We’d been waiting months for the clouds to part, for the sun to make its appearance. Months that felt like years. Spring in name only, winter had stayed longer than we’d planned or expected, the houseguest that wouldn’t leave. We were worn out, depressed, had turned against one another, all while waiting for longer days and an energizing warmth on our skin.
And then one day the sky opened up, shook itself clean like a dog. Everything seemed too big, too infinite, like the first time I’d seen the ocean and couldn’t comprehend the scope, the appearance of forever. I wished, when the clouds had still been around, I’d been able to grab one out of the sky, keep a little piece for myself. I did that sometimes, kept things, put them in my pocket for later.
I let go your hand so I can stare up into the sky, tetherless. I love watching the clouds herd over the buildings, I say. If the clouds are moving fast enough, it looks like the buildings are falling, coming down on top of us. I think of how you are always talking about perception and perspectives—how, if you hold your eyes on one point, you can measure the speed of everything else. Or vice versa. How everything can be relative.
When I was little, the first time my uncle took me to the city, he pointed up into the sky, called the buildings cloud-scrapers. He told me he had a tides table for the clouds, always knew when they’d be at high or low.
I watch the buildings falling toward us a little longer then look down, around, and you aren’t here. A woman I’d assumed was you is next to me looking up into the sky. The woman-who-isn’t-you looks at me, smiles, agrees.
Looks like rain, she said, and shrugged her shoulders.
This had become her default action, this shrug, this.
I wanted to say something but didn’t, wondered if she noticed the desire, the hesitation. This was how our conversations had matured. From agreement to persuasion and apologies to resignation, stated and accepted constants. Our conversations, but mostly our arguments.
I thought of my dad, how, growing up, we’d been rod-and-reel men. Weekdays, fighting off morning and school, I was a kid; but on weekends, waking without complaint before sunrise to don waders and long underwear, I became a man. We were buddies, partners, teammates, fishermen; and we fished rivers and lakes, used bait and tackle. Always looking for the fish, where they were, what they were biting, rain or shine.
Last time I was home, I was hurt to find my dad had taken up fly fishing. It was like he’d been traded for someone else, or diagnosed with something terminal. His old rod and reel was in the garage, hadn’t been used since he couldn’t remember when. We hadn’t had the time to get out on the water; I hadn’t made the time.
Clouds don’t mean rain, I said. It might clear up.
I watched her, waiting for her to shrug or agree or disagree, something. Something more than this.