Too Late

Tomorrow I will call it a relapse, but tonight I want to write about meeting her again in a bar in the old part of Denver, the part where the sidewalks aren’t cement but red flagstone worn smooth by thousands of footsteps and millions of raindrops, raindrops that might have been falling out of a blue sky on a summer evening when I walked across a narrow alley and carried the last of my gear through the back door and set it on stage.

I want to write that the band’s been touring for months, that we’ve set up hundreds of times and do it wordlessly while inhabiting a silence more comfortable and familiar than our faded jeans. I want to write that she’d heard about the band from a friend of hers I’d never met, that she loved the music from the instant we started playing, that because I stay in the back near the drum kit, safe and warm in the darkness away from the lights that the singers and guitar players crave, she didn’t know I was in the band until the last song, one I wrote back when we were still together, one I’d play for her on sleepy winter mornings on an unplugged electric bass while she drank coffee half asleep in bed, her blue eyes softer than the down comforter wrapped around her and her skin soft and warm like the juniper smoke lazing upwards out of the chimney.

I want to write about how she freezes for a moment, her face open and unguarded in the split second between recognition and realization, the split second before surprise spreads across her face and she looks up at the stage. We always dim the lights for this one, it’s slow and wandering, so she sees me back there by the drum kit. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other in years, and there’s the slightest stutter in my playing when our eyes lock, but from then on I play it better than I’ve ever played it, better than I will ever play it again, and it’s right then, suspended in that moment, that we both know that we won’t fuck it all up this time, that it’s over, the exhausting, terrifying race to find someone before it’s too late is over, because we’ve found each other, not again, but finally, for the first and last time, and neither of us will ever again wake up feeling alone.

I want to write that we talk until the sun comes up, sitting on the same side of the booth drinking coffee and eating pancakes in a neighborhood diner, that we fall asleep on her couch, leaning into one another, and that it’s late morning when I wake up to find her head on my shoulder. I don’t move but she feels the difference in my breathing, and when she opens her eyes I see they are full of love and hope and certainty that we reflect back and forth into each other until we glow brighter than the sunshine streaming through the ivy-covered window in the brick wall of her apartment building in the old part of Denver, the part where the sidewalks are not cement but worn red flagstone that holds the warmth of the sun.

And tomorrow, just like tonight, it will be far too late for any of that.

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Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt and tag you when I publish it.

Photo by Jim Latham