“Are you coming to bed?”
The voice startled Jay, and instinctively he placed his phone in his pocket before answering. “I’ll be there in a second, what are you doing up?” Jay’s question was more of a defense mechanism than a quest for knowledge. He was less concerned as to why Pam was up than that she was up.
“Do you have a minute?” She asked, sitting down before Jay had a chance to answer. “I’ve been thinking.”
In the decade Jay had been married—I’ve been thinking—was second to only—we have to talk—in his list of things he didn’t want to hear, but experience had taught him there was only one correct answer.
“Sure, what’s on your mind?”
“Do you remember our wedding day?” Pam asked, “And Pastor Richard?”
“Of course. It was the happiest day of my life,” Jay answered. His response was both true and ironic. Pam didn’t come from money and Jay barely had a nickel to his name so the two young lovers had been married on a beach just before sunset. The guests sat in folding chairs they brought themselves and the altar was nothing more than two tiki torches stuck in the sand at the end of a makeshift aisle. Unable to afford a minister, Jay and Pam had been married by a friend everyone called Pastor Richard. His name was Richard, to be sure, but he was not a pastor, not a trained one at least. He was, however, the type of person who saw truths in life that most people didn’t and there was no one else either Pam or Jay would have wanted to perform the task of joining them in holy matrimony than the unkempt but wise man. Yes, Jay remembered the day and the man, but the memory was no longer a pleasant one.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what he said,” Pam continued, “He told us that why was not the question, it was the answer.”
A smile came over Jay’s face. He remembered vividly the advice Pastor Richard had given them before they took their vows. He had squatted down in front of the couple and placed two dots in the sand a foot from each other. There had been no rehearsal or even discussion of the ceremony so both Pam and Jay were surprised with the sight of their friend as he used the only canvass available to him.
“This dot is you,” he said, pointing at the dot on the right and then at Jay. “And this one is you,” he said, doing the same with the second dot and Pam. “The paths of your lives have brought you together, here today, right now,” he said as he drew diagonal lines from each dot to a midpoint between the two. “You were on separate paths but no longer, now you walk life’s path as one,” and with that, he drew a single line towards the young couple and stood back up straight. “If you want to find the true reward of the oneness you seek today, you’ll remember that ‘Y’ is the answer, not the question.”
Jay remembered how struck he had been by the simple lesson Pastor Richard had taught that day. Life was a path and he had committed to share his path with Pam the same way she had promised to share hers with him.
“Pastor Richard had a unique ability to see the truth and to share it,” Jay said, smiling at Pam for the first time in what seemed like years, “What made you think of that?”
“Honestly I was thinking more about the warning. Do you remember?”
“I do,” Jay responded, instantly aware of where the conversation was headed, “He warned us about being halfway in.”
“It was more than that though,” Pam reminded, “He told us to beware of the paths to the side. I don’t think we listened to him that day. I pictured what our life would be and this reality just doesn’t match that picture.”
Jay instantly knew Pam was right, Pastor Richard had not stopped when he had drawn the ‘Y’ in the sand. He had squatted back down and started drawing lines off the unified path. “This is you choosing your friends over Pam,” he said to Jay as he drew a line out to the right. “And this is you, Pam, siding with your parents rather than with your husband,” he said, as he drew a line to the left. “Hobbies, work, and even children can be fatal distractions if you let them,” he said as he drew multiple lines to the left and right. “Before you know it ‘Y’ is no longer an answer because it’s no longer a ‘Y’.
Jay who had been looking at the floor, imagining the sandy beach where he had promised to love Pam for the rest of his life, looked up in time to see a single tear fall from his wife’s eye.
“Is it too late?” Pam asked as she stood up and turned toward the bedroom. “Don’t be long, I don’t sleep well without you next to me.”
“No,” Jay said, with a certainty, even he didn’t understand.
“No?” Pam asked, turning back towards her husband.
“No, it’s not too late. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Pam smiled and turned back towards the bedroom as Jay pulled his phone out of his pocket.
The text was still there waiting to be sent. Want to get a drink after work tomorrow? Jay had allowed pleasant conversation to become flirting and he had finally asked for her number. He knew the moment he did that he had crossed a line but trial and circumstance had worn him down. Now, where a lack of focus had dwelled only a few seconds earlier, Jay found clarity. It only took a few seconds to delete the unsent text. “Y is the answer,” Jay said softly to himself as he also deleted the contact from his phone and headed where he belonged, to his bed, next to his wife.