If I could relive it a million times over I would. There’s nothing about this day that stands out as a pivotal, life changing or even an exciting, adventurous moment in my life, but to me it was everything. The Day came subtly, humbly, quietly and unexpectedly. And it wasn’t until it was over when I realized that this was The Day I’d wish I could relive for the rest of my life.
I woke up to her warm face nestled against my chest. It was later than I expected but there was no rush. That afternoon we drove in her car out of the city, across the bridge and into the pinelands. When we arrived at the music festival it was sweltering, a blazing heat with no shade against a massive slab of asphalt, a handful of food trucks and pop-up tents for drinks and merchandise. Together we stood in front of the stage, watching a band set up. The band we wanted to see wasn’t set to start until 9 pm and it was only around 1. As the sweat rolled down my brow, I couldn’t help but think this was going to be an extremely long, miserable day. At the time, I didn’t know it would be The Day in which I’d wish I could relive forever.
I turned to her, thinking that she too was probably going to feel physically uncomfortable, but she appeared content, smiling, calm and relaxed. We walked through the line of tents, hand in hand, arm in arm. She didn’t say much, she never did, but I didn’t mind, I just wanted to be with her, and I think she just wanted to be with me too.
We made our way over to the next stage and watched a performance. At one point she rested her head against my shoulder. The hours passed and I took no notice. The heat, the blazing sun, the physical discomfort mattered little. Saturated in her presence, I could care less about anything else.
We had lunch at the picnic tables by the food trucks. I ended up telling her a painful story from my past because somehow we got onto the topic. She listened intently and I could tell she sensed the crackle in my voice recalling the hurt of my best friend’s wife suddenly leaving him, and all of us. Years later, the scar was permanent, and the story spilled from my lips with no reservations.
I wiped the lens of my $5 pair of sunglasses against my shirt, accidently breaking them. She took note and would surprise me with a pair of Raybans in the days to come.
The sun was starting to sink beneath the pine trees off in the distance, leaving a beautiful pink glow along the edge of the treetops. The temperature began to plummet, giving us a much-needed relief. We sat together, sharing what was left of a beer where the asphalt met the grass. We watched the band on the stage a few hundred yards in front of us. She rested her head against me and held my arm.
“I like you,” she mumured, almost like it hurt, but in a good way. My heart melted because I knew, especially because of the way she said it, like it came from the deep.
“Just like?” I said, smiling, hoping she would say “love.”
I held her close, our sweat dried as the sun vanished and the pinelands chirped and echoed with wildlife. I listened closely to the lyrics of the song being played.
“If you love me, don’t you let me go,” they sang. I stroked her silky hair and kissed her adorable cheeks. Despite my life’s uncertain and unstable season, in that moment I had never felt happier and more at peace in my entire life. The music resonated across the tree line.
“If you love me, don’t go.”