We pandered through the rocky sands, removing our shoes to feel it more sensually on our heels and our toes, setting out to stare out over river towards the setting sun in the way that friends sometimes do. Tonight we were at Rock Island State Park in middle Tennessee.
The forest surrounding us was alive with the chirps and squawks of insects buzzing about the water; ripples appearing here and there from a fish perhaps that came to surface for an evening snack. I hadn’t seen Chelle since Iceland, our last adventure together only a few months ago. I’ve been alone so much since then, and even since long before then.
We’ve both struggled to find a community in our current residences. She’s marooned in Louisiana, and I’m in Western North Carolina. For my part, I do truly love the landscape and the climate for which I’ve been surrounded these past several years. There have been good memories here. Chelle was a part of that. But now, it seems lonely here. I feel like a ghost in this beautiful and abandoned space from which all of those whom I’ve grown to love have moved on, and only I remain.
I can’t say that I’ve tried terribly hard these past few months to find a community. I’ve been too consumed with my own individual priorities, looking ahead to the move that will take me far away. Sometimes I’ve even considered that I fear connecting with anyone new because I don’t want to be held back from any future possibility. I feel like I need to be alone. I need to know who I am on my own terms and with complete autonomy. The truth is that being alone is the thing which I fear the most. I don’t want to imagine myself alone forever. I’m not sure if I’ve convinced myself that I am better as a part of a team, or it really is the case, but I spending time with a close friend after so much solitude helped me externalize my thoughts.
One of my favorite things about my friends is hearing their unique laughter. Its a way of communicating that which cannot be said in words. We can understand the sincerity of a laugh just by knowing a person. We talked of comedy, and how it is a true art form that so perfectly defines the era from which its audience is derived. I told her of how once some friends and I had driven down the strip of Gatlinburg hoping to incite a sense of happiness in the solemn and sallow faces of its crowds. What did we do? We simply laughed. That’s right, we rolled down the window and laughed so hard the whole way down that mile stretch, and couldn’t stop ourselves, hoping desperately that others would be compelled by our humor to enjoy themselves as well.
It seemed the sunset was so short, and yet with each passing moment its colors became more magnificent. First in tones of soft pink and violet, progressing to hues of autumnal orange and yellow and finally achieving a resplendent red. We had saved a couple of mini york pepermint patties that I picked up from the Mexican restaurant, and I handed one off to Chelle as we observed these last moments of sunlight on the water. I rummaged through my bag dealing with a mess of things, and I the vague thought in my mind that she was waiting for me, with her chocolate, waiting to cheers. So we did just that.
We unwrapped our little treats, looked towards each other, and she said lakheim, (I have no idea the proper spelling but she’s commonly used this phrase in our cheers) as we touched patties, looked towards the sunset one last time, and then took a bite.