Weeks had passed since he went to that quiet, peaceful place where he met her. Why hadn’t he gone there? Why had he stayed away even though he wanted to be there? Why was he avoiding her? What was he afraid of? Of feeling again? Of living again? Of moving on? Why should he be afraid of these things? Was it because of Coco?
Would Coco want him to continue to put his life on hold? Would she want him to continue to live in the past? Would she want him to continue to deny himself any future happiness?
Eleven years had passed and still, he rejected the idea of dating. He didn’t want to be in another relationship even though there were several women who had made it very clear that they would have liked to become romantically involved with him.
He had his work to occupy his days and his nights were spent reading, watching television or listening to classical music. His Bible sat untouched on the bedside table in his bedroom. Many times he thought of opening it and reading a Psalm or one of the Gospels but invariably he ended up reading another book instead. The last time he was in church it was for Coco’s funeral.
Liliana had asked him if he believed in God and his reply had been that he believed He existed. In spite of his bitterness and anger towards God, he knew that He was always there, waiting for him to turn to Him. He knew that God was always present and that He was He who had brought him through those dark moments following Coco’s death even though at the time, he wouldn’t admit it.
More than once when he was in the depths of despair, he would hear words, “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” and “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever’” and “Even when I walk through a valley of deep darkness, I will not be afraid because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they comfort me.” Following these words, he experienced comfort and peace. He knew that it was God comforting him. His love and compassion were tangible. He clung to them like a drowning man clung to a life-preserver. Still, he continued to reject God’s overtures for a reconciliation.
On the day when he was standing there facing the channel where he found himself going since he first discovered it, he had questioned God again about why He had allowed him to meet and fall in love with Coco only to take her away from him. No answer had been forthcoming. Then, he started when a young woman suddenly materialized. When, he first saw her, he had wondered if, perhaps, she was an angel and that she was there for a reason. And then, she asked him for the time and even after he told her, she lingered. He remembered now the concern he had seen on her face. That concern and her inquiry of his wellbeing had warmed his heart and he realized that chance hadn’t brought them together.
For a while, they had exchanged words and had introduced themselves. If they didn’t have go to work, they probably would have spoken for a longer time. After they parted company, he remained there for a few minutes longer before he headed for his parked car. On the drive to work, he thought about Liliana and again on his way home in the evening. Talking to her had lifted his spirits somewhat. He found himself wishing he knew more about her. He knew that she was born there in Seattle and that she lived and worked near where they met. She had mentioned that she had seen him on more than one occasion. It was evident that she often passed that way.
He thought of going there the following day so that he could see her again but he decided against it. There were other places where he could go to enjoy the same solitude which he enjoyed there by the channel. Resolute, he stayed away. And now weeks later, he regretted his decision.
Liliana sat at her desk. She tried to concentrate on her work but she couldn’t stop thinking about Hart. After meeting him and talking to him, she had looked forward to seeing him again the following morning and was bitterly disappointed when she didn’t. For weeks, she passed that way, hoping to see him but she didn’t.
What happened? she wondered. Why did he stop going there? Was it because of her? Was he avoiding her? They had conversed so easily and she had hoped that they would become better acquainted but now that wasn’t possible.
She didn’t usually approach strangers, especially men but seeing him so often and in the same place, he didn’t seem like a stranger to her. She had watched him from a distance, wondering who he was and why he was always there at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, gazing at the channel. Curiosity and interest had prompted her to approach him one Monday morning. He had seemed startled at first when she appeared and when she lingered after asking him for the time, he looked at her quizzically, asking if there was something she wanted. Then, she divulged that she had been observing him and after she asked if he was all right, he seemed to be more at ease. And they, got to talking.
She remembered him asking her if she believed in God and after affirming that she did, she asked him the same question. His response was that he believed in God’s existence and then, the morose expression which had been on his face before returned. How she longed to know the reason for his sadness but she had to leave or risk showing up late on her first day on her new job.
When she left him, she had every reason to believe that she would see him again. Alas, her hopes were dashed as days and then, weeks passed and still no sign of him. Perhaps, she would never see him again. That thought filled her with sadness.
Pulling herself together, she returned her attention to her work. She resolved to forget about Hart. Theirs was a one time encounter. Not all encounters with people were supposed to last forever. She and Hart met for a reason. If only she knew what that reason was.
It was after six in the evening when Hart found himself standing there in his place of refuge, staring at the boats as they crossed the channel. The sun hadn’t set as yet. The water was cast in the same red and orange hues which were splashed across the sky above. Seeing that made him think of God. Even in the beauty before him, he could see and feel His presence. He didn’t know why he was here again. Something had compelled him to come. Something or perhaps, Someone too powerful for him to resist.
Suddenly, she appeared beside him. Her eyes met his startled ones. “Hello, Hart,” she said.
“I didn’t expect to see you here again.”
“I didn’t expect to be here again but I was compelled to come this evening.”
“That’s very interesting. I don’t usually pass this way on my way home but this evening, I felt compelled to come this way.”
“Are there good restaurants within walking distance from here?” he asked.
“I’m going to grab a bite to eat. Will you join me?”
She smiled. “Sure.”
He smiled in return and after they lingered there for a while longer, they set off.