I can smell the warm, honeyed scent of perfume lifting from her skin, making aromatic waves in the breeze as we walk side by side. We’re quiet for a long time, neither one of us sure what to say or how to be. The silence is comforting; we are connected in our deep desires to know and to understand the woman that each has become through the intervening of time, but we give ourselves unspoken permission to appreciate the experience of simply sharing space without filling it with anything more than our own private thoughts.
After miles of wordlessly wandering a seashell-tipped shoreline, I hear her take in a drag of thick, humid air, and as she speaks, my own breath is taken by the shock of how closely the cadence and the tone of her voice – soothing but strong, with a gentle rasp resting at the back of her throat – matches my own intonation and timbre. She’s funny, I learn, as she starts into a witty anecdote, throwing her whole body into the performance. Her face contorts and her voice shifts to mirror each new character in her sketch and I watch attentively, wishing I had parallel talent for storytelling. Then she laughs and I hear myself. I see myself, too, in the penetrating green of her eyes, wide and a little wild under a veil of long, dark lashes.
Pleased with herself and how well she entertained me, the teeth-flashing smile we share splayed across her animated face. Faint lines traveled from the apples of her cheeks to her eyelids to her temples, creating a detailed map of her features. I study it closely, looking for clues that would tell me more about this sprightly woman who, although she is responsible for my life’s breath and blood, is a complete stranger to me. Like air to breathe, I craved more stories. I wanted to know the things she saw, each thought she had and every moment she experienced during the years we lived without knowing each other.
Her stride slows and she pauses to retrieve something buried deep into the sand except for the very tip, glinting in the sunlight. Dusting off a coating of coarse sand, she brings the buried treasure to my hands. “My girl, you are like the beautiful creature hiding in this conch shell – I can’t see you, but I know you are there; living, breathing and doing all the things God made you to do.”
I counter her revelation with my own. “Your choice made my path good.”
A mountain of aquamarine crashes at our feet, rousing me from sleep and back to reality. I lay awake listening to the gentle hum of a fan. I swear I smell warm honey in the air.
The next day, my thoughts were consumed by her and the difficult choice she made. I have a hard enough time purging my closet of outdated fashion or throwing away mediocre art I made in school. I have this idea that letting pieces of the past go means I don’t have that memory anymore – or that it never existed in the first place. I don’t wish that feeling on anyone.
And knowing how attached I get to things that matter to me, even for only a small period of time, I can’t imagine what it felt like to let go and choose someone else to love what mattered most to her. But I can imagine what I’d say if we ever meet, outside of my mind:
“Thank you for your choice.
Your choice taught me that real, unconditional love is not only a powerful feeling but a selfless action.
Your choice gave me the liberty to make mistakes, to learn from them and to grow and change.
Your choice gave me opportunities to discover, to hone and to share my gifts and talents.
Your choice inspires me to seek good and do more every day.
Your choice gives me faith to trust every unknown and to believe that everything happens without mistake but with intention.
Your choice gives me strength to trust my abilities and my intuition.
Your choice helped me learn to appreciate my own, unique beauty (I really dig my eyes).
Your choice meant two of the best people could change their names to Mom and Dad.
Your choice gave me an incredible family who holds me up when I fall (sometimes literally) and stands with me through every challenge.
Your choice reminds me to treasure the bonds between family and to never take those connections for granted.
Your choice gave me the chance to make more of my life than I ever dreamed possible.
Your choice is the greatest gift I will ever receive.”