Meeting At Night by Robert Browning
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!
As the summer came to a close, we could feel the walls of reality closing in around us. That last night we spent in guiltless euphoria, still high on the radiance of the sun and salty air. Warm sand was strewn and kicked everywhere while we danced to the beating music. Crashing waves and discounted firecrackers kept time with each beat and jump of our pounding hearts. I could feel yours beneath my hand, that reassurance that Time had not yet caught us successfully. We burned that night, all the wood and paper and boxes we could, the flames licking higher and higher, and with it burned away our sorrows and fears, those thoughts floating away with the ashes on the sea breeze. The scent of smoke was there much longer than the fire. It clung to our clothes and to our hair and to the words whispered when the moon and stars came out to cavort across the darkened sky. We leaned into each other under the night sky and tangled ourselves together as the hours marched into dawn. And when the sun chased away her nighttime lover, we arose and kissed the shore goodbye, saying farewell to more than just the ocean and her boundary – we took our leave of the Sovereign of Summer, in whose arms are kept the rumors of secret loves, of late night caperings, of wounded hearts and stolen kisses. And somehow we knew that when we met her again, when the days grew longer, that she would have kept those memories safe, though slighty dusty and fuzzy from lack of use. And when we opened the lid, the faint smell of burning driftwood would trickle out and fall at our feet.
Do you remember when we watched that summer storm roll across the darkening beach? I sat in the sun-warmed sand with you, with the thunderheads chasing the blushing sunset over the horizon. Remember the lightning? How it stretched its crackling fingers and infused the world with amethyst tinged electricity. At first, there were the short sharp bursts. I asked you if that’s how we started. Short sharp bursts of emotion, of sentiment. Those pulsating flares that ensued led to claps of thunder that rattled us down to our souls. Is that where we went next? White-hot streaks that illuminated every facet of the tempest also lit up your features for the briefest of moments. Your eyes held the sparks and your lips the electric current, and my body vibrates. The wind picks up and dances the sand around us, and when the power went out and the lights went dead, our ears stood in for our eyes. I couldn’t see you, but I could hear you and feel you, your warmth only second to that of the gods’ anger. People ask what love feels like. It feels like a lightning storm. Bright flashes to illuminate the darkness, and an electric pulse strong enough to pull us together despite everything that pulls us apart. Your hand grazes mine, and I can’t tell if the lightning is in the sky or in our eyes. An amethyst is violet as a consequence of irradiation. Are we who we are as a consequence of the storm above our heads? I’d like to believe so, because I don’t want think about where this might lead. I waive my right of responsibility to the amethyst lightning.
What does it feel like to be destroyed by a shore pounding surf?
It feels, at first, like an invisible hand has plucked you from the world.
And then gravity returns with a vengeance
Slamming you into the sand, forcing the air from your lungs.
You’re spun and thrown about until you don’t know which way is up
And your lungs are burning.
(They say Alexandria burned. You wonder if this is how the city felt.)
Finally, you feel your face break the surface.
You gleefully gulp the oxygen down and try to find the shoreline.
You don’t see the next set coming.
(Bigger. Faster. Stronger.)
This time your lungs are full of saltwater
And your chest is on fire.
You feel your body somersaulting as the waves pound relentlessly overhead. You curl into a ball to protect yourself.
Eyes and lips squeezed shut.
For a moment, it’s peaceful.
And then the ocean, after having chewed you up, spits you onto the sand
Where you lie, gasping and gagging.
And when you look back, all you’ll feel is the rush of adrenaline.