He didn't have much while he was here. He was living out of boxes. He wasn't working, he'd come to get away from work and to see this side of the world
, explore himself, live. He didn't have much money
. Every trivial
item that I'd throw away without a second thought, he found a use for. Sometimes it annoyed me. I liked sugar
in my tea
. He did not. He did like to make me happy though, so whenever we went to restaurants he'd secretly snatch a few packets of sugar and Equal
. Maybe it's a trait he inherited from his parents, who grew up in war-time Germany.
It's strange how you fall in love with people for the silliest of reasons. Love snuck up on me, sugar packet by sugar packet. I'd jump on him and tickle him while he howled like an animal. He'd scream, "Du Schwein!, and I'd fall just a little more.
Our months together passed all too quickly. He couldn't stay forever, he had to get back to his books and doctorate exam. In the end we both tried to pretend he wasn't leaving. When the final days came, we were snapped out of our reverie, and the pain of it all surprised us both. We'd lay, clutching each other, crying. Then we'd remember one of our misadventures and start to laugh, tears and giggles mingling, sweet and sour.
His departure was a mad rush of packing. He packed his things into his suitcases, garment bags, and trunks. I tried to help, but I was just getting in the way, so I lay in our bed. When he was done, there were three boxes for me. You'd be surprised how much stuff you collect in 10 months.
Good-bye was shockingly painful, like ripping off a bandage that's been on for months, taking skin and hair with it. It was all I could do to get the three boxes into my room before collapsing into my bed.
I didn't look at the contents of the boxes for a few weeks, I just couldn't. One day I decided it was time, and I started rummaging through what he'd left behind.
One box was full of newspapers.
"Hmm," I thought.
The next box was full of the long catholic prayer candles he was so fond of. There was also half a bottle of shampoo, a box of dress pins, a half-empty bottle of his imitation cologne, a roll of tape, and half a bag of the Rosengarten tea we drank every morning.
The last box had a pair of old pants he used to wear when we went hiking up to our waterfall. He slipped one day and they tore on a rock. There was also a photo of him, which I hung on my wall. In a bag inside the box I found: an almost-full bottle of ketchup, a bottle of nuoc mam, some Tapatio hot sauce, and a Jack-in-the-Box coffee cup filled to the brim with sugar packets.
Some people would laugh and just call him cheap. I didn't. It was imporant to him that these things not go to waste. He didn't have much to give me, but he gave what he could. There's so much of him in those boxes, he couldn't have bought me anything better. I read each of those newspapers cover to cover, I used the ketchup, even ate the nuoc mam even though I don't especially like it.
Whenever I decide to make a cup of that precious tea, I use one of the sugar packets, and I always cry, and then I laugh at crying over sugar packets, and it's like he's right there with me.