The cool breeze sifts through my limbs, slipping and sliding through unexplored parts. For a moment the rest of the world slips away, scrubbed clean and absolved by the waves. I’d like to dive into that ocean, feel the water crash down on me, suppress me, remind me that I’m not the only thing that matters. But I can’t. Not now. Not yet. I should be here when you wake up, because that was the one sincere promise I made you.
I don’t even want to try leaving right now – not when it was you who looked at me in that way that taught me what it was to feel the ground beneath my feet disappear. Tiny rivulets of water slither down your temple, and I’m tempted to brush them away. I hold back, remembering what you told me:
“The one you mark is the one you keep.” And I don’t want to mark you because I’m not sure if I’ll keep you. I’m not sure if I’ll keep you, and I’m even less sure about whether you’d survive it. Maybe it’s because I know you feel me slipping away despite your clutching, like the grains of sand you held so tightly in your palm not two hours ago. Or was it years? It doesn’t matter.
The past has passed, and what’s left of it except a few recollections that’ll be buried beneath a surface of newer memories? Maybe you don’t feel the same way, and you’ll wake believing that the past is the segue to our future. Oh, what I wouldn’t give so that you’d wake to think about your next encounter instead. A part of me – the part that wishes this would never end – wants to convince me that I should stay, because you’re too bruised and too vulnerable and too fragile to do this on your own. The part of me that knows it’ll just be later rather than sooner overpowers the other.
The sand shifts slightly and, without looking, I know you’re reaching out for me. I bite down on my tongue gently, forcibly swallowing a groan of frustration. Against my better judgment, I offer you my hand and feel yours slip into it, entwining and tangling. Your hand is as familiar to me as my own, the leathery feel of your skin and long-dried salt strangely comforting. How could it not be, when I can recount thousands of paths traced upon the lines of my face with the wandering pads of your thumbs? Every trail embedded on your palm tells of every secret meeting we’ve had, all testaments to our fairy-tale story.
Fleetingly, I wonder if I’ll have the courage to stay when the silvery tones are replaced by glowing warmth. Then you stir again and it’s not hard for me to remember why I can’t stay within fields of golden scenery and humid, still air.
You exhale and I inhale. The moon is bright, illuminating the sky and shining like a large quarter in the expanse of navy blue above us. I tilt my head and glance at you, carelessly sprawled out. Surely you wouldn’t be so nonchalant if you knew. Your sunset skin and long limbs make me think of our summer, brightness and oceans bursting behind my eyelids. Your face is all angles and planes, like a high school geometry lesson. You’re squirming again, and I know that it’ll be only a matter of minutes before you wake.
“You’re leaving?” Your voice is rough with sleep, but somehow it’s still like warm molasses.
“Well, you’re awake now,” I say neutrally. It’s not a direct answer, and I know you hate it.
Your hand slips from mine and you rub your eyes, so blue they put the spring sky to shame. “Are we ever going to talk?”
“There’s nothing to say.” I shrug and promptly wince, remembering why I hate the sun. My shoulders are red and achy, sensitive even against the thin fabric of my shirt.
“Okay.” You nod slowly. “Okay.” We’re quiet for a few moments before you reach out and brush a strand of hair from my face. I know there’s more to this. “Things get lost without anyone noticing on the way, you know.” Your tone is quiet. Not angry. Not sad. Quiet.
“We’re a mistake we knew we were making,” I reply. “Four weeks isn’t enough to make something real. It’s not like we could have had forever.”
“Love that’s real doesn’t need to have forever,” you say, just as quietly.
I contemplate my words carefully. In the end, honesty wins over tact.
“This isn’t real.”
It takes another long, steady moment before you decide to speak again. When you do, I sigh with weariness.
“You were the loneliest place I’ve ever been in.”
“And you thought you could fix that?”
“I wish I could have.”
We are both looking up at the sky, wondering why the stars aren’t out. Maybe they’re hiding behind a veil of thin clouds. Your arm is barely brushing mine, almost inconceivably. I think of how many times I pictured this moment, this ending point. It’s nothing like the dramatic scene in my mind. It’s almost as if the strings connecting us had been snapping one by one, softening the final blow.
I’ll miss you, your broad smile and loud laughter. I can close my eyes and almost picture you strumming random notes on your guitar. I’ll miss the days we spent on the dock, playing that stupid game where we name the passing boats. I’ll miss your black leather jacket that always smelled of humid afternoons and sunshine. I'll miss the way you moan about how much your feet hurts after a long day. I'll miss your voice. I’ll miss the birthmark right below your left shoulder blade, the one shaped like Italy. I’ll miss your camera. I'll miss your phone. I'll miss your clothes. I’ll miss your room. I’ll miss your car.
I'll miss your skin.
I'll miss you.
Somehow, despite all of this, I still say, “See you around.”