What impprint are you leaving on this world? she asked him. What are you doing to make the world better?
“Maybe I’ll just have to be concerned about the impact I make on my kids,” he said. “Maybe that’s my legacy.”
You can’t make your children your purpose or your focus, she said.
And there was no reply.
She saw the end of his job as an opportunity to do what he’d always wanted to do but never had time for. He had a blank page, no list of dreams. “I haven’t had dreams or plans since my father died,” he told her. That was 20 years ago, she said. I think it’s time.
That night, he lit his candles and drank his wine and she went to see The Reader with her friend. “Think about the impact that woman had on the main character – when he was 15, for his whole life,” her friend said.
Which made her think of John. Did he know, wherever he was, the impact he’d had on her? Did he realize that except for one other man, equally as complicated, equally emotionally unavailable, he was the one person she could claim on every level of her being?
Often, when she fought with her husband, she dreamed at night of John and awakened tingling with memories. Sometimes she told her husband about it in quiet voices. Sometimes she kept the warm secret to herself.
Always, she wondered what had happened to John, where he was, if he’d married, if he’d fulfilled his dreams.
The last time she’d seen him had been in Paw Paw at a motel across from the Pizza Hut. The next morning, she gave him her book of poetry but he shook his head and refused. “I don’t want to read about us,” he said outside the Big Boy.
In college, she’d fallen in love with his desire to make a mint on Wall Street and then move to Colorado to teach, something noble. But in truth, he didn’t last two years in New York; when she left him, he’d ridden his bicycle from Seattle to San Diego and then clear across to Washington, D.C. He was repairing bikes in a Chicago shop.
Still, it was 20 years later and she sometimes still Googled his name.
Did she have an impact on anyone like that? Was someone thinking of her all these years later? Would John show up one day in real form or would he remain a memory?
Isn’t there anything you’ve always wanted to do? she asked him.
“I do like to write,” he said. “Though not as much as you.”
It’s time to try, she said. Write your stories. Write your stories.