by: Rebeka Singer
Paige held on until he oiled his hands and told her not to let go. When he left for California, she felt a loss, not a void like she had in previous wild breakups with him. It was different. School was out now. They were adults now. She knew he wasn’t leaving to end the relationship, but she was losing him nevertheless—to the illusion of a gold rush in a Western wasteland.
It was a clear morning. The crunch of beechnut husks underfoot. A rustling of leaves overhead as they stood on the sidewalk. She held him hard in her arms. Her tears like a whisper. He laughed. “I think you’re being cute,” he said. She thought how different it is to leave than to be left.
He smiled at the beach blue sky.
He had changed since the night before. The previous night they had fallen asleep in his bedroom. She looked into the still darkness of that room and dreamt a red silk blanket canopied over their heads like a mosquito net in a sleeping Indian village. A warm breeze permeated the sheer cloth, drifting in and out of focus, and sifted through their skin. And he said, “We will be together always.” The last words before they awoke at an unknown hour in stiff, hot sheets unable to sleep in the humidity and airlessness that engrossed the bedroom. She awoke wrapped in his arms. With drowsy footsteps, they wandered downstairs to the living room pullout couch, and she knew the morning was closer than ever.
As Paige watched the U-Haul turn the corner, she felt the stagnant heat of that Indian summer day clutch her legs steady on the ground. She looked into the layered branches of the beech shadowing above and watched the leaves twist and turn, shades of olive and gold, like the inside of a kaleidoscope. As if that tree questioned the reality of its very existence, as if it were only a dream.