Joan Stephens

Personal Journal - June 21, 1991, Midsummer's Night, 3:00 A.M.

I went with Vincent to her grave tonight. I wish I hadn't. I learned something that I would rather not know. I thought he was going to say goodbye, but he still loves her as though she is still alive. It's as if he pretends that she is away on a trip and will be back at any time.

I asked him, "How often do you come here?"

"Not often," he answered, gently touching her moon-kissed headstone. "She is still very much alive to me." Dropping to one knee, he pulled back his hood, revealing his love-softened face. He does not hide his emotions from me. He is comfortable in our friendship. Is that a compliment or not? I'm not sure. Kissing the petals of the single red rose he holds in his hands, he reverently placed it, oh so tenderly, on her grave next to the headstone where it is protected from the wind.

"How long can you go on like this?" I asked, worried about his emotional stability. It has been over a year but still he clings to her. I need to know how long this will continue, if he can tell me.

"I don't know," he replied, rising to his feet. "At least until Jacob no longer needs me." But he seemed to know what I am asking. "How long can I live without her? I don't know that either," he replied again, shaking his great head slowly.

The time will come, if he continues in this manner, when he will be no more, when he will be with her. I envision a future with no Vincent, and it is a very bleak future.

"I wonder if you'll ever accommodate yourself to her loss?" I mutter softly, speaking the thought that had crossed my mind, forgetting that he could hear me.

Startled, he stared at me for a few seconds, caught off guard. Reflecting on my question for a few seconds, he finally mused, "Accommodate? An odd word in this instance. It means to adapt to or fit in with the wishes or needs of others." He stopped, ruminated a few seconds more, then continued, "No, I will never adapt to her loss and whose wishes or needs must I accommodate?"

I wanted to tell him that he was completely blind to my wishes or needs but wisely kept my thoughts to myself this time.

He ran his hands, caressingly, over the headstone one more time then turned to me. "Are you ready?" he asked, pulling me back from my ponderings. Am I ready? I would follow him anywhere, but I cannot follow where he goes. He has made that abundantly clear. He is my friend, nothing more.

Steering me by my elbow away from her resting place and out of St. Cleo's Cemetery, he walked me home, all the while speaking of Catherine, taking on that easy look and manner of friendship that is his defense against close relationships. He hasn't realized yet that he uses me as a sounding board. Do I mind? Not really. I love to watch the transformation, the animation that comes over him. He becomes a completely different man: vibrant, alive, his eyes aglow and his face alight with love. He moves about restlessly as if his body cannot contain all the love he feels for her. And I am struck time and time again by the unfairness of this love. For such a love to be struck down in the glory of its flowering is a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. And my heart aches for both of them . . . and for me as well.

We said goodbye on my roof, and with a peck on the cheek, he disappeared into the night that is at once his refuge and his home. I stood there motionless for minutes, then, shaking myself, I returned to my loft. Too tired, too wound up to sleep I now sit before my computer putting my thoughts down on the screen. I wonder if there will ever be a chance for me.