He said only one thing those last days: that she, the woman called Len, had the lone copy of his last and just-finished poem, and that she had all the publishing rights to it, including to not exercise the right at all, by keeping it all to herself, or burning it.
They couldn’t find another copy elsewhere, and had to face the fact that all they had was his last post:
It’s with Len.
Len didn’t notice those first few days. More messages in the inbox, more tags, but she wouldn’t check those right away, least of all read them thoroughly, immersed as she was in her dissertation. Her classmates looked at her funny, but didn’t broach the subject.
Why her? was everyone’s question. When did it start? When did they last see each other, if they ever did?
When she finally took a look at ‘Len’s eyes,’ she understood why she felt so exposed in public. Everyone was looking at her eyes, literally.
When she learned who was causing all the fuss, she had the time to feel a twinge of sadness, at his premature death at 29. The cancer killed him basically instantly, give or take a couple of months.
She had almost forgotten his admission of love. He had convinced her to see him for coffee, two years back. What was the pretext? Something about a sale going on, with a casual “What’s been going on with you?” invitation. She would have said no but figured, “I like Café Bleu. It will get him off my back.”
How was she to know it was a final meeting, when she’d always hoped that each meeting was the last one?
“In this time we’ve known each other,” he told her, “I’ve learned what it means to love as Christ loves. As our Father loves.”
“He’s going to propose,” she thought in dread, only to realize he was done. No ring in his pocket. The declaration of love, with none guaranteed back, was enough to sustain him.
You made a chaste man out of me, began the epic poem’s second verse. It’s like he knew she’d be challenged by this. She wouldn’t only be sharing this poet’s last opus — possibly too sentimental for the critics to consider it his greatest — she was also publicizing his long-standing devotion to her, of seven years. She didn’t want the attention.
So she resorted to a compromise. Smattering her social media with excerpts here and there. And people reacted. Her followers quadrupled within three months.
But Len saved the obviously Len-specific verses for herself. She wondered if her preference to keep these was itself a testament to her grown affection for him, that she wouldn’t share this most precious gift of his, to the world.
Avoiding the gazes, she’d wear sunglasses outdoors, even as the rainy season began in spurts. And she kept wearing them as the years passed, half the time quite appropriately.
She took an interest in the Bible about five years after, and took to thinking in bliss of how, in her old age, upon her passing, she would finally release the whole poem, all 2,233 lines of it, for the world to see. She read Matthew 22:23-33 knowing that the love he would have for her in Heaven was even greater than any he had known on Earth all those Rosaries ago. Any love she had known, for that matter.
How strange, Len realized, to finally love this man when he’s gone.