Honey Ko, Book 2, Chapter 11, Part 2

I clenched my jaw until it ached to hold back the tears. Susanna’s soul had spoken to me, had wrapped around my heart, and lifted away my carnal love for her. She had spoken; she could not love me the way a woman can love only one man.

I had to accept that. I had to grasp that bond and let it wrap around my heart to replace the love I could not have. The unearthly, invisible web that she cast over me remained, for Susanna’s spell never left a man but for the hollow void in that part of the heart that loves a woman. Time and again, I wondered if she were an angel sent to live among man to show him the true meaning of love.

I loved her too, Sam.

I know you did, Frank.

I see some of her in Marie.

I hope Marie brings you the love you wanted from Susanna, Frank.

You knew?


Susanna told you?


How did you know?

The way you acted around her.

Was I that obvious? Did I act foolish, like a boy in love?

No. Not like that, but the way a man acts when he hopes a woman will love him. You pined for her. After a while, though, something changed. I noticed it when I returned from the Azores. You spent your free time with us again. But your tenderness toward each other was remarkable. Like that of a divorced couple who hold out hope for reconciliation.

That came after she told me she could love only you. She came to me while you were away and told me she needed me, but as a brother. Susanna knew I was in love with her.

Yes. I thought she must have.

I wanted her to cheat on you, Sam. I would have taken her away from you.

I couldn’t meet Sam’s eyes. I’m sorry, Sam.

 There’s nothing to be sorry for, Frank. We both loved a woman whose love was not of this world. You can’t be sorry for that.

Do you think she knew how special her love was?

Yes. She told me once that men seemed to need her, and it made her uncomfortable. She sometimes felt like a messenger come to bring comfort to those who were sad.

But you weren’t sad, were you, Sam?

No, Frank. It was different with me. Our love was meant to show others the meaning of love, the indescribable love, the love that binds a man and woman for eternity. Few people find that love, Frank. The selfish never find it.

I envied Sam the memory of that love.

No, Frank. I’ll never love again. No woman could replace Susanna’s and the love we shared. Companionship is all that’s left for me, and I don’t want a companion whose love I can’t return.

He wiped his eyes at the memories. It was hard watching him as he remembered and suffered. I often wondered if this were only grief but banished the thought; I’d seen people grieve for a while, then set it aside, place the memories on the bookshelf, take a deep breath, and go on living for the future. In a way, I felt sorry for Sam. Susanna had been his future, his sunrise, his good morning kiss, but her death had pulled the past, like a blanket, over his head.

Then I felt her; Susanna’s presence was strong. I could smell the orange blossoms she loved to wear in her hair. Maybe that’s why she fixed me up with her friends.

Sam laughed. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Susanna’s attempts to fix me up with her girlfriends invariably failed and left her perplexed and exasperated. Only one had lasted longer than six months, ending when my ship sailed for the western Pacific. I could never seem to find the kind of love Sam and Susanna had shared. Their love was special, a mutual giving and receiving, a respect for each other’s feelings, and a concern for the other’s well-being. They loved without expectation of a return of their love. Theirs was the rarest kind of love.

Women always left after growing impatient with my reserve – one girlfriend called it my unnerving dispassion – or we drifted apart. Solitude never bothered me though. If women don’t like my company because I don’t talk much, that’s their problem. I’m not going to change for someone else when I’m happy in my own skin.

I pursed my lips and rubbed a hand over my stubble. I might change for Marie, though.

Susanna would have liked that. She would have taken credit for your change of heart.

Wouldn’t she, though? I was afraid to face her after a breakup. She worked so hard to find dates for me, I felt bad for her when nothing happened.

She couldn’t figure out what she was doing wrong. She thought she knew what kind of woman you liked

That was the problem. I wanted a woman like Susanna, but she was the only one, and she was yours.

Susanna wasn’t mine, Frank. I didn’t own her.

I’m sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean it that way. I only meant that you and Susanna had each other.

We had each other, yes, but even that doesn’t describe what we had. We didn’t choose each other, Frank. We found each other. It’s hard to explain.

The Sam of a few minutes before changed. He leaned forward, staring into the distance, his thoughts far away. He clasped his hands, and he trembled.

There could only be one Susanna, Frank. My life began when I found her.

He paused to collect his thoughts, pored over memories, touched her again. An inexplicable feeling overwhelmed me when I met Susanna. That first time when I saw her from half a block away. As I drew nearer, a feeling of warmth and familiarity enveloped me like a second skin. My heart skipped. It skipped, Frank, and I felt a burn in my gut. It was intense, like in a dream when you love a woman and the joy you feel is so incredibly intense that your heart feels like it’s going to burst.

