He and I were as illicit as rain on a summer day; yet he knew me well, oh so well, like an artist knows his oils, or a writer knows his books. I do recall, fervently, the melancholy expression lacing his face the moment we saw each other again. Oh, we were on the beach, yet my back was turned to my lover, regarding the waves looming over in the horizon instead. I dared not to turn to face him; I hoped my words would be enough. Yet not even the sweet nothings that I spoke then could change the secrets uttered into each other’s ear that August. They were now embedded into our souls, they were part of our spirits. Every memory we shared, every touch, every gaze, it was all on begged and borrowed time.
“You came.” I uttered.
It had been a few months of good time since I had received the news. I had sat on a silly bed draped in paper as the men in white coats spoke nonchalantly to me. I had heartbreak, oh, a terrible case of heartbreak. Yet, my heart had not quite shattered yet. I would have time. Time begged for through endless nights sitting before the face of God. My lover and I made a promise, though, a promise to adore one another in spite of the men’s words.
I felt my throat flee into a desert devoid of water and life. The rushing sensation of butterflies began to fly up my stomach, pushing themselves into the backwater edges of my mouth. I felt my heart go sore. I yearned for an answer, hoping he would give me one for the truthfully rhetorical question. My soul expected none, anticipating instead for the impending heartbreak and utter catastrophe that comes with doomed clandestine loving. He ought to have left me in that very moment, but he didn’t. Instead, a sigh left his lips and he began to waltz himself gloomily down to the shore.
“You called my name, and I came.” He replied. “Like we promised, remember?” He began to grin. Oh yes, I speculated that he was sorting through his memories then, attempting to make sense of things that could not have reason. Everything about us made little reason. Summer love, oh summer love, an attractively damning idea. It damns the heart the same as sin damns the soul. It leaves one gasping for air after a blissful asphyxiation of infatuation. It squeezes round a pair of lovers and entwines them in its ill-fated plans. “Or have you forgotten?”
Had I forgotten? I suddenly did not know. I was taken back to our time on the boardwalk standing at the edge of pier, watching him act folly towards the rocks he attempted to skip on the edge of the ocean. I remember sitting there on the rail the night of my nineteenth birthday, watching his face turn into that of a child. It was hysteric yet wonderfully immersed in a familiar sense of nostalgia.
“Join me! Or are you too weak?” He had cried.
“I’m a far better spectator,” I laughed back, the wind brushing my pale skirt up my knees. “You’ll never make it past where the waves break, silly. Besides, I can hardly even throw,”
His figure turned then I believe, and it was the time I saw his face before I fell.
Oh, I had these strange moments of seizures that flashed throughout my body. I moaned out his name, shrivel and decimated by the sudden surge of panic, before falling into the embrace of the sea. It came with a gentle cry and loud scream from the water, and I had been fortunate enough not to bash my skull on a rock. Yet, when I bellowed for him, he came running, diving into the ocean as though it were my last moments alive. When he scooped me up in a warm embrace and laid me on the shore, I coughed sprays of seawater. He didn’t mind. He never did. So gentle, so kind.
We made a pact then, pinky fingers and all, that if I said the word, he would come to my aid.
“You and I made promises we didn’t intend to keep. You know that.” The memory left me; I began to shuffle in my dress against the waves, my feet leaving pitter patters across the sand. He followed me, though, almost like a child, really, into the sun setting in the distance.
The clouds above began to open up and I suddenly felt an onset of sickness. The sun was there shining in her lovely red and orange hues, her rays twirling round and round again as though she danced upon the sand. My heart began to ache, yet perhaps it was due to the guilt beginning to fester inside of me. My lover stood adjacent to my back, and I could only guess that he had locked his eyes onto my feet, the same heels and toes that left their touch on his station-wagon windows during midsummer nights.
We would run, disappear from the crowd and embrace in the backseat of his car. He would kiss me once, love me twice, and then our souls would lay together until the sun rose over the windshield.
I had meant to leave him. I never intended to stay.
“What if they were, though? What if we resolved to stay here? Together?”
“That’s a fantastical dream, James.”
