My fingers run across the faded carvings in the wood. How long has it been? I haven’t been keeping track. Moonlight streaks across the water, bending and bowing with the constant, passive ripples. I remember the sound of it well, the water against the seawall. Barely a noise at all, it seems to have only the purpose of pointing out how soundless the rest of the world has become.
I can’t count how much time has passed since we were young enough and courageous enough to believe these nights by the shore would last forever. Maybe, instead of marking it in time, I could measure it in the initials of youths foolish enough to think the same, scrawled into the water-worn wood of the park. It’s little more than a picnic table and a fence along the river, built here, we long ago guessed, for the mere fact that most mornings the light of the sun comes straight across the river, meeting the bank where the park was formed.
At night, though, it has a different feel. When the moon reaches across the sky and the sun’s last kiss of pink has long since left the horizon behind, the place gathers importance. The moon’s beams of light seem to come from this little spot, from the people that sit alongside it and look out at the world – casting their hopes and their desires into the temperate river and their own little dreams get a chance to reach out, across the water, to whatever waits beyond. In the sunrise, you feel the majesty of the world, the vastness of what’s out there, and you feel smaller. The dawn’s light puts things into perspective and you see how small you really are and your troubles, your woes suddenly seem so much less important. Under the stars, the moon at your back, you feel something so much different. Everything matters and nothing as much as you, your moments, your love, your dreams. You can make anything happen, shape the world, act against it – just as the moon pulls in the tide.
How wrong we were.
Leaves, brittle from the cold that winter brought here, crack and crumple under approaching footsteps. My partner in crime has finally arrived – here once again to relive what passed so long ago, together. I don’t bother looking up – best to avoid that awkward moment of recognition that comes during those tense steps between eyes locking and closing the distance where words and embraces can be shared. She takes her spot beside me without a word and I finally look up, tentatively. I give a frail, unsteady smile that’s still somehow bright with sincerity. Hers is more of a smirk, but filled with her genuine lightheartedness; her eyes are filled with that knowing that goes far beyond recognition – it’s that immediate and complete empathy that has always said it all. My smile widens at the sight of it.
“I’ve missed you,” I say; the words that quite obviously didn’t need saying, but there they are, just a sound to join the water on a wall. We turn and hug. God, we’re both so much older now. She looks so more mature, more grounded. I think I just look worn down.
If I do, she doesn’t show it. “You look great,” she says. “I can’t believe it.” Surely lies, but I appreciate it. “How long’s it been?”
That gets me laughing. “I was just trying to figure that out,” I respond. She smiles at my laughter – a big, real smile. I’m smiling too now.
We while away the time from there, talking easily. I wouldn’t say talking about nothing, but it isn’t dreamer’s talk like we shared here as lovers. It’s friendly, getting reacquainted talk. The kind of talk that’s nice to have, that you’re truly interested in, but that doesn’t make a bit of difference when the sun rises on our spot and we part ways. We’ve buried friends since we were last here, as kids and confidants. We’ve had other lovers, other loves, and ones that lasted much longer than the one we’d had together. We’ve traded in dreams of the romance of a sailor in a fairy tale for the sensible things that make the time that passes worth more than words. We don’t have secrets from each other – even after all this time, there’s no one that can hear the truth of every misdeed quite like each other. No judgment, no soapbox advice. Just honest listening, the way only each other can.
We love each other. We don’t need to say it. We’ve both moved on. We shared a lot together, so long ago. We shared that love. But the thing we both shared that framed our futures was when we learned together that the love wasn’t enough.