She looked at her silent phone.
"One hour and a half."
Her eyes met mine across the table. Over the stuffed eggplant and peppers. Over the khatchapuri and salad. Over the cake and fruit. Over the bread and wine. The trappings of suphra lay witness to the rapid passage of time. Our eyes met in silent affirmation of connection and sadness and love.
"How can it be so little left?" She voiced our collective thought -- I found it fitting that the word "Time" was not said aloud. We both smiled the same slow, sad smile.
How could it have been so little time left?
I wondered this for the last few days that I was in the village. Days that seemed to fly by with no respect to the importance of each moment spent between kindred spirits. Time that should have dragged its feet through the mud of the Present, yet seemed to fly on the wings of the ethereal and eternal, with no thought for tomorrow or the sadness that it would bring as two close friends parted ways.
What is Time, and how does it pass by with devastating rapidity when all you want to do is hold it back and make it stay still -- not forever, but just long enough to give credence to the importance of the Time that is ending? It's like trying to grab ahold of a stream of falling sand. The harder you try to grasp the flying particles, the faster it sifts through the empty space between your fingers. Falling into the ever-widening Past. Becoming history before you have a chance to process what is Present.
I know that the metaphor of time as sand in an hourglass is cliche, yet it is fitting. (That's why it's so cliche!) The last few days, I have wanted to grab the proverbial hourglass out of the air and lay it down on its side for just a little while -- just a little "time-out" while the important things are said and held onto. Love and appreciation need to be expressed. The words of affirmation that have gone unuttered need to find voice. Thanks need to be given. The weight of my world hangs in the balance between Past and Present. And "there's no time like the present" isn't staying put. It's flying by faster than I can notice and process and react to.
That is how I felt during my last few hours in Shamgona.
Over the last seven months, Tea and I developed a relationship that is as close as kin. She is like a sister to me (I promised to leave her my Cholchis tetri in my will). And I know that I am the same to her. Yet our daily interaction has now come to an end. I will not wake up to her smiling face at the breakfast table. I will not discuss our day's lessons or students with her. I will not make cheese after she has milked the cows and buffalo. I will not giggle with her over the unintelligible things that "Our Grandmother" comes out with. I will not hear her mutter under her breath to the cows or chickens or turkeys or kids or husband..... And I will miss these things. But mostly, I will miss her. I will miss our discussions about education and culture. I will miss our times of silence.... the few precious moments that we enjoyed when they tip-toed in on stocking feet -- we recognized them and barely breathed so as not to scare them away. I will miss our looks of understanding without the need for words. I will miss her laugh. I will miss her heart and her soul and her mind. She is the kind of friend that everyone longs for -- the kind that few actually find.
And now, Time has separated us.
But that's the special thing about kindred spirits and friendship -- Time and distance make no difference. We will always be as close as we were yesterday.
So, although my mind's last picture of Tea is her standing in the dreary drizzle on the railroad platform in her A-line skirt, striped shirt, and flats -- weight on one foot with the other pointed outward, hands clasped on her hip, sad smile on her lips -- she will always be present with me in my heart and in my mind (and on facebook). A true friend that Time cannot taint nor distance separate.
And I love her.