I stood in that room for an hour or more, afraid to move, to disturb the beauty of that moment; if I moved, perhaps the air would change, the the ray of sunshine leave me. I looked around at the tools lined up so carefully, the worn wood of the workbench, the boxes of machine-parts laid so carefully on the shelves, laid there by his hands. I saw them all with new eyes, with clean eyes. In every place there, I saw his hands, his fingers, working. Cutting the gears with the same care, that surety, which I myself had just felt as he took my arms.
The moment hung there, fresh and shining, the fulfilment of so much longing, so much watching. My skin still marked with his touch, I stood, afraid to move, not wanting life to begin again and sweep it away, push the minutes forward again. Push me away from this.
It seemed to me that I would never be able to breathe again, to sleep, to eat; instead I would be all on end, waiting. Standing on the edge, holding myself still for this moment to come again.
And yet, the moment was an accident, a strange fluke. My skin might be marked by his hands, but he remained unmarked, he was the same Ennis he had always been, the laughing young man, the angry man, the unseen, unwanted journeyman Gear Tournier; he didn’t know me the way I now knew him. How was I to see him out there, being his untouched self, knowing he did not see it or feel it, that one true, shining moment? I could have wept, if I were not filled with such impossible joy.
It was as if I had suddenly seen something in myself that had always been there, unknown and unseen by me; as if I had discovered my own true nature. I could not go back; I could not go forward; I could only stand and look at all the places his hand had touched. Everything in that room had been placed by those hands, with care and precision. Those hands, those long fingers and strong wrists: the same hands which had left the traces of truth on my skin.
I didn’t want to go, be woken from my dream. I went to the wall and touched the shelves, the drawers, the places he had touched, and it seemed to me the wood breathed to me of his reverence, his care. I stood still again, on the verge of weeping or laughing, my hand out, feeling I would die happily right then.
And gradually, as I moved again and went around the room, the feeling faded: the things became merely things again, arranged carefully. Looking at them made me happy, because he had made them that way; but that was all. It was gone, and I was left only with the sense of truth, the certainty: there would be no one for me, ever, but Ennis. It was there in my body, in the way he laid down his tools, in the last traces of sunlight from that moment. I was doomed, and joyful in it.
I walked back through the passages of the Labyrinth, absently trailing my hand along the smooth stone of the wall, climbing stairs as if I were floating, opening the door into the courtyard, stepping out into the late light as if emerging from a wonderous dream. The facade of the Museum seemed so ordinary, so full of details that I had never looked at before. I saw every stone underfoot with new eyes, and when I went into the kitchen my mother seemed to me different, beautiful, strange. I knew, looking at her, that she had been here, in this strange afterglow, and survived it.
And this revived me.