We stood there on the edge of the cliff. It was the end of a long drive down the coast, and we had stopped to see the view. There on the clean grass overlooking the ocean, I stood looking at you outside that small event building. You were wearing the jacket I bought you with the jeans you didn’t like washing because it took away the color. You shifted your lips side to side as you always did out of habit until you caught me out the side of your eye. Your lip unintentionally pulled into a smile. Those eyes went from the usual lost-in-thought, faraway look that you get when you’re composing music or planning a future version of yourself to looking at me like we shared a secret everyone would die to know.
“Where would you want to get married?” you asked.
“Somewhere like this.” I smiled because I envisioned it all at that moment. Us.
As we walked back toward the car, you didn’t see me looking at you, but you grabbed a business card from the building’s front desk that sat upon the cliff. I turned back one more time. The sun was setting.
We were perfect. We were forever at that moment, and that’s all I’d prayed for.
Fast forward and now you’re only a number in my phone. And you’ll probably marry the girl who now stands beside you in your photos. Isn’t that the strangest thing about life? You can remember how someone looks first thing in the morning, remember the sleepy creases in specific places under their eyes, but never wake up to them again. You can remember their skin’s softness as you draw pictures on their back but never touch their body again. You can hear their laughter echo in the corners of your mind but never hear them utter a single word again.
I wish we could keep those people with us forever. But that’s not life, is it? Sometimes the best things that happen to us are merely seasons that grew us into the person we needed to be. It was a trade-off. They gave you a part of yourself you’d need later in life, and in turn, you gave them part of you that you’ll never get back. That’s okay. Because they needed it more. Maybe, wherever they are, they’ve taken what you gave them and planted it. And because of you and you alone, they’ve grown to become everything they needed to be.
Yes, it kills you to not stand with them still, but maybe that feeling is just today. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. Perhaps you actually can keep them in some way. Perhaps you’ll feel them nudge you gently throughout your life and you’ll smile knowing it’s them. At least, that’s what I like to think. That every thought of them is just them checking in on you, reminding you that you have a piece of them forever in that trade and no one can take that away from you. It’s them checking in on you because they too needed the reminder of everything you gave them. Maybe, just maybe, every time you stand on the edge of that cliff, the waves drift toward you as a way to say they remember those times too and they’re with you in that moment.