36 – Better This Way

As she prepares to send Grissom a video message after more than a month’s silence, Sara pauses to reflect on their life together.

Just prior to episode 905, “Leave Out All the Rest,” circa November 2008

*******

The day with all its attendant chaos has mostly come and gone now. Although it seems that the hour right before dinner always brings with it a measure of peace and calmness. At least on the days when I am not on kitchen duty.

You would be proud of me. I haven’t managed to burn down the ship or poison the rest of the crew in the last couple of weeks. I guess all those lessons on The Chemistry of Cooking you used to give me are coming in handy.

It is cooler here than I would have thought, being this close to the equator, but after the heat of Vegas, most places would probably seem that way. The coolness in the wind and persistence of fog in the morning often remind me of San Francisco. But that is where the likeness begins and ends.

So often these days I find myself echoing Miranda’s words: O brave new world… Except this one is not peopled, but populated by all the wonders I could never have even imagined.

It is beyond amazing. I wish I could send you the rumbling growl of the surf, the warmth of the sun bright and brilliant on my face, the tangy smell of salt in the air, the luminescence of a night lit only by the moon and stars, the quiet of being here so far away from the rest of the world.

I wish you were here; that you had come.

For you would love it here, perhaps even more than I do.

True, the work isn’t easy and the days can be long, but neither of those things is really new to either of us. And the physical fatigue seems to produce more nights of heavy, dreamless sleep than anything else. It is good, too, for once to have dinner conversations about the day’s work that have nothing to do with death and everything to do about life and living.

Yes, I wish you had come.

For I can remember that wonder-filled and awestruck look you used to get when you and I would on too rare occasion flee from the bright lights of Vegas to find refuge beneath the great expanse of sky far outside the city limits.

Here, the night is almost alive with stars. What it would be like to be able to watch them all wink into existence with you until there are too many for our eyes to count or minds to measure?

You once told me that humankind had done itself a great disservice in managing to somehow turn off all the stars and I realize here and now just how true that assertion really is.

Unsurprisingly, you are never far from my thoughts, even though now we are far apart with more than just miles and ocean and life separating us.

I guess I never could stop loving you. No matter what. Although when I try to figure out when and why and how I fell in love with you, I can’t. Nor why I still stay that way even now. All I know is it wasn’t just one thing or one moment. It was a collection of a million little things that all seemed to tug at my heart in spite and despite of our insecurities and fears, and most of all, our good and best of intentions.

While I suppose you were and have been the cause of some tears over the years, you were also a comfort, too. For I found with you that home wasn’t just a word or some abstract concept I never quite could seem to grasp before.

It didn’t matter if it was your place or mine. Alone with you, I felt at home.

The simplest of things were what made it so. The hours spent in companionable silence with the two of us with our noses pressed into books, or more often journals for me, and crosswords for you. The afternoons where I would fall asleep with you on the sofa as we watched the old movies you loved and my slighter newer favorites that you patiently tolerated. The quiet comfort in those times when the work just got to be too much and there was just nothing that could be said to wipe that horror away, so we were just there with each other.

You know for a man who always seemed so guarded when it comes to physical contact, you proved rather adept at it. I can remember often waking to the warmth of your touch on my skin as your hand rested casually, yet seemingly protectively on my hip. And what it was like to snuggle closer to you and how hard it was to not sigh with contentment, for it felt then like I had always been there, safe and warm in your arms, and I no longer needed to feel afraid or alone.

The sound of my name being called brings me back to the here and now. Michel, a third-year grad student from UCLA with all the exuberance and energy that is so strongly reminiscent of a not quite so grown up Greg, is asking if I am coming to join everyone for the usual pre-dinner meet up for the night. I tell him that I will be there in a little while as there is something I need to do first as we will not be in port for much longer.

Something I probably should have done a long time ago.

I return somewhat reluctantly I find, to the cabin that I have been calling my own for the past few weeks. It is, I admit, a little cramped, but cozy in its own way. And I am able to have some of my pictures up, so it isn’t quite as sterile and impersonal a space as my old locker used to be.

Not surprisingly, the same photograph catches my eye, the one that was taken not long after we first met in that seminar of yours.

I have to confess that you were a lot different than I expected you to be, not as stiff or dull as I had been forewarned or feared. Even if there had been the whole bugman thing that certainly struck me as strange, at least then.

Instead, you were far more approachable than most doctors I knew, of the medical variety or no. When you spoke, it was with all the enthusiasm of a person who knew his subject intimately and felt passionate about it. You were obviously fascinated with the science behind the forensics and what that science could really do, and that fascination proved more than a little contagious in and of itself that day.

I have to resist the urge to take that photo down and rub my thumb over its surface, as if in doing so, I could somehow be transported back to that day it was taken.

We were so young then, you and I. Or so it seems so now.

How long has it been? Ten years, more than ten years now. Back then I think we still both believed that science could and would solve everything. I guess we both had to learn how naive we really were the hard way.

I take a deep breath; steel myself for what I know I have to do. But then my gaze comes to rest on an old and battered copy of Melville’s The Encantadas that I picked up last year in a used bookstore in San Francisco. At the time, I had remembered with a fondness perhaps a little bit too close to nostalgia, the poetic prose descriptions from Moby Dick and couldn’t help but make this volume part of my current rather meager book collection. It seemed to be the most appropriate place to keep that one letter from you safe.

