I bought the books in places all over the world. Reminders of where I had been, who I had seen, what I had done. I toted them home, told myself I’d read them, that I couldn’t wait to read them. I unpacked them with anticipation, stacked them next to my bed, alongside all the other books I had bought and hadn’t read.
So many words and stories, thoughts and ideas, waiting for me, a thousand different worlds, portals to places and times and people. They just sit there, waiting for me to remember them. But the stack just keeps growing.
I always assumed we would have time for that coffee date. We would sit, basking in the late afternoon sunlight as it shafted through the windows, dust motes swirling warm in the glow, drinking cup after cup of coffee, and just talk. We would swap stories, laughing, perhaps even crying, most certainly delving deep into life.
We speak of time as if it is some object that can be lost and found, misplaced and then rediscovered, like an old birthday card or a pair of glasses. But it gently slipped away from us, taking our cups of coffee with it.
I’m in love.
Sometimes it’s an explosion. Fireworks of color and emotion and love and the knowledge that what must be will be.
I’m in love.
Sometimes it’s a sunrise. A slow dawning of understanding, driving away the shadow of loneliness, realizing that what must be will be.
But the darkness dissipates regardless. And the response is the same.
Throw your hat in the air, don’t bother watching where it lands. Throw your arms up to the sky, don’t bother about who might be in your way.
I’m in love! I’m in love!
And I don’t care who knows it.
It’s a lonely life at the lighthouse. We trim the wicks, tend the oil, polish the lenses, light the lamps. It’s hard on the wife, living on this desolate rock. It’s harder on my daughter. She lives for the days when visitors come. She wakes up each day asking if “someone’s coming to visit Papa today?” She runs to the window constantly, her two little golden braids bouncing behind her.
Sometimes she peers out into the distance as if the strength of her gaze is enough to draw someone, anyone, to her.
Sometimes she cries when there’s no one there.
It’s easy to stop climbing, to stop running, to stop soaring. But it doesn’t start in the body. It starts with the head and the heart. The heart endures one too many breaks, one too many healed scars, and it just can’t dream the way it once did. And the brain follows suit. It’s always been better about being the grownup of the two, dragging the heart down the road toward the responsible thing. And when the heart stops hoping, it’s hard to get it back in gear.
So complacency creeps up on us and exciting things just become frightening.
It was really bad back in the day, before Comet and Prancer organized. We all stuck together, told them we wouldn’t take it anymore. And it worked. We stuck it to the man and got what we deserved.
Dasher was elected union rep this term. He’s really into enforcing these breaks. Santa really has no choice but comply. Because honestly, what’s he going to do? That sleigh won’t fly itself. And the presents gotta get delivered. The kids are waiting.
But we get our breaks, for Pete’s sake. You don’t actually think we went all night without stopping, did you?
They creep up on us. The days of autumn. One moment, we are hot and sweaty with popsicle sticky all over the kids’ faces. But the nights come sooner and sooner. The crisp in the air deepens, beckoning us to an ancient beauty that lights up the sky in purple and gold. A precious sadness looking at the summer days behind. A painful joy looking at the winter days ahead.
You’ve felt it, haven’t you. The dead leaf that crinkles underneath your foot, releasing autumn scent as if to remind you there is still hope, even at the very end.