I posted a picture of him for a silly Instagram-related game and found him waiting for me in my dreams, something which occurs so rarely it still explodes solidly-constructed dams inside me each time I see his face, mustached and smiling at mine just the way he always did, just the way I always remember him. As usual he didn’t say much, not anything I could hear or remember, but he was there and I knew it, and when I traded dreamscape for a bedroom ceiling speckled with hues of pre-dawn blue my left hand was curled as if his right were still clasped around it, once-distant memories made painfully present and quietly but persistently ensuring I wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon.
River walking as I am today, it seemed appropriate to share words from water previously forded, images remembered and collected and poured into a submission-of-sorts this past November.
Sometimes I swear I would have saved him.
Swear I could have rescued his breath from the icy depths into which he so foolishly and voluntarily dove, if only he had provided me the opportunity to play fearless, to play savior. I was twelve at the time, almost thirteen. I knew how to act older. I was a good swimmer.
Rationale tells me we both would have drowned that day.
Some days I can feel my blood crying out for his, and an overwhelming sense of loyalty, of family, succeeds in convincing me I wouldn’t have cared. That it would have somehow been right, noble even, for me to sink to the bottom of that river with him.
Sometimes when I’m sitting next to her on a particularly pleasant spring day, her voice loud, myself mere feet from where her shape-shifting body brazenly cuts itself over rock and bank–her rushing waters background music to those thoughts of mine strong enough to overcome such a deafening roar–I feel her icy pulse rushing through me, liquid electricity, and for a the briefest of moments my loss sits still, lapping lazily in sixteen years’ time.
The rest of the time I sit and stare.
I stare at the way she moves-unforgivingly fast, cruel and cool in her perpetual serenity-and I’m amazed at how after everything she’s taken from me I still find her absolutely breathtaking. Strong and stunning, proudly drenched in apathy toward everything but her own power, I could watch her lunging past me for hours.
I wonder and write stories in my head about the lives she still holds captive underneath her fluid visage. I battle quietly with the naïve, impulsive, wannabe hero in me: the hero who assures me I could jump headfirst into her ice-cold heart and live to the see the opposite bank.
The hero who lies.
Today, if not for icicles draped across branches of a small fir tree growing boldly between crevices of a rock cluster on which I sit, her waters look inviting, maybe even warm. But it’s still early April, and she doesn’t fool anyone easily this time of year. Proof of her malice manifests itself in a world frozen all around her, layers of splashing river water quickly becoming incriminating fingerprints of solid ice.
In my dreams I see a woman with brambles for hair and tendrils for fingers. Her voice spirals along the riverbank, years of practice yielding her song a pitch-perfect match to the foamy water churning feverishly below where she sits, pointedly perched on an uneven slab of granite, her skin sun-baked and clutching her bones hungrily. She whispers his name, four syllables splashing off her tongue onto nearby reeds. She waits for the current to give back what it took.