This is not true, but neither is it fiction. Call it a fictionalised account. The emotions are true, but I've rewritten the event and conversation to make them coherent. Because real conversations are so often not coherent.
The scene: two people, with a joint history spanning nearly forty years, are sitting, talking and weeping over how life drove us apart and crafted new lives for us both, and how the new lives held hard secrets for us.
Yet those lives turned out to be filled with all of the stuff of life: love and homes and mortgages, jobs and worries and children, in sickness and in health and still more love. They were both lucky.
Life repairs many rifts if it's given the chance. Continents can move, if you wait. And two people wanted to see where their continents now lay, and sat at a picnic table in the bush, and talked.
Well: honestly, one talked, the other listened, because the divergence of their lives wasn't merely that they grew apart. They also had different fortunes. One prospers in another country and she is nostalgic for home. The other, doing most of the talking, is suffering in the home that he loves to distraction.
Because she's not “suffering”, she's listening. Because he is, he's talking. They've reached back beyond a disaster of passion, to the friendship that preceded and post-dated a brief marriage, and if they're not comfortable (because tears aren't comfortable), they both know why they're here.
And the wind blew.
Surrounded by old-man-banksia, tea-tree, bluegum, angophora, mountain devil, grevillea, and bent ghost gums, the wind blew above them.
“Stop talking for a minute,” she said, and since he was pouring his heart out, he was momentarily hurt.
Then he saw her face.
He knew her face well: in high school, he'd seen it gaze at him, talked to that face, befriended it, fallen in love with it. Married it and divorced it. During a separation of decades, he'd only been able to imagine the face when they talked on the telephone; in twenty-five years, they'd been face-to-face just twice before today. He knew at least enough to recognise an expression and wait for her to speak.
And, surrounded by old-man-banksia, tea-tree, bluegum, angophora, mountain devil, grevillea, and bent ghost gums, the wind blew above them.
Nobody, having loved a face and its expressions, sees anything of age. Are there wrinkles and blemishes? Of course: who cares? Merely an expression on the face, a shout across the years rather than an echo, erases decades and wrinkles.
She has stopped talking and stopped listening to him, because surrounded by old-man-banksia, tea-tree, bluegum, angophora, mountain devil, grevillea, and bent ghost gums, the wind blew above them. She has relaxed her shoulders, leaned her head back, and closed her eyes with a sad smile that reminds him how they fell in love.
And the wind eases, and without moving or opening her eyes, she speaks.
“I haven't heard that sound in thirty years. The wind in the Australian bush. It's different: you can sit in an English forest in a storm, but it doesn't sound the same.”
“Thirty years. We were married, then.”
“I know. Why do you think I'm crying?”