There are moments in our lives. Moments that naturally separate themselves, falling away from the thousands of others, standing out like a scarlet leaf fluttering brightly in the memory.
At the soccer game: it was one of those Saturdays. The middle of the day in the middle of October at what is probably just past the middle of our lives. The sun is warm, the breeze steady and chilly with the scent of the ocean. The girls mill around, gathering in knots that continually burst apart and reform, like colts startled by noise.
The young coach is speaking with the ref, clipboard in hand. The girls chant la la la. The other team’s goalie does a cartwheel. At your feet is a ball, an Official World Cup ball, in fact – the one you ordered that commemorates the US vs. Algeria win that sent surprised American arms into the air everywhere. The small boys around us gaze longingly at it.
I watch the little girls running around under the spreading Pacific sky, tattered with a high drift of clouds. I think to myself how gorgeous they are, the incredible palette of tans and yellows, pinks and browns of their skin, here a high ledge of cheekbone and there an exotic slant of eye or fullness of lip peeking through. What a Picasso of beauty mankind is when we let it be.
Of an evening: we lay on the living room floor and play a game with the little one, her constant little-girl chatter circling us like a string of brightly colored pennants flapping merrily in an unseen breeze: what color she should paint her toenails, what she would wish for if she had three wishes, her Halloween costume. Your lips press against my forehead. “How’s my love?” you whisper, with that smile that is mostly eyes, and only touches the corner of your lips, the one that only I have ever had the privilege of seeing, the one that makes my heart, like the Grinch’s, grow three sizes too large.
In the headlands: Our usual route, you on a bike, me on the run. The wind picks up and the fog rolls in, swift and silent; a light rain falls. Racing, I pull ahead, and at the top I take a moment to jump up and down Rocky Balboa-style, before I realize you are nowhere in sight. Flat tire, I think, and very nearly continue on, but then second thoughts stay my heels: a torn Achilles, muscle cramps, a sudden bolt of pain striking you off your bike, insensate, a picture that sends me flying down the mountain double time and for a moment I am fierce as Artemis herself, my thoughts bent only on rescue.
But half way down I see you, limbs intact, toiling upward on the repaired bike. The fog clears and the last of the rain scatters in the fresh breeze. The sky glows fantastically pink in the final slanting light of the sun; suddenly, above us, a magnificent double rainbow stretches from valley to peak. Laughing, we race the setting sun to the beach as the evening draws down around us, the darkening sky crisscrossed by the low-cruising crucifix shapes of hawks on the hunt.
At night: I wake in the quiet. The window frames the moon, high and white. For most of my life, I have been frightened of the dark, waking repeatedly, my pulse racing at every tick of the sleeping house until I gathered the courage to leap out of bed and pad to my sister’s room where, still mostly asleep, she would mutter a comforting sound and lift the blanket to let me creep tremblingly in.
Even in our first years together I’d come alive in the night at the not-quite-stillness of the darkened house, the blood singing in my veins, and whisper your name, or scoot close to your body heat. You reach sleepily for my hand, so consistently that, eventually (though I still wake regularly, wide-eyed, as if ejected from sleep into the darkest ditch of the night) I no longer need to.
Lying beside you: I remember the little one’s question, what would I wish for and though I try to think of three things there is in the end only this: that for as long as I live, I never wake to a world that does not have you in it, that I will always wake to this soft metronome of your breaths and the feel of your hand reaching surely through the dark for mine. My love.