Robert could suddenly remember the fascination with everything he had seen as a young child, the wonder the entire world had held for him that somehow had been lost as the luster of daily life grew mundane and repetitive. Somehow the newness of everything, taking in every tiny detail, marveling at the beauty in everything had been lost to the years behind. He stared out across the tops of the verdant white pines, their giant trunks of medium brown reaching ever skyward, their branches splayed out wide with the most vibrant green needles. He took notice of the greater luster given each shade of green by the semi-distant steely gray lake beneath them. Those few majestic trees that had broken the canopy and shot further across the view from his balcony stood out in contrast against the grading shades of deep navy to sky blue, now slowly yellowing as the herald of dawn began to break the horizon.
With gentle hand, Robert leaned over in the lounge chair and reached out to take the aged hand of his husband. He gave a light squeeze to the love of his life who he had met again some thirty years prior, careful not to press too hard and disturb the restful slumber David had fallen back into. Rather, he smiled as he felt the slight warmth in David’s hand, made frail by the years and medications. Wrinkles from age and too much sun joined by callouses from endless hours of diligent construction work under the harsh summery sky were signs of the love David had given him in return, toiling endless hours to bring home his share of the household earnings. Robert looked over at David, watching his chest rise and fall in short, shallow breaths spaced just a little too far apart. Robert’s smile faltered briefly as a slight rush of sadness overpowered him, forcing a tear from his eye.
The number of years since David’s hair had been solid black, wavy and free, were perhaps more than his hair had ever been so, but in this moment, Robert could see only the youthful man he had once admired and swooned over from a distance. Watching David bouncing a basketball across the court with a finesse and skill that made it seem as though the ball was somehow part of David had entranced Robert, for his own awkwardness would have found him face-first on the gym floor simply trying to dribble the ball.
A soft, cool breeze brought fresh air from across the lake, a fragrant scent of pine mixed with a light cologne of the water’s grassy bouquet. David stirred slightly, his eyes fluttering open. The morning sun reflected in his soft blue eyes brought yet another tear to Robert’s eye, but he quickly looked back out to the horizon so David would not see him weep, even in the slightest. Rather, he again squeezed David’s hand, a gentle reminder of the love they shared.
The light embrace David’s hand returned was without much strength, but it meant the world to Robert. The sun had peeked its bow above the horizon and the yellows had melded with the blues, creating vibrant crimsons and violets as it continued to rise, but it was all beginning to streak together, colors merging as Robert’s vision blurred. The beauty was almost too much to bear, the moment almost too fantastic to take in.
The ball began to bounce in his mind again. Robert could make out almost every single bump of pebbling on the orange ball, the ebon ribs spinning as the rebounding sphere left echoes bursting rhythmically through the air. He had lost count of how long he had sat on the bleachers watching the games, watching number seventy-three running back and forth across the court, his lean but muscular form draped in the yellow and blue shorts and jersey of the high school team. How many classrooms in those four years had he spent sitting across the room watching as David sat working on homework knowing he was all but invisible. Robert’s shyness had run deep, amplified by the angst of being different, of being a hormonal teenager with emotions he didn’t quite yet understand. How many days had he lingered long enough outside of the school’s main entrance to watch David at first heading home on foot, and then later sliding into his jet-black sports car, driving off without so much as a look in the mirror toward Robert. He would have given anything for just one glance.
One glance. Robert turned again to look at his husband through watery eyes. He had fallen back asleep, as had been the norm now for a couple of weeks. It had become a struggle to feed him, to hold him up enough to even swallow food, but Robert had tried. And tried. The therapies had done all they could do, and though David had vowed not to give in, Robert refused to ask him to push any harder to stay. In the end, David had one final request for him. That he not be shuffled off out the door and sent to some cold, impersonal hospice center. That he might lay these final days beneath the sun and the moon by the lake they had visited often in the summer and now called home. That Robert would be there with him.
Robert and David had graduated high school together and suddenly there were no more opportunities for Robert to see his high school crush. Time eventually filled the gaping wound that had been left behind where David’s black hair and sapphire eyes had been, and Robert had gone on to earn a master’s degree in philosophy, eventually teaching at a local community college. The years went by—a decade in fact—and Robert found himself at his first high school reunion. He hadn’t even really been sure why he had chosen to go. He hadn’t had many friends because he had been introverted and awkward. College had at least helped Robert with both of those conditions, opening his eyes to the wider world and helping him find a place within it.
