His cheek is pressed into the back of my head, blonde-brown hair lightly tossed by the wind. His face is in that half-smirk, a smile with the left corner slightly up. His mustache is scruffy, beard short, but untrimmed. His eyes are that dizzying grey-hazel, looking both at the camera, but also at me.
We are smiling. I’m slightly in front, my hair falling in curls around my face. My smile is ear-to-ear, making my eyes look like they’re twinkling. I smile now, as I hold the photograph in my hand.
This was before I knew. Before I realized our love was unraveling.
He loved me then. And I loved him, too. More, I think, in that moment than ever before or after.
That night he had taken me to one of the mountains right outside the city he grew up in, where the earth stretched towards the sky. The roads, though man-made, seemed to reach upwards, away from the ground. The air was sickeningly hot and heavy. I felt it, thick in my pores and hair. We drove the truck to the end of the street, where concrete met gravel, and shut off the engine.
The night was silent except for the few hums of bugs and a distant siren. I looked over Phoenix as the sun set, watched the lights blink yellow, green, red, orange, almost as if muted on a television screen. It seemed so surreal then—life, the future, the city, even love.
I was blissfully naive, in that moment. Although, even then I think I knew.
We always know, don’t we? We can tell when the love is unraveling, when the person we thought we knew becomes someone we longer recognize.
We lie to ourselves. We try to pretend that, although, imperfect, it’s right somehow.
Sometimes it’s easier to pretend than face the truth. Sometimes it’s easier to sit on that mountain and breathe in the humid air, heavy with the nostalgia of the love that no longer exists. And wish.
Featured Image Credit: neONBRAND