Always be Airplanes

Time doesn’t matter, it never does, but I’ll act like it anyway, because I always do.

It was a little under three years ago that he and I lay under the redwoods. They were large, tall trees, half enough to call a forest, and they clustered together around the dry creek that ran through his backyard. We lay there because I liked trees and he liked trees and we both liked laying under them. Sunlight was filtering down through the leaves and the temperature was perfect and I was so comfortable I didn’t even care that I was getting dried leaves and branches and dirt in my hair.

He’d gotten me a poem book for Christmas, a compilation of short stubby lines full of crude words depicting vulgar images, written by his favorite author, the wondrous Bukowski. I was a poetry skeptic and thoroughly unimpressed with the work itself, but the sound of his voice reading it was something I could have listened to all day and night and week, without food or water or bathroom breaks.

But we didn’t have all week or night or even day; it was 4pm already, which meant we had less than an hour.

Little bees were buzzing around a few feet above our heads and birds were singing cute little fairytale love songs and I was so happy I started to cry. Just a few tears, trailing down the sides of my face and into my ears. Warm at first, then cold then dry.

Don’t think about it, I told myself, don’t think about leaving yet. Everything was perfect, every single thing, and I’d always had an unfortunate habit of missing things before I lost them. I made myself focus, trying to appreciate every single perfect thing about every single painfully short moment. I lay there trying to trap the words in a net beyond time, catch the feelings and hold them there, hold them still.

A plane roared by, drowning out our words, infiltrating the magic web we’d strung around ourselves. I was pulled back to reality, reminded that this was indeed happening and so were millions of other things in the rest of the world. I smiled.

“We could have done without that,” he said into the silence the plane had left. There was a sort of nervousness in his voice, as if by interrupting our magic, the roar of the engine had stolen something from us that he was afraid we might not be able to get back. I wasn’t concerned.

“There will always be airplanes,” I said.

He sighed in agreement, mistaking my words for resignation that there would always be something there to ruin a perfect moment. I didn’t tell him that wasn’t what I meant. It was beyond me to explain that, for me, it hadn’t ruined anything. That sound that was so far from peaceful, so wrong and real, had pulled us out of our fragile, perfect world, making it into something true, something that might actually exist. It made me appreciate the silence.

He continued to read and I continued to smile, and when it was time to get up and leave, I didn’t feel nearly as sad about it.

It’s been a little under three years now, since that day, and a little over two that all of our magic faded away. It isn’t possible to count the time that I spent grieving, longing for the perfect moments we had that, while momentary, seemed to span a lifetime. The ache never went away, but once I stopped expecting it to, stopped making it a priority, it seemed content to burrow in, out of my way. It’s there always, a memory, a friend, and it doesn’t interrupt my life anymore, unless I invite it to.

But I don’t mind remembering us that like that, he and I under the redwoods, the day that I first fell in love. The trees and the light and the birds and his voice, the roar of the rest of the world saying we’re still here, we will always be here. It was true; the rest of the world was there before our time together and there after, and it’s here with me today as I try to focus in a bubble of another type of magic. While the two year old next door isn’t screaming and the neighbor across the way isn’t pounding off-key chords into his amplifier, I sit here at my desk and marvel at the silence, every single second of it. I know it’s fragile and temporary, this magic, along with every other, and that’s alright. There will always be airplanes.

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