Buried Love

Sally Anuhea was an avid newspaper reader. Even as she aged, she kept loyal to a print copy, although the digital world had arrived and virtually stopped the presses. Some things had to be preserved, must carry on, a tradition, nearly sacred, to be upheld.

Once a cover-to-cover woman, as she aged she became more selective in her reading habits. She’d then scan stories whose headlines didn’t spark an interest. The occasional article that did could still cause her to stop and read through to the end. But sometimes fooled by a clever story title, she would mutter about having lost those minutes of her life she could never get back. And the number of those minutes was drawing down quickly, she knew.

As the clock ticked the flipping of calendar pages forward, Sally began to skip whole sections. The comics, she never lost affection for, and she’d stop reading the sports news, when the moon turned a permanent blue to match the hues of the ice caves in hell. Not read about her University of Hawai‘i Rainbow teams? Preposterous.

Sally’s family, even her two sons lost in the first Gulf War, were gone. She had two brothers, but they had all been far apart in age so had never been close even in childhood. Really, she was alone. Even the friends passing away regularly were people who’d been close at various times but who’d either chosen different paths of interest or had simply lost touch due to age and fading energy.

The last daily morning read, but more and more a first one, was the obituaries. For some time she’d lacked even the ability to get up and go to each announced funeral. It had been good, when she did attend them all, to see other old friends at those somber events, but no participation in active interests or in renewing even coffee get-togethers ever arose.

As this dwindling number of acquaintances met at these solemn services with grim regularity, any graveyard on O‘ahu fair game for the next burial, they would often remark about their knowing so many people populating these eternal resting grounds.

“Eh, I know more than twenty people buried here,” might be countered with, “That’s nothing. I knew twenty of them ten years ago. Now, sheesh, who knows how many?”

Not that it was a one-upmanship. None of them were bragging about how many deceased people they knew as if those bodies were fish they’d caught on a good deep-sea outing or the number of strokes they’d taken off their handicaps.

The sharing of these statistics was more an expression of strange wonder at the fact that so many had passed away, and those in attendance hadn’t. It was a kind of celebration of still being alive to count the deceased at all. A statement, really, of joy at having made it thus far and being able to make it a little farther.

One morning, flipping first to the obituaries after having brewed her morning cup of coffee, Sally, reading through the names as if she were some kind of ministering angel, perhaps even St. Peter himself, tallying a roll of the latest number gone who would be coming aboard and in need of accommodations, stopped dead on a name that riveted her attention, instantly transporting her back into a part of the past that she had always repressed with great effort.

So great had that effort been over the years, that Sally had managed, finally, to bury it deep enough she thought it could never be resurrected. But it had been. A name. What’s in it? It’s the power to rivet a woman like a nail pounded with finality into a coffin lid.

Steven C. M. Leung. He had been, at one time, the proverbial love of Sally Anuhea’s life. But the course of life’s loves do not always run smooth, and certainly, the love between Sally and Steven had encountered bumps that eventually grew too frequent and too high to handle. And the excruciating dissolution of their partnership had indeed broken her heart. Sometimes, she wondered, if irrevocably so.

Sally sat back, and rather than experience the summoning up of any kind of positive affection associated with Steven, the worst aspects of it surged to the surface of Sally’s consciousness.

It had been horrible. There were outbreaks of anger that seemed triggered for no reason she could fathom. Maybe, she speculated, it was attributable to some kind of childhood trauma or a tragic past relationship, but every time she broached that or any other area that might give her insight into his rage, the mention of any kind of analysis of his past would set Steven off on a more heated and ever more extended rampage.

There was nothing wrong with him. That was Steven’s claim, and he meant it. Blind to his behavior, he was adamant that it was she, Sally who had the problem. She was unaccepting. She was argumentative. She was the ungenerous-spirited one. She didn’t care. Not at all. She could not care. She did not really love him. She could not love anyone. She was cruel and heartless. It went on and on.

And Steven drifted more and more into the twilight zone of incomprehensible and escalating rage. It grew to be unbearable. Steven would have outbursts not only at her but at complete strangers. Luckily, most strangers ignored him, and, as the outbursts grew crueler and more vicious, even if those strangers did not ignore Steven, at least the worst encounters would lead to shouting matches and no more. For, Sally believed, had some of these strangers been triggered so, they might have beaten or perhaps even killed Steven.

In the end, Sally couldn’t cope with Steven’s venomous attacks. She’s left him, and, as mentioned, she left him with her heart torn to shreds. She’d never really recovered. Sometimes she’d wonder if she loved the man she did finally marry. Had she settled only? This idea, before she’d successfully buried that chapter of her past, had plagued her. The quality of love in her marriage had never been the same as that for Steven.

Sally sat forward again and read the obituary of her old love. He was survived by a sister only. There was no mention of a wife or of children or grandchildren. Had he been married and driven away everyone who loved him? What a tragedy if it were so. The picture of Steven standing alone and lonely came to mind.

She tried to sip her coffee as the tears welled. Would this be one of those funerals she’d attend? Sally reached for a napkin and wept unbearably for every moment she’d lived apart from Steven Leung.

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