From Afar . . .
The world is unique during the switch from night to day. Early morning carries with it its own look and smell and feel. She knew. She, by now, was very well aquainted with all of these.
At this point, she was quite familiar with the sensation of the blanket sliding off her body, bunched off to the side like a downy cliff, and her feet, sockless, touching down on the cool floor by her bed. The quiet brush of clothing being removed and replaced was now routine, as was the cold metal of the doorknob as her fingers and palm encircled it. At first, it had made noise when she turned it, but now she was seasoned and could exit and enter in silence.
And then, of course, there was the curtain of early morning air she encountered upon stepping out of the house. It always wrapped around her face like a mask, invading her pores, urging all her senses awake. This, she always welcomed, and even looked forward to. It provided that extra boost of alertness, and when she inhaled, it scrubbed at her lungs, refreshing her from the inside out. Whatever sleep might have lingered disappeared right then. She was free, aware of everything surrounding her and what came next.
Next, was leaving the house behind her, her naked feet alighting delicately on the dusty gravel of the front yard until reaching the dewy plushness of the lawn. Who knows why the morning weeps, scattering its tears across bent green stalks and drooping leaves. Perhaps it is in joyful anticipation for the approaching day, and all the possibilities it holds.
The lawn carried on for a good five minutes, the grass well trimmed and carpet-like, until stopping abrubtly at the long grass, just as green, but wild with growth. Black-eyed Susan and Queen Anne’s Lace stuck up throughout in lovely unobtrusiveness, and together the flowers and grass swayed harmoniously in the breeze. As she walked, yet again, while another dawn unfolded, through this medly, yet again in this direction, she had to be much more careful of where her feet landed.
It made the going slower, but by now she had mastered her timing. Sifting through the uncut fields was just one more thing incorporated into the schedule. As the early morning light stole up from the horizen and illuminated the clouds, bathing the world in a gentle array of golds and rose-colors, her skirt, white and cottony, swished against her legs. Occationally, long grass blades and stringy Queen Anne’s lace would find its way up and swat at her bare skin, but she hardly noticed.
Her eyes, and her attention, were in front of her, scanning the distance, as the land gradually rose. She was searching for what always first appeared to be a skinny line. But it grew bigger, extending both ways for miles and miles. It was a fence. The closer she got to it, the less she stared at it. Now her eyes lay partially on the fence, and partially on what lay beyond.
The fence itself was comprised of two narrow wooden slats suspended between posts. The wood was gray and splintered from exposure to the elements. Unprotected, and unable to protect itself, the world had done a number on it. Running in no longer taut lines between the slats and across the top was barbed wire, loose and rusting, its glory days forgotten.
How well she knew this fence! It had always been there, as a marker, a divider, and an indicator to “Stop Here”. This counted no matter which side of the fence it was. And she was on this side.
So, she came to a stop, a safe six inches or so away from it, afraid that going any closer would mean that she was actually there. Her back straight, mouth set, and eyes squinting, she gazed over at the other side. There, the same overgrown green grass stretched on, sloping down and down to meet the banks of a small pond. It was shaped irregularly, with patches of cattails and ferns growing in tufts by its edges, its surface sparkling with the golds and pinks of the new day. Not far away grew several oaks, a trail winding amid them.
And she waited. She waited, knowing why, picking distractedly at the weeds all around her. She waited, forcing the desperation to stay low in her chest, willing it away, to not exist. But it did. However, she could ignore that it did. She had been doing it for a while now. She was almost good at it. But not quite.
Her eyes stayed on the pond, occationally snapping to the trees, her chest rising and falling evenly, because she made it be even. If she stopped focusing on being calm, on only half believing that she was really there, then her breathing would change. She waited.
But not for long. Never for long.
He came. Seemingly out of nowhere, he came down the trail through the oaks, his strides wide and sure. His sudden appearance made her catch her breath, her hands falling still.
Their ages might have matched, maybe him overtaking her by a year, but no more. Tall and tanned like ripened wheat, with a long, narrow torso and lean, toned arms and legs. His hair was wild, dirty-blonde, and did what it pleased. He wore a holely tank top that once was white, and scraggly jean shorts, fraying badly just above his knees, the remains of scraggly jean pants. Scruffy, bare-footed, and in a hurry, he made his way over to the pond, a netted contraption in one hand and a look of absentminded consternation on his face.
From where she stood, on her side, her own bare arms hanging listlessly, she watched as he squatted beside the water. Carefully, he released the thing he was carrying into the water, keeping it attached to the land by a length of twine tied about a rock. It floated a ways before sinking. Standing up and scratching vigorously at his flat belly, he took off along the shore. After travelling almost to the other side, slipping on rocks and shoving aside rushes, he finally waded into the water. Once up to his hips, the rest of him tensing from the chill, he flexed his arms and dropped like a stone, the water swallowing his head in one large ripple. Two seconds later, he emerged, gasping loudly and letting loose one emphatic whoop. A smile tugged at her lips.
On her side of the fence, she watched, unmoving, sad, and longing. The breeze rustled her uncombed hair and thin dress. She tucked the loose strands behind her ears, swallowing hard, staring hard. Had the fence not been there, would she continue to stand there? It was the ever present question. How long could she bear to feel from afar? But she had no answers.