He waited for her for three months. He sorted out his photos, rearranged his books, moved the furniture around, and then he went on waiting. After that, he read all the letters he had ever received and threw most of them away, and then he bought a large map of India and hung it above his bed. Or, rather, he didn’t buy a map of India, but that was what he really wanted to do while he was waiting. He waited and waited, and began to write a story about waiting for her, but he didn’t know how it would end, so he stopped. Finally, he did nothing at all; he didn’t even wait anymore. He was sleeping less and less, eating nothing but bread and tomatoes and yellow supermarket cheese, and then, at last, she came back. They sat together on his sofa, and she said, “It’s been a long time.”
“Yes,” he said, although he had firmly made up his mind to say as little as possible. “It’s been a very long time.”
She had lost weight on her travels, and he didn’t think she looked better than before. She was tired, but then she was always tired; she’d gone away to recover from feeling tired all the time, and now that she was back she was still tired. And she’d grown older. Older or harder or more serious—he wasn’t sure which. There was a gray tinge to her tanned skin, the kind you usually see only on older women. Her smile was much too grave and thoughtful, and her cheekbones were even more prominent than before.
She rose to her feet and left the room. When she came back, she had a bright-colored bag in her hand.
“This is for you,” she said.
“Thank you, my love,” he said. He opened the bag. There was a small, fat black mahogany elephant in it. He put the elephant in his pocket.
“Would you like a drink?” he asked.
“I bought wine for you.”
“No, water,” she said.
He stood up slowly and grazed her leg with his. Apart from the fleeting kiss when she arrived, it was their first physical contact in three months.
“Really just water?” he called from the kitchen, but she didn’t reply. “Chilled or room temperature?” he asked, and she called quietly back, “Room temperature.”
He took a case of water out of the closet, then pushed it back in with his foot and opened the bottle of wine that had been standing on the kitchen table for the past six weeks. He picked up two glasses and the bottle, and before going back to the living room he took the elephant out of his pocket and threw it in the garbage.
“Jordi,” she said, “I didn’t want wine.”
“No,” he agreed. “It’s still too early for wine.”
“I didn’t drink at all while I was there,” she said.
“That’s a pity,” he said.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“I think it is.”
He poured wine for himself, then for her, and they clinked glasses. She didn’t look into his eyes, and she drank only a tiny sip before going into the kitchen to fetch a bottle of water. She sat down on the sofa again, as far from him as she had been before, and began telling him about her travels—but he was barely listening. While she’d been away, he had kept trying to imagine where she was at any given time, and what it was like there, but now he couldn’t care less about India; he just wanted to know what her decision was. Of course, he knew already, but he wanted to hear it from her own mouth. He wanted her to suffer a little; he wanted her to have to say it and feel unhappy about hurting him. “No,” she would say. “We’re not going to get married, Jordi. I know that’s not what I want now, so we’ll never see each other again, the way we agreed.”