“No summer ever came back, and no two summers ever were alike. Times change, and people change; and if our hearts do not change as readily, so much the worse for us.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne, Blithedale Romance
Quiet in the rain. A senile teacher following somewhere behind, lost in the puddles of our great escape. The gazebo holds the rain above us and the water falls around the wooden frame all wet and wild. Your lips, then. A lamppost nearby as witness. The gazebo holding in the warmth. No lightning or thunder or unnecessary elements on this field trip. The San Diego rain is enough, the night swarming with seventeen and all of me and all of you.
A few years later.
A winding road in the mountains, no lampposts or street signs, only shadowed trees everywhere at once until I reach the campus. The stairs I take to you. The elevator that doesn’t work. The Pepsi machine I remember for some strange reason, a side actor caught in the camera’s focus. The door I open to you brings a closing. You tell me to go with tears in your eyes but enough youth to courage you through it. I leave and pen all the things in a journal I should have said to you in words.
Then my writing loses you.
You pop up in sentences and thoughts, when country music plays or when the night is long. A memory book in the closet is all you become. The book reads well until the middle, when the memories stop and the blank pages come. I learn to forget you until there is no more learning left and you are actually forgotten.
Then I hear your voice and forgetfulness fades. Then I see your face and forgetfulness capsizes.
We meet again on the bench outside your red, red front door. Your hair is long. Your fashion is woven in splashes of you. The experience of life has tanned you well. But you are in the midst of a calling you cannot ignore, and the weekday watches you leave in a plane set for a new continent.
And when you are more than a phone call and twenty-minute drive away, in a country I might be able to guess, I find the perfect vocabulary of you and my writing becomes electric. In sentences I recreate you. In paragraphs I rhyme with your laughing clumsiness. And in unfinished stories I find the blank spots that I am finally okay with, because our timing was perfect in the hallways of seventeen, under the football stadium with you wearing a pink headband and soccer cleats and me wearing baseball spikes.
Then my writing finally learns to sing.
You listen to it on a drive. A long one. You relate to the pitches in my tone when my writing goes sad, rejoice in my winnings when my writing goes happy, and my voice is there in the speakers sometimes crackling like the first breath of a waking morning, sometimes flared in anger and remorse like the bad end of a broken deal, and sometimes, when you are lucky and so am I, my voice talks to you like nothing else matters and no one else is around to capture my smile in words that have always been meant for you.