She was a puzzle with missing pieces. She could not be whole.

And I was battle-worn and baffled. The anticipation of being with her, so long the fodder for giddy thoughts and foolish imagination began to fade, like a dying ember grudgingly surrendering its light. I would try no more to de-code this oddity. Whoever she was, she was unchangeable.

I wanted to be empty of all thoughts of her and to make peace with my troubled conscience. “Try a little harder, pray for patience, make brighter the light” – the ruminations to be shunned. Enough was enough and I vowed to be pestered no longer by determined remnants of second thoughts.

But when the heart has lost its warmth, the mind is left to entertain the emptiness. My thoughts swirled like the twister gaining strength with each rotation. I poked and prodded at each separate notion searching for clues that might account for this lunacy.

Perhaps my dogged willingness to be rebuffed came from knowing there is no medal taken in defeat. Even so, I worried I was compromising my self-respect. But would it be without virtue if there was a prize taken in the end?

Still, petals of doubts, like currents in a stream swirled one way, caught an errant breeze and turned another. What must this be? What was I really after? Was I being selfish at her expense?

And then amidst it all there was the most sobering reality: Determination to succeed is not always a noble motivation. “Forget her! Let her find her own way,” I worked at convincing myself.

For weeks, I tried to abandon thoughts of her and to bury all related troubles. I knew time would bring refuge from the turmoil and eventually my mind would quiet. I put new energy into my writing, so often a welcome diversion from nagging thoughts.

I answered old messages from friends, immersed myself in reading, sampled a new wine and grappled to replace old thoughts with new. This was the right course.   I felt an easiness that comes when the compass finally points true north.

After a while my conscience returned. Free of uncertainty, it steered me toward the truth: I would be the one who could free her from her fears. She could find hope again. I was sure of it. It is the assurance gained surviving the cuts from the jagged edges of harsh experiences. Wavering in her social commitments and the game playing were all symptoms, grainy brush strokes that painted a portrait of mistreatment. It was palpable.

And the more so to me.  It may be that time palliates the pain that penetrates the psyche. But lingering memories take refuge in deep recesses of the mind and linger there to tease the human faculties.

Forgetting is futile. Like the starving orphan who saves scraps of every precious meal fearing the time when there is no food, her propensities toward isolation were finely honed, born of unrelenting neglect. She knew little joy. Life had taught her that she deserved no more.Pelted by stones of lasting despair and fading hopefulness, her spirit beat only the faintest pulse. And the spirit once robbed of hope, shreds the will and casts the pieces shamelessly to the wind.

If I walked away, she would be left to linger in despair and sameness. And left alone, she could not know what I knew.