The indigo of the night sky is slowly spilling into an undefined mix of ocher and baby blue. My heavy feet are hungrily eating the miles toward home, when Joey says stop. Let’s take a second to enjoy the sunrise, he muses. Perhaps it’s one of the last we’ll share.
„We’ve never even seen a sunrise together before,“ I reply. „If you want to call it something, call it our first.“
„Fine, then. Let’s sit down for a while and enjoy our first sunrise.“
„But the grass is all wet and it’s muddy,“ I protest. „I don’t feel like walking around town looking as if I’ve just both pissed and soiled myself.“
He gives me a scolding look, takes off his jacket and spreads it out on the slope that falls into the river below. I sigh and sit on it, making sure he takes note of my disapproval.
„It’s really late, Joey. Or early, if you prefer. We’ve been at it for more than six hours now, and I’m tired. Please don’t get philosophical, I don’t think I can keep up with you just now.“
Although I suspect my comment might enrage him, it doesn’t. A smile spreads on his face and he jokingly hugs me, but moves away quickly, before either of us can really think about further developing the act. I light up a cigarette and stare into the distance.
„We don’t have to talk. We talk all the time. I just want you to get outside of yourself a bit and experience this moment as it should be experienced. No thinking about the future, be it five years or five minutes from now. No wondering how you’ll get home. Just sit here with me for a while, okay?“
Even though he’s trying to play it cool and make it look as if this is another of life’s lessons he’s trying to teach me, I realize the pause isn’t meant for me, but him. He’s struggling with something, I can tell, and he needs to clear his thoughts. I only nod and stare into the distance.
It’s summer, but you couldn’t tell so by the weather. The air is chilly, a scent of fresh grass and flowers more suited for early spring. In the distance, the dawn is coming on strong now in orange and purple and pink, randomly scattered clouds caught in an array of colors. But then, there’s also factory chimneys and a big industrial bridge across the river. The new city, one I rarely see from my comfortable, centrally-placed womb.
Something about the sight hurts me. Maybe it’s that I don’t remember the last time I’ve greeted a new day, or in deed, if I’ve ever done so. Maybe it’s that I’m completely sober now and realize I can’t make the day stop coming. I can’t freeze time to stay in an almost perfect evening of alienation from the world, and myself. There will always be that new dawn ahead of nights when I will feel invincible, and most of the time I won’t even see it coming, even if it’s a matter of life and death for a human being like me.
„Do you ever think about death, Joey? Like.. what it will mean, if anything? I feel so small sometimes, helpless. Like now, I don’t think I remember a time when I felt as helpless at this. I want this morning to be over, but then I don’t want the night to end.“
I don’t think he’s heard the question at first, and I also realize how silly it is to ask one who’s battled depression for as long as I can remember if he’s thought of death. But Joey doesn’t take my thoughtlessness personally, only reaches out to brush off a suspended dew drop from a blade of grass.
„This enjoying the moment thing, you don’t really get the gist of it, do you?“
„I guess not. I can’t help the thoughts that come to my head.“
„Sure you can. You’re just too lazy to do so. We’re sitting on a river bank, watching the sunrise, and what you think about is death. Can’t your vast psychological education tell you something about that?“
He stares at me, and when I say stares, I mean full-out eye-contact, no blinking, shoveling into the pit of my brain. Though I’m scared, I don’t divert my eyes from his.
„What are you scared of, really? It’s not just death.“
„No. I think it’s these last few days, I’ve forgotten about my life as a whole. I’ve forgotten about any sense of direction. There was only the music, and the alcohol, and random conversations with strangers. Friends, too. I don’t think I will be able to afford to lose myself like this, ever again. It feels like some sort of ending, but I don’t know what of. We all appear to be saying our goodbyes.“
Joey lets out a moan and cradles his head between his knees. I mirror his posture half-unknowingly.
„Everyone’s always saying goodbye. To me, at least. Maybe it’s time you learned to deal with endings, too. You’ve been sheltered for far too long.“
I hate it when he patronizes me and brings up the argument of how easy my life so far has been. Compared to his, perhaps it’s true, but we all have our issues to sort out and mine have always been more hypothetical than practical. It doesn’t mean they are nonexistent. Sometimes the worst problem you can have is having no apparent problem while feeling something is off.
„I wish I was as lucky as you think I am.“
„I wish I was as unlucky as you think you are.“
„That’s rich. Thanks for the support. Can we go now?“
„Because I don’t want to say goodbye just as much as you don’t.“
The clock on my phone says it’s half past seven when I check to see if I have any missed calls from my parents. They’ve probably gotten up by now to get ready for work. By the time I reach the flat, they’ll be gone. Joey’s right, I don’t want to say goodbye, or be alone now. Still, I rise from the ground and pull him up by the hand as well. He makes a show out of his protest.
„Come on. I’ll make some coffee and we can continue this conversation somewhere less damp and freezing. We can hang out at mine.“
He nods approvingly.
„Yes! We’ll pull down the blinds and pretend it’s still dark outside. You can trick your mind into believing you stopped time for a day. Do we have a deal?“
„I believe we do.“
The ride to my place is surprisingly fast. We pass early morning commuters and children going to school on our way, battling hunger at every corner where we catch whiffs of bread and fresh pastries. I give into my biological needs and buy a couple of buns from the local bakery, and two cups of coffee. Joey smirks and drinks up the bitter liquid in a few seconds. We honor our agreement and pull down all the blinds, hermetically shutting ourselves off from the sounds of daily life.
Still, I can’t help but be aware of the bustle outside. It does no good to make believe nothing has changed. Once you know certain truths, you can never un-know them, as much as you’d like to pretend otherwise. This was my last stand in the war not to grow up. It’s over now, and even if I’ve won one battle with the day, the outcome of the war was never going to be in my favor. Life from now on will refuse to be ignored.
„Everything’s going to change, isn’t it?“
Joey bridges the distance between us to lie next to me on the couch, and his arm cautiously snakes around my waist.
„Yes, it is.“