Gold and Silver Remembrances
As I'm sitting in the starlightThe evening star glowed among its fellows in the sky, lending a dim illumination to the world below. There, in a small neighborhood park playground, a young man approaching the end of his teen years sat alone, swinging slowly back and forth.
And turning back the yearsThat was me sitting there, eyes closed, casting my mind back to years past, to happy, blithe days spent in this very playground. Days spent with Her. Nostalgia welled up in my chest, and I blinked back tears at the poignant thought.And yet, it would have been worse not to remember those days. To forget them, to ignore them, would have been unendurable. This, at least, was tolerable--if by an exiguous margin.
I can hear our carefree voices in the old oak treeI cast a glance over my shoulder at the oak tree two or three rods to the left and behind me. This was my fondest memory: The beloved Quercus.
Where we'd sit and talk for hours
Of everything or of naughtAs I gazed at the arbor, I imagined I could hear my voice mingling with Hers, as we sat, conversing merrily, for pleasurably interminable lengths of time. Or, so it had seemed, then. Now it seemed as if it had been far too transitory.I got up out of the swing and strolled slowly to the tree, pressed my hands against it, closed my eyes; I smiled at the feeling of the rough bark which had caused so many a scratch on our youthful skin. With my free hand, I lovingly caressed such a scar on my right elbow, a once deep gash received when I had nearly toppled from the tree, laughing so hard had I been.I still remembered the joke: "What's brown and sticky? . . . A brown stick!"I chuckled. It didn't seem as excessively laughable now; more so that we had found it amusing then. Or maybe the memory was too bittersweet. My heart lifted, while at the same time it twisted.Hard as I tried, I could not recall details of any other instances. There had been so many, they all blurred together into one indistinguishable, but comforting, mass of remembrance. All--that involved Quercus, at least--I could recall distinctly was that one palmary occasion, and even then, only vaguely. How old had I been? Twelve? thirteen? Certes She, five years the younger, had been no less than eight.
All too soon those days were over, all too suddenlyNot that it made a difference, not now. I opened my eyes, and saw the tree for what it really was: A plain oak, just like any other. There was nothing special about it. And it was empty.I turned and marched away from the tree. Those days were over. Why had I even come?
Oh, sing me the songs
Of our gold and silver days
Days filled with innocence and lightThe memories? Perhaps; but I could recall them anywhere. To enhance them by feeling and seeing physical representations? Why, to render them even more poignant? No--but I knew the reason. All I had to do was peer across the street to know precisely why I had come.There, in the house on the corner, I saw a brightly lit window casting its light onto the neatly tended lawn. One shadow interrupted the glow. It was a silhouette of a human figure: Her silhouette, as she sat atop a desk, reading. It was, I remembered, her favorite way to do it. But why keep the shades up? Doubtlessly the reflection of the light obstructed her vision and, besides, she was reading, not stargazing. Perhaps she had forgotten; perhaps she could see, if only a little, and enjoyed casting periodical glances outside. That would have been like Her. Maybe she just liked leaning against the cold glass; Her again.I was not certain what the reason was, but I did know for certain that I did not mind. Just the sight of Her gracile silhouette warmed my heart.
Always will I cherish the memory
Of the friend most dear to me
And those gold and silver days that turned to nightAs I remounted the swing, eyes locked on that square of aureate light, I let out a sigh. I had never forgotten her. This rift in our friendship had, true enough, opened only five years prior; but not for one day throughout had I stopped thinking of her. How was it that she had always been, that she still was, the only girl I ever cared about? And yet--it had never been quite like that. It had never been romance--not for Her, at least. Had it been so for me? . . . Could it really have been so for Her? Could that have eluded me?I shrugged my shoulders perplexedly, head oscillating. These were questions I could not answer. One more query came to mind: What exactly had changed between us?Well, that, I trowed, is easy enough to answer. We grew older. I became a teenager--that didn't really modify my feelings toward her, but maybe it did hers toward me. And maybe it did mine and I didn't realize it. I became older, smarter, wiser. I suppose I changed too fast for her. And by the time she followed suit, I was changing even more rapidly, into a man. Five years is an amplitudinous difference.A better question, however, was why we had allowed that to come between us. We had been as close as two acorns in a tree, quite literally; how could we have forgotten that so easily?For I, too, had forgotten. I was ashamed to admit it, but the degradation of our friendship had been so gradual it had escaped my observation. Perhaps, too, I had been too callow to observe it. The time since my last moment with Her had lapsed into days, weeks, months, a year. Only then, sifting through photographs, did I happen to think of her again, to realize what had occurred, to perceive the twisting feeling in my heart as I thought of her. I had forgotten--but I had remembered.Would She?
