"Thanks for meeting me like this." His words came haltingly as though he was searching for an opening to reveal some secret.
"You know I would always come. I rearranged things the moment I received your message."
"I had hoped you would meet me, but I half expected that you would reply you already had an appointment."
He took a sip of his café con leche. He had always loved this restaurant, which seemed to combine the worlds he loved, the Mediterranean, the Brazilian, the Cuban. On the wall was a huge picture of a 4 door version of the Chevy coupe he had driven in college. Same model and exact color. Somehow the coffee always reminded him of travels in Italy and Portugal. Those were idyllic times for him when his closest friends were still alive, and the future loomed fresh and exhilarating. Now time had taken its toll, and the last few years had led him toward the Hemingway solution which he calculated would be a year from now, on this last day of the cycle.
He had just learned about this nine-year life cycle from his dear friend who had agreed to meet with him on this final day.
"You are in the eighth year of a nine-year cycle," she explained. This declaration suddenly made perfect sense to him, and why he had chosen September 4, 2011 as his final day. But in the past year, he had dismissed this calculation after meeting new friends who broke through the barriers that had blocked his creative work. He entered a personal renaissance based on this deepening awareness.
He looked out at the trees of September. Today they were splendid in their radiant green presence. The air was fresh. It was the September of his dreams, of his latest venture, of his idyllic narrative that somehow was the summation of all that he held precious.
He looked across at his friend, a friend that had seen him through more than a decade of experience and hardships. Such friendships distill the present and are to be savored like a rare and fragrant liqueur. This insight had escaped him for months in a period of doubt and self-denial.
"Today seemed like it would be so bleak that at the last moment I thought of you as someone who might come to my rescue... someone to share the day that I usually experience alone with such dread." The words came slowly. He was searching for a pathway, a direction that might divert his despair. "I am really grateful that you would come."
"We are similar," she said. "We share much in common." She smiled. "But I am hurt that you would not consider your younger friends in your equation. That isn't fair. I want you around for at least the next cycle and beyond."
"On one level, I know you are right," he admitted, "but most of my closest confidants that were my contemporaries have vanished from my life. On that level, I feel quite alone and disconnected."
Yet, even as he spoke, he knew there were contradictions. He had simply shifted so much of his faith into new projects that when the prospect of their unraveling became apparent he was thrown into despair. He had not prepared himself that he might be betrayed by his own blindness.
She spoke of her own struggles. She had lost so much and had been challenged for her own survival, but she had persevered, and from her anguish, new experiences had led her to refreshed places that now shaped a better juncture. Although she knew her own journey could not serve as a prescription for his, she hoped that somehow he would see through the illusions that held him captive.
The wind swept gently through the trees overhead. The sunlight through the branches shimmered like an incandescent projection of patterns through the leaves, leaving shadows on the sidewalk that looked like swirling distant galaxies. This was September. He was entering his favorite time of the year, but now he faced it with a fear that seemed to grow in the silence and accruing doubt.
It was September. The days were lingering in the fullness of summer, bountiful and beautiful in their splendor. This was a time to harvest all that had been sewn in spring and summer. This was a time when the promise of all he had worked for was pregnant with possibilities... it was a time to open the dream for others to experience and to invite their collaborations. Yet, even as he understood this, fear gripped him that he might not be equal to the challenge.
"Remember these days..." he thought, half singing the words to himself, "They're passing so fast. Just look for the ways to make these days last. Remember these days."
He wanted to capture this moment with his friend sitting across from him on this final day of his year. He wanted to hold it forever as part of the recurring dream that haunted him when a stranger meeting him for the first time tried to explain relationships in the Land of Forever, where a rendezvous at noon was more than marriage.