That night I laid in bed, thinking of summers from my youth, of being on the lake around a bonfire on the beach when the sun went down. I remember the sky being the sort of blue that is so vibrant that it seems impossible. I remember stars and the sound of the water as it lapped at the shore and the fire reflected in the eyes of the older boy who stayed in the cabin next door every year during the same week.
I’d folded the corners of the sheet of newspaper I’d been given in on themselves and carefully pushed a toothpick through all four of them. I turned it over and set it carefully on the fire, watching it expand with hot air and fly away as it burned. We called them “Hailey’s comets”, but I’m not really sure where or when that started and I’ve never hear anyone else call them since.
Every year my family spent the same week of July in the same cottage on the lake. I’ve never been a morning person, but walking along the beach before everyone woke was something that I enjoyed while I was there. I looked for shells along the shore as I wandered toward Turnip Rock which loomed high over head, just a few feet from the shore. If you waded in water up to your knees, you could circle it and find a place to climb. It was difficult, but with determination I always found my way up to the top, where I’d jump off into dangerously shallow waters.
This summer my sisters went back and rented that cabin and they sent me photos of my nieces and nephews over the 4th, living the same July adventure that we’d lived all those years ago. I looked through them from thousands of miles away, where I sat in the city at a house party being held by people I didn’t really know.
I’d gone through a breakup recently and decided that I needed to quit drinking; I’d been treating my anxiety and depression with alcohol during the last hard few months and the only thing that’s good for is more anxiety and depression, so I called it quits and was on the lookout for any way I could possibly fill my time. The 4th of July party seemed like a good idea, but I was the only one there that was sober and playing games with people who aren’t is only fun for so long. I’d gone with a friend and she and I both quietly talked ourselves out of leaving early and with one exchange, we ducked out quietly together and headed home.
Back in my apartment, I sat alone thinking about how I’d spent the 4th the year before at a party hosted by Maeve’s partner. We’d only just met and I’d wanted to know her so badly then. Here we are a year later and we’ve loved and I’ve lost her and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how we ended up falling apart so quickly. The fireworks popped in the air outside and I missed her so badly; I would have given anything to hear from her then and I really, really wanted a drink.
I didn’t have either that night though; not a word from Maeve nor the drink and I’m not sure that I’ll ever spend any time with either again. Instead for now I’ll throw myself at work or pretty much anything else I can think of that will keep my hands busy from texting her or picking up the bottle again. I’ll write, I’ll work on things about me that need fixing and I’ll mourn the relationship; eventually I’ll get over it, because what else can you do, right?
Today though I’m daydreaming of what I’d have liked to have shared and said and done with Maeve if we’d have just made it to that cottage on the lake.