In the end, they fell back to the beginning, two boys splashing in a boat trying to find sense in the rhythm and run of their movements. They had found truth there then, and needed to find it again, now. Long days had passed, and the only way to find out if it had been too many was to begin again.
The first few strokes reflected the time since they last went searching, filled with timidness and uncertainty. Quickly, though, things began falling back into place, and the surety earned through years of experience returned to their movements. The strain of their bodies against the weight of the water, the slowly building acceleration, the shell almost leaping forward with each release of the oars. The sun warmed their backs and they greedily pulled the salty air into their lungs.
It hadn’t been too long after all, the raggedness of their breaths be damned.
Back then, they had been shocked, yet exhilarated, to learn how much strength was demanded to overcome their weakness. It occurred to them that maybe it had been borrowed strength all along, then and especially now. Some burdens are too heavy for a solitary set of shoulders.
The steadiness of the rhythm began to take its course, edifying and purifying the troubles in their heads and hearts. It didn’t erase the pain so much as mute it for a while; each stroke another life, another chance to make everything right. No one ever warned them it would be this hard.
Afterward they refilled their hungry bodies, and felt the specter of an approaching ache in their muscles. This soreness would be merely an annoyance; their price to pay for so long an absence, sure to fade in a few days. If only the other hurt were so transitory. They were learning together that bruises on the soul had a tendency not to fade.
They parted with a simple handshake, with hands once hardened and callused now smarting and red from their morning effort. They left it mostly unsaid, with words anyhow. The truth had always been there, in the rhythm and the run, and their clumsy words might only send it back into hiding.
They could only hope it would sustain in the days to come.