Falling

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** I wrote this years ago as part of a lyric essay class at UBCO.                                                        Posting now in honour of Halloween.

You took me to your beach lot that night last summer when it rained and thundered, and the orange and red spokes of the bonfire hissed and sizzled and smoked and spat at us from where we sat in the lawn chairs underneath the trailer’s awning. I got soaked, anyway, because I never have been able to resist the rain. I got drunk, too, because I never have had a head for beer. And when the clouds finally parted, and the moon was full, I could have sworn that perfect round orb of wonder was hung in the sky deliberately, just for me and you. I felt the heat of your body standing behind me in mute observation. If I had closed my eyes I imagine I would have felt your breath skimming down the back of my neck.

I didn’t want to go, that night in September at your house, but I left. I left that night when the sky exploded around us as we stood on your patio beside the scent of the gardenias in your hanging baskets. That night when flicking off the outdoor lights meant flicking on the show in billions of tiny twinkling stars. I left. I just didn’t leave in time. My hands gripped the balcony railing as you stood there beside me, but even so, with my neck cricked upwards to see the show and with my brain tilting heavy like rocks away from the centre of my skull, my heart swayed.

“I remember what I wanted to tell you,” you said to me Halloween night, when we were trick-or-treating together, one big happy family. “I wanted to tell you I watched a program and it said there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches in the world.”

You told me this after I told you that my daughter’s father is only five foot six, and you laughed and looked at my body with a suggestive smile, and I laughed back and said, “I am not even going there with you,” while my heart skipped around inside my chest. It was after you asked how tall I am, and I said, “five foot ten,” and you said, “no way,” so I helpfully stepped closer to you until our bodies were lined up and our faces were inches apart. And I know my eyes were dancing, because I was all but daring you to kiss me.

And you said, “See, my mouth is at your nose.”

“Five foot six,” you said again, and shook your head.

“If it makes you feel better,” I said, “Robert was six feet tall.”

Weighing in on the subject of my ex-husband’s height, you said, “Six feet is way too tall,” and delighted me with the immediacy of your proclamation, since based on that scale you, at five foot ten, are just right.

When you asked your son who was taller, he said, “Leigh,” and I laughed and moved away. You followed me. We walked beside each other and our shoulders and our arms and our hips bumped, and it was very casual and natural, and inside I was just exploding because I hadn’t been this happy in a long time.

So, when you said that you wanted to tell me about the stars and the sand, I noticed the way you phrased it. I noticed that you said, “What I wanted to tell you…,” and I heard, “I am thinking of you when we are apart.”

“Who does that?” I said, and then mimicked both parts of a two-part conversation. “What do you do for a living? Well, I count the grains of sand on the beach.”

“Still,” you said, “Can you imagine all those stars?”

“Do you believe in ghosts?” I asked, and you did not hesitate.

“Yes, I do. I can’t believe we are all there is in this vast universe.”

“I do like you,” I said, and you laughed.

For the most part, we walk the rest of the way home in silence, with the kids fanned out according to age. The elder ones have sprinted ahead, desperate to get inside and check out their loot, while the younger two lag behind, their heavily loaded-down candy pillowcases dragging from tired arms. The silence between us is comfortable, like a favourite blanket wrapped over our shoulders, and as we head out in our different vehicles for the fireworks display and bonfire at the park and your son jumps into my van and my sons jump into your truck, my heart stutters, because you are the man in my boys’ lives tonight.

Witches and skeletons and hippies and pirates and ninjas gather in harmony round the raging bonfire at the park. Logs are a stacked tepee burning in incandescent blue and orange and white, raining sparks meters high into the night sky, a prelude to the fireworks to come. The scene is that from history books; all that’s missing are the Celtic women in tall hats and black robes joining hands and dancing around the circle of the fire. Your son and I lose you in the crowd, and when I look up and finally spot you, you are the centre of your own ring of women. You are looking at them, but you are holding your body in that way that tells me you know exactly where I am, and I bend down and whisper in your son’s ear, “There he is.”

We mingle, sometimes together, sometimes alone, but as if there is an invisible thread tying us together, you find your way back to me time and again. When you ask if you can get me anything to drink and I say, no, but thanks for asking, the middle-aged brunette standing beside us in the crowd pipes up and says, “I’ll take something.” And I laugh, because I know that any woman in this crowd would be happy to have you fetching drinks for her, and you want to do it for me.

When the fireworks start to rocket into the blackness of the sky, the children sit themselves in a long cross-legged line on the grass, and you and I stand watch behind them. You stand slightly behind me; I can feel the heat of you. Whenever a particularly impressive burst of colour rains down before us like fairy dust falling to earth, whenever a canon shot of flaming heat energy bursts above us, you lean in, and whisper into my ear words that tell me you are here, in this moment, with me.

 

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