And we'd gather in the park playground
On a Saturday afternoonI shook away these unpleasant thoughts, propelling my mind back once more to sunlit days spent in the sand-filled playground. I envisioned myself, chasing Her, our respective siblings fleeing as I, "It," and my quarry sped past. I envisioned the two of us, jaws flapping, as we dug holes aimlessly in the sand. I envisioned Her jocularly professing her hatred of me as I emerged victorious from a one-on-six football match in the field beyond the playground. I envisioned dodgeballs, baseballs; charades; multitudinous games of miscellaneous varieties.
I can still hear the conversations and the laughterI pictured Her high-pitched voice: Canorous, mellifluent, soft, capable of utmost sympathy and lenitivity; yet potent, equally capable of firmness, fierceness. I could recall few instances when ever her tone had wavered; once, when her best friend had moved, and again when her dog had been put down, but still she had kept it firmly under control, and refused to let it falter for more than a moment.That bravery with which she levelled her tone was the bravery with which she faced everything. I had never seen her frightened: Not spiders, nor heights, nor lightning, nor even injury daunted her. Her equanimity was always, no matter what, well under control. Perhaps her equanimity could be attributed, in part, to obstinacy; for this she had, to a considerable degree. I had always admired, also, her patience and wisdom; her honesty, her humility, her selflessness; her effervescence; and her self-confidence, something I had never had.But her greatest asset was her sense of humor. More than a sense; I had always claimed, myself, to possess a knowledge of humor. And if that was the case, She had a sapience of humor. Her witticism had always been of the most prime and hilarious quality, and always accompanied by her laugh and smile. To call the former charming, and the latter melodious, would be an injustice.I had always been of the opinion that laughter was the most beautiful sound to be heard on the planet; and, moreover, of the opinion that Her laughter was the most beautiful sound to be heard in the whole of the universe. It took the tinkling of bells, the whistling of the wind, the pattering of the rain, and the chittering of the most dulcet birdsong, and coalesced them all into one unified euphony to which no single adjective could do justice.Her smile was inlaid with dazzling pearls, a capsized rainbow that shone brighter than any my eyes had ever perceived.I probed my memory for examples of this laugh and the smile it accompanied, particularly when I had induced them. I thought of the time I had fallen off the swing and broken my nose; the time I had fallen out of an attempted handstand and nearly broken my neck; the time I had fallen backwards off the swing in a flip that had, by no influence other than luck, landed me on my feet; the time I had torn my pants during a game of "Tag"; many times when I had nearly fallen from the tree.But I never actually fell, I thought, nor did she. There were certainly countless close calls, but one always caught the other. We were always there for one another. And if one had fallen off the swing or tripped, the other would be right there to help them up and dust them off.
Though o'er the years we may have grown apartI directed my eyes once more at the silhouette across the street. We were always there for one another . . . and now where were we? I merely gazed from a distance as she, ignorant of my presence, enjoyed a good novel.I gave a vehement pump with my legs, a little more vigorous than intended. Losing my balance, I descended face-first into the sand. How ridiculous! The image I must have cut at that monent; I was almost glad I was alone.Yet, I would have sacrificed far more than my dignity to hear that ineffable chortle, to feel that palm in my own as it pulled me to my feet, to have two extra hands with which to brush off the grit. For a moment, I fancied that I could hear Her laughter as she satirically commended my agility.Suddenly, a voice said: "Well, well, what do we have here?"I must have been dreaming. Certainly, I thought, I'm dreaming? But there was no mistaking that voice.
