I’m at the SDA church one crisp autumn afternoon. The sun is high in the sky and theres a lot of hustle and bustle. It’s something thats never really happened before, so it must not have been a Sabbath day. I was 14 because the bachelder girls were there, and they were all quite young. Everyone is preparing for a Christmas program for some weeks out in advance. The Portsmouth Pathfinders have all gathered downstairs and random people are making decorations. A few people said hi to me here and there – all very light-hearted small elevator chit chat.
Now I’m a bit older, 15, and the sun is bright, though not as high in the sky. I’m sitting in a pew when Molly and Abby come up and sit two pews behind me. They had to try to one up me and snub me in their usual obnoxious fashion by talking about how they’re more christian because their whole family goes to church and holds an important position of authority. They’re loud enough to be heard, and it’s all directed at me cause they keep staring at me, but they don’t actually speak too me. I refuse to acknowledge their presence. Abby was more or less leading the charge with Molly snickering in agreement. In the end I remain physically passive and maintain the appearance of having brushed it off. Gaining no satisfaction from me they leave and then I move.
I’m sitting in the front row closest to the piano with a few kids who are all practicing some Christmas song. The microphone gets passed down, one by one, everybody singing their lines. Finally it’s my turn. I think it was Charlotte playing the piano for me. I screwed up the song and tripped over my tong until I forgot the lyrics. All I could do was hum the remainder, and everyone heard it over the microphone. When it was over I embarrassingly got up and started to walk out. Only a few people were in their seats; everyone else was cleaning and prepping the church… Jehovah Witness style (for those who don’t know Jehovah Witnesses get together once a year to scrub the church top to bottom with refreshments laid out for everyone.) I’m almost completely out of the room when I turn my head to the right and look out the second to last window. I admire at how beautiful everything looks. Cars are parked in the lot without a single space left. The sun is setting more and more, and the light glistening over the glass of the cars. Autumn leaves of red and gold are scattered everywhere, and provide a painted backdrop of trees in the background… and theres even a gentle breeze that rustles the trees. Very cinematic the way it looked. Autumn in New England was at it’s prime.
Then I noticed something…. or rather, someone. My heart lurched into my throat as Jay came out of his moms grey dodge from the front passenger side. He was holding some kinda dish in a clear tupperware container with a blue lid. I turned my head and walked out just as he was rounding the front of the car. By the front door I pause for a moment at what I’d just seen and contemplate what I should do. I age another year as I make my way downstairs with tension setting in. At the bottom of the stairs I’m 16 years old. There’s still the same flurry of activity, but he hasnt come in. I walk out to the back door and wonder where Adam is, half expecting him to stalk me, then I look for Jay. I walked outside and around the back of the church, ageing another year again – 17 years old. The sun is almost gone by now, and the sky becomes cloudy and cold.
Finally I found him sitting on the swings. I wanted to join him, but I know he didn’t want to hang out with me – he’d take off running again. It was our place, our special place almost. Hours of church time wasted just chatting the day away. He always sat on the seat to the right; the left was there for me. No one had taken it. Suddenly I see his dad, Peter, as he walks past me, exposing where I thought I was safely hidden. He approaches his son and they have a brief conversation. Peter doesn’t seem too thrilled, and Jay’s affect subtly changes. I assumed he was warning Jay of my presence. Peter takes off and I slowly creep forward, waging an internal war within myself. Should I say hi? Will he run away? Will I be scolded? Oh how I wanted to say hi. Then he gets up and is momentarily gone from my sight as cars start to pull up in front of the swings and leave, blocking my field of vision… one of them was the gray dodge. My heart leaps into my throat as panic sets in, afraid he’s going to leave before we’ve even laid eyes on each other. That’s all I wanted at the very least is for him to acknowledge my presence; to know that we were walking the same damn terra firma. I’m alive and I am here. Please stop acting as if I’m dead. I am alive and missing you – though living in fear of you now.
I bolt from where ever I was hiding and march to the swings, just barley running; my resolve to see him was firm. Carpe diem seemed to scream through my head… then there he is. He’s on the swing again; his head hangs low as he grabs onto each of the metal chainlinks supporting him. He’s wearing a dark gray t-shirt, blue cargo jeans, and some slightly worn-in brown hiking shoes. He’s shaved, and his hair is still as brown and messy as ever. The sigh of him was….. intoxicating, for lack of a better term, but he’s also…sad? Apprehensive? I don’t know. I momentarily froze while drinking him in. The sun has set now and all thats there is a dim blue and heavy gray sky thats dark, but not 100% dark. It starts to flurry I think. Now that I’ve been exposed from where I was watching, I can no longer go back to hiding. What will he say? What will he do? Will he ignore me and run? Will he allow me to sit beside him? I’ve aged one final time, I’m 18, and he’s an adult too. Because of my own apprehension as I get closer, panic courses through my veins. My dream fades to black from the edges and slowly getting closer to him. The harder I run to him, the darker it gets. Finally he’s out of sight.
I wake up to a pounding heart and covered in sweat. I was holding my breath while sleeping again.