It was raining and I was still sitting on my old wooden bench on my terrace. The sky was gray, and the air was pleasantly damp. I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with my favorite smell – the smell of the ground on rainy days. I closed my eyes and inhaled again, felt more relaxed this time.
I remembered when I was ten, playing hide and seek in this very place; there were six of us, giggling and trying to stifle our mouth in order not to get caught. That was when I met him for the first time. He was standing alone, watching us from afar, but didn’t dare to approach. As eager as usual, I came close to him.
“Hi,” I said, reaching out my hand to him, “who are you?”
“Hi,” he smiled shyly, “I’m Jamie.”
Years went by, and we became friends. So then there were seven of us, inseparable. But we didn’t play hide and seek anymore. We went to school together, did picnic together, went swimming in the lake, watched movie once a week, and a lot of things that I couldn’t remember now.
Then I had my first crush, and he was the only one I told about. And he encouraged me to tell him about my feelings. When my first crush rejected me, he was the one I run to, whose shirt I made wet from my crying, who soothed me and rocked me gently until I fell asleep.
We grew older, I had my first boyfriend, I had my first break up, but I had never seen him with any girl. I always teased him about this, I even tried to set him up with my girl friends, but he always turned them down. He said that he was “not interested”. He said, jokingly, that I was the girl he was waiting for, too bad that I was always “taken”. I laughed. He also laughed.
And one day, when I thought I had found my true love, I saw him making out with my best friend. And of course, it was him again I run to, whose shirt I made wet from my crying. He was so angry with my boyfriend, cursed like I’d never heard him before. That was when he kissed my forehead and promised me that everything was gonna be okay, that he would always be there for me no matter what, that I could always turn to him anytime I wanted to, that he would always be the shoulder I could cried into. And, like kids, we made a pinky promise, to be “friends forever – always be there for each other forever”.
Years later, I finally got married. He was my best man, standing proudly beside my groom at the altar. And when I was so nervous I thought I could not go on, he was the one who smiled encouragingly at me, winked at me, and made me giggled because he was that damn funny.
He was there when my husband died because of a car accident; he was once again the man whose shirt I made wet from my crying. He was there when I thought my life was over because the love of my life had gone forever; he was the man who encouraged me every day, told me jokes every day, said “good morning” and “good night” to me every day. He took me to my husband’s grave, sat there with me while I was crying over my love. He was the man who told me not to forget when I wanted to forget, that I could keep the memory and as the time went by, someday I would be able to remember my love with a smile on my lips. He was the man who taught me how to bring back the light in my eyes; he was the man who taught me that life was still worthy to live on.
And then he died. He was 24 then, when diagnosed with the incurable disease. I was not there when he got the news; I was too busy doing another thing with my friends. I came home and found him sitting on the wooden bench on my terrace – the very same old wooden bench I was sitting on at the moment – and for the first time in my life I saw him shattered.
I was the first person he told about his disease. It was funny how things worked – all these times it was always me who was running to him with all my problems, he was always the one who soothed me and promised me that everything’s gonna be okay and he would always be there for me. And now, he was the one who was running to me. For the first time in my life, I heard his voice trembled. For the first time in my life, it was me who offered a shoulder for him. For the first time in my life, I saw him cried.
My rock, my shoulder, the one I always run to, the man whose shirt I always made wet from my crying, the man who always made my days better with his smiles or jokes or “good morning” texts, the man who promised me that everything’s gonna be okay, that he would always be there for me, the man who had always been there for me. I decided that I would keep our pinky promise. I would be there for him, too.
He fought the disease for 2 years until he died. I took him to the doctor’s appointments, I reminded him to take his medication, all little things I could do for him. Sometimes I would take him to the café, ordered him the largest chocolate ice cream that made him grinning like a fool. Sometimes I would bring him pictures of naked girls, only to tease him that he’d been too good all his life, he needed to be naughty a little. And how I loved it when he laughed at my rude joke.
Sometimes I would take him to our childhood lake, just sitting there and watched the sky above. But mostly we spent time by sitting in this very wooden bench on my terrace, talked about anything and joked and laughed a lot. I knew we had a lot of similarity – how else we could be good friends until then? – but it still amazed me how we never ran out of topics.
I was there until the very last time, when he finally surrendered to the greater power called death. I was the last to smile to him and told him that everything’s gonna be okay, that I would always be there for him. I was the last to kiss his forehead and said goodbye. I was the last that left his grave after the funeral.
Little did he know that after his funeral, I came home and got myself the largest chocolate ice cream that had made him grinning like a fool. I sat there in my kitchen, staring as the ice cream melted; tears were running down my cheeks. There would be no man for me to run to anymore; no man whose shirt I could made wet from my crying anymore; no one to wipe my tears and told me that everything’s gonna be okay, that he would always be there for me anymore.
Somehow, I survived. I survived losing the one I loved once more. I continued my life, hanging out with family and friends, but never again that I found someone with whom I could be as comfortable. I lived, I laughed, but there were no more sparkle in my eyes like the ones it used to be. My life was good, but there was no single day he was not on my mind. He was my rock, my shoulder, and without him, my life wouldn’t be the same.
I opened my eyes, and felt a mixture of shock and happiness as I looked into his beautiful eyes. He looked into mine, and I could feel myself blush. He was standing there, at my very front porch, looked like the very same as he did long time ago. He winked at me, and I was giggling like a schoolgirl. I was 71 and he made me giggling like a 17 years old schoolgirl. It seemed he never lost that effect on me though.
He smiled at me, and I grinned like a stupid idiot. He laughed. How I missed that sound.
He reached his hand out to me. “Are you ready?”
It was like the first time we met, where I reached out my hand to him, but this time it was the other way around.
I instantly smiled and nodded eagerly. I took his hand. “Shall we go?”
He smiled and took me into his arms. I closed my eyes and for the first time in a long, long time, I felt a pure happiness and peace.