Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jeffrey

It's been a few years now, and I suppose it's finally sinking in that you will not somehow reappear or just call me to talk, and that I will not miss you less and my heart will not stop breaking each time I think of you.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to write about you this year, because sometimes it's easier to avoid the memories.  Still...

When my husband and I were married in Greece, you told me that of course you'd be there.  By then, you had moved to New York, and we'd gone from seeing each other every day to weekly phone calls.  When we arrived in Chios, I didn't hear anything from you, and you hadn't booked a flight, so I assumed you weren't coming.  My parents and Janelle were staying in Karfas, and as we walked to the taverna to meet everyone for dinner (my mom and Janelle giggling the whole way, keeping you a surprise), there you were, looking like you'd planned this all along.  Which, of course, you hadn't.  You went to a travel agent in Manhattan on Monday, got a lower price for your ticket than any of us, ran home to pack your bags, and went to the airport on Monday afternoon for your flight.  You had no idea where you were going, only that you needed to get to the island of Chios, got a taxi at the airport, and when the driver somehow took you to the area of Karfas Beach, you saw my mother and shouted her name.  Then you got a little room with a sea view across the street from where my parents were staying.  The matronly proprietress adored you and was washing your clothes for you and inviting you to dinner with her family.  That night at dinner, we held hands and fawned over each other, and I saw George's dad looking at us with narrowed eyes, until he came to the likely conclusion and relaxed and smiled at you.  We talked about reading "The Dogs of Babel" and quoted "I remember my wife in white" to each other.  It's bittersweet to think of that now.  We and the dear friends who had also made the long trip across the ocean, spent a day on scooters in the fortress village of Pyrgi, where we dreamed about owning one of the crumbly little houses, and then at my favorite beach, sunbathing on black lava rocks and wading in the breathtaking blue of the Aegean Sea.  On my wedding day, I asked our florist for wildflowers and lilies, and you commiserated with me when my bouquet was a ball of roses and I cried in the melodramatic way that brides do.

Only Jeffrey, I thought.  Only you would arrive with elan on an island in a country to which you'd never been, with no names, addresses or phone numbers.  Only you would book a flight for a song at the last moment, find my mother within minutes of landing, get the best room at the best rate, and on a whim, continue on to other islands.  Only you, in that selfless way you were famous for, would replace my wedding bouquet with an armful of achingly beautiful lilies that we put in my honeymoon suite and reminded me of how much you loved me.

Only you.