Sunday night movie marathons. Cycling downhill. Going over the speed limit and getting away with it. Coldplay. Daughtry. The sound of typewriter keys. Mac and cheese. Poetry. Prose.
All the trivial things you asked me. Gone. I let myself think that maybe you wrote them on a journal or a diary of some sort, maybe even your phone, and you would happen to read it on the off chance you get reminiscent or the least bit sentimental. But it would be easier to make the ocean and the sky trade places. After all, he keeps you too preoccupied.
The afternoons are warm this time of May. The sunsets would just be perfect if the streets were cobblestone; each rock outlined and individual but still part of the whole. You always smile when I surface my love for traditional things. The left side of your lip crooked, always having that shiver of mock and kindness.
We argued what color the sky was that day.
“Do you see?” asked a man in a white shirt two sizes too big for him and faded blue jeans over worn leather boots. The boy half his height tightened his grip on the binoculars pressed against his eyebrows. He nodded. The boats would be arriving now, done from the day’s fishing trip. What must it be like, inhaling the salt of the sea and air? The scent so visible you’re almost drinking it and the span of time being apart from the waves an itch to compel you back to your day to day friend. The man places his arm around the boy’s shoulders. The boy looks at him and smiles with all the perplexity stored in his childhood that just seems to evaporate when we all grow up.
I head for the edge of the shore. Grab a stick I use to draw on the sand with; busying myself so others would think I was waiting for someone. Beach balls and voices breaking into laughter litter the ocean. The smell of meat grilling taps me on the shoulder, reminding me of that microwave meal I’d have to heat up when I get home. I sigh, bend my head backwards and lie on the sand. This is what my life has come to. The everyday walk from my apartment at 5:00 pm through the streets with the buildings painted in rainbow, an attempt of the mayor to make the town more beautiful; down that hill with the shops on either side you loved window-shopping in, to the statue of the fisherman built in 1998 to honor the local heritage and finally to the beach, to this shore, to the memories you couldn’t keep.
“Wait for me here,” you said. “Just when the sun’s about to set, that crucial second that teases you as if the sun was staying there forever but disappears the next, say ‘I’ll see you soon.’ And I’ll do the same thing, wherever I am.”
“So it’s like we’re saying it at the same time.”
“Can’t we just call each other by then?”
“It’s more romantic that way. Besides, aren’t you the writer between the two of us?”
Then you left. Long black hair waving with your arms as you boarded the ship to your new life. You’d call whenever you can and write letters for dramatic effect. “You and your traditional things,” you whispered.
The canvas of city lights and all things opposite of here ate at our conversations. The liveliness of you seeped through the cords of my phone and I met a side of you that I never had before. And never will. You only sent one letter. The introduction consisted of the things we small-talked about on those days you still called, how your architecture studies were going very well, and that all sorts of opportunities were falling from the sky right onto your doorstep like directed rain. The body was a rambling of circumlocutions I do not wish to be stuck in my head but are on how you couldn’t, didn’t, want to keep things up between us anymore. Had you put that in one sentence and not draped it with all the excuses you came up with while you were probably sipping on some fancy variation of coffee, it would have saved me a great deal of banging my head against the wall. And finally your conclusion was about this boy with whom you have replaced me. You thought of not telling me this last part but with all we’ve gone through together, you only thought it right to come straight with me. “You have the right to know,” you wrote. You wished me well, are terribly sorry with how things have turned out, will always remember me and always, always, always, will be my friend.
Your smile leaning to your left were written with those last two words with just the mock and no kindness left.
It’s been five years and I still whisper to the colors of the sunset. You must have stopped when you sent me that letter- or didn’t keep our promise at all. The breeze is getting colder, the waves, higher. The man and the boy are gone. The sky is orange tonight, yesterday, pink. And that tantalizing second when the sun made you believe it would let you hold it for just a second more came, I can feel my lips shape the words I’ve crafted in one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-six days bubble to the surface as if it were programmed to do so automatically, inherently, but I don’t.
I mumble “Goodbye,” instead.
I stand and head for the microwave meal waiting for me at home; the stick I used as a pen drifting on the waves to some other side of the world. I left it to be collected by the muses who take promises. There are two kinds of them, the ones who gather kept promises and the ones who gather the kind of promises you and I had. They’re from the story I started writing after you left. But you wouldn’t know about that. You never will.
I breathe the salt in the air and let it be a part of me until it fades as I walk from our brokenness. I might go to the beach again tomorrow, for the sunrise. But for now I’m curious as to what happens to the Promise Gatherers; I didn’t get as far as that. I’ve suffered writer’s block for five years but I have a feeling it would end tonight.