Like Children with Butterfly Nets
She was beautiful and this moment was perfect. That was all I could think as we sat on that rickety old wooden dock silently watching the dwindling sunlight glint off of the calm water in the little pond in her parents' sprawling backyard. We never had this kind of time together. The few times a year she managed to make it back for a visit were plagued with the exasperation of endless parties and unrelenting visitors; yet somehow on this late afternoon in the midst of this typically chaotic summer we had discovered a sliver of mutual free time away from the burdens of our hectic lives. No spectators. No visitors. No distractions. Just the cool summer breeze lightly ruffling her curly, chocolate brown hair as she sipped her beer. There was no need for words. We had expelled all of our meaningless chit-chat on others hours earlier. Now was a time for meditation; concentration; contemplation; pure, unprocessed, natural, one hundred percent organic peace.
She was watching the birds swoop in and out of the trees singing their battle cries as the sun slipped ever lower. I let my mind wander. Dinner would be ready soon and we would trek dutifully back up to the house to fill our bellies with the elaborate feast her parents were even at that moment laboring to perfect. The guests would soon arrive and the monotony of a fourteen-way multidirectional conversation would return. Not long from now our stomachs would be full of perfectly prepared food and our heads would be full of scientific debate, "that's what she said's", and politics. Then, not long after that, she would be gone again for another year of experience and adventure and I would still be here waiting for her letters, her postcards, phone-calls any ounce of free time she might be able to squeeze from her mind-numbingly busy life. I was ok with that though, because for now if only for a little while it was just the two of us; her watching the scenery and me watching her.
She leaned back on her elbows to better inspect the clouds drifting lazily through the placid July sky and I noticed that the Texan sun had brought out her freckles with a vengeance this summer. She shivered a little as the breeze caressed her skin and readjusted her goldenrod yellow, peace-sign emblazoned hoodie for the sixth time, not yet re-acclimated to the cool northern weather. It was so odd to see her again after all of this time. For a while, when she was gone, it had seemed almost as if she had never existed at all. I was tempted for a second as we sat there to reach out to her; to bridge the short gap in space-time between us and touch her just to prove to myself that she was real and not just a surreal figment of my meandering imagination or a forest-dwelling apparition that had come to taunt my mortal senses. So much about her had changed, yet I could see in her features the same fantastic brilliance that had first drawn me to her in that lonely hallway all those months ago. Her hair had grown out a bit. When we'd met it had been short and spikey, but now it was a few inches longer and curled elegantly around her ear. She had disowned her glasses as well in favor of contacts for better playing rugby. Now her eyes were more visible than they'd ever been before and I was able to see that they were a smooth, bark-like brown and tilted upward slightly by her nose giving her the appearance of always being a little sleepy. In a way she reminded me of a basset hound. Adorable.
She yawned loudly and stretched her arms up over her head. Without looking at me her eyes still focused on the water and the leafy barrier encircling it she sighed softly and noted, "It is so beautiful today." "Yes," I replied dreamily, without taking my eyes off of her soft features, "it really is." Having had our short exchange we lapsed effortlessly back into silence, content to observe our chosen muses of the day as time marched ever on around us. I lost myself momentarily in a current of thought. I let it wash over me, pull me under, and take me away. I let her beauty be the basis for a second for the entire universe. I let it taunt me with unbridled abandon. In that endless expanse all things revolved around her: the teacher; the sensei; the impossible person. It was an instant that stretched on forever in a tide of minutes piling one upon the other until I blinked and the spell was broken.
She turned to me then with the sun winking its final goodbye as it set behind the trees and smiled her trademark mad scientist smile that lights up her eyes like fireflies and causes her whole being to glow with the fiery intensity of a dying star. It was in that moment that I realized the difference between a person who frequently forces themselves to smile and a person who smiles only when truly at peace with the world. Her smile was a beacon to mine and as always I smiled back, blushing just a little under her knowing gaze.
"Let's go back up to the house Mom should be about ready with dinner," she said as she stood somewhat reluctantly and reached down to help me to my feet. I followed her back up the hill, watching her walk sleepily just a half step ahead and a half inch shorter than I; me fully aware that the past few hours had yielded vastly different experiences for the two of us. For her that evening had been a meditation in nature with a good friend. For me it had been a meditation on beauty with a wildly attractive woman. Yet for both of us it had been a perfect afternoon filled with a certain magical nostalgia that we had somehow been able to grab hold of and share in together like two children frolicking through the woods with butterfly nets searching for fairies in an attempt to recapture the mystical wonder of a distant dream.
Perhaps if we had dared to breach the veil of silence we may have shared a more equivalent understanding of that day, but in allowing ourselves to be lost within our own minds together we had shared in something far deeper and more profound than any words could have expressed. There was perfection in that silence. There was a sacred intimacy. For that I loved her. For that I always will. It was only an instant - a brief flicker in the vast expanse of time but to me it was a perfect hour of bliss etched into the forefront of my memory waiting to resurface in my hours of loneliness and remind me of the simple, honest beauty wrought of my unrequited love.