I’ve just walked around the pool and I’m heading toward the entrance. In the dim light I pass a woman who is dabbing her eyes. I continue to walk – and yet, after a few steps I stop. I turn around. The woman is now seated in the dark shadows around the fountain. I walk toward her and I see in the half light from the pool area that she is indeed crying. I walk up to her and ask her what’s wrong. I don’t why. Perhaps I am older now. Or I recognise something in her. She doesn’t speak English but she is sobbing now and I feel overwhelmed by her genuine pain; the curtains are open, the stage is set but there’s no acting here. This is as human as human can be: when you laugh, when you cry. No pretence. I am overcome with an instinct to touch her, to try to relieve her of… something. I find myself rubbing my hand up and down her back; this stranger’s back. She is speaking softly in Spanish. I try my best to understand. She is wiping the tears from her face. Then she points to a photo on her phone – a handsome young man – who I assume is her son. She points to the heavens above her and her face breaks again. I bend down, lean forward and wrap my arms around her and hug her. This is the only thing I know how to do, the only way I know how to help, however useless it may be. I struggle for what to say.
‘He is beautiful, he is beautiful,’ I whisper but she doesn’t understand.
Drowned by a grief I cannot understand, she leaves her arms at her side but limply rests her head on my shoulder as the tears stream silently down her face. Eventually I leave her at the fountain for fear that my presence is interfering with her grief.
But after a moment I consider returning – perhaps I should sit with her – perhaps being with another human being will help somehow. I fetch my phone from my room and translate from English into Spanish: ‘Siento mucho su pérdida’ but when I return; the fountain is empty and she is gone.
And somehow I knew it would be so – because the moment has passed – these moments in one’s life when God cuts open a stranger in front of you.
‘Siento mucho su pérdida. El es hermoso. El es hermoso.’