They were all to their love. A silent, suffering love, eyes staring into eyes. Standing at a few inches from each other, the fence between them. A huge fence, of strong wire-netting that would not let a hand get through. Both were barely twenty years old.
I had noticed them from far as I was walking up to them along the fence, following this small passage between backyards, hidden by trees and hedges. She was on the pathway, he behind the wires, in the yard where he belonged. A slight shiver ran down my spine for I was witnessing a violation of rules that could cost them dearly, especially the young man. I realized, at once, how much hushed arrangements, calculation of schedules, and involvement of at least one guard, had been necessary to make this clandestine encounter possible.
Lovers who meet in secret, helped by an accomplice who risks his own safety. Lovers who meet without meeting, separated by prohibition, rulings, commitments, an ocean or a fence. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, Lancelot and Guinevere, Heloise and Abelard…
The passage is narrow, about three feet. As I passed the girl, I looked at their faces a second or two. Longer would have been improper. They did not even notice me. The intensity of their gaze merged anguish and tenderness. This was a tragic parting. Maybe they had been whispering sweet promises of patience and endurance, but now their eyes only were speaking. They were counting their last seconds of nearness, before he would be on his way for two years. To Japan, Germany, or North-Carolina, who knows?
Ten yards further, I saw his companion, the conspiring guard, waiting behind a tree. A mixture of guilt and immeasurable impatience tortured his childlike face. Torn by the fear to get caught, angry at himself for having allowed it, perhaps already considering confession to his branch president, but terrified by the idea of betraying a friend he had barely started making.
I couldn’t resist looking back once, furtively. They were still gazing at each other, in motionless intensity.
God bless you, Elder. Carry her eyes in your eyes, but as a source of strength. May your sacrifice of leaving her yield blessings. But never conspire again, if only for the sake of your companion.
God bless you, little sister. Don’t you dare to betray him now. He will need your weekly letter even more than the Scriptures. Choose the words that will help him stay on course. That will be wiser than a last covert farewell, one late afternoon, behind the MTC.