Still Afternoon

by brittanychavez

We claimed a patch of grass as ours. We looked at each other and ran up through the alley back to my house on 7th street to grab armfuls of blankets. I took the steps of the black spiral staircase up to my brother’s room to grab a denim comforter with ruffles; it would be perfect to lie on.

Our arms full of fabric, these comforting things, we walked all the way back to our grass, our feet slapping the red gravel road.

You are asleep, and I am burrowing deeper into the covers. We are beneath a cloudless sky. Sometimes I look up and see blue and hold my hands over my eyes, form a small slit so I can better understand the color. It always looks different in isolation.

We are together but apart. I am curled with my back to yours. This afternoon isn’t mine, it’s ours, but I am alone contemplating. I contemplate with you beside me, and therefore you are contemplating with me.

I turn on my back, and whisper your name, “Crrr.” Not a question, but a statement. You respond anyway, a muffled sound of acknowledgement, and I am satisfied. I stretch out, make some noise, and imagine the grass under our blanket getting squished down.

A scoop of land surrounds me all sides by rising trees. I am in a bubble of history. I can still remember my mom spreading out a crinkled map of this town, a bird’s eye view. The numbered streets so out of place in the mountains. I loved tracing the ways I would walk to the bus stop. I swore I would take the longest route; I wanted to live in a city. I didn’t even know you then. I had a different best friend.

Now here we are, on our blanket, looking up at the sky wrapped in blankets I’ve had just as long as I’ve lived here. We’re on the alley, between 4th street and 5th.

Yesterday we ventured down to the river. There was a pebbly rock beneath my fingers. Water gulping and rushing around me. I pretended I was on the edge of a waterfall, above empty space. I told you this as you giggled and took pictures, the shutter clicking heavily in our still afternoon. I stood up and looked at my feet on the rock, jumped from one to another, making my way back to the bank of grass.

I sat myself in a swinging hammock chair as you balanced on a log by the river, dipped your feet into the cold water. I twisted myself up on the rope of the chair, then let myself go and the world spun. I was back in my own bubble. I focused on the tiny cotton threads and your voice. It didn’t matter what you said, only that you were speaking.

Afterwards we clambered back up the tiered path overgrown with clumps of grass and weeds. I held on to empty space and managed to stay upright. We walked slowly back, no need to rush, across the road, through the alley and back into the house. We were soaked with sun.

Maybe we are in a sphere and the only ground that exists in the entire world is the grass under our blanket. You are breathing, heavily, you’re asleep, remember? I wake you up, now we’re turned towards each other, I’ve grabbed my camera.

We like to pretend these moments happened in complete solitude, that it was just chance that a camera was pointed at us, happened to capture the exact moment our joy peaked. The truth is that I want so badly to remember every detail of this afternoon. I know I won’t be able to memorize it, so I’ll let the light do it for me.

The next day we walk up to the waterfall. Loose gravel roads lead us places I’ve already been to dozens of times, and we get off the road in the middle of an incline. Here is another rushing body of water. Colder than before. We lay out on another pebbly rock, slowly inching ourselves down to the water. Plunge our feet in and a swirling mass of gold-flecked mud blooms around us, turning the river opaque.

We are in a tiny collected bowl of river water. Here is the waterfall I was imagining myself above. Now I am below it, or nearly.

Childish fear grips our bodies, we are hesitant but over the course of another hot afternoon we creep our way under it. First our feet must go in. Next our legs, torsos and shoulders.

Then we are under, after much debate about who will go first and why. (You, I am less strong.) Water is pounding down. It is so shallow here, easy to climb up the big rocks and get behind the fall. We giggle, we are free. Our hands reach out to touch the stream of water, which is so solid and so white. I want to stay here forever.

I will myself to remember the details. Droplets hitting my bare skin, the echoing sound from being in a small chamber with a loud noise. I close my eyes; tilt my face towards the spray. Words are unnecessary, so complete is our joy.

We are really two tiny dots in the world. I know once I get back to the city and leave my quiet town I will have a moment where I crane my neck to see the windows of a building, and I’ll know that for every window there is a person. I will be put in my place. My life will once again be small. But right now I am the center of my own universe. Without anything to compare ourselves to, we are as large as the world around us. As important as the waterfall we’re under.

Reluctantly, we edge out from under the waterfall, you first this time so I can see how it’s done. And we’re back in our bowl, floating on our backs in a pool only two feet deep. The noise of the waterfall is in the background again. We are still together. I can say your name, and you can say mine. We will answer. We are here.