Silence of the Night

8 Apr

The shingles on the roof glistened in the moonlight while we sat there thinking about the past two years. They were other-worldly, something drawn from another universe. Can two people create that together? We could. I suspect love makes those strange and wonderful dimensions. The moon hung suspended in the sky, curved into a storybook sliver. The velvet darkness draped over the rooftops and hugged the silver stars and spread across the summer night. Our favorite place took on new meaning tonight. It was the place where we’d met and where we’d now say goodbye. I can remember just like it was yesterday when I first saw him…

I’d gotten into a fight with my parents that night, and so I did what I’d always done when I was upset- sit on the rooftop and cry, or write, or read, or contemplate the injustice of life in a fit of poetic melancholy. I was crying this time, the unattractive kind of crying- loud and heaving. My face was streaked with tears, my hair damp and mussed. But at least I was alone.

I heard him before I saw him, and it startled me. He rounded the corner, laughing and breathing hard. Apparently he didn’t see me. When he did, he didn’t look a bit surprised.

“Well hello there. You look terrible,” he announced. The boy sat down too close to me and placed an arm on my shoulder. When realizing that might be misconstrued, he retracted the arm. Instead he stuck out a hand. “The name is Pete, Pete Stork. And if you tell me why you’re crying, I’ll tell you the name of any constellation out there. Don’t believe me? I’ll bet you every cent I own, which is 10 at the moment.” He flashed me a grin as he pulled out the pockets from his pants…

That’s how Pete Stork invaded my roof. I pulled me knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. Goodbyes never seem like goodbyes at the time. There’s always that feeling that it’s not real, that you’ll see the person again sometime. But as I turned to look at him, I knew it wouldn’t be true, at least for us. He looked straight ahead over the rooftops and chimneys as I traced his boyish profile with my eyes. Had he been looking at me, well then I would have known we’d meet again. But he was already gone, and I was the one studying him for keepsake. I hadn’t realized but my hand had taken over what my eyes once were doing- like sketching  the outline of a drawing my fingers traced his jawline and brushed across the unshaven face, crystallizing every contour, every perfect flaw that made him so beautiful to me. His face turned, and my hands were now on either side, memorizing the brown eyes that were my world.

The night was silent, a cool and sweet silence like a forest at dusk or lake in  early morning. I wanted to drink it, to capture it, to make the clear notes of the evening play forever the reel of my mind, over and over again. We were silent, too. Neither knew how to go about the business of goodbye, so we avoided it all-together. This was our goodbye, being together one last time before we each left for what the other would never know. I was 16-years-old then, two years before I got the news Pete died in combat. Vietnam. I wonder if, before he left for good, he noticed the stars. I hear they’re real bright there.


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