By Daniel Gould
A cold wind cut between the trees shaking the branches and scattering leaves across the dusty road. It wasn’t quite fall, but summer was suffering a quiet, dignified death. The late season, however, was not quite ready to release its hold on the green hills where every morning the orange burn of autumn crept closer. A small cabin was set back from the road about a hundred yards with a two- track tire path connecting it to the lonely rural highway. At the end of the drive a useless, rusty mailbox leaned over half dead amongst a pile of yellow weeds.
To the east the sky was dark blue, the color of a cold lake. A few eager stars flickered like weak candles above the tree tops, and to the west the tip of the red sun splashed its dying light across the horizon hanging onto the day for a few more desperate moments. Darkness falls fast and slow this time of year.The space between the day and night, like the space between the seasons, could last as long as you wanted—if you were willing to live in the moment.
The moment. It was all that mattered now to the man and woman who sat next to each other on the cabin’s porch.Behind them was a past beaten and worn as smooth as the two-track tire path. It was a past full of countless nights like this—perfect nights of quiet abandonment, where the only thing that mattered was the wind and the air and the moon. However, in their naïve youth these nights slipped by without notice or thought, forgotten and lost to the habitual routines that fill up time but do very little more.
“What are you thinking about?” the woman asked without looking at the man.
“Fenton,” the man said.
The woman flashed a smile that quickly melted with the fading light.
It was where they had met, a small town with small people. Their time there was both long and brief, this attitude depended on the memory. They had left at night during a rain storm and never looked back. “Do you have any regrets?” the woman asked as she rested her head on his shoulder. “ No.” “ Neither do I.”
The man kissed the top of her head; her hair smelled like lavender. He breathed in the sweet, mellow scent with closed eyes, his mind drifting backward in time to that small town and the young woman he once knew. She was beautiful, enchanting. There had been a certain vitality about her, a frequency he immediately and reflexively fell in sync with. In one silent but exhilarating moment of unconscious love their spirits had been inexplicably linked forever.
A coyote howled up in the hills as the white moon appeared above the tree line like a ghost, casting its pale light onto the dark world.
The night sky was now washed over black, a million stars awoken, and with their heads tilted defiantly backward, the man and woman both looked up into the endless abyss of space and time and shared the same wandering thoughts about their pasts. The journey to this point in their lives had been long, and neither one would have ever guessed it would end here. Together.
This moment, this place in space and time—this perfect night—had once merely been a dream, a fantasy they shared but never dared to look in the eye. They were young and ignorant then, and although there had been pain, they both looked upon the past with a fondness that only people like themselves can appreciate, like the way an old solider traces over his scars with trembling fingertips. They were survivors. Sitting on the porch during nights like this made them feel like they were at the ragged edge of the universe, looking upon all existence with a sense of satisfaction and nostalgia.
They were much older now than the kids they had once been. The man’s hair was dull grey and there were tight lines on his face. The woman had a streak of silver in her short hair like a single tiger stripe that was accentuated by the moon light.
Age didn’t matter anymore. They could have been twenty or eighty; it made no difference. The only things that mattered now were each other, the night,and the moon.
“ I love you,” the man said.
“ I love you, too.”
He kissed her head again, inhaling the lavender.
Love. This was just a word that carried little meaning to either of them. It was said more out of custom, a habit of their old routines. They certainly did love each other, but their relationship had transcended verbal expression long ago. They didn’t need, nor want, to label and define what they were and how they felt toward each other. There were things in life better left unsaid. This created mystery, and there was a peaceful happiness in the power of the unknown, like the way ancient man must have looked upon the moon in the night sky and wondered.
“ I think tomorrow I’ll start restocking firewood,” the man said.
The woman smiled and kissed him on the lips. As she did so their hands found each other, fingers interlocking like the metal teeth of a zipper.
Winter was not far away. Soon summer would let go and the world would turn orange and gradually the snow would arrive and the man and woman would huddle together in a pocket of warmth before the fireplace cradling mugs of black coffee. They would talk and laugh and play cribbage, waiting until they could once again spend their nights on the porch letting the quiet moon light wash over them, listening to the coyotes howl from the hills.
They were moon people, the man and woman. That giant, glowing orb in the sky inspired them in ways they did not understand. There was meaning in its ghostly light far more illuminating than the sun. The sun was too loud. The moon was quiet. The moon whispered secrets to those who were willing to listen.
And the man and woman listened. They sat together on the porch, the warmth of their bodies just strong enough to balance the rising chill in the air. Before them the fields and trees glowed with a soft white light, shadows tangled together all the way to the horizon.
The moon rose higher.
The man and woman held each other and listened.