I wiggle down into the sand with my backside. It is like sitting in a giant beanbag chair. The sands shift under and around me. I slip my toes under the warm sand and try to find the cool wetness that is beneath the upper crust. The Pacific Ocean rolls in and out before me. It is like breathing in my ears - the waves rushing in and threatening to take away our bonfire but then the earth's force drags the waves back out by some force that I am not aware of nor do I care about.
My head is spinning slightly from the cheap beer we managed to obtain. I look around the fire at the familiar faces. Faces I feel I have known forever and I ponder in that moment 'will I know them forever?' Surely I will I say to myself. Surely.
The moon is rising above the earth. At first just the top, a tiny sliver of yellowish-white cheese. Maybe it is the beer or the heady notion of forever and friends, bonfire and ocean but the full moon is above me. Bathing us in bluish white light.
My memory is probably wrong, like most memories I have allowed that moon and the beer to alter my thoughts. It seemed so peaceful and quiet. I do not remember the name of the beach, its exact location is a mystery to me but I know this happened. I know we drove there, stopping for beer and snacks. I know I remember the sand shifting beneath me and drinking in the moment. I know the moon was over my head and the ocean's breathing was in my ears.
I hunker down on the beach like I am in the army on an operative mission. Only I am giggling uncontrollably. And I am holding a dark brown bottle, beer, of course. We stand on the road near the Great Lake momentarily before jumping down military style onto the beach.
The lake is lapping noisily spread out before us. I can smell the earthy dark smell that emanates from it. It is as wide and deep as any ocean, or so it seems. It hold deep dark secrets... mine of course. Things I have flung out there in that vast sea of this lake in hope's to rid myself of them, forever. They always came back, those secrets. Not even the frozen cold of the winter Superior could hold them back and I yet I kept hoping - seven long years of hope - that Superior would gobble them up, hold them tightly, never return them to me and yet I would myself standing at the lake time and again throwing and throwing and throwing.
But now it is summer, perhaps the warmest time for my Great Lake. I can hear the gulls even though it is very late, past the time we should be awake. Well into the morning hours. It is bright as day - the moon is glinting off the murky waters. I fall back on to the cold rocky ground that makes up the beach. I feel uninhibited with my laughter. I have no idea why I am laughing either. Maybe because it is the perfect summer evening?
Time and age has told me that forever is not what I thought. I grow serious as I gaze at the moon. My friend looks over and senses the change. He becomes quiet. He is like that - he understands my need to contemplate that moment. The moon, the beer, the lapping waters, the sounds of the earth, the presence and beauty of nature surround us. The memories rush back at me like I am in a vacuum. The bonfire is missing but the moon is the same. Even half way across the country, the moon is still bluish white light bathing us in its wonder. I have changed but it has not.
My lungs are burning and I hear the familiar rasp in my lungs of air in, air out. The lilt of the music floats in through my white ear buds but I hardly hear it. I am straining to hear the insects, for cars, for memories long gone. I pick up the pace.
I can see the darkness approaching. It is like a dark veil slowly being pulled over my eyes. The only air that is stirring is from me passing through. It is sticky hot and humid. Sweat drips down my neck and pools near my chest. I swipe at it stopping it suddenly only for another stream to start on the other side.
A floppy black bat passes close by my head and I watch its drunken trajectory through the sky inhaling small insects that I cannot see. My legs are sore and I am tired but I push through it. The sun setting to the west is a heavenly pink, the edges are purple. There are surreal looking wisps of cloud swimming around in the pink. I inhale deeply overwhelmed by the beauty and depth of nature.
As I change directions to head home I catch a glimpse of my old friend. Still the same, yet this time it is shrouded in those funny clouds. It peaks out at me from behind those clouds from time to time.
I am in the middle of nothing. No more ocean. No more lake. No more sand or bonfires. Just corn fields and earth. Just hot humid air and Midwestern values that still do not resonate with me even after all these years. I am still me but I am not.
The full moon is beckoning me. I have to stop running, my breathing is ragged but I am peaceful. My muscles are screaming at me, the old way, the way they used to when I was younger. I realize with a start: has it really been twenty years since that moonlit bonfire night on the beach with the whole world laid out before me? And ten since the Great Lakes when I was grapling with time and the lack of forever in my life at that moment?
I stand in front of the grey red brick stretching my tired muscles gazing at the moon and wondering how it followed me here. To this day. To this me. What a path, what a journey, what a wonderful life. I am bathed in bluish white moonlight and I smile.