Loons Mate for Life
The mist was still on the water as I made my way to our usual spot by the pond.
I lit a last cigarette as I took the package from the passenger seat, hoping against hope that my nerves would hold out.
I was early yet, so there was still plenty of time for second thoughts.
And, like most second thoughts, there were many, and they were cruel.
I took a seat on the bench with the package in my lap, going over one last time all of the things I would have to say.
All the logic, all the arguments, all the folly I knew would never really matter.
As I sat, I noticed our loons cuddling by the shore, and my heart nearly cracked in two.
Three? Four years? How long had it been since we’d first seen them pair up just as we had on this very pond?
She had told me then that they were a good sign for us – a symbol of promise and hope.
“For loons mate for life, you see?” she said, taking my hand in hers. “Their love for each other is truly everlasting.”
She had smiled at that, pleased with her vision of our future.
Christ, I’m crying already and she’s not even here yet. This is a terrible, terrible, idea.
I watch the loons as they make their way around the pond, remembering how it felt to hold her in my arms that afternoon.
Three years it’s been, I remember. Three years of feeling the warmth of her love as she looked into my eyes.
Three years of peace. The kind of peace where even the madness of the world is shut outside the bedroom door.
Three years of afternoons tangled in the sheets, yearning to reach the deepest places inside of her.
I wipe my eyes and as my hand returns to my lap I feel the weight of the package like a hangman’s stone.
I hear a car pull up behind me and I know its her without looking around.
My heart is pounding in my chest.
I hear her footsteps on the gravel and as her shadow falls on my shoulder I hear her voice say my name softly.
“You’re early,” she says matter-of-factly, “Why did you want to meet here?”
I turn to her looking for something, anything, that might make any of this easier to do.
“I… I always liked this place,” I stammer stupidly, “Don’t you remember how much we liked to watch the loons?”
She looked out over the pond, and for a second I thought I saw something flicker in her eyes.
A memory, perhaps, but the flicker is short-lived and her eyes return to neutral ground.
“So what did you want to talk about?” she asks again, and I realize there is nothing I can do to prolong the moment.
I open the package on my lap, and slowly begin to hand her the mementoes of our time together.
Without realizing it, I have begun crying again and the tears falling from my cheeks anchor her attention.
We are both silent as I pass over the items one by one. Me lingering on each to capture one last moment of memory.
Her quietly realizing the significance of this moment, this… now.
The picture is last, and it is the hardest to let go.
I hold onto it, burning her face and eyes into my memory like dates on a headstone.
As I hold it, I tell her the truth.
“I know you don’t love me anymore,” I say, “And while I wish things were different, I know it’s already too late.”
“I’m giving you these things because I cannot bear to keep them knowing you’re no longer here.”
“I wanted us to be like the loons, you see? I wanted for us to be together for the rest of our lives.”
“But I know now that its just not possible. That as much as I love you, I never managed to reach the heart of you.”
“I tried so hard,” I said, the tears falling freely now, “But I can’t keep wishing for love where it cannot exist.”
“I’m sorry for hurting you. I do still love you, and I swear to you I always will.”
I DONT LIKE THIS >> “You loved him before you loved me, and these things were rightfully his before you gave them to me.”
“I wish…” I said weakly, “I wish we could’ve been like the loons. That we could’ve made this work.”
And then I ran out of words, for I saw the tears falling from her eyes as well.
We sit in silence, each avoiding the other’s eyes, glancing over at the light playing across the lake.
I know it is finished when she begins collecting the items and, without saying a word, gets up to leave.
I listen to her footsteps on the gravel once again, this time walking out of my life forever.
I hear the car start, and then, after a few moments, the tires crushing the stones into the pieces of my heart.
And still I sit. Watching the loons.
I notice a new arrival, a lone male like myself.
He is isolated from the other, already matched pairs. Looking for a love that will last forever.
And I. I sit on a bench mourning the love I let walk away.
How do the loons do it? I wonder. How do they know which one is the right one?
How can they just drop into a pond and find a lifetime of love in just a few short weeks of spring?
Why is love so hard?
I sit for an hour or so longer, crying, remembering, then crying some more.
And when the tears can’t come any longer, I get up to leave.
To leave the loons and begin my journey alone.
Loons may mate for life, but I couldn’t.
~~ THE END