I had always considered myself a classic bachelor; always doing what I wanted, when I wanted, convinced that I would never settle down. Every woman I met, no matter how beautiful or fun, was never going to get through my defenses. At 34, I was well on my way to staying single forever.
Sophia changed that. Within the span of a month, she had captured me, heart, mind, and soul. Yes, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, but she affected me so deeply, and that was something very alien to me.
I met Sophia on the bus, on my way to work. Amongst all the zombie commuters, she stood out. She sat at the back of the bus reading a book—thick, and with actual pages. She looked up from her reading, saw me, and smiled. That smile, so surreal, but at the same time so real, made my knees tremble. She scooted over in her seat, closed her book, and I sat beside her.
We exchanged a few words, and I made her laugh. We quickly agreed to meet for coffee that same day. I remember how time seemed to slow down, how I could only concentrate on the shape of her smile, the clarity of those blue eyes, and how her voice banished all my cares.
That same weekend, she asked me to stay over, and I agreed. Ever since I could remember, I had never known peaceful sleep. I could spend entire nights entangling myself within my covers; nightmares had denied me real rest for most of my teenage and adult life. That night, nestled inside her silky covers, Sophia had offered to read me parts of the book she had been reading on the bus. I don’t remember what it was she had read, since it was in a language I didn’t understand, Italian maybe, but the fluidity of it had me drifting off to sleep very quickly.
I had no dreams that night. The next morning, it felt like I was clawing my way back to consciousness; as if I had slept so well for the first time in so long that my body and mind were simply refusing to give that feeling up. Sophia looked at me with a smile. “It’s about time, sleepyhead. It’s almost noon,” she said.
The following weeks blended together as I went in to work, met Sophia every chance I got and saw less and less of my apartment. Sophia appeared happy to cook our meals, read me poetry, and wake me after I overslept, which seemed to be most days.
After that first month, Sophia asked if I wanted to meet her grandfather. She explained that he was her only living relative and that she wanted to introduce us. I agreed, and we took her car to a secluded retirement home forty-five minutes away.
The air in the place smelled of antiseptic and old people, but I didn’t care. I held Sophia’s hand as she guided me to the common area, where an old man sat in a rocking chair. The shell of a man he must have been many years ago, her grandfather stared ahead and barely seemed to notice us. When Sophia knelt down to his level, he smiled and drooled as his head bobbed up and down.
“Pappy,” she said. “This is Evan. I was hoping you could give us your blessing.”
I wasn’t sure what was happening until she looked at me and held the small box towards me. The ring glittered against the dark velvet inside the box.
Her grandfather mumbled something I did not understand, and Sophia smiled. She looked at me and waited a moment as she listened to her grandfather’s mumbled words. “Well?” she asked me.
I took the box from her hands, took the ring out, and looked over at Sophia and her grandfather. She still smiled; his cheeks were moist with tears. I knelt beside her and heard her grandfather mumble again. “I missed that, sorry,” I said.
I leaned in and smiled as I finally heard his words: “Love her very much.”
The wedding was at the courthouse, and we had a city employee as the witness. We spent the week up North in a spa a few hours from her apartment. I got rid of my apartment and moved into hers since it was big enough for the both of us.
Time blurred again. I was sleeping dreamlessly. Everything felt perfect, even work, which had always felt like a burden, had become part of the blur. It was a strange sensation feeling this close to heaven.
I hardly noticed the aches and pains and couldn’t remember when they began. At first, it was a pain in this muscle or that. It was strange to feel the intense pain of a tennis elbow when I had not worked out in weeks. I dismissed everything like a junkie refusing to admit reality was even a thing.
I grew concerned when I looked in the mirror one morning and felt pain as I brushed my teeth. My bleeding gums troubled me a moment, but I felt that invading numbness try to take over and shook it off. I stared at my reflection and cringed. When did I grow so old? I probed my teeth and quickly withdrew when they bent sideways and clattered into the sink.
“Honey? Are you okay?” Sophia asked from behind me. I hadn’t seen her come into the bathroom. I turned to her and could not help but smile, that familiar numbness creeping over me again.
“I’m fine,” I said. “You’re so beautiful. What’s your secret?”
She held a finger to her lips. “I’ll never tell,” she said.
“Can you read to me again?” I asked. “I think I need to sleep.”
I tried to claw my way back to consciousness. It took everything I had just to open my eyes. I could smell antiseptic and old people. My vision blurred as light tried to pierce my brain. Then I heard Sophia’s voice.
“Pappy,” she said, “this is Morgan. I was hoping you could give us your blessing.”
A young man stood behind Sophia, staring at me uncomfortably. I looked into Sophia’s eyes and could only smile. She was so beautiful. She held a box toward Morgan and the ring glittered against the black velvet interior. The man knelt beside me and leaned in. I had spoken but couldn’t remember what I had said. Then I remembered what that old man had once whispered in my ear, and I repeated the same words.
“Help me. I love her so much.”
Stephane Moisan is a student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He has been happily married (to the same woman) for the past 25 years and is the father of two teenagers. He enjoys reading and writing, as well as spending time with his family.