Stuck in the middle of one of her grandfather’s notebooks, Kate found a single sheet of lined paper with a poem scrawled onto it. “For WC,” read the title.
It was, loosely, a sonnet, though every line except the final couplet assiduously avoided iambs, a challenge in English. This made the final two lines of rhyming iambic pentameter all the more striking.
Like all her grandfather’s poems, this one was beautiful, musical, and sad, but it was filled with yearning, too. It was a love poem, filled with images of thighs, the backs of hands, the curve of a cheek, a straight nose, and “eyes, light, eyes.”
Kate had seldom thought of her grandfather as a man in love. Her grandmother had died before she was born, and, to Kate’s knowledge, he had no romances during the years she lived with him or after.
But clearly there had been someone. Who was WC?
She had sat with him one afternoon in hospice when he’d been time-jumping, as he often did during his last days. She held his hand, but his eyes were closed; he was far away. He raised eyebrows. He kissed the air. He giggled, and tilted his head, coyly. Kate grew embarrassed, intruding on that private moment he shared in time with someone else. She kept his hand in hers, but she looked out the window.
“I drifted off there,” he said, when he returned.
“And now you’re back,” said Kate, holding the glass of water to him, helping him with the straw.
“Thank you, Katy-Moon,” he said when he’d finished drinking. “Promise me something. Do you love someone?”
“I love you,” she answered.
He laughed. “Not what I mean. You know what I mean.”
“Not in that way, no,” she said.
“Then promise me something. If you do–when you do–promise me that you will tell that person. Don’t just sit there, longing, writing hopeless poems. But tell the person, ‘Your eyes. Your light. You’re all.’ Tell them in that way, so you don’t regret it when you are close to the gate.”
She nodded. “Was there someone you wanted to tell?” she asked, in the quiet room.
“There was,” he said.
“It’s not too late,” she said. “Would you like me to help you get in touch with this person?”
“Would you do that?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied.
He closed his eyes again. “I would like that. I would like this person to know. ‘Your eyes. Your light.'”
But they didn’t have a moment to come back to this conversation. The following days were full of nurses, the great aunt, the cousins, always a buzz, never a second for them to talk again, in private.
It had been one of those wishes, not quite a promise, that had faded.
There are so many people we love who will never know what we feel, what they are to us. It doesn’t mean the feeling didn’t exist, that it didn’t buoy us somehow. It would be cleaner to share the gratitude.
Kate worked on, through that notebook and the next, transcribing her grandfather’s poems. When she returned to the closet for the next box of notebooks, she found a shoe box, tied with a strip of leather, so brittle, with the knot so fused, that she had to cut it to open the box. Inside, she found bundles of folded rice paper, each with a hand-written poem to WC.
She knew then she had to discover who this person was. Whom had her grandfather loved so? Maybe WC was still alive. Or if not, maybe a child or grandchild was.
She remembered her promise to her grandfather that she would tell someone if she loved them this way. She didn’t. But he had. And maybe it wasn’t too late to let them know.
Prompt for May 11: “Write a story in which your hero wants something, tries and fails to get it, and eventually has their life-changing moment at the end of the story,” from StoryADay.org
Author’s note: This story may not seem to fit the prompt, but if you check out the tips, you can see that it sort of does.