Housemate #2 tells me that it’s because I grew up in an “all-Asian household” as the reason why I felt so moved once, twice – a million times over or so, as I admitted to her that night I returned – about the sort of affection and gestures my host family, an elderly couple, displayed to one another.
I wanted to tell her the real reason, but of course I didn’t – not all truths, as I’ve come to learn, need to be shared.
There is such synchronicity in the way they live their lives, circling one another and yet not. I’ve never seen love like this so up-close that my heart which has long been a cynic to the idea of a purely everlasting love – I think it caved in a little. They seem entirely, sincerely devoted to one another. “He took care of me through my breast cancer period, so it was only right that I did the same when he was hospitalized after his heart surgery,” she confided. I nodded, yet I wondered if she realized that I… have never known a love like this, never seen something like this up close, what more to believe it for myself.
Sometimes it is the smallest of gestures, like an obviously happy expression she showed when she picked up the phone and realized it is him on the line, or them signing off their letters and emails as W&P – heck, even their email address is W&P! Sometimes it is something physical; affection, she says it is called. A light kiss before leaving, a hand at the small of her back. The twinkle in each other’s eyes as they exchanged glances across the table, smiling knowingly as they teased one another in front of me, who simply laughed heartily, and observed quietly.
My heart, it didn’t know what to do. It (and I) ache, but sometimes I think it also sang, however barely audible that was. They’re not anything rocket science, not unlike anything I’ve seen in the million Korean dramas I have watched in the past ten years – yet these are two real people, not characters in a show, elderly and still so obviously in love and devoted to one another… Seeing them, I finally understand what people mean, when they ask me why I’m so opposed to marriage, “don’t you want someone to grow old with you?”
Here they are, proof. This is why, I thought. This is what people seek, what they hope for as they enter in and out of love, relationships and the like – that constant seeking, for this sort of companionship that lasts to the grave, perhaps even ever-after. For this sort of affection, love – whatever shape it takes at different times and moments – they’re proof. Soulmates, perhaps that’s what it could also be called.
But then, this also hits me: they’re the lucky ones.
Because sometimes people seek, and never quite find. Sometimes people are successful, but it is short-fused. Sometimes, in the smallest fraction perhaps, tragedy befalls exactly like in movies and dramas – they find, but obstacles are too great to climb, leaps one or both dare not take. Perhaps still, sometimes, they do meet halfway despite the obstacles, before realizing that some mistakes, actions, and previous decisions: they cannot be undone. So both remain in the present, yet it is hollow.
That’s the one I am most familiar with.
I have strong reservations against marriage, true, and I think I am incredibly doubtful about actually finding a boy who will like me, what more love me – but I don’t think I am an ice-queen. Not in that sense. I think secretly I have always wanted to be proven wrong – show me something that isn’t like it is, 30 years later I challenge my heart, self, on days when I feel a little braver in imagining a life with a nameless, faceless figure by my side – but I don’t think I’ve seen it for real, in real life in the most real of people. Or maybe, I’ve never seen one that leaves me unconsciously, incredibly moved.
When I sit in the darkness of my room at nighttime during my brief stay there, listening to the slow and occasional movement of the two of them as they move about downstairs and not long after, upstairs as they prepare for bed in the room just next to mine – I think I can picture them smiling to one another as they move about, in sync. My heart, it aches. It isn’t like wanting to cry floodgates, rather an abstract sort of longing, one I’ve yet to fully understand. It is piercing, deeply moving, but also so very sad.
I wondered if it’s because I was thinking of a certain couple, or just as likely, reflecting upon myself. I am too young to feel this way, I sometimes need to remind myself. I know nothing about love, relationships – whatever – I mentally slapped myself harder with reality check. My cold, cold heart – I don’t believe that this sort of literal, sweetest happy ending is one I may one day experience for myself.
Yet with each day that I spent there, in their company – witness to their love and devotion: hope.
Barely apparent, but I sensed the smallest of a flicker.