We sat on the sand and gazed at the stars as the tide drew closer.
‘I wish you wouldn’t have to leave,’ I said.
‘Me too. But I did warn you when we met.’
‘I know. I guess I just didn’t want to believe it.’
She turned to me and smiled, the clouds parted momentarily and the moon lit her green eyes briefly before hiding again. She rested her head on my shoulder, I drew her closer and breathed in the scent of her hair. She smelled like almonds and orchids. The smell conspired with the salty air to push me under waves of nostalgia.
‘Remember when we first met?’ I said.
‘Yes. It was near here wasn’t it?’
‘Yes, just over there.’ I pointed to where the land curved subtly below the mountains in the east.
‘I’d just arrived. You were the second person I spoke to,’ she said.
‘Who was the first?’ I kissed strands of her hair, closed my eyes and felt the nostalgia carry me. I was guided by years of exquisite happiness in that moment. Like a man on a precipice knowing he has a full life behind him, but feeling that life pushing him closer to a point of no return.
‘I don’t remember now. I wasn’t very good at it at first. Speaking I mean.’
‘I remember.’ I kissed her again. ‘What time is it?’
‘It’s almost time,’ she said.
As the moon reappeared again I wrapped the shawl closer around her. I caressed her arms and felt the tiny goosebumps on her skin as the wind disturbed her hair and memory dragged me deeper beneath its fragrant waves.
‘You know. You’re the only one who ever really understood me,’ I said.
‘That’s not true. I’m sure lots of other people do.’
‘I’m not sure. Most only pretend to, to get their hands on the money, most of the praise I get is just dressed up self-interest these days.’
‘How do you know I’m not like that,’ she laughed.
‘Because you have no use for money.’
‘Oh! We use money too. It’s just different from yours. And we’re not so precious about it. You people seem to make a virtue of hoarding it.’
‘For me time is more important. Once it’s gone it’s gone. You can always earn more money.’
She lifted her head and looked at me. ‘You people always think of time so linearly. Why is that?’ she laughed.
I shrugged. ‘I don’t know. It’s the only way we can make sense of it I guess.’
‘Time is everywhere and nowhere. Don’t get so hung up about it. The past, the present, and the future are all here, right now, each one contained in each other. You don’t have to worry about losing any of them,’ she said, ‘Some of the stars we see are from the past, their light lives through us after their death. But you people seem to treat time as an arrow and aim it directly at your hearts.’
‘I’ll try to aim mine at the stars instead. I’ll aim it at yours. Which one is it?’
‘You can’t see it from here. It’s too far away,’ she said. ‘But I’ll be able to see yours.’
‘Will you remember me?’
‘Yes,’ she said.
Like an unstoppable flow of thoughts and memories that encroach closer and closer, moment by invisible moment until you’re carried away beneath dark, heavy waters, the tide had approached closer. I moved my feet back to avoid getting wet but she just extended her legs and dug her heals into the wet sand and laughed.
‘Let’s move back a little and fall asleep,’ I said. ‘I want to remember this moment in my dreams.’
We found a sheltered spot beneath the cliffs and lay down between some rocks.
‘Have you enjoyed it here?’ I said.
‘It’s been interesting,’ she smiled.
‘I will miss you,’ I said and kissed her.
We held each other closer as I slowly surrendered to the notion that life will never be the same again — that the universe will never be the same again. I thought about the idea of time as an arrow and fell asleep with the image of it in my heart pointing out towards the stars. The sands shifted beneath our weight, shaping new possibilities with the movement of each grain as in my dreams they moulded a universe just for us where only her star shone in the sky at night.
I woke to the cold, blue light of morning. The stars had been replaced by screaming gulls, her smell of almonds and orchids had been washed away by the salty sea air, but the depression she left in the sand next to me remained.