The friend I made back then
Is the friend I know I can rely on everafter"Well, it's the acrobat! I didn't recognize you with your head in the sand. Although, I suppose I've seen you that way as often as I've ever seen your face."I felt a hand touch my left brachium, the fingers wrapping only halfway around its density. It took a second hand to grasp it firmly; with their aid, I scrambled clumsily to an upright position, stupefied. Immediately I found myself simpering rather foolishly into a charming Korean face that gazed up into my own."You never change, do you? You must have fallen off that swing a hundred times."I stammered, "Well--a-hundred-and-one--now--I suppose."A smile. That most pulchritudinous smile. "That's a relief; I was afraid you had bitten off your tongue when you fell."She sat down on one swing; tentatively, still unconvinced this was not a dream, I seated myself beside her. As we rocked, for a few moments, hushed, I gazed at Her, admiring that most beautiful face which I had had no opportunity to behold in so long. I could only see half her face from where I sat, but that was enough. I could see the screen of delicate, satiny black hair cascading off her head to her shoulders, shimmering in the starlight, a lustrous frame to a lovely visage. Her oval face ended in a long, rounded chin that protruded rather suddenly. From her shallow eyes two irises of a color indistinguishable from the pupils twinkled, more luminescent than the stars in the sky above, fringed above by eyebrows as ebon as her eyes and hair. The nose that sloped down between them was depressed and thin at the bridge, wider and impeccably salient at the tip; broad and flat by American standards, but elegantly pointed in Oriental terms, and in my own opinion. High, round cheeks rose up on either side of this, rolling downward into a deep valley where her smile, that transcendental dimpled smile, curved a mouth bordered by a glossy, pale purplish red, showing all of her glimmering teeth.A young, beautiful girl, unassuming and naive, who had lived a sheltered life. And yet, from somewhere in the depths of those soft eyes, there emanated a powerful wisdom, almost haughty in tone but at the same time benevolent, sympathetic, understanding. Though her elder by age, and probably even more so by experience, I felt, as I had always felt when I was with her, to be the inferior.Finally, She turned to me. As the moonlight fell upon her full face, my heart gave a leap for which I could not fully account--but it felt wonderful. She broke the silence:"It's been so long since I've seen you. How have you been?""I've been well. How have you been?""Oh, I've been good.""Er--nice weather we've been having lately.""Oh, lovely. It's getting colder now. Winter is on its way."An akward silence followed. It was I, this time, who broke it, venturing rather suddenly: "I've missed you."There was a long pause. Then She said, "I--I've missed you too."Was there a ring of insincerity to her words? or did the depth of emotion behind it merely not extend as far as my own? She went on:"We used to be so close--such good friends. How is it we haven't seen one another in so long? What--what changed?"I shrugged. "We got older. We grew apart. It's not the same, I suppose."She nodded with a sigh and swung higher. "I guess you're right."Together, side by side after so long, we swung without exchanging another word for some time. The old swing set creaked, swayed and rattled, but we had no fear of damaging the thick, firm metal beams. Side by side, we flew through the night sky for the first, magnificent ride in a long time.Without warning, She dug her heels into the sand, halting herself, and cried out, "Oh! why can't it be the same?"
Oh, sing me the songs
Of our gold and silver days
Days filled with innocence and lightI swung to a slower stop. When I stood beside her on the solid ground, I murmured softly, "Do you remember this scar?" I touched an index finger to my forehead, just between my eyebrows.Her own forehead creased; then she laughed, and said, "Yes. We were playing 'Tag.' You twirled to dodge me, and rammed headlong into the side of a 'park safety' sign." Her laughter, mingling with my own, echoed through the park.
Always will I cherish the memory
Of the friend most dear to me
And those gold and silver days that turned to night"Oh, what about the time," said she, "when we were digging--right over there, at the foot of that slide. I don't remember what we were digging for--to reach China, probably." She grinned. "Anyway, we stopped to admire our work, and you were patting me on the back. Then you shoved me into the hole--and I came back out with a handful of sand to throw in your face!""Or how we would often cover that slide"--I pointed--"in sand, and then slide down until we had cleared it all off?""How about when I slid down on your back--and fell off and twisted my ankle?"I shook my head. "No, that can't be right. You almost fell off. But I caught you by the ankle, and--" I halted, smiling sheepishly as the memory returned in full detail. "That's how you twisted your ankle. When I caught you.""Now I remember!" She chortled and added satirically, "Thanks for that!""I saved you from snapping your neck, didn't I?"
Sweet memories come back to me
And never will they fadeWithout consciously noticing it, her arm had twined itself around my own. "Do you remember how we would often dig a huge pit in the sand, call it a dinosaur nest, and then you would try to catch the rest of us--the naughty baby dinos--and return us to the nest. Of course, we'd only run away again.""And then, when we were done, we would bury ourselves in the pit." I added, "Do you remember how we used to challenge one another, to see who could make the other laugh first?""Yes." She nodded. I detected, in her eyes, in her voice, in her smile, an abstracted, blissful reminiscence . "You usually won.""Usually by falling and breaking something."Her laughter rang out once more, more cadenced than the first birdsong in the spring, sweeter than the ocean waves in the summer, more velvety than the rustling of leaves in the autumn breeze, more luscious than sleigh bells in the winter, more pleasant than the chirping of crickets, the very crickets who seemed to have ceased their melodies at that moment to defer to the superior musician playing her song in the night air.
