Then I decided to make a break with that past and move to another country. I started getting rid of the furniture and then of the smaller items. The most difficult was to let go of personal letters and photographs.
The last day, as I sorted the remaining photographs, I suddenly gasped: there were, in my collection still, three photographs of her that I had taken, which I liked and which she liked too. I held them in my hand for a long time, knowing that I could not take them with me and I could not destroy them either. They were just too beautiful. Also, she was just too beautiful.
There was only one thing to do. I got into my car and drove to her office. The receptionist, who knew me, smiled and went in to fetch her. She came back with a frown and a message: she could not see me.
I gave her the envelope with the photos, “Please give it to her.”
I would have liked to see her my last day in the country, but it was not to be.
I went back home, had an early dinner and started working on the endless chores one must finish before exile.
I held her arm and brought her in. She collapsed on the sofa.
“Those photos were good,” she said. The words slurred.
“But,” I hesitated, “you don’t seem so good now. Are you all right?”
A second later she started getting sick. She retched helplessly on the floor, the sofa and even on herself.
I carried her to the bathroom and turned on the shower on us both. Once clean, I dried her hair, helped her put on my pajamas and put her to bed. I made her swallow two aspirins and let her go to sleep.
I washed, dried and ironed her clothes for the next day. Then I readjusted the cushions on the just-washed-mildly-moist sofa and tried to go to sleep.
“I have to go,” she murmured. That murmur had always entranced me.
At the door I felt I could not let her go. She was important to me. What we had was important. Nothing else mattered. I wanted to tell her that. No words came to me.
Finally, hesitantly, I said, “Please write to me,” and gave her a card.
She looked at me, the very last time, and said, “I will.”
We both knew it was a lie.