Tomorrow Will Be Here Soon Enough

truck-bed

The party was lame, and when I say lame I mean that there were so many people there I felt like I’d walked into a Black Friday Walmart event. My only reason for attending—a favor to a friend, who’d introduced me to another friend before disappearing into the maelstrom of humanity.

So there I was—or rather there we were—standing like concrete stanchions suffering the abuse of a never-ending sea.

My new companion looked as thrilled about the situation as I felt.

“Give you a lift home?”

She laughed, “That obvious?”

“It’s coming off you in waves,” I smiled.

“Thanks,” she said.

***

I helped her into the passenger seat, slipped a tip to the harried valet running the key-stand, jumped behind the wheel, slammed the door, and exhaled in the sudden silence.

“Right?” she laughed.

I liked her laugh, there was something easy, yet heavy to it, like it had to push its way to the surface and was almost surprised at itself that it had somehow made it again. I smiled back at her.

I maneuvered out of the lot, inching past cars that most people only ever dream of buying. On the open road, I finally loosened my tie and sank back into my seat.

“Sorry about the lack of introduction. Did Kelsey drag you out too?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “it’s fine though. She’s great.”

“Yeah, she is.”

“Where am I heading?” I looked at her. “For you, I mean—sorry, I totally forgot to ask.”

She hesitated, “Would you mind if we just drove for a little bit?” Then in a quieter voice, “I’m not really ready to be home yet.”

“No problem,” I said. “Help yourself to the radio; passenger has DJ status.”

“Okay,” she said.

We drove on in silence for a couple minutes before she reached over and tuned the radio to an oldies station.

“I’ve got a place I like to go and sit when I want to be alone,” I said, staring out the windshield. “We can go be alone together if you want.”

She was quiet for a long comfortable moment.

“I think I’d like that,” she said.

***

Twenty minutes later, I’d backed my truck onto a dune overlooking the ocean. I pulled a blanket from under the back seat, and she followed me to the bed of the truck. Sitting there side by side, the gray sands ran away from us into the curve of the ocean, the waxing gibbous washing it all in an otherworldly glow.

I don’t know how long we sat, but the moon had moved a good hand’s breadth toward the black line of the horizon before she spoke.

“Kelsey made me come to that party because tomorrow . . . or, today I guess, is the anniversary of my divorce.”

I didn’t say anything. It’s always taken me a long time to think of something to say, and then more often than not I usually just say it to myself. Besides, there’s no correct response to something like that. I didn’t turn, but I felt her staring far away into the water.

“Do you ever wish you could stop time?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said.

She sighed, a quiet sound, almost drowned in the whish of the whispering surf. I don’t know if she even heard it herself.

“Just enjoy it,” I said, “tomorrow’ll be here soon enough.”

Her head was resting against the back of the truck, but she cut her eyes toward me and smiled. She had a beautiful, tired smile—the kind of smile that was finding it increasingly hard to get up in the morning.

“It’s hard to let people go, even when they’re gone,” she said.

I nodded then looked back out to sea.

“Do you think he ever really loved you too?” I asked.

She pulled her knees up to her chest, rested her chin on them, “Sometimes I wonder about that . . . but rarely more than twenty times a day.” She forced out that deep breath of a laugh again. “I don’t know why I’m dumping this on a complete stranger.”

I shrugged, “Sometimes the right person’s just in the right place at the right time.”

“I don’t know,” she said. She turned and looked right at me then. I could feel the weight of it.

“You have this . . . I don’t know . . . this cosmic sadness about you, like there’s someone way down deep in there—someone safe. Do you ever let people in?”

“I try not to,” I held her eyes for a few moments then offered a rusty smile of my own.

“What would it look like if you did?” she asked.

“Maybe I’m too scared to find out. Maybe they’d see me for the fraud I am,” I said.

She pursed her lips, thinking. Still staring at me but not at me.

“Maybe that’s it: maybe we’re all just frauds.” Her eyes came back. I was still watching her, sensing I needed this moment—this answer—somehow. She looked like she was going to speak again but then nodded like she’d solved some puzzle that had lain unfinished for years on the back table of her mind.

***

The moon had set. Across the horizon a buzz of warmth glossed the sky. It was a moment when the construct of time disconnects from the spinning planet we call home, the hands of the clock stand motionless almost in disdain of the parameters we dare to impose upon them. The bleeding sky reeled up the sun, but there was a weightlessness—a moment—I will never forget as we sat side by side, and when I looked at her again, she had fallen asleep on my shoulder.

 

*Author’s note: I have to give credit to Stephen King, Wendell Berry, and the film Before We Go for their influence on this story and to Jake Sidwell’s music for keeping me company while I wrote.

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Phantoms

Amid the drums
A recompense
Dusty rustling recklessness
Divine a way beyond
The pulsing
Temporal wrong
Hear our hearts beat
Scrambled bleats from
Slaughtered sheep
Screaming in our sleep
Phantoms faceless
Nameless
Chase us
In the dark
Hark!
A spark
Salvation is a lark
A joke we’re dashed upon
Again to look beyond
The team we once were on
Now can’t believe
The way we grieve
While the Sandman leaves
Knowing when we wake
The battle’s ours to take
Shouldn’t have made this mistake
What we had–a ruins
Should’ve left the bruises
All just ruses
’cause we wanted one more night
(to love)
To fight
And now the drums are quiet
The lambs’ last riot
Gutted
Just like us.
-ijs

Who Knows Why

rain

Who knows.

Who knows why you cried today.

See, you know it’s time to pack up the laptop and call it a day when you find yourself crying in a coffee shop, torpedoed by a bloody song that somehow snuck into your iTunes shuffle mix.

You would have been fine if the coffee shop’s wifi had just been working because you’d have been listening to a nice safe Spotify playlist—nothing jumping out to surprise you. No ambushes. No college flashback: sitting in a dark performance hall on a blind date with some girl. She was nice, wasn’t she? You think so. Did you ever go out with her again? You don’t think so; you can’t remember. There wasn’t anything romantic for you. So why this visceral reaction to this song? A song you heard over ten years ago.

Who knows? Maybe it was just the right blend of morose sky spitting a pall of mist onto the window in front of you while strangers—miles away through the half-inch of glass—trotted past, heads down, lost in their own worlds. Maybe it was the buffer of your earbuds—those walls between you and the girls sitting one table over, like they were wallflowers, a graceful distracted painting and nothing else.

Maybe it was just the reminder that you used to believe in a world where lovers didn’t leave, where you still held hands and kissed someone on the forehead goodnight and fell asleep smelling the ghost of their perfume.

Or maybe you’ve spent too much time on the edge of emotion, walking that tightrope between manic and sane, toeing Faust’s line, wandering gray, open roads tearing at the soil of yesterday’s long-forgotten harvest.

Who knows?

Who knows why you cried today.

-ijs