The church in the main square is emptying out and the bars and cafes are filling up on a shimmery Sunday in early Spring.
Linda is on vacation, visiting her mom, and is determined to savour every moment of the glorified weather conditions. She has left still frigid temperatures back home. The bell tower announces noon and although she should be heading to her mom’s for lunch, she just can’t bring herself to go indoors quite yet.
On an idyllic day such as this, he is by her side…
They head over to the corner shop on the edge of town to buy gigantic stuffed olives to take back with them for pre-lunch nibbles. Cutting behind the ice cream parlor, under the portico leading to the main square, they make their way to their favourite bar, the one with the lovely internal courtyard, for the ritual Sunday aperitif. With the scent of jasmine drifting over on the occasional breeze, the buzz of conversation around them and the amiable company, Linda is exactly where she wants to be. They sip their drinks and catch up on all the news and happenings on both sides of the ocean that has divided them for the past five years.
But, today she is alone and so decides to take the long way home and heads towards the park. There is a one hundred year old plane tree that has pride of place on a grassy knoll. Its impressive girth a testament to longevity through survival. This reassuring giant has been here since her first childhood memories. Through all the later years with everything changing, sometimes for the worse sometimes for the better, before the modern noises competed against the sound of birdsong and rustling leaves, this natural wonder had always stood there.
She thought about how near the end, when he didn’t have much energy left; they would come to the park and sit under the protective arms of this gentle giant. In a certainly desperate last attempt she had hoped that he might absorb some of the tree’s lymph and like it could then be granted more time.
An elegant silver haired gentleman calls out to Linda from one of the gravel paths leading to her spot under the tree. His arms are outstretched and she lets herself fall into his friendly embrace. He is the only remaining member of the original group of five, including Linda’s dad, who had been lifelong friends; sneaking cigarettes, chasing skirt, falling in love, working; always together. He asks after her mom and promises that he will pass by next week for a visit. They chat for a few more minutes and then head off in opposite directions.
When Linda finally turns the corner onto her mom’s street, she feels the familiar light frisson of illogical expectation inside of her. He should be there, waiting for her, waving and smiling. But he has been gone now for over two years. She had run from this place right after it had happened, but later found herself running towards it in order to be with him again. By retracing their steps and filling in all the spaces they had occupied together she had slowly regained some peacefulness inside of her.
On a day like today, that in its perfection, smacked of pure possibility it made sense for him to be here. Because he loved days like today, loved to laugh and discuss, read the papers and watch the soccer matches, loved his town and his friends, loved his kids and his wife. He really loved life.