I half opened my eyes and grunted… The sky outside my window was ominously dark. I scrambled to find my phone which had disrespectfully trod on my dreams.
Managing a thin smile at the doorman, I walked unsteadily towards the restaurant where the famous breakfast buffet was in full swing. 12 hours had passed since Uncle S had called and invited me to breakfast.
Uncle S, as I call him, is the father of my late love J S. It has been 5 years since we lost him to Leukemia and the wound is as raw today as it was back then.
I stood there amidst the invisible bustle of a 5-star breakfast buffet, my feet held ground and surely by slowly hardening industrial concrete.
Uncle S rose to greet me, built like a linebacker, he stood six feet two and gently ushered me into the chair he held out with all the grace of a 70’s gentleman, which only he can pull off. He patiently answered my inquiries about his family and health and I offered excerpts from my life, which I was sure he held no care for.
Half way into buttering our toast , we stared at each other, small talk exhausted.
“How have you been?” he asked for the second time. I stared at my piece of toast noticing how thinly the butter was spread and yet the piece of toast seemed very heavy in my hands.
Placing the offensive piece of toast on my quarter plate, I assured him that I was fine.
Scooping some beans into his mouth he looked at me. His onyx eyes glistening, betraying the tempest within… I paused and listened to the kettle drums in my ears dreading his silence, the most eloquent herald of bitter tidings.
Fortunately he just sighed and we went back to pushing the food around in our plates for a decent time.
“Do you still miss him?” He asked, staring stiffly at his knees.
An imperceptible drop in room temperature led me to draw myself together. “Yes” I answered knowing what was to come. The chill would spread to my spine and I would go into that subliminal state of shock where I would want to escape into J S’ arms; the only place in this twisted universe and the next, where I would find the warmth to sustain me. It was how I have dealt with it all these years.
Men in crisp hotel garb walked back and forth in the periphery of my vision, in the distance Uncle J was asking me a question that didn’t carry over the table, my fingers were curled around the arms of the chair… I was battle ready. A shiver passed through me and I fell back into the comfortable warmth of strong arms. Horrified I opened my eyes; those weren’t J S’ arms.
Excusing myself I ran to the powder room and looked at the mirror long and hard. Staring to my eyes, looking for guilt, betrayal… and they were as elusive as a sweet rain drop on a hot summers’ day. That instant I knew my answer.
With renewed strength of spirit, I walked back.
“I miss him every single day Uncle J. But, I also know that loving and caring for someone else does not mean that it is a betrayal to his memory. I love your son very much”
Choking up I stared at the man across the table. A single tear tracing the rivulets of the worry lines in his face. It wasn’t clear when the salty drop had escaped its confines or why. But the knowledge that we both crossed a barrier, which had held our hearts captive for a long time, restored every thread of hope in my weary mind.
Bidding good-bye I walked back to the parking lot, hitting the number 4 on my speed dial to see the contact picture pop up… “I ran to you” I whispered to the picture… “God help me”