The water lapped against the docks, the boats swaying in their slips with the gentle motion of the lake. The gray day was brightened only by the sounds of weekend sailors tending to their crafts, the music of their laughter warm on the cold damp breeze.
I gazed down through the murky depths, wondering how long it had been since I’d stood in this same spot searching for something inside myself. The captain broke into my reverie, seemingly reading my mind.
“Do you remember the last time you were here, Kitten?”
I calculated the time that had passed in silence before responding. I realized that it had been more years than I knew. It seemed like just yesterday that we’d spent that summer together here; a summer of friendship, love, laughter and unequaled companionship. In that long ago moment, when the breeze had been warm and it was our laughter that filled the afternoon, I stood in this same spot staring down into the water and had found direction. That summer my life had begun anew. I was instantly ashamed of how far astray from that path I had deviated.
Like the seasons, I had changed. I hardly felt like that girl anymore, the “wild child” as the captain had called me, with a zest for life, finding wonderment in the rain, the skies, and the world around me. She had been replaced with an older, more restrained version – having grown quiet and introspective. Age and life had challenged her and she had lost both courage and self as casualties of those battles. And like any recovery, mine had been slow and painful. But now I was feeling restless again and dreams of rocky shores and the east coast had begun to seep into my consciousness again.
I turned my head from the water and the baited line that bobbed with the waves, studying the captain. His profile contrasted the bleak, rainy afternoon. He had always been larger than life to me and I was often humbled by his presence and our tender friendship. He has been friend, and sometimes foe, teacher and mentor to me over the years. He was one of those rare people who enter our lives and forever change us and how we view the world… and ourselves. He’d entered my life at a tumultuous time and in him, I had found understanding and acceptance, both from him and in myself.
He, too, seemed deep in thought and more subdued than the man I remembered. I thought about our previous conversation that afternoon, and how life can change you in such a short time.
“Do you sometimes think about that summer, Captain,” I asked. “Was it just me, or was it really as magical as I remembered?”
“Oh, most definitely, Kitten. I think we all felt it,” he answered quietly.
I nodded silently, my mind straying again to summer nights spent sitting with a fishing pole in one hand and a drink in the other, of the bond we’d shared and the words that had passed between us. I’ve thought about those nights many times over the years and longed for that same hunger and bright hope for the future again. I found myself longing again to belong with those like me - their minds haunted, their souls seeking, their sirens calling. Though much has changed since that summer so long ago, the ghosts have remained in my thoughts, haunting me sometimes in the dead of night with what-might-have-beens. Over the years, I rationalized away the magic and the importance of those times to changes in myself and the rose-colored hue that hindsight lends to almost every yesterday. But in that moment I knew that every taste, every smell, every feeling had been real.
The pale sun sunk deeper in the horizon, the icy waters stealing away the last of the day. I realized with a pang of regret it was time to leave. I gently touched the Captain’s arm and nodded sadly. I drank it all in one more time – the boat, the people, the man beside me. I watched the surface of the lake dimple with heavy raindrops, so reminiscent of another afternoon, and shivered, hoping it wasn’t too late to find summer again.