After she got out of the bed she came back to say goodbye. The man was sitting up, his back against the headboard.  The long strap of her soft black purse was draped over her shoulder.

So you’ve finally found someone better than me,” the man said, “Lucky girl.”

Her eyes flickered to the floor.  He looked at her and saw her go to a place where she went sometimes and where, for all their messing around, he had never been able to reach.

“Not so much better,” she said, “Just more stable.”

“Stability is good,” the man said, “When you’ve got nothing else, you’ve got stability.”

She sat down on the corner of the bed and reached out her hand and placed it on the little hill that his toes made in the blanket.

“It’s been really good,” she said, looking down again.

“Just not quite good enough,” the man said.  As soon as he said it he regretted saying it.  It was a stupid thing to say, predictable and vain. Lately, he had been trying not to say stupid things, but old habits die hard.

“Oh, yes it was,” she said, fingering his toes, “It was just good enough for what it was.”

She really was a splendid person, noble and true, and he would miss her. But he had reached an age where he had missed many things, and one thing he had learned is that missing things gets easier with practice.

Now, he knew, it was time to be graceful, to thank her and wish her well and then roll over and take a nap. He should gaze meaningfully into her eyes and smile the smile of resignation and acceptance and roll over and take a nap. But he didn’t want to do those things, he just wanted to roll over and take a nap.

“So, good luck,” he managed to say.

She stood up. The long strap of her purse slipped off her shoulder and she cradled at her elbow and in a smooth gesture her hand raised to the sky to draw it up again. He thought for a moment that that was what he loved about her, that smoothness. She was smooth, and he had told her she was smooth, and that would have to suffice.

She looked at him then and something happened in her eyes. She did not cry, but he saw a wave pass over her and pass through her eyes and made them shine with a hard light that he did not understand. It might have been grief or anger or even joy, but none of those words seemed to say what it was. It was so strong that he straightened up in the bed for a moment, looking at her in puzzlement, holding her eyes for a few seconds.

She turned her head away, but there were no tears. He looked at her profile as she turned, he knew for the last time, and there had been other last times and, God willing, there would be other last times, but this last time was right now and at least he wasn’t missing it.

“Yes,” she said and turned and walked out of the room. He saw her shape go through the doorway and heard her footsteps down the stairs and heard the front door close and then he heard the motor of her car turning over and the hard crunching of the tires over the gravel.

The sound slowly receded and mixed with other sounds and then was gone and he sat there in his bed, gazing at the space where he had been a few seconds before.

“Amazing,” he said out loud to no one. He lay back and stared at the blank wall.  He wanted to think about things, to understand them better, but he found himself just staring at the wall and soon he was asleep.