the last solstice.

by Michael King

It was the summer solstice, bringing with it the promise of more sun than we’d seen in a good, long time. That morning, I woke amidst the late darkness, climbed into my car, and found the right kind of song to greet the earliest sunrise: Murder in the City, the Avett Brothers, nostalgia and love through acoustic guitar. Windows down, I picked up friends and we grabbed coffee from a wearied barista.

We watched from the river, the sun lifting and spilling gold and pink onto the world around us. We were still, there, for a moment. Then, as it tends to do, life pulled us back into motion.

I made it a point, that day, to spend whatever time I could outside, as if –– on this day –– the wild abundance of warmth could be gathered and stored for darker days. On a walk, headphones in, I considered you and the pain you were carrying. Why is it, I thought to myself, that so many hearts get broken by hands intending to hold them? 

That evening, we made our way to the sky, sitting in folding chairs and watching the sun put on its latest performance of the year. We laughed, limbs in folding chairs, beer in summer flavors like watermelon and lemon shandy. The music wrapped around us, songs from old chapters, reminding us that summer has left us before, that it always finds its way back again.

You were there, friend, a few feet away. We greeted one another, a smile and a nod, not yet ready to pull out the pain and unravel the knots together. Ahead of us, the sky became wildfire, and we understood why civilizations worshipped the sun. Faces became gold, laughter into nostalgia as it rang.

At some point, we stood, began to walk and look around. Twenty-somethings staring at the horizon with fresh eyes, wondering just what the hell we’re doing.

I walked beside you, caught your eyes, and we nodded knowingly. “Hey,” I told you, and you answered, “Hey.” Two men in silhouette against a sky on fire, we hugged, so much said without speaking.

You told me, my heart is broken and I will need you to put this self back together, and I told you,  I know it and I’ll be here with you through every long night. We promised each other, there is pain and love and pain, but mostly love in the end.

We let go of the hug, and I realized everybody with us had fallen quiet. Later, a friend told me he had exchanged knowing glances with our friends beside him, that time froze for a moment and they could all see we loved each other.

The sun surrendered its post, stopped spilling gold over our faces, left us with the stars to shed light onto our laughter. We told stories over cards, laughing at one another, our cheeks carved golden brown, the sun saying, I was here.

Seconds spilled from our pockets, and we didn’t mind. We passed them together, after all, and what better way.

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