Her voice was gravel.
And so was the ground she didn’t stand on. She just sat on the swing, swinging her legs and uprooting the deepest of her feelings for me to discern. I just sat on the ground.
“What I don’t understand,” she said. “Is why I still care about James.”
Gravel is most of what I heard. Rachel was smoking again. Cigarettes used to be her bane, she used to smoke all the time, but she quit. She quit for him. She said he made her a better person. She said he had halted her addiction. She said she would never touch a Benson and Hedges pack again.
I believed her.
But now she was smoking again, and saying some very different things. Difference was all around us.
We were shaded by the oldest tree in the park. The tree we used to play under as kids. She and I used to play ‘parents’ under this very tree every weekend, whenever the actual parents brought us over for light recreation. We knew our lips for the first time under this tree; it housed our memories.
Every other tree here is new, probably part of the Government’s reforestation scheme. I haven’t been here in years. Things change fast.
“I started smoking yesterday…”
“I know.” I said, trying to cut her off. I didn’t want her to hurt herself any more than was necessary.
“…after three good years, Patrick. I stopped for him you know? He told me I was a queen, and that queens shouldn’t be tobacco addicts. I gave everything up for him, Patrick, even my job. ”
She looked radiant in her blue jeans. That was all I could permit myself to think. Years ago, I imagined telling her ‘I told you so’ when her and James hit the splits. I imagined it would be a thing to laugh about, just like how we laughed about all her previous break-ups. I knew James was trouble, with his pretentious self, but he made her so happy. I liked seeing her happy.
However, here she is, sad.
Her brown eyes looked like glass; glass reflecting the setting sun, holding tears that were yet to shatter. She was starting to have bags under them, her eyes, and her hair looked the worst for wear. Her face, and her white shirt, were stained with dried tears.
“What went wrong, Patrick?” She asked me, even though it was a question for her to answer.
Her soul was crying.
My soul was searching for answers I know I didn’t have.
I didn’t have the answers. Even if I did, an answer is never enough. One answer leads to another question. That’s how the tests of life are; hard and complicated.
I stood up from the ground, dusting myself in the process, and covered the little distance between us. She was still talking, engaged in a monologue with herself, re-asking the inevitable question: What went wrong? A broken sentence.
I gently put my hands on both her shoulders, and pulled her from the swing. Her sneakers touched the gravel lightly – even in a crisis, her movement was still full of grace – making a slight squeak. She made herself small in my arms, like a child, and I appreciated that she could become comfortable enough to be vulnerable with me.
I swear to God she is perfect.
Her eyes were directly on mine now, looking for the answer. My brain had none. We stared at each other for a long time, waiting for an answer, but my mind had none.
My heart did.
I kissed her lips, damning the consequences as I did so, and the world was stalled.
Here we stood, under the ancient oak tree, lips interlocked and souls intertwined; memories rushing back to us, like clarity after Friday night at a nightclub.
So we kissed.
She, kissing me for all her heart was worth, tossing all sense out the windows of her soul (not regarding the families that were here for light recreation), letting go of the depression of her heart and I, kissing her for all my heart was worth, trying to answer every request she silently made, realizing the feelings for her that I tried to bury deep in the graveyard of my heart, capturing her fleeting mind and putting it in the space we were in, the space where everything didn’t have to make sense.
The world was stalled. Every broken sentence was mended.
She tasted of memories and Nescafe’ and cigarettes. A divine combination. I loved her for it. I had always loved her, I just never admitted it. My arms left her shoulders and trailed slowly to the curve of her waist, pulling her deeper into my embrace.
I didn’t have all the answers. I might not even have one. But as Rachel and I kissed under our tree of memories, her glassy eye finally breaking with the tears she had been holding captive, I stumbled on a truth. One that helped me enjoy the moment.
The truth set me free; set us free. I could feel my soul breaking the restraints that held me back for so long. I could feel her freeing herself into me.
The old oak tree would probably be here forever, and we just created another memory for it to house. The sun was dying, making the sky red with its blood. Rachel was still in my arms. She was perfect. The sky was perfect. The truth was perfect.
It set us free.
And the truth is simple: Life has questions; but not all questions have to be answered.