When their time finally comes, there are secrets they will carry with them to their funeral pyres and their graves. They are all the small, vitally important things that no one will ever know.
These are the best things about them, and the way they lived. Cigarettes smoked on the fire escape of their first apartment. Years later, there was the smell of cut flowers and a peach pie cooling on the windowsill of an island cabin.
I am thinking of the way she loved the smell of burnt toast. Or that moment she pulled her hair back with one hand while she sorted through albums at the all-night record shop. I am sure there was nobody who noticed that except for him.
There were so many things, dust and crumbs swept under the rug of time. A girl loves goldfish and wrinkles her nose while she sleeps. A boy saves some ants from drowning in a dog dish, and writes a bad country and western song every time there is a full moon.
One night they watch Columbo and eat fried egg sandwiches, wrapped in his grandmother’s handmade Afghan. Another time they see strange lights in the sky above his parents? farm.
They never changed the course of history, or wanted to. In her red silk dress, she rode on the handlebars of his no-speed bike. They stood beneath a waterfall, swam naked in the creek, and caught tadpoles and butterflies in their cupped beggars? hands.
There are no preserved footprints, no archival footage, and no documents. Or none that matter, anyway.
There are snow angels and names drawn in the sand, and her reflection in a silver toaster. There are letters burnt, and negatives too old to print. There are Polaroids, maybe, lost in the hidden spaces of a Value Village couch.
Heights of grown children are recorded in pencil crayon on the door frame of a kitchen, beneath four layers of paint. There are unrecorded poetry readings and musical notes and laughter in the living room curtains and the cobwebs of long-abandoned houses.
I had a dream last night that I was a child again. I was standing on the edge of a circle of firelight, and the night sky was filled with a snowstorm of stars. I was reaching out in wonder, trying to capture all the billion tiny sparks drifting up from the bonfire. And I think that bonfire was the sweet crackling fuel of our days, and those sparks were the smallest of moments.
And you were there with me, right beside me, wide-eyed and laughing, watching them linger for a moment, then disappear as they landed like small, delicate gifts in our outstretched hands.