He looked so confused staring at all the options. I must have walked past him at least four times. The salesperson tried to help him but he really had no idea what he was looking for. I finally stopped to see if I could help.
He told me he’d just lost his wife to cancer and couldn’t stand the hospital smell of the bed they once shared. I noticed his eyes were red and swollen. My heart ached.
I slipped my hand through his arm and stood as close as I could to help him feel grounded in the moment. He gave me a shaky smile. We slowly walked up and down the aisles talking about the benefits of each bed we saw. He had a hard time at first, thinking about replacing his bed, so I turned it into a game.
We pretended we were shopping for the Queen of England and she had to have a separate bed for her husband because he farts so loud when he’s asleep that it wakes her up so he has to sleep in his own room, and between you and me, she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in over twenty years.
After an hour of horrible British accents and pompousness, we were both laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. I invited him to dinner to keep his mind distracted a little more.
While we ate, he would start sentences with “My wife…” but would stop, embarrassed that he kept bringing her up. I rested my hand on his arm and smiled warmly telling him that his wife would always be a welcome guest with us. I urged him to talk about her.
After three months of friendship, he was able to get through dinner mentioning her only a handful of times. After six months he was able to talk about how much she would have enjoyed the movie we’d just watched without falling apart. After a year he was able to hold my hand without feeling guilty. After a year and a half, he was able to accept my intimacy.
Our first night together was difficult and we spent most of it sitting on his bed, me holding him while he cried tears of loss at the reminder he would never be intimate with her again.
Our tenth night together he was able to finally kiss me with the lights on and return my smile.
Eventually, he apologized for his lack of follow-through but I was in no rush. Being with him was like watching the most beautiful flower slowly and shyly open up piece by tiny piece treating you with its beauty, opening a little more each time as its trust in you grows.
I told him she was welcome to join us and she did. He felt guilty for being with me. He felt guilty for still needing her. I just kissed his pain away and let him come to me.
There finally came a time when he stopped mentioning her. When he reached for me instead of the other way around. A time when his lips came to crave the feel of my name. When his body ached for the pleasure I brought.
When he was finally able to spend the night and be wholly present with me and what we were doing, I knew it was time.
I brushed my lips softly across his closed eyelids as he slept and left the note in my pillow. His heart had finally healed enough to love someone else and I knew that would never be me. My job was simply to heal him… and I did.