If I had one last thing to say to that delicious man, that confusing day, that day when I was trying to be invisible, it might be something like: Oh for God’s sake, John, we’ve loved each other forever. Can we just hug one more time, maybe for the gipper?
After all, I was his Stella and he was my Meera. We were standups in any room playing off of each other’s humor. Yet we were fancy scientists. No one ever knew how much we cherished each other. It just was what it was. And so on that day on my way to some boring conference, I looked over my shoulder at Room 21. He was behind that door but I had promised to be invisible. If I walked back and knocked on the door, someone might see me and blow our cover.
Cover? It had been 30 years of cover. So I just closed my eyes tightly and marched directly to the waiting bus. He stood behind that door, watching out the window or so I imagine. We didn’t embrace one last time. We didn’t say, I’ll always love you no matter what. We didn’t just laugh together over the absurdity of it all.
A few short weeks later I got an email from his grad student. John had fallen and the diagnosis was brain tumor, undetermined foci. She gave me his number at the hospital and I called. The perennial jokester, he said, “Well, they always said I had a hole in my head. Now I have two”… a burr hole for the diagnosis.
He left us all way too soon. I didn’t attend any funeral ceremony but I stood in the wings three thousand miles away. I stood and cried and held my heart. The love of my life was now way out of reach. If I had one last thing to say to that delicious man, it would be, Ah John, I’m still here and it’s forever.