I met Lens in Wal-Mart, in a small town somewhere in USA some years back.
It was a chilly evening in November and I was sitting on the bench inside the main entrance waiting for a friend when Lens sat down next to me with a small plastic bag on one hand and a cap on the other. “How are you, young lady… what? Big Girls Don’t Cry, Huh?” he said warmly while glancing at the book I was reading.
I learned long time ago that in American culture people weren’t interested in what were really going on with your life even if you were travelling with a speedometer registering 90 mph on an empty gas tank, how are you was really, just a dressed up hello that was friendlier than a hi. But this elderly man struck more than the three worded conversation, so I replied shyly, “yah… my friends thought my love life resembled the comedy of this novel” next thing I knew, Lens was laughing from the bottom of his belly until his silver white hair sort of twirled with the wind and danced in the air.
Lens then shared how he survived the WW2 serving in the army that was posted in the Asian region and one day, his sweetheart from high school agreed to his proposal through a letter. He also told me how everyday in the last 40 years that they were married they were just going through the mundanes of life together like other married couples but it was sweet nonetheless. He said they shared the same conversation and even coffee preference (black, one teaspoon of sugar that graduated to two tablet of artificial sweetener), favorite food and hobbies. “All these without any quarrel in between,” I was amused. “We call that spice of life that was necessary to add the right flavor to marriage,” he quipped.
“Well, for me, the guy I love is in my home country and I just discovered I am not exactly done with this place yet, haven’t even gone to Chicago yet and he is not coming to US because his heart is where his home is, which is not here. I am afraid to face the possible distance we might have between us for the years I have immersed and found my soul here,” I said flatly.
Just then Daisy, Mrs. Lens emerged with a cart full of grocery. She wore the brightest smile that warmed up the winter chill. Lens pushed himself up, introduced me to Daisy and said to me with an encouraging air of certainty, “You gotta believe us old folks when we say that all these will pass – Chicago will pass, difference in miles will pass. The point is, life is too short to settle decisions on places. It’s only good when you have someone to go through life together, it’s saddest when you ain’t got memories with someone you love to look back on when you are jacked down six feet under,” he chuckled while bidding good-bye to me. I watched both of them slowly pushed the cart towards their old Ford, all the time their wrinkled hands were clutching ever so tightly together.
A year later I went back to Malaysia out of God’s plan and decided to run the love marathon with Daddy Joe and enjoyed the same conversation, coffee preference (mocha, with cream when both of us are not too fat, and shared), favourite food to even two happiest little kids together and never looked back since.
And old Lens was right, all the differences and distances did pass.