And that was that. Tucker was gone, and John needed to decide who should live, he or Mary. What a choice, what an impossible choice. If throughout this adventure, John had ever believed that Tucker really was God, he had lost that belief right here, right now, because even though he had thought some awful things about God when Mary had been taken from him, this was something even he wouldn’t do. It was too hard, too cold.
As John walked home, he finally had time to process. Over the past weeks he had been so busy with Mary, her problems, the wall, Henry, that he hadn’t had a single moment to reflect. Walking through the park, he remembered how much had happened in such little time. Tucker showing up, the dinner, the dance, the accident in the park, meeting Mary and then discovering her world.
But he didn’t just remember Mary. He also remembered how he had felt before Tucker had shown up, and how much more different the world seemed now. It was the same place, he felt the same pain, but it wasn’t on the surface anymore. As if the rollercoaster of events and emotion he had been put through over the past couple of weeks had drained his energy, the power supply to his defense system, allowing him to get to the core of what was bothering him.
It was when John went through this cycle of emotions and memories, that the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. Because the thing that had hurt him the most, wasn’t the fact that Mary had died, it was the way she died. The suddenness of it. John had been ill-prepared, and he had been robbed of the chance to make the right decision. And that was why he was given that chance now. The chance to choose his own destiny, to take control – because he felt what had happened was unfair, so he was given a chance to set the record straight. Not a second chance; a first one.
The question that kept him occupied however was whether he could do it or not? Could he consciously choose Mary’s life over his own? A couple of weeks ago, the answer would have been very clear. Tucker had asked him whether he wanted to die, and his answer had been now. Had Tucker asked him whether he wanted to live however, his answer would have been negative as well. And that was exactly what had changed. His ability to save Mary, to overcome these challenges. His rendezvous with Mrs. Simpson, meeting Liz and Henry, and the amazing things that happened next. It added color to his world, it had thawed his heart and revived his will to live. John realized that he still mattered, he still had more than enough reason to be here.
It was a fact that John wasn’t the man he used to be, but to choose his life over Mary’s? It would be like saying that his life mattered more than hers now, and that was far from how he felt. She had so much to live for, even if she didn’t realize it. He remembered their visit to the funeral, where Mary had a breakdown, and they had both hugged the same tree. He remembered the hours he watched her sitting in her chair, the trips she made to the store, and the heart breaking episode with her breaking the kitchenware, and how helpless he had once again felt. No matter how often he had seen it happen, it never got easier to see her suffer.
“Suffer!” the thought hit him like a jackhammer, that woke him up instantly. ‘That’s what Tucker meant!’ he almost said out loud, because he had just realized something that he had not wanted to see before. From the second John had seen Mary at the store, she had been unhappy. Miserable. Even when he had helped solve her problems, he had still been unable to cheer her up. She was a mess, an emotional wreck, much like John had been before all of this happened. The second he allowed this thought in his mind, he felt a shortness of breath come up that reminded him of how he had been feeling for all those years. The desperation, the lack of energy to drag himself from one day to another, the unbearable pain that just wouldn’t go away. He hadn’t been feeling much of that lately, but he instantly remembered how it felt.
And he knew that, even though life was looking up right now, this too was just a phase. He had been busy living his live, socializing even, but he knew, that the second he came home, and had to eat his first dinner without Mary – because that was one game he just couldn’t play anymore – those feelings would return. Maybe not as intense as before, and they wouldn’t last all day, but he knew there would be pain. John wasn’t done suffering yet, and although he realized that, with the progress he made, the feeling would now slowly grow less intense, he still had a long way to go.
He now realized that the question Tucker had asked him was difficult, but not inhumane. The question was not who John was willing to let die, but on whom he was willing to inflict the pain of surviving. He had seen how Mary had responded to his death and, despite all good things John thought about Mary, there wasn’t much left of the woman he was once married to. He had told Tucker that her death was unfair, because she had been wonderful long before she met John, and would be wonderful until long after his death. But that Mary was gone. Suddenly an image of Liz and Henry flashed through his mind, of how sweet they were to each other, how thoughtful and how much they loved each other. And he understood. He understood that although Mary had been wonderful all along, when they had fallen in love, their hearts had become one. Take away one, break the other. You can’t take out half of the ingredients, you can only pour out half the soup. It’s irreversible.
John was almost home, but he accelerated, because he knew what he needed to do. Once inside, he walked over to the comfortable chair, where he had slept so many nights over the past couple of weeks. He reached behind the cushion and grabbed something from behind it. Then he went to the kitchen, grabbed an item from the cabinet and wanted to leave. He didn’t pay enough attention however, and the cabinet door that had been hanging from one hinge all of those years, came off and fell onto the ground. John could just prevent it from landing on his toes. He wasn’t sure what to think of it, whether it was his carelessness, or a sign. He decided however that it wasn’t important now.
He went outside and closed the door behind him. He looked around to see if nobody was watching. John needed his privacy, but fortunately, it was much too late for people to be out. “Mary, my sweet girl” John said, and it only took these two words to make his eyes misty, as her name had always done ever since she died. “I don’t know if you can hear me, or perhaps even see me the way I have seen you. If you can, if you have, I would like to tell you I’m sorry. John paused, as he could feel tears run across his cheek, and although nobody was listening, he wanted to say what he had to say loud and clear. “When you died” he continued, I gave up. I blamed the doctors, I blamed God, I blamed the world. It wasn’t fair. And I still think it’s not fair. What we had was so beautiful, and losing that was unbearable. It still is. I have been given a choice Mary. They want me to choose you or me. I thought it was an impossible choice to make, things have changed so much. And I miss you. God I can’t start to explain how much I miss you, girl. Half of me is missing, and I will never be complete again. That pain is unbearable and although it may get better, it will never go away.
“So” John said, his face now covered in tears, and his voice breaking up. He took a deep breath. “I love you, I’ll never forget you. I’m choosing you!”
The tears became too much to ignore, and John had to take a moment to give in to it. He buried his face in his hands, and he cried. But this time, he wasn’t just crying tears of grief. There was sadness, relief and even a hint of happiness, and they all wanted to come out simultaneously.
It took John a few minutes before he could continue. “I’m choosing you, because I love you. If you have been able to watch me the way I have been able to watch you, I have caused you so much grief. I should have fought. I shouldn’t have given up. I should have shown the strength to live my life to the fullest, to honor your life, in stead of mourning it to waste. I know how much that must have hurt you, because I know how much it hurt me seeing you like that. I don’t want you to suffer my love, I don’t want you to be in pain. I want you to rest in peace, until the day we meet again. You have given me so much in life, let me now give you this, let me suffer for you”.
Then, John reached inside his pocket and took out what he had just gotten from the chair, it was a piece of paper, the small portion of Mary’s letter he had been able to save. In his other hand, he had a lighter. He lit the piece of paper, and let go of it just before the fire reached his hand. As he watched the flame go up in the air, he blew a kiss towards it. “I’m letting you go girl, take care”. He wanted to watch the burning love until it had completely disappeared, but he couldn’t. Overtaken by emotions, he collapsed, crying heartbreaking tears, no longer caring whether someone could hear it or not.