I had been waiting for almost 10 minutes, which seemed like an eternity, before I spotted the two lights making their way, cautiously, towards me. The headlights on the 23. From under a series of hovering traffic lights, each flashing the same orange light urging caution, the 23, the San Rafael city bus, lumbered along before grounding to a halt in front of me. Bathed in the fluorescent, it's belly looked like a warm cocoon, the kind of warmth that only a line of tungstens can produce.
I trudged forward. But, suddenly stopped and froze mid-stride.
It was him. John. Standing there, stalled on the last step, with the same stunned look on his face. He remained standing there, in front of me, as an apparition, a shadow, that came back to life having resurrecting itself from the coffins of my memories.
All those memories, the ones that I had erased, the ones from another lifetime, came flooding back in an instant. I remembered our picture-perfect life together, the life that we had had and the love we had shared. I, also, remembered Nathan, our son, whom we had named after my grandmother, Nancy, and his grandfather, Ethan. And, as much as I wished it didn't, the painful memory of that instant, that of the quake the shook us to our core, as well as its aftermath, came haunting back. There was nothing I could do.
"Marianna", he called my name.
The sound felt as if it came from a million miles away and a time thousand eons ago. Yet, it enveloped me; it secured me; it warmed me. That voice made the cold around me dissipate; it made my heart blossom the way it had always done.
I remembered that it had been more than eight years since we parted, full of anguish and pain, heartaches and tears. As my eyes settled on him, I saw that the time apart had given him a bit of gray along his temples and a bit of dark under his eyes. A week old beard, something that I had never seen him sport in our twelve years of marriage, hugged his face.
I stood transfixed in my spot, gazing into his being while his stare made its way into my soul. We stood there, acknowledging each other, till a tear formed in his eye and a lump in my throat.
Seeing him there, as lost as I was, I felt a glimmer of hope in my heart, the hope that we could finally move past the thoughts of "if only, if only, if only", the thoughts that had started after the actions of a madman had taken Nathan away from us, the thoughts that had echoed throughout the last years of our marriage, the thoughts that had failed to provide answers, the thoughts that had denied us the strength to forgive ourselves.
The glimmer whispered that perhaps, just perhaps, it's time that we let ourselves heal and find a way to love each other again.