My girlfriend was brushing her reddish hair, more strikingly red than usual, brushing it in the mirror when I came to say goodbye to her father.
“Lee,” I said not wanting to startle her. She didn’t hear me.
I know her hair is red but I think of it as gold, the color I perceived when I first saw it ten weeks before, running past her to a coffee shop, not wanting to be late for our first meeting. I had yanked on the locked coffee shop door, turned around, and beheld her.
I watched her brush her hair in her father’s home, mesmerized. “Lee,” I said. I was almost pleased that she didn’t hear me. I got to watch my beloved caress and care for herself, like David gazing at Batsheva.
I didn’t think I was going to see her father again. Only inner family members had been lately let into the room where he would die, and I wasn’t in the family yet.
I stepped into view of the bathroom mirrors reflecting each other so she could see me behind her. But she didn’t. “Lee,” I called again, this time starting to get frightened.
I had seen him four days ago. And a week before that, when he was still standing frailly and conversing softly and taking short walks in his home but also knowing that his life was coming to a close, I sat at his dining room table on his sixty-first anniversary and asked for his permission and blessing to marry his daughter.
The fear hit me, because when do two lovers not hear or see each other?
When one of them has left this world. Which one of us had died?
When else can one lover not hear or see the other?
When one lover is only a vision, a projection of desire and fulfillment before one’s wishful eyes.
She finished brushing her long hair and splashed water on her face, framed by reddish spirals. She turned and finally saw me, startled.
“I was cleaning up for you,” she said. “So I wouldn’t look haggard.”
She stepped forward and kissed me deeply and I knew then as certainly as I know anything in this often painful world that we were joyously alive and real and corporeal.
She took my hand and led me into her father’s room, her careful step over the oxygen line, and then mine, another advance in our sudden but not surprising journey.