This is an excerpt from one of the stories included in the anthology, Silver Linings: Stories of Love, Hope, and Courage in a Pandemic Setting. If you liked the story, please consider supporting the writer by buying the book.
One meter apart.
So near, yet so far. Merely a safe distance, measured by time and space, and everything in between. A distance, where each one felt isolated from the rest, like a lone warrior in a dystopian world, star-crossed lovers in different time zones, or a caged bird that longed for freedom.
One meter apart.
No hugging. No kissing. No shaking of hands. A hollow gap far enough to talk or smile. A void empty of reasons. News headlines and social media feeds scream fervently.
Social distancing. Stay home. Quarantine.
These were the signs of the times.
My hands trembled and my heart pounded with sadness as the death toll rose each day. My brain searched for reasons. Life changed in a blink of an eye.
Bonnie believed, as humans, we were all connected to one another. He was one of the first responders who heeded the call. To heal others—that was his only passion. To unselfishly serve the profession he promised to uphold. To be there for the good of all, no matter what. To shine brightly, like the effervescent light that guides us on our way.
No one had seen it coming. The sad news. A sudden phone call.
Just weeks into the crisis, Bonnie was in critical condition. I didn’t have time to process things in my head. I imagined him, all alone in an isolated room and breathing hard through a ventilator, and it broke my heart. I prayed for a miracle, but the little flicker of hope that I had been holding on to—was gone too soon. I never got the chance to say goodbye or remind him of how much I love him. It was like a comet dashed through the night sky and was gone, even before one could make a wish. My world fell apart.
Distance became the one thing we’ve never gotten used to. People used to say, our bond was like a superglue on ceramics. A pair of conjoined twins or two souls merged as one. For us, we married out of love. Period.
I lifted the gown and turned around to check the lovely beaded laces formed at the small of my back. When I raised my head up, I saw the reflection of his face lit up in the mirror. He smiled at me and did a two thumbs up gesture, and I nodded. We both loved the simplicity of the Sabrina off-white gown with a long tunic veil. It was pure bliss. We talked about the sacred moment—the long walk on the aisle, reciting the love vows, and the plan of bearing him the cutest chipmunks that would put endless laughter on our faces.
Happy memories—used to be bright rays of sunshine—now hidden silently behind gloomy clouds.
“Jean, are you hungry? Mama made a sandwich. We can share, if you’d like?” “Is it chicken or tuna?” I asked Bonnie and then he did the chicken dance. We spent the rest of the school day smiling at one another across the room as if something magical just happened and nobody in class knew about it.
On the day he proposed to me, he said, Jean, we were in Grade 6 when my soul first recognized you. It was my happiest day ever.
Or that night when he called me on the phone, after our first date. He made a poem for me. “Even as a smile that passed by in the morning I felt it still registered in my heart.”
There was a white butterfly on the wall on the night I received that fateful call from the hospital. I ignored it. I was in denial.
But then I realized something.
Bonnie and I had built our lives on amazing dreams.
We had spent many days imagining being together, till we’re old—living in a sea of nostalgia—telling magical stories on a rocking chair while the grandchildren, by the bed, listen with excitement. Or tending the vegetable garden and doing crossword puzzles together. You see, our love story may not be one for the books. It was simple, yet faithful. It’s the little things that really matter. We bonded by reminiscing about our younger days when the busyness of our daily career, sometimes, got in the way.
It wasn’t surprising. Boo was an Earth angel to me then, as he was to me now.
Nothing had changed. He was the milk to my coffee. The sun to my moon. The yin to my yang. Our friendship had come a long, long way. High and low. Good and bad. We’d been through it all.
Sometimes, I lived as if nothing could go wrong. But I guess life was not always meant to be right, nor even fair.
The next chapter may be the last.
A beautiful symphony may turn into a sad melody.
But things didn’t merely end there.
One less person.
But no pain is wasted pain.
Because God had His reasons.
I gazed around the house—our haven, our little piece of heaven, where I used to think was filled with hollow spaces and echoes of pain—now, a silent witness to many wonderful memories we’d both shared.
I saw the white butterfly again. It had been sitting on Bonnie’s table for days now. Then it hit me. White symbolized his doctor’s uniform. I felt a lump in my throat. Out of joy, tears rolled down on my cheeks. There was a deeper knowing, that after all this tragedy, one thing was certain.
Bonnie’s love will heal me.