It was at that reunion though that Robert caught sight of David again, walking swiftly away from a table filled with many of the other basketball players he’d been on the same team with. Without so much as a backward glance, David pushed the door of the tavern open and headed outside. Figuring time was fleeting and that he might not ever get the chance to introduce himself to David again, Robert had waited a moment and then followed outside, finding David leaning against a silver lamp post, the peachy yellow of the light from above reflecting off of his black hair. For a moment, it had seemed to Robert that David hadn’t aged a single year since high school, but then David had turned to look at him, his bright blue eyes filled with a sadness Robert had never seen in them before.
“Oh, hey.” David had nodded his head slightly. “Rob, right?”
Robert knew his face at that moment had betrayed the surprise he’d felt hearing David speak his name. “Uh…” Robert had found himself nearly speechless, all his confidence suddenly drained as he morphed back into that shy, awkward teenager. “Uh, I didn’t think you’d remember me. I don’t think we ever talked.”
David had grinned in response, those brilliant white teeth shining in the night, his handsome face perking up for a moment. “You were at every one of my games. How could I not notice you?”
Robert had felt himself blush a little, his ears warming a bit. He had stood trying to think of anything at all to say, but his mind had gone blank. Instead of following through with his plan to be cool and tell David how he felt, he had instead asked, “What’s wrong?” A beat later, he had added, “If you don’t mind me asking.”
David’s eyebrows had wrestled with the emotions fighting for dominance on his face as he gave a dismissive wave toward the bar they’d walked out of. “I went through a pretty bad breakup recently. I was talking to the guys about it, and, well…” David had shrugged his shoulders and looked off into the night. “Well, I guess you really don’t know your team until you tell them something personal, do you?” He shook his head and looked back at Robert, his cheek quirked up. “Didn’t think they’d go straight for the obvious jokes when I told them why I’d dumped my boyfriend.”
Maybe it had been fated that they would meet again that night, maybe it had been pure and utter chance, but whatever it had been, Robert had known then and there he had to take a shot. He had leaned forward without a second thought, leaned in, grabbed David by the back of his head, and planted a huge kiss on his lips. The warmth of David’s lips against his own filled him with a sense of calm, a sudden feeling of being whole. When David didn’t resist, and instead, returned the kiss, Robert knew that David was the one.
A raspy cough brought Robert’s thoughts back to the present, and he turned to see David staring at him. “Where were you?” David asked, his voice weak, but kind and curious as always.
“Our first kiss.”
David smiled, those same white teeth now aged, but every bit as attractive to Robert. “I love you, Rob. I always will.”
“I love you, too.” Robert leaned over and kissed David’s hand. “I always have.”
David shifted some and looked off into the early morning sun, smiling. “Beautiful day.”
Robert nodded, looking back toward the horizon.
The hours passed as Robert sat holding David’s hand. On any normal day, by now he would have stood and gotten them lunch, or brought out drinks, and they would have sat and talked about their plans for the day. Perhaps later, he would have headed in to do any number of minor chores around the house, but not this day. This day, food was unimportant, drink was unnecessary, and words went unspoken. Robert sat for hours, his husband’s hand in his own, listening to the purr of David’s snore slowly turn raspy, and then, eventually, grow silent.
How many years had gone by? How many years had he waited only for it to end here? Robert didn’t regret a single day of it, for the years of happiness and joy had been worth the wait. He would continue on because he knew David would want him to, but he would never forget that young man who had eventually become his husband. As the waxing crescent moon lifted slowly into the night sky, ample stars carpeting the deep cobalt sky behind it, Robert stared across the lake, studying the moon’s outline as it rippled in the gentle waves. He wanted to reach out, to hold David’s hand one last time, but he was gone now. Robert couldn’t take his eyes off of the deep midnight ripples cutting through the vibrant white of the slivered moon’s reflection, barely holding back tears as he sat alone.
“I waited for you for years,” Robert spoke out into the light-speckled darkness. “I have many happy memories, my love.” He reached up and brushed away a tear. “I suppose I can wait again, once more.”