** I want to thank all of you who took the time to vote. While I was in North Carolina I was notified that Twenty Four At Heart won the Editor's Choice Award for best Orange County Local Blog Site. Other websites were soliciting votes for two weeks and you guys came through for me with only 24 hours notice before voting closed. Thank you so much! I'm very honored. **
I first noticed him as I waited to board my plane. I don't know exactly why he caught my attention. He was nice looking, but I probably wouldn't have even noticed him in different circumstances. I would guess his age to be in his mid-fifties. He was slightly rumpled looking, but that's not unusual in an airport either.
There was just something about his eyes when he glanced up. I was instantly struck with the thought, "He's kind." Simultaneously the thought, "He's sad," went through my head. I shrugged and walked past but I was left unsettled by what I'd seen in his expression.
I wasn't surprised when twenty minutes later he sat next to me on the plane. It almost felt like we were destined to wind up seated next to each other. He, with a story to tell, and I … always ready to hear a story worth writing down.
I usually read my Kindle while flying. I immerse myself in novels and hope the time passes quickly. I didn't even bother to remove it from my bag. I knew before he ever spoke a word, my story during the flight would come from this man.
His name was Michael. We exchanged a few pleasantries about traveling. We were both returning home from a trip. I had left my son three thousand miles away from home and I was doing my best not to think about it. Michael, it turned out, was leaving the One Great Love of his life behind on his own journey home.
Michael wanted to talk and I wanted to listen. He started off slowly, shyly. As we talked he relaxed and the words began to pour from him.
Her name was Jessica. They had been lovers when they were young. He had known, without question, Jessica would one day be his wife. They spent four years together but never married. They were happy years, youthful years … years believing they could conquer the world together.
Then life interfered with the romance between them. I won't go into all the details here but Michael and Jessica were separated. Initially the separation was just physical while they were in two different cities. In time, the separation became emotional and the couple parted ways.
Things like this happen all the time. Don't most of us have relationships from our youth in our past?
Michael and Jessica moved on with their lives. Michael, apparently, never completely let go of his love for Jessica. He told me he had other relationships. He told me he had loved other women. Michael and Jessica both went on to marry other people eventually.
"I loved my wife," he said, "But it wasn't the same kind of love." His eyes pleaded with me to understand. I saw sadness and love and guilt mingling together in his eyes.
I understood. I could see it in his soul. He may have loved others during his life, but his heart had never stopped longing for Jessica. She was the one great love of his life and he had never forgotten her.
Michael's wife died two years ago from cancer.
I admit, as I listened to him speak, skepticism initially ran through my head. Thoughts like, "mid-life crisis" popped into my mind. After a few hours with Michael, however, I was left simply believing he loved this woman, Jessica, with his heart and soul and always had.
I can't speak for Jessica. All I know from her point of view is what Michael told me. According to him, Jessica is currently separated from her husband. She lives on the opposite side of the country from Michael. They've corresponded by email and IM and bi-weekly phone calls. She professes she has never "gotten over" Michael either.
He traveled to see her. He put all his hopes and dreams into the visit. He grinned as he told me they're both "older now, with a cushion of fat, a lot of wrinkles, and a little worse for wear."
She told him she can't leave the city where her (grown) children are. Her daughter is expecting her first grandchild. His work doesn't allow for him to move where she is. She feels pressure from her family and friends to reconcile with her husband, although she told Michael she hasn't been happy in her marriage for "years." She's been separated from her husband for six months.
He visited her for three days. At the end of three days she said good-bye to him with tears in her eyes. She doesn't want to pursue a "dead-end relationship" since she sees no hope for the two of them to ever be together. His eyes brimmed with tears as he told me her parting words. She told him she loves him, always has, and always will.
I felt my own eyes well up with tears as I listened to him.
Is it possible?
I'm such a skeptic. I'm such a cynic.
Can two people truly have a love for each other like this? One that lasts through all those years? One that lasts through other relationships and even marriages to other people?
I will never know if Michael and Jessica eventually overcome the obstacles in front of them.
I will always wonder.
© Twenty Four At Heart