The bridge sends me into hyperspace, swinging on a rope, toes curling as I fly through the air. Sunlight filters through my hair and I can’t help but notice the expression in your eyes as you watch me purposefully fall into the water below the rope; effervescent like the dappled waves. The tension and release as I float back and forth intoxicates you until you join me in the refreshing cool. Then it’s wave after wave and their identical echoes out to the distant shore that we can barely see even on a summer afternoon.
Flickering fire lit the lamps and the open bonfire in the middle of the tribal house where the entire community gathered. A young man whose messy black hair perpetually fell into his eyes held an older model of camcorder on his shoulder, somber as he watched the people file in through the lens. It was the coldest night of the year with a thick cascade of snow falling silently from the heavens, brushing the hats and shoulders of each citizen, lingering even longer than the young man expected as the building offered little improvement in temperature from the frigid outdoors. The snow only disappeared from the privileged individuals who had earned a seat near to the central blaze, but the rest wore white flecks on their clothing, visually separating who was in control. It wasn’t something the cameraman liked to consider because his father and grandfather had taught him that every individual in a society was equal, even if they performed different tasks in the community. But they had never lived on this island in the vastness of a polar ocean. Here it was survival at its sharpest, often cutting ideals out of the equation in favor of the majority of the community still living by the time spring arrived. Each season had its own cruel beauty in a way outsiders could never imagine. No flowers pushed through topsoil to announce the arrival of a new time of year. The frost merely melted and it was possible to bury the dead from the long, dark winter with enough natural light to forego the torches until autumn. Summer was a blinding mass of sunshine and melting water, mud and mosquitos that created an entirely new risk.
The leader of the town banged a gavel on the nearest bench reserved for the elites. The meeting had begun.
Hours later, the young man shivered in his hut, wondering if he was a type of elite himself because he was equipped with the necessary electricity to power his camera. Records must be kept and the town leaders realized the logic of supplying him with what would accomplish the objective.
After plugging the camera into the power source, the man fell to sleep rather quickly, spent by the cold. As he dreamed, his lips curved into a smile as he saw the graceful and brave young woman who had defied convention and lived on a rock in the ocean, riding above the standards of the town. She lived her own life, even if only inside his imagination.
By the light of dawn, it became evident to me that I never stopped still mourning my first home: peace, green grass and rolling hills. It has blended with certain dreams and a few peculiar things take me back in the blink of an eye, the note of a song. Like being pulled out of my own world, I’m suddenly amid the optimistic crowd of people and cars with skyscrapers in the distance, laughing in a way that the joy reaches every inch of my body. It doesn’t flee like a shadow, forgotten as quickly as it arrived. It is a sunny spring day, just warm enough to chase away the chill of winter. Yet even winters here are spectacular because there is a candle in every window and the scent of fir trees in every room. Today I let the sun caress my skin and the wind sing through my hair, for I am home.
Even as the song that transported me to my home ends, I can still smell the aroma of sweet tulips on a breeze.
You told me you need to get out of here. So you can have life, breath, control of your days again. I’m all too willing to sign up for the next adventure, but you really hit it out of the park on this one, taking me to your glass flat. Here I will stay, my hand tucked neatly, safely inside of yours. Here I will finish what was taken from me and here you won’t get found by those you wish to leave behind us. The only scary moment was when I asked you to stay; you thought I meant for a few months, but I meant forever. However, all of it was more than compensated for when you said yes.
They are nothing if not adaptable… the way her eyes widened in the darkness and it doesn’t seem so hard to get stuck in the time period from which they cannot escape. It is their fondest wish but it has died on their lips, the words downing in the winds and the waterfalls and driving rain, never to surface again. Still they meet in their corners, away from everyone with whom they do not desire to share secrets. She is certain that the time capsule they uncovered is the sweetness that makes the bitterness palatable. With the option to raise one’s voice beyond the occasional northern lights, all have a better chance of surviving the unimaginable.
I meet you forever, again, as if for the first time. Melting in your presence, I dream of how many times I’ve relived this moment. You are the same, the eternal turning and walking of the characters on a Greek vase or an Impressionist painting. Why can’t I follow? You hold a tender finger to my lips as you take my hand. Time can be rewound. Love can be eternal. Your faithfulness is the proof.
From the same character whose voice narrated my drabble called Too Many Choices. One never knows, this character and her choices could end up as another full length project!
If he could see me now, she thought, he would be really proud of me. I’d fly the ocean to say yes, let him take my hand and I’d stay forever. He might wonder why I was so long on making my decision.
The first edition book falls out of her hands, landing on the floor. It’s the first thing she wants to take. She’s going now and no one can change her mind.
A box of sheet music sits in the corner. It’s the second thing she wants to take because they’re going to make music together before the time runs out.
She sat at the piano in the half light. Thinking she was alone, she let her fingers glide over the keys as though they had a mind of their own, playing the song by reflex instead of thought. She remembered him with every stroke of the keys, expressed the melancholy which she fought to hide during the daylight hours with an aching sense of freedom. It was like a prayer rising to the heavens. What light there was had a starkness that made the observer immediately cold, chilled through by its purity and her tears. This is how the body remembers. The thought struck with such subtlety that it was hard for the watcher to recall it later, once the piano had stopped and he knew it was time for him to go unless he wished to be discovered. As he stepped out into the rainy night, he shook his head. I wrote that tune.
It was raining and the seat of the dusty rose settee was getting wet, the velvet falling under the weight of the drops. The settee had antique lines, much too old for those who were selling it. Thankfully a furniture restorer from the local museum rescued it at the last minute before it was ruined. After that, the sun came out and dried the moisture away.
That autumn of 1996 brought simply too many men from whom to choose. There was the distinguished record collector, the man with the boat in his yard and the other who swung his own kind of machismo, leaving a girl totally bewildered. I was a homemaker and an auction runner, surreptitious in the way I left pies cooling on the windowsill. The courthouse was too crowded every time I checked on my passport, so I consoled myself with another recipe, jazz record or pattern for an A line dress. The gentleman would perhaps need to wait for me, but not his next first edition. My skills ensured him the next great read of his life; I was way too sharp to let that go. If we’d started a band, would he have died happier?
On a Saturday morning when the whole town was still asleep, I staked out Mr. Boat in my car, camera in hand to take pictures of the autumn leaves. It made me vibrate with urgent jealousy that all of the other women knew where he lived, yet I did not. But soon my mission was accomplished and I was sashaying past the address every weekday morning in my can can skirts. I rustled like the leaves, wearing teal blue like the paint on his boat. It made me smile and twist my film noir hair around my fingers.
But only the bewilderment making man appreciated the heeled espadrilles I wore as I longed for a glimpse of the man behind the boat. He approved of my long legs, tan from the summer sun, peeking out from beneath the tulle. His smile was like sweet tea on a humid afternoon when you’re sitting on the porch swing, praying for the ennui to end. I think I was happy there. I know I could have been if I’d stayed longer.
As I think back on that autumn, I imagine how much easier my autumn leaf photography might have been with a digital camera. I probably should have thought to cut out the middleman. But we used touch tone phones and three day photo shops, none the wiser.