As the two left, he watched from a distance the lengthening of their shadows, up until it had stretched too far from the horizon that it faded completely. He looked at their hands as they walked away, and how firmly they held one another, like a steel chain anchoring a giant ship. For if there was any thing to describe what they had, it was giant in oneness, in its excellence to maintain affections without coming to the steep cliff of co-dependence, it was buoyant to withstand the harshest of storms, the cruelest of rusts.
He bit his lip in contemplation and wondered how soon before he found an anchor. The mood was heavy despite the lightness of where he stood. Beside the ancient bay, citizens of the old city breezily choked their emotions, as winds from the South China Sea salted their nostrils and freshened their lungs. He was on his own once more, never a surprise to conscience but almost always, an insult to his age. Given the scenic nature of his location, there was nothing left to do but to preserve larger allowances of his thoughts for queries.
When was he to walk away into the unknown with someone? When was he going to taste the electrifying prospect of belonging to someone, not in any material sense, not in the prisoned status of possession, and of course, not in presenting himself as an object to be owned? When was he expected to taste the nuanced flavor of a kiss, for another man to bruise his own, and carefully maneuver his tongue not in disgust, or lies, but in intimate reflections of two bodies? When was he to acquire a sense of hope against the inhospitable surroundings of detachment, an optimism brought about by a new being he had to be generous with? When was he to be pained, and broken, to argue with persistence, to deny self, and bring peace with experience? All these inquiries followed him, in striking ideas applied by what he saw, and in quiet stabs of pain which he felt literally in his heart.
How would he react to the first time? By nature, he had always been a good man who forwarded his genuine sympathies to others, and who kept firm notes about society, allowing him to be steadfast in his decisions yet reasonable even in doubts. But he had been left behind. Of course, he convinced himself it wasn’t by his own faults. This, despite having set up standards which by his prejudice, and by the facts of other prejudices, were never idealistic. He wanted only goodness. He wanted only a warm heart who would be gentle, and kind to his dispositions. No, never did he demand for an Adonis, nor did he shut the possibility of falling for a different race, or even faithfully to a lady. He was as open as anyone who needed to be loved could be: wide in the entrances to his heart, and narrow in his desires to commission tendencies. What else was to be adjusted?
Faith? Why surely! He had become unhappy with the prejudices of religion. But he was not too keen on opposing his own, because above anything else, there was still God, beyond the walls of concept, to love, to adore, and to ask pardon from. He was comfort. He was all. How could he discourage himself from praying? Prayer was love to him, the only love he knew. Nevertheless, even prayer had nothing to distinguish itself from his other loves, as it too, was never reciprocated, never responded by the God he loved in hiding, never rejoiced by blessings or fathomable acts of the Dei.
When was he to embrace a fellow man, to go on about distraught in morning farewells? How was he going to feel; what was he going to feel, when he had been approved worthy, and taken in not out of mercy, but with truth, the unyielding power, and the metaphysical grandeur of truth. That he was to be loved out of true-ness was the simplest of requests. When was it going to happen? Ten? Twenty? Thirty years from now when he had survived the judgement of a scrupulous society? How was God going to look at him? Was he going to convince this unearthly Being that he was right? Or was it a gamble which hardly offered compensation, for his sins had outweighed his lack of vices?
They were gone, the couple. No trace of them remained to remind the young man it was possible for strangers to be lovers. There was only the wind, and the crowd, and the Saturday commotions of the bay walk. He imagined ferociously, a man behind him, free from fear of judgement, free from fear of God, enveloping his body. He imagined the man’s head, slowly nearing to his, approaching reddened ears, as they both faced what was now an inevitable sunset. He imagined him, whispering words, that for all his creativity and daydreaming, were indecipherable. But he could hear the wind, whipping their facades, streaming through their hair, caressing them with the health of the oceans beyond. Perhaps, there were people on the other side like him, like them, who would also look at the endlessness of the sea, and be energized by its seeming infinity.
And he would reach for the arms which steadied him, feel his partner’s hair, and press the skin which bound them to the insides. It would be real. It would be warm. It would be true. And he would take up in silence, a short prayer, thanking God and asking for pardon, hoping He would understand, only because He ought to understand as God, that he needed to be loved, he needed to be watched over, as he watched over the seas. He would be intimate in his gratitude, and be even more so with his apologies. Just once, he would repeat, muttering under his breath, for he had not committed any other sin - murder, infidelity, theft - to be thrown to the passionate flames of hell, or to deserve God’s contempt. He simply loved, something so many had failed to do but had been forgiven, something so many had sought but were misled somewhere else.
The man behind him would touch his ear, and rest his head on his bony shoulder, never minding the discomfort of lowering his height, to reach for a moment beside the sea. As the auburn glow returned to her sleep beneath the horizon, so too did he, to a reality which posed once more, the greatest difficulties of a man: love.