he’d find his way back to her.
He never actually did.
It’s not that she was fatuous in her faith. After all, how many people truly comprehend that Fate (given time enough) can defeat Love via sheer cruelty?
Even so and just because, one must never mock Hope.
And it’s not that he didn’t dream the same dream. He probably did, those precious few nights he actually dreamed in the bitter wilderness.
* * *
They were quite the couple. He an actor turned magistrate. A handsome man of means, manners and money. She the ingénue, an actress, a beauty. Together they were the toast of the town. They’d produced three boys and daughter. All were uniquely gifted. Beautiful. Theirs was a genteel world. A life of joy, privilege, culture, fine wine and art.
And they loved each other truly, madly, deeply.
And they continued to love each other....truly, madly, deeply...long after he was spirited away to a Siberian gulag
and she fled on foot to refugee camps far west. Yes, indeed, Fate can be unimaginably cruel.
She stumbled on a crooked path all the way to America. All the way to a Lithuanian enclave in Chicago peopled by kindred spirits who had just this one thing in common: all had lost all. She made a life there. She served as maid and cook at a parish house for decades to come.
It was a life short on wealth and privilege to be sure, but she was gently succored by her fellow refugees. She did not disappoint. She never lost that regal bearing. Never descended into despair (although I came to dread the overpowering scent of Chanel No. 5
). Her wardrobe wasn’t quite couture
, but she sparkled in wit and sensitivity.
And all the while she Believed. She believed that he would, somehow someway, find her and save her. She believed in love everlasting. She believed she would, someday oneday, bask in joy again.
And just what was it that he came to believe? I can’t say.
I know this: he was beaten, tortured, transported by cattle car to places so remote they’ve not yet earned names. I know he starved.
I know he watched countless others die. I know he’d often prayed that he’d die, too.
I came to learn that after twenty years in Hell, he was allowed to roam in exile in towns named in Cyrillic. I learned he had somehow survived. I came to learn he found a kindred spirit, a woman who had been subjected to the same cruel calumny as he. Two broken bodies tended to each other as best they could.
And the broken ingénue came to learn that, too.
* * *
They eventually came to meet, my grandfather and grandmother did. Both grayed and frail. To frail to want, too shattered to dream.
She died drooling in an Alzheimer's ward.
He died in agony in his faraway garret.
* * *
Gratuitous (semi) non-sequitor:
I'm working assiduously to develop prodigious "crow's feet" round my eyes.
So far, I've exceeded my wildest expectations.
* * *