Love Is Blind

Tiny snowflakes fell from a leaden sky as the man in the dark coat made his way through the ancient cemetery. Everything about the place was gray-the gravestones, the leafless trees, the dirty snow on the ground, even the gravel on the path that wound through it. Few flowers ornamented the graves here, and the ones that did were long dead, their dried husks ready to blow away at the slightest breeze. A few tall monuments screamed of the wealth and power held in life by their occupants, while the elements slowly wore the stone away. The man thought that they were ridiculous-once you were gone, why did you need to remind everyone of what you once were?

After searching fruitlessly for about ten minutes, the man found the grave he was looking for. It was tucked away in an inconspicuous corner of the cemetery, marked by a flat piece of granite. It was surrounded by trees. Not even dead flowers adorned this grave. It bore the name "Lila Anne McCay". She had been twenty-eight when she'd died according to the headstone, but Jack knew she had been twenty-seven. There were no loving words about her; all of her family had passed on long before her. In fact, the man was sure that he was one of the few people that remembered Lila Anne McCay even existed, which tore at his heart. She had been so exceptional, and he was the only one who realized. He dropped to his knees in front of the headstone, placing the flowers he carried in his lap.

"Hey, Li, it's me, Jack. I finally got a chance to see you. Sorry it took so long for me to get here. I would have come sooner, but you know where I was, huh?" He gave a self-deprecating laugh. "God, I can't believe this is where they put you. You should have gotten a nice, sunny spot. You always did like sunny days the best. At least you have lots of trees around you. It's probably much prettier here in the summer."

He stopped, unsure what to say next. Tears filled his eyes, and he tried to blink them away. His next words came out strained as he tried to keep from crying. "Um, I miss you, Li," he whispered. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there for you. I wanted to be, so much. I never wanted to leave you or hurt you or any of it. We weren't supposed to turn out this way. But I'm a screw-up. I always have been." He paused for a moment. "No, that's not true. For a little while, I was a good person, because of you."

He was silent for a little while, as snowflakes clung to his coat and hair. "Do you remember when we met? It was a cold day like today. It was all gray and nasty, and I saw you walking down the street with your cane and your bag of groceries. You were so bright and beautiful. I remember thinking that your hair was gorgeous, and I couldn't understand how it could be so shiny even though it was cloudy outside. Plus, you were wearing sunglasses at dusk! I just knew you were special. I remember feeling that I had to talk to you. It was like a compulsion or something. I offered to walk you home because it wasn't safe. You called me your knight in shining armor. No one had ever called me anything half as nice as that before. I was just some loser. But you always saw the real me, didn't you? Or at least the me I wanted to be, if that makes any sense."

Jack fidgeted a little, trying to get comfortable on the cold, winter ground. Dead grass made little crunching noises below him as he changed position, sitting cross-legged now, with the flowers still in his lap. "God, I miss you. You made everything make sense, ya know? And it's not just the obvious things I miss, either. I miss the way you listened to heavy metal and didn't think it was ironic for a five-foot tall blonde girl to rock out. I miss the way you loved eating Chinese food right out of the containers. You never did order enough lo mein for the two of us. Lord, could you eat!" Jack laughed quietly. "I even miss the way you snored. I know, you don't think you did, but, well, you did! It was cute, though. They were never loud snores. Plus, they reminded me that you were there beside me, and that was always comforting."

Tears welled up fresh in Jack's eyes. It was so hard coming here today. He'd missed the funeral, of course. It was kind of hard to make it from prison, after all. "I just want you to know that I tried to come to your funeral. They wouldn't let me out. They said you weren't family. Stupid, huh? You were the only family I ever had. I wish I would have married you." The tears coursed down his cheeks, warm against his cold skin. "I wish a lot of things, really. I wish I wouldn't have been stupid enough to get involved with any of that shit that I pulled. Robbing a bank- -I don't know what I was thinking. I'd gotten myself free, I thought. I had a good job. I was making a life for myself. And I had you. You and your blue eyes and your funny little laugh. I loved it when you would snort. That's when I could tell that I was really funny." He smiled weakly. "I had everything. But I couldn't be content. I just had to go out with one last job. What a fool I was!"

Jack sat silently for a while, staring at Lila's gravestone. "You must have known what an idiot I was. Was that why you didn't tell me? I had to find out from a reporter, you know. She was so smug, asking me for my reaction to your death. She remembered you from the trial. You came every day. Of course, they didn't tell me at the prison. They didn't tell me you were sick, and they sure didn't tell me when you died." He paused, closing his eyes. "Cancer, Li? Why didn't you tell me? I'm sure you had your reasons. Probably didn't want to worry me, as usual. Not like I could have done anything, anyway. I guess that's why you never came to visit. I thought it was because you hated me. I went to the hospice, you know, as soon as I got out. They told me that you were really brave and made everyone smile. 'That's my girl,' I told them."

A stiff breeze gusted by, rattling the branches of the tree above Jack's head. A few petals from the roses on his lap blew loose and fluttered away. The crimson color reminded Jack of Lila's favorite sweater. It had always seemed paradoxical that a blind girl surrounded herself with as much color as she did. Her apartment had been decorated with furniture in vivid primary colors. She never wore neutral shades; only vibrant jewel tones would do for her. Her first question when shopping for anything, be it a shirt or dinner plates was, "What color is it?"

Jack placed the roses across her gravestone. "I brought these for you. Red roses, your favorite." He rose to his feet, shaking the snow from his coat. "I just wanted you to know that I'm doing better now. I'm really making a good life for myself this time. I got a job, making pretty decent money, and I got an apartment downtown. It's nothing fancy, but you'd like it. It's got a fireplace. I wish you were here to see it." He took a deep breath. "I guess I ought to get going now. I'll come back to see you soon. I love you. I think I always will." His last words came out as a whisper.

A sliver of sunlight forced its way through the clouds, shining onto her grave. Jack smiled faintly. "You always did know how to make me feel better." he said tenderly. He realized with a start that the snow had stopped. He felt like a weight had been lifted by coming here. He turned and found his way out of the cemetery. He would go to his new job and work hard and live a good life. He would make her proud. His smile grew broader as the sun burst through the clouds. Today would be a fine day, after all.