The Not Knowing
_ He doesn’t know what he has lost. He doesn’t know they were young lovers. He doesn’t know they married other people, that years later, after finalizing divorces, they found each other again. He doesn’t know that for a second time in their lives they fell out of love and into arguments.
What he knows is what is before him at this moment. The thick scent of the oak beneath his feet. An itch on his neck. The colored light that splays through the crucifix on the stained glass window above.
He does not remember, and he does not know why. I think it must be tough for him, always with the feeling that he’s waking up in the middle of a dream that lingers so vividly one moment and is nothing more than a faint memory the next.
I wonder what it is like for him to listen to the preacher speak about his wife. His eyes gloss over, flickering back to life every now and then with a false recognition he’s learned to fake since the Alzheimer's set in years ago. He pulls out his handkerchief and blows his nose. He stares at the white cloth in his hand, wondering where it came from, wondering perhaps, if it is a flag of surrender.
People he vaguely remembers from past lives are talking now, delivering their own brief eulogies, and it must seem strange that words he’s heard a billion times before can mesh together into a gibberish that means nothing. Is that what he felt like in the boxcar all those years ago as the Germans carried him to a camp with other prisoners of war? How relieving it must have been to hear a soldier singing “Silent Night” on the other side of that wood as bombs rained down around them in the cold of December. Finally, he must have thought as he listened to the notes float away into the night like tiny spirits dying to be heard themselves, music. A language I can understand.
Someone at the pulpit says her name, “Gene,” like they’re calling for her to come back to us, and for a moment everything rushes back to him.
“My Gene?” he asks, not caring for a response. “My Gene?” he says, poised in his seat, on the verge of some discovery. Her name is like music for him. It is a language he understands, and for the briefest of moments it awakens his every sense, awakens his inner being. He looks more alive than I’ve seen him in years. He glances around, maybe wondering if she’s there to take him with her.
He doesn’t know that it’ll be years before she comes back for him. He doesn’t know that by then she too will have forgotten she ever stopped loving him. And for a second, the not knowing won’t matter. It won’t matter one bit as he looks up at her and says, “What took you so long?”