I’m not sure you even knew or know that I have it, that letter you wrote while you were away, but never sent.

And perhaps I shouldn’t have been quite so curious, but it was just lying there between the pages of The Complete Works of Shakespeare I had bought you for Christmas the year before.

Even then the envelope was a little worn and wrinkled. There was a smudge where you had begun to address it, but for some reason stopped.

I have to admit, its contents were unexpected to say the least.

I can’t ever really recall getting a love letter before. I knew guys used to pass girls notes in junior high, but I was never on the receiving end of them.

Honestly, I had never really thought you the type, although perhaps I should have. True, you could quote Shakespeare and Wilde and Poe and so many others better than anyone I have ever known, though usually for far different purposes.

And it wasn’t as if I had never received messages from you before. The occasional emails we exchanged after we first met, though, were more of the polite professionally encouraging variety than anything, a little reserved, but still friendly.

This was different.

Good ink on good paper, with your script far more fluid than the one you habitually use for official use, it had the unstudied sort of elegance of something carefully and perhaps a little shyly composed to it.

I don’t have to even open it again to see this. I suppose that time has given it and what you wrote there an unforgettable quality. I do remember smiling at the rather unabashed honesty of your first few lines. It had been heartening to know that you, too, had felt that those last few minutes in the locker room had bourn more than a little awkwardness with them. But it had been the admission that you, the one person I always thought always knew just the right thing to say, didn’t always, that made my heart ache.

The sonnet had proved perfect, too. One I didn’t initially recognize. One that hadn’t quite seemed to have grown trite with overuse like some of Shakespeare’s more familiar poems.

I admit that I had to puzzle over it for bit, not being as adept at translating Early Modern as you are.

Strange how even then, after we had been together for almost two years, that I still sometimes forgot that you didn’t always just live in your head.

I remember folding that letter carefully back up again and replacing it in the envelope, but not back within the pages I had found it in, and after a few moments, getting to my feet, slipping out of the bedroom and into the hall, before pausing to stop at the doorway to your office. I think I meant to ask you why you had never sent it, that letter.

But while Hank’s head perked up at my presence, you were lost, seemingly absorbed in your latest project. And I couldn’t help but smile what I suppose was wistful sort of smile, as I tried to come to terms with the fact that the you who had written such a passionate letter was the same one who was so much more comfortable living and breathing and being amongst the cold and lifeless details of life.

I didn’t interrupt you then. I didn’t ask. And in all the ensuing weeks and chaos, there hadn’t been a time or place to ask you why. Why you had never sent it. But I treasured and kept it all the same.

Right now, I guess I want after all this time, to send you something more than just ink and paper or keystrokes. I wish we could talk, you and I. Really talk, but this will have to do. And I have to do it soon, as we are leaving port tomorrow evening and this will be one of the few chances I will have anytime in the near future of posting you a message, even if only on-line.

I suppose, practicality aside, it has taken me this long because I wasn’t sure what to say, or I guess I couldn’t trust myself not to say the wrong thing. I didn’t want, I don’t want, to speak out in anger or hurt like I did that last time in your office. I want to give you more than that, better than that.

You know it was a whole lot easier to stay upset with you before we had gotten together. Afterwards, not so much.

But I couldn’t just wait around for you to make a decision, for you to decide.

If the last few years have taught me anything, it is that life is so terribly short. And I guess I knew that if I didn’t do this now, if I didn’t go, I never would.

That this was my one chance.

If only it were as simple as believing, as holding onto each other until we can somehow make it through this. But it’s not.

For so long, I kept telling myself that in the end, it will all have been worth it; that everything that’s happened isn’t for nothing. That it will all be okay.

That afternoon, that last one I had alone with you, I so wanted to say, Just say the words. For you to just say the words, any words, anything at all, and I would have believe them.

But the truth is that here and now, for the first time in a long time, I am not living within the hurt and depression and pain of the past, nor within the realm of anxiety that dwelling so much in the future brings. I am living here and now, in this one moment. Living — breathing — being. You don’t know how amazing that really feels.

I want…

Why is it so hard for both of us to communicate something as simple as that?

I want…

I’m not entirely sure I even know what you want anymore. What you were really trying to tell me in your office.

What is more than just knowing you’re not alone?

Why couldn’t I just say as I laid there with you right before I had to go, why I had to go? Why I just couldn’t stay. That it wasn’t you, or even me, or us, but just all the overwhelming breathlessness of Vegas. How that place just seemed to wear me down until it became too hard to see the good anymore.

Why couldn’t I just tell you that I wanted to get you away from there before that faint light I could still glimpse in your eyes goes out?

I had to go. I had to do it. Just like I have to do this now. It’s better this way. It is.

Better to give you what you seem to want or need right now: time and space and the chance to walk away.

Even if I really don’t want you to.

But I don’t want you to have to worry anymore. Not about me.

I take a deep breath in vain hopes of dispelling at least a little of my nerves. I tell myself I can do this before arranging my face into a smile.

Breathe.

I can do this. I have to do this.

It is better this way. It is.

I click the record button and begin.

Greetings from below the equator.

*******

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