“I chose my own path,” he told me. “And I can’t turn back and I won’t turn aside.”

“But when you made the choice, you didn’t know the consequences of the path you’re on,” I said.

He looked at me and shook his head. “Life doesn’t allow you to travel the same way twice. If I were there again today, knowing what I now know, I might choose differently–I would choose differently. But I don’t have the luxury of time travel.”

“If you would change it then, you can change it now.”

“Oftentimes in life, alternate paths meander beside each other for quite some time, and even though they rarely cross again, with effort you could travel cross-country, cutting through the undergrowth, fighting wild beasts, and eventually return to a lovelier path. Sometimes, though, a silent crevice separates the paths from each other, and it is impossible to get from where you are to where you want to be. You just have to stick with the path you are on, and see it through to the end.”

“I could help you, though,” I said. “I could help you across. It’s not as steep and not as rocky and not as dangerous as you fear.”

He turned to me sharply, then, and his words were hot. “You think I could get to where you are? You think that this one thing is all there is? If I could throw away everything else and walk over to you, it would be worth it. If the path were twice as long, and twice as dangerous, still I would walk it.” He paused, looking at the ground. When he continued he spoke softly again, and I was surprised to see his eyes were moist as they met mine. “But it’s not just about me. My desires don’t play into this anymore. The path I’m on is no longer about me. It’s about what’s right. It’s about making a difference. Even if the path to you were short and easy, I wouldn’t take it. Not now. If there were no obstacles, but it meant giving up everything I’ve worked so hard on, you know I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t.”

“You know I would never ask it of you,” I said, knowing full well that I would love nothing more than to ask it of him. “I respect you too much.” And I love you too fiercely.

“I know,” he said. And he smiled. The most glorious smile. “That’s what I like about you. You’re a better person than I.”

It wasn’t true, of course. But I didn’t mind that he believed it, so I said nothing.

He took his path. I took mine. I hoped they would cross again, but I knew they never would.

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