Sunday, March 10, 2013

This too, was a gift.


Olivia thought it’d it be awkward after ten years; 
to see him again after the space between then and now.

 Somehow they’d kept in touch long after the days of their teenage years when time had stood still on a summer island, where they’d worked summer jobs and did summer things when their world was filled with ice cream and swimming ponds and bonfires and humid nights under silver moons.

Olivia could still see it perfectly, the day Paul had helped her move off the island back on to the mainland, then said goodbye as he left for somewhere else. After a final hug, she’d weeped for days, then occasionally every so often for years to come, for something she wasn’t quite sure of except maybe the sting of a loss that was greater than friendship, yet not quite a love, for love was a heavy word, and after all, it had only been just one summer.


    Yet, to her surprise, Paul had kept in touch throughout the years, calling her at unexpected times, and always at night. She never answered, nor did he when she returned his calls, for somehow the messages were sufficient enough, their sleep soaked voices groggy and sweet, lasting on the other end as many times as they could be replayed. The ”how are you doing”'s, and “come see me”'s, and of course, the gentle “I miss you”'s lived deep inside the space between Olivia's lungs that used to breathe ocean air, and belly that fluttered with hope. She saw it as beautiful.

  There was a finally a time when Paul answered her returned call catching her off guard as a forced  “Hi Paul!!” rolled off her tongue as though he was only ever a friend and it had only been a week instead of years. “Olivia."
Her name sounded good the way he said it, a familiar voice on the other end that sent her back to nineteen, before time built its walls and fear found her flesh. Energy moved through her body like flames through wood, and the sound of nineteen on the other end suddenly made things possible, as though life was suddenly new, and the stars above shone just a bit brighter.

 They’d managed to casually make plans to spend a day together--share space the way they used to, not on the island, but in a city she happened to now live in, that Paul happened to now be passing through on his way elsewhere. They could've called it “convenient” but to Olivia, things were not convenient, they were simply meant to happen.

When that day came, Olivia was ready. She stood on the city street where everyone walking past faded into shadowy silhouettes as Paul stepped out of a cab fresh from the airport as though he'd been transported through time and into her current life. He looked the same, only better, his once slim physique now carrying more muscle and his chiseled face revealing the fine lines that life brings to a man's expression.
Olivia could've collapsed in his arms when he held her tight, into the bubble of warmth and intensity of hello. She found she had to break away first, not trusting herself and the hot tears brimming from a place in which she wasn't sure, except perhaps from the end of missing someone.

  “Olivia…” his voice trailed off as he took a step back and looked down at her, lips breaking into a smile, eyes blazing. “C’mon, we only have eight hours. Show me your city.” So she did. She drove him up the hills of San Francisco, knowing he’d appreciate the way the light illuminated the fog, and how the energy changed with passing neighborhood. They explored like tourists, tethered to one another in their own world on cable cars, and bikes, and bridges, drinking in the views.


 There wasn't too much talking about anything of significance, just gentle chatter about the less important aspects of their lives, yet Olivia felt herself soar in the way she used to know, as though the life she’d dreamed was unfolding and that soon Paul would be holding her hand instead of faintly brushing her arm, sending electricity down her spine in such a way that she felt she might implode with something so more than herself, for it was astounding that the light touch of a person's skin could do this to her own.


  And then she knew he had to leave, 
the way he had before.

  Eight hours had slipped away the way fireworks leave the sky:
 explosions of color that dissolve into night as though they never even took flight. 
They drove to the airport wordlessly, the strums of acoustic guitar on the radio blending with Olivia's heartbeat she now feared was growing too loud as she watched the exits as they passed; hundreds of exits too tempting to think of, surrounded by trees and trails and streams in which they could run through and lost in each other, like the days spent on that lovely summer island, at nineteen.


  By the time they'd slowed down the car, Olivia felt as though she was practically gasping for air and sanity. She imagined what it’d be like if she begged Paul to stay, stay for a night, for a week, or possibly forever. To leave behind whatever life he now lived, so they could create their own world, a world that existed so they would be able to ride out the wave of energy between them where passion builds and shudders and builds again until every inch of it was gone, however long that would take.

 Instead, Olivia found herself pulling up to the airport departure lane, to park next to the curb. When she turned to him, he was already looking at her intensely. “Thank you for today" he murmured as he leaned in. Their eyes locked for a brief second of breathlessness before his lips against brushed hers, and then he pulled away and opened the car door a bit too quickly, and stepped out onto the sidewalk a little too fast, and shifted his carry on while bending down to look in and ask with a playful grin, "Run away with me?"

 In that moment, there were things she wanted to tell him, but she was afraid they’d confuse him so instead she buried them deeply so they’d confuse her, and found herself watching Paul with glassy eyes as he slowly turned and walked away. Her eyes followed him until the indoor airport crowd swallowed him, and just like that, he was gone.   

    Olivia drove until the roar of departing planes became a hum, and the horizon swallowed the setting sun. She thought about people, and how some people weren’t meant to stay in your life, except perhaps in the space inside where nostalgia lived. It was a place where the sweetest memories were actually only one voice message away, so you can relive a feeling you'd really like to keep, where the past intertwines with the now, and continues to live on. And it ached. It ached deep in her core the way pieces of a heart cut when they've been shattered in your center, the way you revisit a home that is no longer yours and empty.


"If I never see you again 
I will always carry you
on my fingertips
and at brain edges
and in centers
centers of what I am of
what remains."
-Charles Bukowski

 She knew there was a reason some people were not meant to stay
 and that the mystery of why that was would eventually be revealed.
That people were made for the rising and falling, and that broken only meant something else would be born.

 And that too, was beautiful.

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