"Let's do something together,” you say.
“Like what?” I ask.
“Well,” you say, “let's sit and talk on the stone steps after church and laugh about everything and nothing at all. Let's have it be a pure accident. Opportune circumstances. And let's have it be beautiful.
“Let's get up regretfully and bid each other good-bye, with promises to talk again next week. Let's gaze wistfully after each other as we depart.
“Let's make it a habit throughout the summer to talk and laugh on the stone steps after church. Let's look forward to our weekly banter, and let's wonder what the other is thinking as we anticipate seeing each other again.
“Let's be sitting and talking together one Sunday, and let's both be slightly disappointed when I mention that I'm going to my cousin's wedding in Green Bay, and after that I'm spending two weeks in northern Minnesota at camp. Let's say we'll miss each other.
“Let's have a joyful reunion when I return and a long, heartfelt discussion on the church steps. Let's say honestly that we missed each other.
“Let's go slowly into the new school year, always remembering to have our hour on the church steps together. Let's sit out there even on the worst snowy days.
“Let's let time go by, a year or two, and in all that time let's not let our friendship fade. Even as you go to college and I go who-knows-where, let's remain friends.
“Let's keep in touch. Let's one day – even though I have a job by then – get together and hang out, maybe sitting on the stone steps of a church somewhere else. And let's talk for a while, but after another while, let's realize that neither of us feels like talking. So let's sit in silence.
“Then let's kiss. Let's make it beautiful and heartfelt and true. And let's know that we're in love.
“Let's be happy, secure in the knowledge that we were made for each other. Let's let time and life bring everything they've got, while we weather the storm together.
“Let's date. Let's be happy and funny and enjoy each other. Let's walk along beaches and city sidewalks and country roads holding hands. Let's laugh and tease and steal kisses and smile wide when we see each other. Let's be in love.
“Let's be together, some summer night, sitting perhaps on some stone steps, though maybe not of a church. Let's be sitting there, silent like we sometimes are, and then let's both know something special is about to happen.
“‘Let's get married,” I'll say. You'll agree. So let's.
“Let's get married in the church where we met, surrounded by everyone we love. Let's stand in front of the church and forget about everyone else while we promise our lives to each other.
“Let's live in a tiny cottage on the coast of northern Maine. Let's be young and happy and carefree. Let's just live, working a little and playing a lot, like young people tend to do.
“Let's have a crowd of beautiful children. Let's read to them and sing to them and teach them to be good people. Let's sneak into their rooms when they're asleep and marvel at how miraculous they are.
“Let's watch them grow up, survive their adolescence and our midlife crises, and come out the other side wishing they hadn't grown up so fast. Let's quietly live alone again in our northern Maine cottage, just us two, like it was before.
“Now,” you say, “let's come back to now. Let's hold hands. Let's pray that God and your cancer won't take you away from me too soon.”
“Even if they do,” I say, “you know where to find me.”
You smile. “Where?” you ask.
“Right with you,” I say. “Where I've always been.”
Your smile fades. “But you won't be,” you say sadly.
“Says who?” I ask, struggling to sit up in my hospital bed. “You once said, ‘Let's do life together.' So we are. Even if I'm not there the whole way, we are doing it together.”
You smile through tears that cloud your eyes. “Let's,” you say.