Love in the Absence of Persephone

By JAMES ALAN GILL

Do you remember when we’d go walking in the rain, and your coat was too big for you so that I couldn’t see your face under the hood? And we’d lean against one of the giant cedars growing among the graves in the Pioneer Cemetery, tree and stone planted over a hundred years before by ancestors unknown to us?  And when we went to kiss, we bumped teeth because all sense of space had been lost? It was then I started falling in love with you.

Or when we took our first drive together, traveling the county roads beyond town, through hills rainshrouded, and fir trees interrupted by precisely rowed vineyards and blank pastures void of their animals. We talked and drove on, not knowing where we were going, where any of this was going, but not wanting to stop. We came to the reservoir, now in winter a giant mudflat cut through by the silver snaking ribbon of river which gives birth to the lake each spring. We parked and walked past the closed entrance gate to its edge and promised to return in warmer climes, to swim and lay in the grass on blankets. And when we did, regardless of the season, we always called itour mudpuddle.

Weeks later, on the last day of the Mayan calendar, you surprised me with a visit and said, “The world is supposed to end tonight: Do you want to spend it together?” We slept on a pallet of blankets in my half-furnished apartment, told each other secrets never before spoken aloud, because there was nothing to lose now—our first night was the world’s last. But then when we awoke the next day—birds and the homeless can collectors chattering outside the window—it was to a new Jerusalem.

And the first time I visited your home, met your family, we walked to the beach you had ridden your bike to summers before, but now, under January skies, the wind pushed our faces so that all glances were sidelong. The waves were angry against the shore, climbing high onto the sand before pulling away to curl up into a steel colored wall: I stood just out of reach, but you walked toward the sea. Calm and sure, pausing right before the breaking point, the water rose and collapsed, and you turned as it rushed past your legs, running toward me, both of us laughing like children in the summer sun.

 

James Alan Gill is the Dispatches Editor for The Common

Love in the Absence of Persephone

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