The only items remaining in the kitchen are a broom in the corner and a checklist on the counter. It’s almost guaranteed that something gets left behind. You reluctantly inspect every nook and cranny just to be sure. As you bend down, you spot a piece of paper between the fridge and the cabinetry. It’s a crayon drawing of a house, lots of hearts, and just as many rainbows. Home is where the art is.
It seems as if he's flipping through blank pages searching for the right words. You cradle his hands for reassurance. He doesn’t remember you so he asks for your name. You oblige, pretending it doesn’t sting. The rhythmic squeezes of his worn hands remind you of his present state, his quiet fortitude in tribulation. The day is drawing closer as you realize the gravity of letting go this time. But eventually you do–because you must. A book ends for one, one chapter for another.
You glance at your watch and realize you’ve been looking out the window for ten solid minutes. Time moves faster here than what you’re used to but you don’t seem to mind. There’s a certain pleasure in knowing there’s nowhere to be and no one to see. The clouds stretch across hundreds, maybe thousands of miles. Before today, you only had an idea as to what this would feel like, being this alone, this quiet. As you turn to look out the shuttle window again, you toss your watch behind you and exhale as it floats away.
As the school bus screeches to a halt, you jump down the steps and dash towards your yard without so much as a goodbye to your friends. You dive into your bedroom and shut the door. The anticipation swells as you unzip your book bag. You shuffle through old papers and junk you’ve stored in your locker all year. But then you find it. You pull the yearly prized possession out and flip vigorously through the pages. Then you see it, though you can’t believe your eyes. Not only did they sign it, they signed it with a heart.
The summer breeze glides along your face as your bike coasts down the hill toward home. Cricket chirps signal the edge of dusk as they replace the sound of sparrows. The countryside gloats in its darkness away from the city lights. The stars begin to display their splendor. You watch with great anticipation, hoping to make a wish. Deciding to take a short cut, you dash through an open field. It’s flickering, even glowing. And suddenly the stars are no longer out of reach.
You're driving past unfamiliar buildings on a crisp September morning. She's quietly sitting next to you in the passenger seat as you take a weighted deep breath. Her cheek twitches and that's when you know she's just as nervous as you. You've dreaded this for a long time but there's no turning back now; not for her, not for you. You put the car in park and close your eyes. She turns to you, kisses your cheek and keeps promising to call at least once a week.
"It's hot as hell," you think as you awaken from a stupor. Everything around you is crumbling and the smoke makes it impossible to see your hands in front of your face. You push the rubble off your chest and crawl towards what you think is the front door. As you inch closer to freedom you hear a faint cry for help coming from the inferno. You realize what must be done. With your eyes shut and your head down, you turn back into the chaos.
It's Thanksgiving and everyone has gathered around the dining room table. As the family sits down to say grace, the chatter dissipates. You manage to stumble over a half-thought out prayer. Fighting back the tears that have been welling up in your eyes isn't easy. You thought you could handle it. You thought this year would be different. Even though no one is sitting in his chair, you still see him there, smiling. It’s been fifteen years but it still feels like yesterday.
You’re standing outside the apartment door at ten till midnight and you’re not sure what to expect. The night sky is clear but your relationship is anything but. You came for an answer. An answer that will finally mean being together forever or an answer that will force you to move on. The palms of your hands begin to sweat and your mouth becomes dry. You raise your hand to knock just as the door begins to open.
You’re on a train ride to a town you can’t pronounce. Your eyes dart back and forth at all the new scenery that surrounds the car. Galloping zebras, bathing baboons and mountains as far as the eye can see. You try to appear like a composed adult but on the inside you’re an excitable child. As you think about everything that you just left behind, you smile, knowing this was indeed the fresh start you were looking for.
You’re sitting on a park bench on a cool autumn evening. You see a man walking through the park with a bouquet of flowers but it looks as if he’s lost. He takes his phone out of his pocket and raises it to his ear. It appears there’s no answer. After pacing for a few seconds, his posture quickly changes. His eyes light up and he looks at her. And you’ve just witnessed, if only for a moment, love at first sight.