It was near the round and succulent end of October, and the sun, a bruised caboose, was slipping into the matron sea. You were drunk and wanted to spy on seagulls and steal their eggs. So we climbed and huffed, abandoning the champagne and laughter down below.
The voices carried us higher, so strong that we could hear them better than when we were mixed in with the party. Every word was trite, eager, and human. The hotel was finally built: a realized and reckless endeavor of your uncle’s.
We followed a bend in the unfriendly little trail, and then it stopped, along with the voices and the shuffling of chairs down below. We were met by grandfather blue rocks. Go away, they sighed.
And I agreed with them. It was cold, and somehow airless up there, and I wanted to take a nap. “Let’s not break our necks,” I suggested. You didn’t hear me, or maybe I didn’t say it at all.
Your eyes were fixed on something down below, something I couldn’t see. You moved to reach over the edge, but the rocks hindered you. You turned sideways, awkwardly swiping and grabbing at the invisible treasure. I tried to count, on my fingers, how many beers—
You were over the edge so quickly, and you fell so timidly that at first I thought you had flown away on your own volition. Then it seized me, that sick fear that warms you and thieves your breath, and I was throwing myself against the rocks, my efforts thwarted by a hateful ocean sheet wind.
You were only a few feet down the cliffside, hanging on to the promise of branches and hardened dirt. You were fine. I gestured for you to climb up, tried to shout something about staying low to the ground and not standing straight up. Then you began to slip.
I hobbled over the rocks, expecting to fall as you did. Your agility did not match mine, I suppose, because you were slipping still, paddling backwards through the air. I reached for you, bracing myself with some dead wood. Your hand met mine, little bits of sand and sweat burrowed into your palm.
In that moment, I was Robin Hood. Holding you tightly, I was scared of my own bravery, and afraid to do anything but keep you there, flush against the cliff, drunk and numb. You stared at our clasped hands, which was now your universe. I stared at you, at your wrinkled forehead, your clay lips.
My grip was solid, and you wouldn’t have fallen if I could have lifted you back up. I could feel myself sliding down toward you, easing to the final edge of the cliff. We were going down together, and I wasn’t ready. I had a cat, and somewhere I was still loved. And my roses. I wasn’t ready.
It was hard to shake you off of me. Your eyes remained fixed on our hands as they slowly peeled apart, and then they were filled with horror and rage and some deep, animal hurt. I finally emancipated myself from your grip, and pulled myself back to the safety of an upright position. You fell in stages: each blink brought you further down the cliff, out of sight, then back in view as you entered the maw of the ocean. I don’t know how soon you died, only that you were gone.
As I made my way back down the hill, tears coming out of my left eye, I had only one thought: What had you been reaching for?