We sit upon the bank of the river; the mellow burbling of rushing waters making an ambient score to shared presence. He is distracted, looking off and away to the horizon. I am used to it, gazes that pass near, but never really settle, let alone upon me. It is a comfortable thing, for all the throbbing emptiness that happens in the sub-aural range.
Once upon a time, I used to think it was as simple as reaching out and resting my hand upon his. For long and long, it seemed so. I remember the exquisite agony of moving slowly, inch by precious inch, every moment of apartness shredding the core of me like razors but every moment of closing the space between cauterizing it; twins of extreme, slaying and healing one another endlessly until, at last, there was contact; the anguished effort and time lending what felt like victory.
Then he pulled away; shook off my hand and returned his own to its comfortable, solitary place, as he always does.
I no longer reach. I sit quietly and wonder if ever I will be the one to feel that tenative, almost feather-weight touch; like a dandelion seed, come at last to rest upon my fingertips.
Interestingly, I find I am no longer waiting with expectation, at least not in the same way. My attention, once honed and focused to every nuance of temperature and presence there, at my hand, is set back within my head. I do not expect anything but to feel soil and grass and wind. I find it is comfortable, the sense of no expectation; comfortable like breathing; things are they are and no sense of lacking but for the occasional weight of an unexpected leaf. The caress of dried edges occasionally startles, but it is humor and a wry nod to old memories more than their remnants.
Now and again, he whispers some bit of commentary or insight. He is talking to himself, or perhaps the horizon. I know the difference now and the urge to try and make it more than it is is almost gone. Almost.
Sometimes, when it is dusk and the air is chill, I find my eyes leak. Funny how cold air induces that reaction. I let them fall where they will and try to remember that earth welcomes water, no matter the source. I find that I love nature more fully than I once did; something about universal acceptance seems tender in welcome ways these days. I don’t think too deeply upon it, lest I wake something in the attic that has only just fallen asleep.
It’s all make believe, of course. There is no “him”, no river, no shared presence, no closeness or apartness. It all spins illusory orbit in my head; the scroll of story and symbol, analogy, metaphor, and meme weaving skeins of narration and novelty to keep some semblance of cohesion, coherence, and coping in place, in play.
Play. An appropriate word. What is life but an amazing sand box in which we play? Here, in my tiny corner, apart and yet, well within the greater whole, I build my little sand castles and shorelines; make memory or mockery of it all and, occasionally, remember the corner of the corner of the utmost corner, the place where he and I eternally sit, apart and yet, together.
I’ve described him so many times and no matter how many times I do, he’s never quite the same. Or maybe it is me that is changing. The only thing that is constant is his presence and his utter aloofness. Sometimes, I wonder what story he writes; whether or not his version is similar or wildly different. I wonder if my touch was known as being of me, or if I was, in fact, that dandelion seed, casually shaken off because it was only a seed.
Do we ever really know one another? Or do we only know ourselves in one another? Is there such thing as knowing at all? Maybe we’re all just wisps; tiny dandelion seeds of hope and being, blown all willy-nilly on the waves of time and space. Maybe the only thing that matters at all is not if or when we will land, but how far, well, and long we float.
If I look across the expanse before me, I see the river, the far shore, and the season that is Spring. Day or night, whenever I look, there are always these tiny motes born upon invisible air, swirling and dipping through the moment; phasing into and out of vision. Maybe that’s all life really is… micro conveying the macro, secrets in plain sight, but no real answers except the ones we shape for ourselves.
I want to tell him what I’m thinking. I want to discover what he thinks of it; find out if he agrees or sees it all differently. I want to know if there’s room in the emptiness for shared exploration and whether or not I might ever be more than a mote or a tiny, fluffy seed whose presence is more distraction than delight.
But I can’t take the feeling of his shifting away and I decide I’d as well remain silent and enjoy his proximity. I have no idea what might happen if I reach again, but I know so long as I do not, it will remain as it is.
What is may not be what would be preferred, but it is still better than sitting alone and wondering how long it will be before even shared proximity will be again known and savored.