I met Mae on the first day, it seemed, as I walked astonished through sparkling woods, brilliant with sunshine and the smell of new-made freshness. All was new, even I was new, and the delight of discovery was a wispy, inviting hint in every vision and scent. I could have walked and wondered for years, and perhaps I did. And then I saw Mae.
She was lovely that morning, sunshine growing warm in her jet black hair, her dark Asian eyes scanning the trees around her as she sat by a clearing. Seated on the soft, fluid lawn, she leaned on one hand while she brushed the grass with the other, sensing it, knowing it. Her wandering eyes finally found me where I had stopped to watch her, and like a fountain they seemed to flow and sparkle with a kind of happiness, as if we had been old friends. And as I walked toward her, she rose from the grass and came to me, almost running, like a girl that finds here sweetheart in a secret haven. She was small and lithe, gently curved in breast and hip, promising a softness easily enjoyed and a warmth of embrace to comfort a lonely heart. And when I stopped to watch her approach, my chest grew warm with a saved-man’s simple pleasure, until she pressed herself against me in a soft embrace, her head upon my shoulder.
“I knew you would come,” she said to me in words I had never heard.
“I knew you’d be here,” I replied, and we both smiled, warmed by simplicity and love. I sighed and held her again. Perhaps we made love. It seemed like it.
So it went for a time, for weeks or maybe weeks of years. Again and again, she would let me hold her, lie beside her in gentle silence and feel the comfort of her loving me. I melted into her dark hair and kissed the depths of her shining eyes, discovered as if newborn the motion of her toes and the curve of her thin waist. And so I relaxed into sighs of love, discovered slowly what I had always known by finding in her warmth what I somehow had never quite properly sought.
For Mae it was different. By luck of time, and not through wisdom of my own, I had for her some centuries of knowledge, exploration and explanations of worlds within the world she had barely lived to know. And with the spry wondering of her mind’s heart, she plied me, day after day, year after year, with questions posed gently, patience mixed with delight. “How can this be?” she asked again and again, her voice a driven, feminine whisper, a trained girl’s humility woven into the hungry song of her language. Lying on my shoulder, soft dark hair against my cheek, she would ask and ask, while I laughed, stumbled through histories and theologies, happily at rest in her sensual acceptance.
The last time I saw Mae in our silent, sacred forest, she was standing across a glade, smiling her brilliant smile, touching with childlike surprise the bright blonde hair of a tall, light woman whose name I never learned. Mae waved and called my name in love, and the two walked away. It was time.
I wandered those woods still and felt Mae’s warmth for days or decades. I met at last Imala, with her ebon skin and rich, dark eyes. She, too, loved me, and had for her part a question, only one, about how a young mother could die infected with incurable disease by a wayward husband. So we talked while I rested on her breast. And after Imala, others came and went, others who needed me less than Mae had, yet each of whom held and warmed me in a frail, merely human romance that nevertheless taught me I was loved.
Mae and I met again centuries later, passing on the crystal stair. As she was coming down, she saw me, and with a brilliant, almost explosive delight, she pressed through the crowd to embrace me. In the depth of her dark eyes I saw the memories of where we had been long ago, of where I had been in the redemptive confusion of my longing heart. And though here on the stair that longing now yearned upwards, I paused happily to hold Mae’s cheek against my shoulder and to rest again in the love she gave me. And there on the crystal stair I loved her again, or still. Perhaps we made love. It seemed like it.