How had you known I’d find it?
It was only a piece of paper after all, wrinkled and frayed, tucked inside of that wooden box we used to send messages to each other in when we were younger and apart. Covered, hidden under a light layer of dirt, with just one corner peeking out from the ground. It could have been lost over the years, torn apart, or maybe it simply might have faded away, as old things tend to do.
Yet here it was. And what were the chances that I would lift that leaf by our bench on the shore, the singular one that concealed your secret from the prying, disbelieving eyes of the world? What were the chances that I happened to look down, that I happened to see the one edge peering up at me so blatantly as to make my heart race?
Then again, there could have been no chance in it at all. Perhaps you just knew, in that deep way that just swallows you up and tosses you down through that place where everyone is screaming your name.
Perhaps you had always known.
They laughed at me when I said to them what you conveyed. They told me I was crazy. Did you know that, Aveline? They had the nerve to mock me, to mock your very own words!
Well, they won’t be laughing now - not when they discover the answer that's been here all along, lurking in the darkness, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal itself in all of its magnitude. In all of its truth.
Après la pluie, le beau temps. Isn’t that what you used to say, Aveline? "After the rain, good weather." We are struggling through the pouring rain now, but we will make it through, and I will find a way to bring you back here. I promise.
I've been preparing things for your return. The little box sits waiting on your front step, and inside is every letter we wrote to each other, the poetry book you pressed flowers into, and that too-big watch you always wore around your wrist, even though it stopped ticking years ago.
Do you know that I will search for you if you cannot come home? I will search through every crevice, every last grain of sand in time, until either I find you or my feet announce their surrender, and even then I may still keep looking.
You were always the strong one, but I hope you realize that I can be, too.
What are things like where you are now, Aveline? From the way you described it with colorful, enthused words, and eyes flickering like a burning candle, I imagine the past as a place of grandeur and innovation, where you're slowly finding your place among the people who call then home.
Maybe you will discover that your real place is with them, that you didn't need to send me a message after all, that bit by bit you are dissolving into their world and forgetting everything you thought you knew.
Will you remember, Aveline? For me?
I think of the way you used to say my name, so smoothly and with emphasis, as if the word was the most natural thing to let slip from your lips.
Did you find yourself new friends, a new person to listen to your words, to guide you through the tunnels of darkness to the other side? Perhaps a duke or some ancient royalty - any of them would be greater than I. If I am obsolete, I wish I could know.
You did not talk about many things in your message, but one part will be clearly burned into my mind: If you are reading this, then I have long but disappeared. I and others will be lost in the past, ghosts of the people we were before now. Time is a fickle thing, isn't it?
Aveline, Aveline. I miss you.
Have you been lying to me, Aveline? Have you been making me twist myself into knots without rhyme, without reason?
They told me that you weren’t here. She is here, I said. Just not now, I said, but they all shook their heads in dismay.
I believed everything you wrote in that letter - I believed you. Was I wrong?
Your words were so sincere, sounding so much like you used to. Perhaps I was just spiraling, just searching too fiercely for a piece of you to hold on to that when my chance surfaced, I held on so tightly that the blood fled from my fingers.
I was always the sensible one, but maybe people can change.
The box. We were side by side, burrowing into the ground with our hands, caking dirt underneath our fingernails, although we didn’t care. When it was deep enough, we lowered the little box in, which we had filled so carefully with everything that was close to us, with our treasures. Our selves.
At the last second you pulled a piece of perfectly folded notebook paper out of your pocket, and slipped it inside of the box. So they’ll know our story, you explained, and I nodded.
How long do we have to wait before digging up the capsule? I asked, and you shrugged. As long as it takes, you answered.
I raised an eyebrow. And how long is that?
You grinned. You’ll know.
I remember now, Aveline.
I remember the sea, and the way the sun lit up the pale, grey-blue sky. I remember the water crashing on the rocky shore and whitewash rolling like a billowing spool of silk, but most of all I remember you.
Black tee and a pair of loose denim jeans, your favorite red sweatshirt zipped halfway up even though the wind blew cold. Intense hazel eyes, staring out to the ocean, while I stood loyally beside you.
How could I have known, though the waves looked so peaceful, that they would pierce your skin like knives? How could I have known, as our feet were firm on the ground, that soon yours would be faltering and falling - becoming flailing, helpless, sinking stones?
I should have known.
Did you know, Aveline, that when the sun rises over your grave, every dewdrop on every blade of grass lights up like jewels? And everyone comes to see you, to say hello. They are all wishing you luck.
I think that what you said before is wrong. After the rain, there is only more rain.
But maybe that rain will soak into the earth, and water the flowers.
I have made up my mind.
Perhaps I will join you one day, but it won’t be yet, because unlike you I still have time to spend, time to waste on simple things. There is time to waste on hobbies and sports, on merely thinking about things the way I still think about you, on baking bread with my family in my mother's kitchen, and even if it turns out horrible it was worth it to make anyway. On laughing: head thrown back, smiling from ear to ear. Have you ever laughed like that, like the whole world is meaningless at that moment?
I know that you did not travel in time, because in truth, though you are gone, you never really left. I realized that you are everywhere, always, as we all are.
One day, but not yet.
I hope you understand that, Aveline.
I think you do.