I can hear your words resounding in my heartEvery note that ever I had heard escape those lips resonated then--and now--in my ears. I could envision, both then and now, every mien her face had ever assumed before my eyes. I could and can feel every emotion she had ever revealed, in one way or another, to me.Her head had somehow found its way to rest upon my shoulder, my right hand had closed over the hand that clasped my left arm. Thus intertwined, I was suddenly aware of everything: Her warmth; her steady, rhythmic breathing; her calm, demulcet pulse; the celerity of my own heartbeat.I felt a happiness which I could not describe if I knew by memory every word in the English, or any other, language. Elation, exhilaration, euphoria; none of these words are apropos. Perhaps ineffable is, in itself, sufficiently evocative. Ineffable, indeed, was this happiness.
Though what lies ahead I cannot seeWith all the suddenness of a bolt from the blue, She tore herself away from me. "No," she gasped out, "no--we can't--we--this--you're too--and I'm--it's been too long--things--everything's different--we can't just--it's too--it's--we--"I gaped, as stunned by this sudden outburst of incoherent, fragmentary utterances of unintelligible purport, as if the Holy Grail had descended upon my head from the clear starlit sky.She just stood before me, now murmuring inaudibly, wringing her hands, avoiding my gaze. I had never in my life seen her distraught. It astounded me to see her in this way. To my relief, she fell silent, closed her eyes, took a deep breath. I perceived drops of starlight on her eyelids; I had never before seen her tears, but it did not surprise me that they were as beautiful as any other aspect of this girl.To a degree, She regained her equanimity. Her voice was commendably nonchalant, as she said, "It's getting late. I had better be going home now. It was nice seeing you again." Each word was strained and forced, the sentences short and swiftly delivered. Her voice broke as she added in an undertone, "Extremely nice."As the tears began to flow more freely, she directed her feet toward home in patient, measured steps.Before she had put a yard's distance between us I strode silently to her side, and grasped her hand in my own. I gave it a firm squeeze. I said nothing; she said nothing. She merely glanced at me, eyes swimming with tears, and gave me one final glimpse of her smile. I simpered back at her.Simultaneously, I released her hand and she pulled it away. She covered her hands with her face and broke into a run. I heard one sob escape her; but one only. Then I heard the sound of a door, and moments later the shades slipped down behind her bedroom window. She was gone.
If friends truly we are
I know for sure we'll never be apartI sighed. Alone once more. I sat down on the swing upon which She had roosted. Absentmindedly I rocked my legs.Logically, at that moment, I might have felt perplexion, disappointment, resentment, longing, sorrow, anger, or perhaps all of these and more; but no, the sensation that predominated in my heart was bliss.
Oh, sing me the songs
Of our gold and silver daysI had seen Her again. For a moment, if only a moment, we had been reunited, and together had remembered. Nothing had changed--nothing had truly changed. We had been friends once; that was set in stone. That we were still friends, and that we would always be, was as certain.And now, sated be this meeting, slaked by her charms, I found strength, courage, patience. At that moment I felt as if I could do anything, brave any peril, and wait any length of time. And I could, I knew--I would, for Her. For what we had been--for what we were--for what we could be.I rose and ambled slowly out of the playground.There was nothing left there for me--not at that moment. My mind was sore, my feet were sore, my muscles were sore--but my heart soared, gliding among the stars in the night sky above.
Days filled with innocence and light
Always will I cherish the memory
Of the friend most dear to me
When I reached the street corner, I cast one final glance over my shoulder, at the rectangle of light shining dimly through the lowered shades, savoring the last vestiges of those precious moments she and I had spent retrospecting. And then, with the most ardent smile I had worn upon my lips in years, I turned away.She and I had been friends, veracious friends, inseparable of heart. I had forgotten; and I had remembered. She had forgotten; with time, she would remember. We would meet again, and have afresh everything we had shared--and, perhaps, more. All I could do now was wait . . . and remember.And those gold and silver days that turned to night
* ~ The End ~ *I had a great time writing this, really enjoyed breaking away from my safety zone to write something different, and I'm rather proud of how it turned out. I hope you enjoyed it--and I'd love to hear your thoughts.From the desk of Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith
Edited by Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith, Jan 31 2012 - 12:54 PM.