“The dark is light enough.”

— Christopher Fry

At the end of a perfect day, the end of a perfect month and a perfect summer, just as two wine glasses clink, a sudden cool wind pops up, and a late night call comes that tells of the unexpected death of an old friend.

Word of the loss has passed from cell to cell, email to Facebook, card to box, and landed here with us as the moon comes out and the air goes cold. In those few moments we became aware that summer is ending, and with it, another link to our past is broken.

In our youth, we toss days around like they will never end. We make and break promises and dates with careless abandon, and friendships flood our days. Some fade like photos left in the sun, but many become a permanent part of a book of life with bookmarks and scribbled notes in the margins, and even as we’re rushing away to some exciting moment on another street or town or part of the world, we promise to get back to the story, to the narrative that we scratched out together so long ago.

We promise, and we mean it even as the words on those pages fade with the years, we meant them. Yes we did.

Each one of us has a story like that, one that we wrote with others from kindergarten to college, a book that kept getting bigger and was full of happy, smiling faces capped with baseball caps, mortar boards and military helmets.

There were summer chapters full of rented tuxedos, Hawaiian shirts and flowered shorts, terrible haircuts and ugly bridesmaid dresses. We all have them somewhere, on a shelf, in a drawer or boxes in an attic where the dust thickens and memories fade.

Then gradually everything in our lives got faster, didn’t it? The motorbike rides through the early morning streets of Manhattan, dancing by electric light with movie stars on lawns so green they looked fake, didn’t they? There were the fish fries and ice cream stains on white shoes, the hugs and kisses, the goodbye waves that came with promises. Friends.

Some became famous and vanished into lights so bright it hurt our eyes. The letters slowed because our addresses and our phone numbers changed again and again. There was New York, Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo. There was this big wind that came up out of nowhere while we weren’t looking, a wind that blew the pages of our calendars apart like they do in the corny old movies.

And then one night last week, the chill breeze sprang up and that call came. It wasn’t the first one. We’ve all had many before and more will come, and we’ll be reminded that winter, as it always must, is coming, and that hand we once reached for long ago, so long ago that it seems to have belonged to a beautiful actor in a wonderful movie, has now slipped away into some horrid unknowable place between distant stars.

I’m reminded now of the words spoken by my favorite teacher, Sister Rosanna, who had beautiful eyes, and even though we couldn’t see her hair I knew it was as black as mine, as she stood in a square of light at the head of the class by her desk.

“Now,” she said, “what have we learned today?”

What have we learned indeed? Maybe just that for us, for now, it’s been a perfect month and summer, a perfect life and no matter what, we’re obliged to keep the book going, writing each page together and pasting happy pictures in.

Oh God. Winter is coming and winter can be dark, but where the memories of friends are candles, the dark is light enough.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

 

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