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On Absence

For Katrina
whose presence filled my days

She has left. The room is now empty of her beautiful clutter; the shopping bags I had carried for her, the endless vanity kits, the clothes I had admired, her expensive jewelry, and bits and pieces of a life that is happily but absurdly lived. A real woman who had graced and made a home in this simple space for a while has gone without a reminder or a token, anything to look at or possibly hold onto, nothing to keep.

I didn't take a photograph of her this time around whereas I went home two years ago with pictures I had treasured and would stare at all day. This year, I couldn't ask her to smile in front of my lens; I had been camera-shy. The camera can never take her in, or reduce her to a frozen frame, or try to capture her to an eternal moment. I do not know why but, without exaggerating, she is that kind of being whose presence is always sought for but always missed. I am not kidding (though I hope I am).

I knew the night that she arrived that it would be another difficult goodbye. It's funny how we are afraid to lose something that we do not even deserve to have in the first place. And so I knew the days would be bittersweet; that is why it was an absurd kind of happiness--feeling its reality in your very bones but knowing that this is all fleeting. Her arrival, with that overwhelming impact and mesmerizing first look, was just as sweet as her departure and her fumbling goodbyes. The days are unforgiving in their guiltless march and all we can do is to stretch the moments as long as possible.

I tried to keep distant yet present for I do not know the ways of a secret, hidden admiration when what it admires bridges the distance by going down from its lofty pedestal to present its immaculate face to you. These are the days when all that you have imagined or thought or dreamed of are shattered by the simple reality of a presence that regulates you to a distance and puts you in place. What you have hoped, desired or created in the autism of your mind is suddenly exposed to the white sun of her reality, and most of all, alterity. All it takes: a smile, an embrace, a word; and then you know. And then you realize that you are nothing compared to such a beautiful being. I am no match for the other who comes first. I always come too late. "Late have I loved thee."

She has left. Why do we always have to love a little just to leave or be left behind? The silence of her absence now resonates echoes of her presence. And it is music to my ears.


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