Sunset

16 Jun

Music drifts out from the city park. I cannot quite see him, but I can picture him-or her-just like the hundreds of other musicians trying to make in in the big city- face alight with the music, half as entertertainers and half with pure joy. I can see the open case filled with scrunched up dollar bills. In a sudden rush of emotion, I wished I could pay that musician filling the river with mournful violin music all the dollar bills in the world. For in that moment, it reflected exactly how I felt, and it seemed the perfect consolation.

The music fades the further we walk along the edge of the river, becoming softer and more indistinguishable among other sounds until I can no longer detect the mournful notes. I can no longer detect exactly where I begin and end, either. I feel Jim’s hand brush across mine. It brings me back, and I realize it doesn’t feel the same as when he first did that. I knew what would come next. He took my hand in his own, his fingers intertwining with mine.

A pinkish glow drapes across the sky, filling in the dips and cracks created by the city skyline. It’s September, and the sunset is soft, calm- soothing- a kind of universal lullaby. It mocks my own inner turbulence, which only grows stronger as we walk further along the river’s edge.

I can see the old lighthouse not very far away. It looks out of place-  full of wonder and curiosity in the pink and orange glow sifting in and around the light at the top that no longer shines. I wanted to detatch myself from Jim and sink happily into the sky world, full of color and possibility.

My hand now feels clammy. I withdraw it from his. He looks at me confused. Sheepishly, I mutter something about how hot I am. He looks away skeptically but lets it slide.

It was a nice dinner. Exquisite, actually. Jim took me to an expensive restaurant where we dined on things I couldn’t even pronouce. He bought a bottle of wine to share during dinner and told me to not be shy about ordering whatever I wanted. I chose the most inexpensive dish on the menu. He reprimanded me and told me I should get used to nice things, that I deserved it. I didn’t deserve anything. I’ve always thought that.

Throughout dinner I couldn’t stop thinking about the time he didn’t stop when he saw the broken down car on the side of the road. Silly, I know, but it’s the kind of thing I don’t forget. He went on about different subjects, stopping every now and again to take a bit of food, to pour me more wine, to signal for the water, and as I watched him talk, eat, interact, I thought about how my dad would have stopped for those poor people, how he would have helped them any way he could. I begged him to stop, but he had to be on time for a meeting. His clients were waiting. I still wonder whether that car full of children ever made it to where they needed to go.

“What are you thinking about, dear?” Jim reaches over and tips my chin to look up at him. “You’re somewhere else tonight. Let me in.”

He’s in one of his communicative moods, which is rare. He’s focusing exclusively on me tonight.  

“Oh nothing. Dinner was lovely.”

He searches my eyes. “I thought you would like it.” He seems satisfied, never prying deeper to find out what’s really on my mind. He’s most satisfied when what I say is what he wants to hear.

What I was thinking about is that I would have rather spread a blanket in some field out in the country, listened to night sounds and watched the brightest stars come out of nowhere in the sky… He’d call the idea poetic and silly, and I’d laugh it off, unable to truly reveal my own desires. I suppose that’s why he still doesn’t really know who I am- I sacrificed myself in the begginning just to be wanted, to be needed by someone, and I could never bring myself back after that.

“Feel like going up into the lighthouse?” His voice breaks into my thoughts, again.

I do actually feel like going.

We enter the old lighthouse. For some reason it’s unlocked tonight. Jim must have pulled a few strings, probably knows the person who owns it. He leads the way up the creaking, winding steps, spiraling into darkness, steps that seem to have no end.

“I used to come up here with my brother when I was a kid,” he says, brushing away a cobweb. “We’d sit  up at the top and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up. This place means a lot to me.”

I wonder where he’s going with this. Nostalgia  is so unlike him.

We finally reach the top. He takes my hand…again. We look out through the windows and over the city, draped now with an even darker pink. It’s breathtaking, especially in the  glow that had by now reached all but the confines of my own heart.

“What did you want to be when you grew up?”

“I wanted to own my own company, to be someone important, someone who other people respect.”

A lone boat chugs through the river, leaving a slice mark in its wake. Fireflies float in and out against the corners of the windows.

“We’d also talk about girls, the kind we’d like to marry someday.”

There’s a few moments of silence.

I hear the fabric move from Jim’s wool coat. As I turn from the window to look at him, I see that he’s down on one knee holding a very large diamond ring surrounded by little gems, my birthstone.

“You are the girl I want to marry, Nora. You are everything I’ve ever wanted, ever needed. Marry me, Nora, marry me, and make me the happiest man.”

I should have known this was coming, that the whole evening would eventually lead up to this climactic moment.

Isn’t this the moment every girl dreams about?

I think about a life with Jim. I think about what he offers: security, a home, companionship…I think about other things, too- He doesn’t know me…

A hot tear slides down my cheek, and I feel a chill wind blowing through cracks in the old wooden lighthouse.

He’s standing now with both hands on my stiff shoulders saying something about how he’ll give me time to think it over. For a brief moment I don’t know what I will tell him, but as I finally look up and into his brown, searching eyes, I know there is only one answer I can give.

“No.”

The pink sun finally sinks beneath the horizon as a final goodbye is said between it and the moon I can now see suspended in the sky like crystal- shining, luminous, perfectly sillouetted against the sad black of some September night.

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