Sam was in the moment, almost as if he were back in Spain and seeing Susanna for the first time.

When you dream, there are no outside forces competing for your attention, Frank, nothing to dull the effect of the emotions. When you’re sad in a dream, it’s the most intense sadness possible. When you’re happy, it’s the most intense happiness possible. Dream emotions are pure, unadulterated, undiluted. They are the form, the definition, the substance, the being, the universal truth of the emotions we experience less deeply when we are awake. The love you feel for a woman while you’re dreaming is the purest, most complete, most fulfilling love there is. Do you know why that is, Frank?

No, Sam.

Because in your dream, Frank, you give the woman your undivided attention. She is the sole object of your dream. The same thing occurs when you’re infatuated with a woman. She is the sole object of your life. You give her your complete attention. You give up self for the one you love. That’s the key to love, Frank.

I understood then the bond between Sam and Susanna. The infatuation that gave way to passion that should have given way to companionship. But Susanna died before they could move on. Sam’s grief would never leave him. He was stuck in a love that had never moved past passion, that restless phase of the process that defines human love. He would never move past passion and into companionship because Susanna had died during the ultimate expression of passion: the birth of their son.

When I met Susanna that day, I knew we were destined to be together. There was no doubt in my mind. The thought that we were not never occurred. It was a universal truth, an absolute, an a priori fact. Water seeks its own level, fire burns, gravity is, we were destined to marry. It just was.

Sam’s faced glowed with the rapture of memory, and I knew Susanna was with him.

When our eyes met, the deepest, most intense dreamlike feeling of joy and happiness, fulfillment, and inevitability came over me. It nearly brought me to tears. My knees were shaking and my face drawn, and my gut burned, Frank. My gut burned. When we reached for the same apple in the vendor’s cart, our hands touched, we looked at each other, and I saw it in her eyes, Frank, it was in her eyes. She knew it too. She knew it too.

Sam shook his head. The plaintive wail that burst from his lips echoed the grief of a broken heart.

Oh, God, I miss you, Susanna.

I laid my hand on Sam’s shoulder. I understood his grief but couldn’t feel what he felt. I had not suffered the loss Sam had suffered. I wanted to feel the love Sam and Susanna had shared, the love that connected them still, the love that had bound them from birth. Someday, perhaps, I would find a love that special, my own wished-for love.

Mama-san was used to crying drunks, but Sam wasn’t drunk. She approached us and asked if Sam were okay.

Yes, ma’am. He’ll be all right. We’re leaving for the base now.

I asked Sam if he needed anything.

No, Frank. I’m okay. Let’s go.

Later, I lay in bed, hands behind my head, my shadow cast onto the wall next to me by the glow of the bedside lamp. The shadow did not reveal my smile as I lay thinking about my encounter with Marie. Our fingers had touched too. I had touched Marie for only a moment, but it sent a thrill through my body. I had nearly dropped the bottle of beer. The beauty in the curve of Marie’s neck, the glow in her face when she smiled, the way her eyes flashed in anger had made my heart race. Was this how it had been with Sam and Susanna? Perhaps. However, I hadn’t felt born in love with Marie. That part of the magic had not occurred.

Love affected people in many ways; maybe the recipe differed for each person or couple. The first blush of love always appeared magical as, in Sam’s words, the couple gave each other their undivided attention. Infatuation had the same impact as love but died away, whereas love, real love, heartfelt love, blossomed, nurtured by the desire for companionship and the desire to please the other. Sam and Susanna had lived to please one another, not expecting anything in return but knowing the other would reciprocate the love and the gesture to please.

What would love with Marie be like? She had a quick temper, but so did I. She was passionate while I was easy going. Easily perturbed but slow to react, I had, nevertheless, managed to bloody many a nose in my naval career and had paid a hefty penalty in punishment.

My thoughts flew too far ahead. I wondered where Marie had grown up, where she had gone to school. Her life of privilege was evident. She had too much of the finishing school in her, along with a touch of debutante arrogance. What was she doing in a place like Olongapo? She would have fit better in Manila or Baguio. She carried none of the roughness of a woman who spent her youth working in bars, none of the provincial innocence of the small villages that made up most of the Philippines. Women like Marie had no notion of innocence and desperation; they lived lives of luxury and convenience and expected things delivered in neat bundles with pretty ribbons on them. Women like Marie used men like gym towels: nice soft cloths for wiping away sweat after a rousing bout of shopping for shoes. Not that Marie was superficial. Far from it. None of that mattered, though. I needed a woman like Marie after Vietnam. The cold chill returned. Vietnam. I didn’t want to go back. Not even to collect my belongings. I switched off the lamp and settled back into the soft, comfortable bed. I closed my eyes and fell fast asleep.

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