Like Wind I Go-A Short Story of Love and Loss

Photo of Iowa State Stanton Carillion
Iowa State Campanile Carillion Photo by Patrick Keep with our thanks

The Campanile chimes the quarter hour. As though awakened by the bells, the autumn wind stirs, teasing my neck, inviting my hair to dance. I catch the plaintive cry of a redtail hawk borne on the breeze, before it subsides, as though too weary to continue. Sitting on the stone bench nearest the bell tower, I dig the letter from my purse to re-read it. I really should be back in my office, grading  my seniors’ Political Science mid-terms. Almost against my will, my eyes drop to the letter.

    But before I get through the first sentence, the wind starts up again, tugging at the letter, nearly snatching it from my hand. It whips my hair in my face, as though willing me to stop, and stirs the drift of umber-hued elm leaves around my slingback flats, before dying again.

     I divert a stray lock of hair from my lips and shake my bangs out of my eyes with an impatient toss of my head. In the returning calm, the letter hangs limp in my hand. A flood of memories drown me in yesterdays that, like the letter, I’d rather ignore.


     Another autumn day, two…? No, three years ago, now. One of those “second summer” afternoons kissed by a passionate sun and caressed by a kinder, flirty breeze. A day before the first frost reminded the grass it’s not immortal. Just days before, I had been confirmed as an associate professor—my unexpected season of luck, possibility and promise.

     Sitting cross legged in the grass across from the Campanile, he caught my attention sketching with long, graceful fingers. His undergraduate length sorrel hair and aquiline nose did nothing to distinguish him from dozens of my students. Then he looked up, ambushing me with tourmaline eyes. As our gaze locked, my heart stuttered, then galloped into an errant staccato I struggled to control and failed.

     His radiant smile, insouciant but kind, teased an answering smile to my lips.

     “Hey,” he called, just loud enough for me to hear. The breeze picked up, tugging at my hair, temporarily obscuring my thirsty gaze. “What a day, huh? Join me?”

     I found myself walking toward him before I had a chance to decide I wanted to. I camouflaged my interest with what I hoped sounded like idle curiosity. “What are you drawing?”

     He nodded at the bell tower.

     I bent over to examine his work. “Wow. It’s…beautiful.”

     He smiled as he looked up, his eyes darting to my cleavage, before bouncing back up to my face, and lingering on my lips. Up close, I noticed his eyes were shot with copper streaks rendering his green eyes even more hypnotic.

     “Thanks.” He shrugged. “I think I’ve just about got it.” His smile kindled a ripple of sensation that had slept for too long. I’m Kai,” he added.

     “Kai?” I cocked an eyebrow, straightening up.

     “Short for Malachi.” The ironic twist of his lips spoke volumes—about his opinion of his name and his good-natured adaptability.

     “Lecia,” I replied.

     He nodded. “It’s a nice name.” Grinning up at me, he continued. “May I sketch you…if you don’t have any place in particular to be?”

     No, I told my restless heart, even as I realized I was already nodding. “I…uh…I suppose.”

     An hour later, he tore the page from his sketch pad and handed it to me.

     I caught my breath. “This isn’t me,” I protested.

     “Yes it is,” he assured me. “Coffee?”

     Against my better judgment, I agreed. And before we went our separate ways, we had a date, after a promise that it would be away from campus and curious eyes. Just this once, I told myself, enjoying the guilty sense of breaking a taboo.

     But another date followed, then another. I don’t remember when, exactly, my longings collided with Kai’s availability.

     Until an incautious goodnight kiss swept both of us away, in a delicious maelstrom of passion. I would like to claim I was drunk or stoned, but I wasn’t. I remember clearly inviting him in and leading him to my bed while ignoring—no, deliberately suppressing, sensible caution in favor of sensation and joy. Awakening to an awkward morning after should have been the end of our story. A lesson learned. But it wasn’t.

     It is said familiarity breeds contempt. Not with Kai—at least not for me. Our first overnight led to others. And just as organically as ivy twines together, our lives and our hearts wound into an unpredictable jumble of emotional twists and turns.

