The sun had already fallen in the horizon by the time I had reached D.C. A delay in Pennsylvania had my train running late, but at the very least the rain had stopped. It’s one thing to be in a foreign city on foot and a completely different thing to have to walk in the rain. The entire trip my mind just moved around quickly from conversation to conversation. I replayed the phrases. “You’re too young, Adam,” my father had said. “Take some time to think about what you want from life,” my mother added. “I’m never going to want to be with anyone else, but you,” she said… For a lot of people, it’s easy to accept that somethings aren’t meant to last. I’ve heard my friends talking about their relationships and dating and it sounds so active and lively. At the same time, I can’t really understand it.
I remember when Cecilia and I were kids. There was always that connection between. Sure, there were times when I would tell her that girls had some imaginary disease, but kids do that. It wasn’t like I heard my fair share of boys being immature… Maybe that was the problem. Was I really being mature or acting mature?
I looked around at the people surrounding me. There were a couple of men in suits. There was one family with a particularly excited little boy. There was a young Chinese girl who was asking someone if this was Union Station and then there was me. I really wasn’t interested in seeing the two colleges in D.C. I had applied to, but I appreciated the weekend trip for the opportunity to have some time to think. There was just so much on my mind. Everything had been so simple a year ago this time.
I heard a voice on the intercom as it said we had arrived. I put my jacket, grabbed my two pieces of luggage and proceeded out onto the platform. All the while I was trying to figure out how I was going to get to the first university. I had looked up information regarding the metro, as well as, taxi rates. I decided to grab a coffee and check my e-mail before I left the station.
I ordered a cup and sat down. I looked through my e-mail. There were a couple of messages from my teachers, one from my mother, some spam, and then one from Cecilia. It was short, but I expected that:
I’m sorry that things got so heated yesterday. I hope you enjoy yourself. Be open to the city. Let me know when you get there. Miss you.
I smiled, but at the same time I thought back to yesterday. Of course, we we’re talking about college and about what everyone was telling us. We had been told to be open to new experiences. We had both been told that we should move on. Thankfully and unthankfully, we were both really reasonable for our age, but we were also both resolute in how we felt for one another. Nonetheless, she told me that I should be open to moving on and even when I would tell her that that’s not what I want, she would that she doesn’t want me to miss out anything. Miss out on what, I would wonder. I could imagine myself having fun with other people, but I didn’t know if it would be the same as the way I felt around her… but did I know? My parents adored her, but they also felt the same. They tell me that I should focus on my future and what I want from life… but, surely I wanted Cecilia… or was I only latching on to her because we were childhood friends. I knew she’d be in my life regardless… but, would it be enough… I suddenly felt like some of my friends. I chuckled at the thought.
“A small coffee, please,” said a man at the register.
“Okay,” said the girl behind register with reddening of her cheeks.
I guess women really attracted to a man in a suit, I thought to myself. Cecilia always likes it when when we dress up. She says I look handsome.
“Thank you,” the man says as he takes his coffee. He looks around and I can tell that he’s looking for a seat. I thought about what the polite thing to say would be and say as I catch his eyesight, “ You can sit here if you like. I’m on my way out.”
He says, “Thank you, but there’s no hurry. Take your time.”
He takes the adjacent seat and puts his briefcase down. His posture was very calculated and his mannerisms very refined. I decided that he must be quite wealthy. He was dressed almost completely in black. He pulled out a small notebook and jotted a note down, took another sip of his coffee and then he gazed outward as if he was looking at someone, but there was no one in that direction. He looked very solemn.
I decided to ask him, “Are you okay, sir?”
He snapped out of his trance, smiled and said, “Yes, I am. Why do ask?”
I said, “You just seem a lot sad.”
He smiles and says, “No, I’m quite fine. I become very pensive when I drink my coffee.”
I say, “ I see.”
I decide to take this opportunity to ask how best to get to my first potential college.
“That’s exciting. I went to school here in D.C. as well. Is this your first time here?” he asks.
“Yes, it is. My parents wanted to join me, but I didn’t want them tagging along.” I say.
He laughs and says, “I see… Well, the metro can be a little confusing for someone that has never ridden it before and taking a cab out that far can be expensive. I’m actually headed in that direction if you’d like a ride. My driver is waiting out front.”
I’m taken back by his generosity, but decide that it’s most certainly better than walking.
“Thank you. That’s very nice of you. I’m obliged to accept,” I say.
He extends his hand out and says, “My name is Mr. Milliardo.”
I shake his hand and say, “Adam.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Adam,” he says. “I do have to make one stop, if that’s okay?”
“No problem,” I say.
We gather our things and head towards the street. Mr. Milliardo tells me about what he does for a living as he buys a boquet of purple flowers. I think they’re called lilacs. I find it strange, but assume that the flowers must be for his wife or loved one. As we head toward Virginia, I decide to ask him who they’re for.
“Who are the flowers for, if you don’t mind me asking?” I say.
With the same calm and ease, he says, “They’re for my wife.”
I say, “Oh, I’m sorry if I’m inconveniencing you and your wife.”
He laughs and assures me, “It’s quite alright. She will understand.”
As we head towards Mr. Milliardo’s stop, I see an increasing number of trees. At one point, it’s almost feels as if I’m surrounded by nothing, but leaves… and then we exit through an opening and I see paths illuminated by small street lights… hills and benches… tombstones. We had arrived at a small cemetery and then it clicked to me, the reason why he had looked so solemn, the flowers, and the reason why his wife didn’t mind.
I start say that I’m sorry for his loss, but he cuts me off.
“It’s quite alright, Adam,” he says.
I ask, “May I join you?”
He says, “Of course.”
We walk up to his wife grave and a long moment of silence passes as Mr. MIlliardo sets the flowers down. I decide to wait for him to speak first.
“I’ve missed you my love. I’m sorry I’m a little late. I love you.”
He then goes onto to say, “She passed five years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“It feels like just yesterday, everyday. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. Life knows no fairness. We met late in life and our time together was cut short. Now, I live alone with her memory. People say that you have a lifetime to be happy and to love, but it can all end too quickly for my taste. I know that she wants me to find some happiness with what remains of my life, but I live and breathe in her name. She was my missing piece and she still is… It’s the little things that make up love, Adam. It’s the way she would wrinkle her nose. The way she’d smile. The silly jokes I know she laughed at to make me feel good. The way she’d wake me up in the morning. The way she read… The way she made me the best person I’ve ever been… I never understood this phrase when it was said to me before her, when I was younger, but life is short and you have to be ready to embrace the good in your life when it arrives… To cherish everyday you have as if it were your last… It’s only now that I know that what true love is… it’s when your heart beats and you feel the embrace of your loved one… and that feeling transcends life and death…”
It was the first time that day that I saw his posture break. He asked for a moment alone. When he returned to the car, we headed to my first university. His posture was completely reformed once again… and he seemed at ease and happy again. I thanked Mr. Milliardo as he handed me his business card. He drove away and I looked at the back of his card. On it he had written:
You’re lucky. Hold on to her.
I looked back at the car in the distance and then up at the sky. I reached for my phone and called her.
“Cecilia,” I said, “I have a question I want to ask you on Monday…”