“Close your eyes,” you whisper, and I do. I can hear you shuffling around. Abruptly you grab my hand and start pulling me along; I nearly trip over myself, my eyes still shut tight. There is a level of trust here that even I can’t comprehend – but I have always been this careless, so there is no cause for concern. I am the last person to be concerned about, these days.
Time closes in and then expands, and she says at last, “Okay, open them.” As I let in a clear, crisp view of the sun setting over the ocean, I can feel my body instinctively flinch. But it is not the bright golden light that has me taken aback. It’s her.
There is only one reason she would bring me here today.
We sit together on the edge of the overlook, staring out at this natural wonder. For the longest time, neither of us have words. Deep in that silence, I imagine a little girl in a hospital room, and a dying man with an arrow in his chest, and a musician stretching out her hands and wrists in preparation for a performance, and a pair of mothers taking a walk on the side of a reservoir. There are so many things, so many possibilities, so many what-ifs and had-nots and could-have-beens. With our two lives, it could have gone any other way.
“I’m not going to lie,” you confess, breaking me out of my conflicting dreams.
“Okay,” I say.
“It would be nice… it would be nice to say that today, the sun’s not actually going to set, and we can just sit here forever, and you can hold my hand forever and everything’s always ever going to be alright…”
“That would be nice,” I agree. “But you said you aren’t going to lie.”
“I’m not going to lie.”
The silence comes back, but now there’s a pained tension – tension and compassion, too, which tempers an almost overwhelming feeling of grief. We both sense it, and we both want to break it. “Hold me,” you say, and I hold you.
“The sunset is beautiful…”
“Let’s do this together,” she says. I nod. I can feel her breathing, the slight rise and fall of her chest, and my heart hurts. We watch together as the sun bravely, adventurously, gently dips below the horizon, here and gone in an instant – and I watch alone as you follow it without looking back.
Today, the sun’s not going to set and we can just sit here forever and hold each other forever and everything is going to be alright…
No. Today, the goodbyes we exchanged are eternal.
Metaphors, after all, don’t have to be lies.