“Is it though? Could you and I not stay here and embrace the ocean until we die? It’s where we belong…” He whispered softly to himself, not to me. He knew in the heat of that silly moment I would say no; yet he remained fervently sure I might offer him a reply. How could I? My body was balancing itself among the dregs of human life and a soulful death. I was sick, both in heart and head. The God I loved had condemned my life to be lifeless. I was expecting my mother to come and take me soon.
“I can’t do this…I can’t stay.” I murmured. “You can’t stay…Think of our time as a memento, a lovely, fragrant memory to look back upon twenty years from now. You will be grown…married, even, and you’ll be laying in bed next to your sweet, little wife. Then, the thought will hit you. The moment, the memories of you and I wandering aimlessly through the cape will conjure themselves a delightful home in your head. James…”
Then, I turned to face him. He wore a look of sadness so well, draped from head to toe in melancholy turmoil. Guilt ate at my conscience. Yet, the memories of our bike rides, our mornings at the café, they made me happy. A smile perched itself upon my face.
“I will be in heaven, and you will be on earth.”
“And if I came with you?”
My throat clenched at the words; suddenly I did not feel so well, my chest tightening like a noose around my heart. In that moment, I could not determine if it was sickness or the love I had felt for him behind my ribs. I hadn’t begun to notice to silent weeps seeping from my lips until his eyes wandered towards them. I, full of shame, bowed my head and cried.
I didn’t want him to come with me. Surely you, dear reader, would understand that? How could you long for someone you feel so much for to follow you into the abyss of death? To follow you into danger? Into the soaring arms of the unknown?
“I can’t take you with me, please, don’t even put that thought in my head.” I whispered, the waves beating softly against my feet in the sand. Then, I felt a sudden thump echo up my body; a feeling of overwhelming ecstasy inside of me. Oh, it reminded me very much of the lonely nights he and I had spent together, reaching the tree line of heaven and hell in his car on the beach. Then came the electrifying numbness pulsing through my veins. My legs weakened and my arms went sore, depending on my lover to catch me as I sank like a ship in the sea, the sun beginning to bid us farewell.
“You are going to die. Painlessly, effortlessly. It will be sudden, it will be swift. Your heart will stop, and that’ll be it.”
James caught onto my wrists and cried “June!” into my ear. I felt the pulsing rush of a heartbeat beginning to push its way up my throat. Yet, it felt as though I were upon a stage in a large auditorium, and my love was far away from me, perhaps on the other side, perhaps among the audience. I could not find him, but rather, I could make out the little shouts of my name from my place on the stage. It was dark and my lover was gone. I stood bathed in overwhelming downlights, blurry faces watching my every move. It reminded me of my time in school. I wanted to be an actress, I wanted the world to know my name. He was always in the audience clapping, but this time, I could not find him. The picture was disappearing into a foggy fade. I could see my hands quivering within his palm.
We were as close as summer and fall, as the waves to the shoreline. We danced until the sun rose over the pier with my head pressed to his beating heart. Those were our summer days, our damned romance. I wanted this to be in my memory. I longed for his face to travel with me wherever I went, whether it be heaven or whether it be hell. The faint, suddenly glassy memories of our time together were reflecting off his soothing eyes. Oh they stared so gently at me, into my soul, into my body. They shone a brighter blue than the ocean itself. Yet, they were decorated in emerald jewels the same as the sea’s highest waves.
I felt a sudden rise of peace beginning to consume me. It was as though I were drifting without a care into the water. I was floating among the fish and all of God’s great creatures dwelling within the caverns of the earth. The cries of my name were gone, drowned even.
I felt alone. My soul had been carried away from him on that beach, disappearing with the sunset and bathing my love in night. I felt sorry, terribly sorry, yet the incandescent rays of sunshine that had begun to appear over me felt wonderful. I was leaving him. I knew I was leaving, my soul fleeing as if it were a horse galloping through the woods, bringing me to new lands and new horizons. James was gone. I was gone. I suddenly began to feel drowsy, drowsily joyous. The exhaustion, dear reader, was heavenly. How could I begin to describe it? My hands were numb, my heart had ceased its papulations, and the pain of death had left me. Yet, I suppose the last thing I recall before I opened my eyes were the fond memories he and I shared during that silly month of August.