She rarely talks at length and I like the sound of her voice so when she begins to go on a bit it’s pleasant. I have a friend who is married to a woman that would talk nonstop for hours on end and frequently does. I’ve never understood the chatterbox thing but this isn’t one of them. She’s telling me about how the shadows of the trees in winter look like rivers and I like the way her story is unfolding. This is childlike talk, the idea of a river of tree shadows, yet it has an appeal I cannot deny. We’re giant beings passing over thousands of miles of rivers without creating a ripple. This is a moon’s eye view of some alien planet. Below us life and death play out in a watery struggle yet we’re an eclipse of the sun that keeps moving, moving, moving, and there is no time for observation of what we might be, just the memories of those who saw us in that moment of time.
I saw a light in the sky once, when I was a young teenager, and then it was gone forever and I’ve never seen anything like it since. There was one other witness to it and after one or the other of us are gone it will be one man’s memory and then one day the moment will cease to exist. The blood flowing through the woman’s hand warms the blood in my hand, and the warmth in mine stirs her own, but one day we will part and that warmth will never occur again. We tell lovers that it’s over, maybe there is shouting, or a long ride to an airport, but we never tell someone we won’t ever hold hands with them again. You may remember the first time you held a woman’s hand, or you may remember holding her hand while waiting for a train, but do you remember the last time your hand touched the hand of someone who is gone?
She falls silent and she realizes it’s been a while since I have spoken. I squeeze her hand to reassure her and she squeezes back, reassured. It’s personal sonar, echoing through our bloodstreams, a form of spiritual echolocation for that feeling that everything is okay between us, and we both know that it is. We come to a spot that is thick with the outline of braches and we marvel at the pattern. Such a world with so much water would be hard to populate with Laws of Physics. If such a world were a rocky sphere then the perhaps the water have cut deeply into the stone and waterfalls would be as common as trees. I explain to her the waterfall world and she leans into it, asking questions about the flora and fauna of the new land, exploring it and happy that I’m talking now. This assures her she did not push me away with her own long words and I have to show her the same respect and not lose myself in this new world she has helped discover.
We stand together, the leviathans joined at the hip, and cast our shadows over the world of shadows. It’s an easy thing to do, to let time slip away while we’re together and we both are immersed in it. The sun sinks down and changes the course of the rivers underneath us. She looks up at me, as if a thought has arrived in her mind, but with my name on it. Like a letter she wrote to me that came back to her instead and she delivers it in person now. She asks me what sort of rock our waterfall world would be made from and I like the fact that she’s still engaged in it. Soft rock would make a Swiss Cheese World while harder stone would make for narrow gorges. She sees waterfalls on the ground below, each shadow of each branch a raging river, the soil covered with a million Mississippi Rivers and a million Niagara falls on each of them. She points out an ant hill in the middle of the shadows and asks me what that is, challenging me to invent something, anything, that would survive our world of rivers and falls.
She turns to face me, grinning at the idea that I might be a loss for words, that I might not be able to turn the anthill into something that is worthy of the world we’ve created but she realizes that like a magnet she’s gotten too close and we kiss. It’s unexpected, unplanned, and the heat of the moment erases everything but that kiss. I feel her arms around me and I feel as if I am falling into that liquid world, that world of raging water that knifes through stone as if nothing, nothing at all could possibly endure and time itself would be etched by such passion.
We are both quiet now. We walk back to the house in silence, shaken by the unexpected earthquake of emotion, and there really isn’t anything to say. The sun is behind us now and our shadows lengthen in front of us and we gain on them not even a little with our quickened pace.
“I always wanted a little girl,” she says suddenly and then she stops speaking so quickly I realize she didn’t mean to say this out loud, didn’t mean the implications of a woman saying this to a man, and she realizes that by wishing she hadn’t said it that she has said even more. There is everything between two people in what she said and what she didn’t say and there is no regret any woman can speak of that is deeper than the regret those words hold. The water rushing out of a billion waterfalls can’t express how much as passed beyond what she and I might have had but now she’s said it out loud and the regret dwarfs the Universe for a moment, a final moment, and then suddenly, like everything else, she is gone.