Roger's Departure&mdah;From Grief to Laughter

Margo's version of Roger's departure the previous evening was much different from the version she shared with Sal and I the next day.

We had invited Margo to spend the night since it was obvious she was suffering some kind of extreme fatigue, not physical fatigue, but mental and perhaps emotional.

After lunch the next day, Margo seemed very much refreshed. It was then she provided her somewhat more expanded description of Roger's leaving.

"There was a spectacular Aurora Borealis the night he left. Did you happen to see it?"

"No we didn't, Margo, but I know that's true. I knew there was going to be one and was interested because there are sometimes communications problems when they occur," I replied.

"Roger explained that to me," she continued. "About three days before his departure there was a huge coronal mass explosion on the sun which produce a radiation storm that produced the aurora the night he left. He said, 'You could not possibly understand why, nor could any scientist on this planet, but the aurora will make it possible for me to leave without detection. The kind of energy required for my departure produces the same kind of ionization of the ionosphere as a solar storm.'

"I cannot tell you where it was. Roger asked me not to, but I'm not sure I could find the place again anyway. I can tell you it was on this estate. We drove from the house for some time and finally stopped in one of the remotest spots; then we walked together to the top of a little hill.

"We talked for a while. He told me he loved me and that I was the hardest thing for him to leave in this world. It's funny. He never said anything of a romantic nature to me in all the time I knew him, never held me, never kissed me in a romantic way, but I always knew he loved me.

"I'm not sure I said anything at all. I only remember him holding me. I'm sure I told him I loved him, but cannot remember saying the words. He kissed me, and we just stood holding each other for a very long time. Then, while he was holding me, the aurora became especially intense and he was simply not there—but I could feel him holding me for a very long time, so I could not tell exactly when it was he was no longer there.

"I cannot explain it any better than that."

Sally was very close to Margo and was very moved. "Oh, Margo. It must have been so hard for you, Darling. Do you love him very much?"

"Well, of course," she said with more emotion than I think she intended. "What woman who knows Roger doesn't love him. But, yes, Sal, I am very much in love with him and always will be, but I never supposed for a minute Roger could be in love with me. So, it was hard, but learning that he loved me, and in the same way I loved him, made it worth whatever it cost me to be with him when he left. I'd do it all again in an instant, just to have those moments of ecstasy when he held me. It was enough for a lifetime.

No one said anything for a long time. I know Margo wanted to share her experience with us because she knew we would not only understand but truly appreciate the bittersweet splendor of it. It was a gift of love to us, as much as anything else it was to her.

It was Margo herself who broke the spell.

"I have to leave a little early, if you two don't mind. I have a date with Franz for dinner and have to find something outrageous to wear. I wouldn't be caught dead with Franz looking normal."

The eagerness in her voice actually bewildered me. I knew Franz was hopelessly in love with Margo, and though Margo had an obvious and special rapport with Fanz, I never supposed there was anything more than a kind of special understanding between them. But her enthusiasm sounded like more than that. My surprise must have shown.

"Mark!" she said. "Why are you so shocked? Did you think I could never love another, just because I loved Roger? Roger was an impossible love, though an inevitable one. I would never expect to have Roger as mine. He is so much in love with his wife who is everything to him, and he could not possibly live without his free life, which I could never share with him, and every moment here cost him that freedom. We can all love more than one person, but, like everything else in life, we must choose what is right for us, right in every way.

"I know Franz is in love with me. Guess what, I'm just as much in love with him. I have always been. If the fool would ever ask me to marry him I'd be his wife in an instant. I would have even while Roger was still here. I know Roger would have liked that too."

"Be patient, Margo," Sal said. "If you already know he loves you, it's only a matter of time. I know," she said with a meaningful look at me. "Just stay in his way until he trips over you and can't help himself."

"That's just what I intend to do, Sal. I see it worked for you!"

They both laughed—and so did I.

—Mark Halpern