     By the time the snow flew, we were spending as many weekends as possible wrapped in a tangle of sheets in my bedroom—and each other, with a hiatus around finals time for him to study and I to grade papers. In moments of clarity, I was one of those professors who let herself get “involved” with a student. A younger student. He wasn’t my student, I reminded myself, still…

     Our time together was periodically tempestuous, but overall, it was a refuge from all the things that were wrong with our worlds. As we grew closer, we felt more and thought less. Kai kept my secrets and made me feel beautiful and alive, basking in the exhilaration of the forbidden. And I was the most ardent admirer of his art.

     Our best season was summer. Kai took one foreign language class each summer, while working part time in the art department as a male figure model. And with most of the narrow-gauge faculty taking vacations during the summer, we could let our guards down, a little, and just be.

     But through all our time together, the prairie winds were our soundtrack. The autumn breezes morphed into blizzards, driving snow that burned like tattooing needles. The blizzards gave way to the Chinooks that ended our winters and ushered in spring breezes distributing cottonwood seeds. The moody wind was our organic time piece, measuring the seasons and how much time we had left.

     During much of Kai’s senior year, we argued. A lot. Was he outgrowing me? Or was I subconsciously weaning him, knowing I would soon lose him, no matter what I did? So many riddles with no clear answers. After a long period of Kai’s apparent indifference, I took the hint. I left him alone. So when I received an offer for a one-year fellowship at Stanford and the blessing of my department I accepted it.

     I told Kai after his graduation, and left the next week, hoping distance would clarify how we felt about each other. Six months into my fellowship, I received a letter from Kai, postmarked Quantico Virginia. He had accepted a commission in the Marine Corps. By the time I returned to my professorship, he was overseas.


Another tentative breeze calls me back to now. Against my will, my eyes drop to the letter and re-read the words already burned into my soul.


     Dear Lecia:                                                                                                                                                                             You don’t know  me, but I’m Kai’s younger sister. I’m sorry we never had a chance to meet. From all he told me of you, I think we would have been good friends. I am sorry to have to share with you that yesterday, an officer arrived here in uniform. He asked Mom if she was Mrs. Michelle Lewen, then went on to tell us that Kai had been killed in action in Syria.

I know that you two haven’t been together for a while, but from how he used to speak of you, I was certain you would still want to know. Deep down, I think he loved you and from how he spoke of you, I think you were good for him.  

 Sincerely, Jenna.”

     The Campanile tolls the hour, and what I associate with its tolling claws at my heart. But I’m here not for my own peace of mind. I’m here to remember. I’m here because it is here that Kai is most real and present and because there’s a part of me that was his, against both of our better judgments. I want—and need—to remember his giving heart. A heart that was mine, just for a while.

     The wind picks up briefly, setting the sunbeams to dance in the shaft of sunlight making its way between the brown leaves in the trees. Leaves that will soon drop, coaxed to the ground by ceaseless prairie winds.

     Out of nowhere, a line from the Rubaiyat pops into my head. “Like water I came; like wind I go.” The patch of grass where we met that day is just beginning to turn brown from last week’s deep frost. The first tear I’ve allowed leaks out.

     Rising from the bench, I walk to “our” place, tears streaming now. Catching a single tear on a fingertip I let it drop to the grass. A ceremony meaningless to all—but to Kai and to me—and to the almost that we were. I swipe at the corners of my eyes and turn to leave, as the breeze picks up again, whispering of a tomorrow empty of love recognized too late.




Dirk's path to authorship wasn't quite accidental, but almost. Through two previous careers, first as a retired Marine officer and later as a corporate trainer, he started more stories than he finished. But in the backwash of the 2008 financial meltdown, Dirk's employer filed for Chapter 11 protection. Cordially invited to leave and not return, he found himself out of work and excuses. Since then Dirk has finished six titles and has two works in progress. He currently lives in Laguna Niguel with his wife, two pschotic cats and a fourteen year old Ball Python named Corona.

Leave a Reply