How quick we are to pass judgement. A stranger on the road, a colleague we don’t know, a peer we’ve just met; the brain processes and categorizes everyone we meet into buckets, long before we have a chance to know them. Half-heard tales and one-sided viewpoints never seem to stop us. And in our haste to judge, we frequently fail to consider the other perspective: the circumstances and the feelings behind the hard decisions people make.
“Have a safe trip. I love you.”
“Thanks, Mom. I love you too. Say hi to Dad for me,” I set aside my phone and buckle up my seatbelt. Starcoast Villa here I come!
I was welcomed by the blazing sun and roaring waves. The little wooden cottages were scattered along the coastline of the ocean. Cottage number 7, with its bright red roof, was easy enough to find. I settled into the room and decided to start my holiday with a cocktail and a good book on the beach.
“That’s a great one. The best by the author.” I glanced up at the owner of the melodious voice. She was wearing a floral printed dress that fluttered about her, in the evening breeze. Her twinkling gray eyes complimented her graying hair. She would have been stunning in her prime, I thought to myself.
It’s a moment before I remember that I’m supposed to respond to her, “I love his books!”
She plopped onto the lounge chair beside me, “I’m Christie. You look new around here,”
“Kate. Yeah, I just drove up today. Do you live here?”
“Oh! Mine’s 7,” I replied with a smile.
For the next hour, Christie and I chatted about books and music and exchanged travel stories. I learned that she was a single woman, who lived permanently in her holiday home, Cottage 6.
Over the next two days, Christie and I became fast friends. We had similar tastes and found the same things funny. On my third day, we were lounging on our beach chairs when I asked her, “So how has a funny, gorgeous woman like you never been snagged by a handsome man?” I felt a pang of regret when I saw the pain flash through her eyes.
“There was a man once. He was kind and sweet, his eyes shone with laughter and he could lift my spirits by just being in the same room.”
“So what happened?” I asked with a shameless curiosity.
“There was just one problem,” she paused a moment, as though, she was reliving a bitter memory, “He was married.”
“Oh.” I tried to quickly hide the look of disdain that flashed across my face, but I wasn’t quick enough.
Christie smiled, “It’s okay. You’re entitled to feel it was wrong. I know it wasn’t the wisest thing I’ve done, but I wouldn’t trade those two weeks for anything. Though we never fooled ourselves into believing we could be together after our time ended, our love was as real as the stars in the sky.”
I was puzzled at how someone could love another, with such everlasting certainty when they’d just been together for two weeks.
Seeming to read my thoughts, she said, “It was like our souls knew each other. The love ran far deeper than the superficial kind we have these days. The electricity that buzzed between us, could have lit up an entire village. A love like that does not need expression or promises of forever.”
“But still, if it was so, why didn’t he leave his wife for you?” I couldn’t hide the tinge of skepticism that crept into my voice.
“He wasn’t that kind of man. He had promised her forever and forever he will give her. And there were his children, he couldn’t put them through the pain.”
“You must hate him and his family for keeping you’ll apart.”
“No, dear. How could I hate them, when I don’t even know them? And hate him for being unselfish? For wanting to keep his promise, a promise he made long before he met me? No, no. These are some of the things I love about him.”
“I hope his family was worth it. Didn’t you ever find anyone else?”
“There was no one else for me.”
I lay awake for a long time that night, thinking about what Christie had told me about her man. The way she spoke about him, I could feel her love for him. Her words told the story of companionship and friendship and intimacy. They’d kept in touch, with infrequent letters. I felt an unwarranted surge of anger for the man. How unfair had he been to Christie and perhaps his wife, too. Had he done the right thing by them? I knew deep down that it was a noble decision he’d made, but in its wake, he’d left behind a broken-hearted woman who’d never moved on. He’d cheated on his wife and what marriage could be successful after that? Surely his kids would have understood? In my mind, it was a cowardly thing for him to have let go of the love of his life. At the time, I was biased against him and didn’t realize that I was looking at the picture only from Christie’s perspective. I didn’t realize how that one-sided view clouded my judgement. I dreamt that night of Christie, the faceless man and of the love they had lost.
The next morning, I headed over to Christie’s, carrying a plate of freshly baked cookies. She had invited me to try her special chocolate chip pancakes. She ushered me inside, “Make yourself comfortable, breakfast will be ready soon.” I walked into the living room and with a crash that resonated with my world, the dish slipped from my hand. With his arm wrapped firmly around a younger Christie, my father smiled at me from the silver frame on the coffee table.