Cropped header image by Richard Webb under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.
It was deep summer, August 1983. I was in my twenties then; the most important years of my life had gone by, but I wasn’t done just yet.
I didn’t know what I wanted back then. Without work, education or anyone to hold me back I was free to go wherever I wanted. I’d walk through the forest for miles, I’d follow a river until I got bored, I’d keep heading forward until it got dark.
I was somewhere in the heart of Surrey, I’m sure; I ended up in a field that didn’t seem to ever end. I didn’t really care where the train went, I just wanted somewhere far away. If I remember correctly, it was then one of the hottest summers on record – though every summer nowadays seems to be the hottest on record, so it doesn’t really mean much to me now. The pollen hung in the air and drifted lazily in all directions, the air was heavy with the sound of crickets and the grass stood almost up to my knees. If anyone else was here, they were lost, crazy or just as aimless as I was. I wandered in whatever direction I felt like for the whole day, whatever looked even remotely interesting: a tree stump, a half-rusted old car, again, whatever. I ate lunch in the seat of that old car. Surprised it still even had a seat I could sit on after spending so long in there.
By late afternoon, I’d been spending a while in the sun and started to feel a little light. It was the kind that made you pay attention to the bigger picture; to the birds weaving in and out of nearby trees, to the undulation of the ground beneath your feet, to the inevitable passage of time and how short some moments in life really are. Even I had my limits back then and somewhere in the evening I pretty much collapsed on the bank of a hill somewhere at the edges of a glade somewhere. When you’re lying down and looking right up at the sky, you don’t really have much else to do.
That’s where she came in. I have no idea where she came from, I never got her name and by the time I looked up to see what it was she was standing right there next to me, asking if it was okay if she set down next to me. I don’t remember what she looked like any more but whatever it was, it was a sight for sore eyes. I remember her lying next to me on the grass, staring right up into the sky through the summer haze like there was something she knew and I didn’t. She said something, and I said something, and we talked until the stars came out, but…I don’t remember any of what we said. I knew whatever it was wasn’t going to last forever, or even until the next week, and maybe that’s what she knew. She gave me that same knowing look sometimes when she thought I wasn’t looking. I could see it all in her eyes, that we knew we couldn’t really ever be together. I guess that was it, because I fell asleep in that field, and when I woke up in the morning, she was gone without a trace.
But sometimes you have to move on. There’ll always be moments like those, but it’s not everything. If I’d spent every year since then fixating on that day then I’d just be some drifter wandering some other field halfway across the country hoping for that day to repeat itself. I guess what I’m saying is, leaving things behind is just how life goes. Move on. Experience other things. Most things won’t be forever, so appreciate them while they last.