“Jaime, you’re a good man.” Sa’afia smiled. I wished she weren’t quite so beautiful.
Of course I’d let myself in for Sa’afia being painfully beautiful, when I’d decided to let myself love her. She’d become the new loved one, and our bodies and minds always perceive that person through a halo of radiant, buttery, luminosity. It’s one of the effects of something called “limerence”, which is what makes people so giddy at the start of new love relationships. I’d studied it in psychology lectures, after all. I just happened to be getting it at the end of a relationship instead of at the beginning.
I shook my head. “Yeah. Yeah.”
“No, you’re a good man. Don’t insult me by thinking I wouldn’t know. You deserve success. You deserve happiness. You do.”
I shook my head again. I didn’t know if I was a good man. I mostly doubted it. And while I liked hearing anything nice about me, mostly, in this moment it was anything but a consolation.
“You don’t believe me. But I know I’m losing a lot in losing you. A hell of a lot. It isn’t easy. But it’s the right thing. And I have to do the right thing even if it hurts like hell. I don’t know if this can be any consolation; I don’t think it will be. But that’s something I learned from you.”
That wasn’t much of a consolation, as she said. But it was a powerful compliment. I held on to it, and it meant more later, when I wasn’t hurting so much.
“And I know you’ll be ok. I know you will. And you look after Ana.”
I said, annoyed, “Oh, fuck Ana.”
Sa’afia looked at me, still glowing, brighter than the day and wiser than nature, with the most beautiful face in nature just centimetres from mine, and said, “No, don’t fuck Ana. I don’t know, not now, anyway. Jaime, I do love you. Will you forgive me?”
It’s an unfair question. There is only one answer, unless you want to regret what you said for most of your life. It’s the answer you eventually have to give, but you shouldn’t be made to give it straight away. But I thought of how much I loved Sa’afia, and I thought about how there might be a time when I remembered little of what it felt like to love her or to be hurt by her, but still had to live with myself. So I said what I had to say.