The overlook is a little parking lot at the summit of a hill that previews the entire city. Nine years ago I’d taken Corinne here for our first date. Three years ago I married her here. I park my car and step out into the passing sunlight, squinting as I gaze out over the city. The sunset drenches every building in gold and casts heavy shadows over the streets. My shoes crunch over pebbles and twigs as I walk to the edge of the lot, revealing a steep drop nobody could survive. I consider it.
“You take all the girls here?” Corinne’s voice cuts in and my memories take over. I was standing just a few feet closer to my car. I always parked in the same place. She wore a dress with a floral pattern and raised an eyebrow over her thick-rimmed sunglasses. She was chewing a piece of gum – a promising gesture of what I had coming for me. Her footsteps were light and weightless, like she was waltzing over the clouds, and her dress danced over her legs in hypnotic waves.
“No.” I responded. My heart was racing. Dinner and a movie had been the original plan, but nothing original ever satisfied Corinne. No, when I picked her up from her parents’ house, she hopped in my car and hijacked my date. Instead we stopped for ice cream at the pier, played tag in a gift shop (we got kicked out), and drove two hours to get to this summit. Her question, therefore, took me off guard.
“But I’m guessing you take all the boys?” I added smugly. I wouldn’t admit it then, but I was desperately hoping she would reassure me.
“No, no.” She chuckled. She stepped around me and gazed out over the city.
I will never get that image out of my head. Seeing her golden hair glimmer in the sunlight. That moment could make me believe in God.
“Only one boy, ever.”
“Who’s that?” I asked, harshly defensive.
“My little brother.” She said. Her voice carried the trailing of a story, but I didn’t dare ask then. I was too selfish. I’ve always been too selfish.
“Nobody else then?” I asked.
She paused before turning back to me. The look in her eyes summoned me closer.
“Kiss me?” She asked.
My heart tore through my chest. My hands reached for her jaw and I pulled myself into a kiss; her soft lips surrounded mine and I tasted, smelled, and felt tender passion.
When I pull away, twilight turns to dawn and Corinne is wearing a wedding dress. Applause sounds all around us and I stare at her with unbearable longing. Her green eyes look back at me with so much love I don’t know what to do with it. It’s so foreign to me now. I never realized how she looked at me.
The memory wafts away and I’m alone on the summit, my eyes strained from the light. Why can’t I have her back? I fidget with the note in my hands. My eyes begin to tear up and I bite my lip to keep it from quivering.
“I miss you…” I sob into the sky. Whispers to ghosts.
Her little brother, Max, died when he was eight. She always credited him for her outlook on life.
“I was so blind.” She had told me once. “All I cared about were looks and opinions. When he left, I realized his opinion was the only one that mattered to me. I realized what I looked like to him was the most important.”
That’s how I feel now. Nothing matters anymore. Not my work. Not my look. Not my life. Everything just feels so pointless and I feel so lonely. I would do anything to have her back.
I walk back towards my car, nearly forgetting to look for the next clue, and find a small envelope tied to a branch hanging over our wedding spot. There is a red ribbon tied around it, like a bow, and I wonder in amazement that it’s still hanging here so long after she passed. I’m almost reluctant to open it. How much longer is this going to go on? How many more memories am I going to have to live through? I decide quickly that I’m not ready to forget her, and so I grab the envelope. On the back, in Corinne’s handwriting, it reads: Jacob.
That’s me. I gently open the envelope and unfold the piece of paper – I’m careful, like I’m commencing a surgery. The note goes as follows:
Not all paths are clearly laid,
In cobblestone or weeds refrained,
Some are winding, filled with twists,
So many turns for an opportunist.
Not all paths are clearly laid,
Jacob dear, don’t be afraid,
Sometimes all you have to do,
Is see things from a different view.