lined paths. It was her favorite time of year.
We had lived so many seasons together; grown older as the trees we’d planted had grown up. Childless, Laura hadn’t been able; the trees were born of our hands if not our loins. Laura and I were as proud of them as any parent of their offspring. I heard her voice in the rustle of their leaves on the night wind.
My last night at the cabin on my walk, almost too painful to take and the first alone there in more years than I cared to count; I smelled vanilla… and a touch of cinnamon. The scent of the candles that celebrated around the rim of the tub she bathed in every night after our walks. The memory had me. Eyes closed, I reached for my drink; easily finding the glass, I knocked back the last of it. Nights there, when we were alone, she left the bathroom door open. From my chair by the fire, I could see her. As she bathed, her back to me, I savored the sound of water on flesh and porcelain… the glisten of wet skin, a side glimpse of her breasts… their aspect changing over the years but no less dear to me. That door stayed shut now, but the scent was still there. I closed my eyes and could still see her. I could still hear her.
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