I wrap my arms around Alex.
“I'll miss you,”
I whisper into her ear.
She nods and stays silent,
Her head pressing into my chest.
I feel her heartbeat,
Listen to her soft breathing
As her fingers wind with mine,
Playing and twisting together.
I stroke her hair, wishing this trip
Doesn't have to end.
Wishing I could stay here forever,
In this tent,
In the near-dark,
And feeling her warmth
Spread through my chilled limbs.
My right hand's fingers
Intertwine with her's
And with my left I let my nails
Bite into my palm
Without realizing it.
I breathe even breaths,
In, out, in,
And listen to her heartbeat,
I let her press her face
To the top of my head,
Let myself relax into the curve
Of her torso
And wait for night to fall completely.
Wait for sleep to come,
With me waiting in her arms.
I hear footsteps-
I lift my head from hers,
Praying for her to be quiet,
I put a finger against my lips,
My shadow projected onto the canvas side of the tent.
I slide away from her and into my sleeping bag.
She doesn't protest,
But scrambles into hers as well.
We lie there, breathing steadily
For a few moments.
Someone peeks in on us-
We were supposed to be asleep-
Then ducks back out and walks on,
Presumably checking that the others are asleep.
“Do you think they're gone?”
In the slight light I see her nod.
We crawl out of our bags
And resume our embrace,
This time dragging the sleeping bags
To place on top and around us.
I stroke her thumb,
Feeling the wrinkles in her skin
From where she bends her fingers.
She rubs my foot,
All bent up under me
So as not to break the embrace.
I look up into her peaceful face,
Her eyes closed,
Her fingers making mechanical rotations on my soles.
I realize that, in the morning,
This all will be lost.
We're just two friends,
Going off to two different schools.
This is our last trip together.
We may never see each other again.
My parents have great wishes for me-
To go to a good college,
Become something creditable like a doctor
Alex doesn't care what she will be.
Her parents died three years ago
And she just wants to get to a place in life
Where she doesn't have to rely
On other peoples' generosity
To get by.
She doesn't care about college.
I move my hand to her other foot.
She smiles down at me when I look up again,
But in a sad way that lets me know
She's thinking about tomorrow.
When we'll leave each other
And maybe never see each other
Again. In our lives.
I lift her hand to my face,
Press its icy fingers
To the hot surface of my cheek.
She shies away,
And I scramble up,
Dragging my sleeping bag off her
And finding my way,
In the dark because we turned off the flashlight,
To the my camping mat.
I snuggle into the warmth
And fall asleep,
Wishing that we had longer with each other.
In the morning we won't have any time,
And, although life pauses for us tonight,
It won't in the morning.
Then it will fly away
And leave us behind,
The wind of time whisking
The very life from under our feet,
And one of us from the other.
No matter how much we cling,
No matter how much we hold on,
We will be separated
And that may be the end.
But we will always remember
And we will always,
Always be friends.