Irving Hawthorne loved Delilah Thorne.
The first time he kissed her they lay in the back of his pick-up alongside the river. Night had come, and the summer stars yielded a great harvest of whispers from the deep-dreams-place. Peepers and night birds hummed from the tall grasses, their songs without meter, without a key.
Her gold hair was silver in the grey light.
“I am going to kiss you now.”
He looked at her, waiting for her to tell him no, but she didn’t, so he leaned in and gave up reason for the taste of her lips. A heron barked from the shallows and took wing. In the east, the moon was following the charred path of the sun, beginning its slow ascent across the midnight sky. The waters swirled on, toward the south, toward the sea, black beneath the passage of time. It was August.
For Delilah it was just another night. Another kiss she would carry with her to her grave. For Irving, though, this was a culmination of patience and honesty, never straying once from his confessed love for her. Sometimes, we are able to wait years for what we want, then only to find out our desires were fleeting, as insubstantial as the mist, which dissipates as the sun warms the earth, and sets things right again. In the air, the stars shivered as the earth turned. The moon rose. Irving held her, and her heat seeped into him, and his into her, and it was like they were one pulse. What need does man have for god when he has love? On this rapidly spinning earth, Irving held onto the only thing that made sense to him.
They did nothing more than kiss that night. It was his way of showing her that he desired her, not what she could give him. Looking back, remembering the taste of cinnamon on her tongue, and how her hands carelessly explored his body, he knew. He could have had it all that night for nothing more than the cost of gas and a cup of coffee. She began to shiver.
“Hold on,” he said.
The dry grass and gravel crunched beneath his boots as he slid off the tailgate, and made his way around the side toward the cab. While he was rummaging behind the seat, she texted a friend, and slipped her phone back into her pocket before Irving was aware. He produced a blanket, and made his way back to the truck bed.
“Here, it’s thin, but it will do the trick.”
He sat next to her as she wrapped herself in the blanket, pulling his knees up to his chin and looking up. A meteor flashed across the northern horizon, its light burning beautiful before fizzling out, its life nothing more than one perfect, incandescent moment.
“Did you see that?”
She nodded, “I made a wish.”
“I did too.”
She looked over at him, her eyes ranging over his body, sizing him up.
“I learned a long time ago to only wish for things I know will come true.”
She smiled faintly. Behind them, along the gravel access road, headlights burned through the dark and lit up the truck. Irving jumped and his heart punched the inside of his chest.
“If it’s the cops, let me talk to them.”
Delilah held in a laugh as the driver door opened.
“Hey Dee, you comin?”
“Hold on a sec Mike.”
She looked over at Irving, who still hadn’t figured out what was going on.
“I had a wonderful time tonight, but, I have other places I need to be, you understand.”
He nodded, he didn’t understand. She leaped from the back of the truck and jogged over to the other car, hugging the driver and slipping into the passenger seat. Irving watched until the taillights were swallowed by the darkness of the access road. Soon, the sound of the engine died, and Irving was left with the hum of the night. He neither got a goodbye kiss, nor his wish. He lay out there until it was dawn, and then, as the sun rose, he waded into the river.
Irving Hawthorne loved Delilah Thorne, but that night he learned to love the river more.