and it's not like it's hard at noon
when the first grumbles of afternoon hunger begin, and the sun is warm and sharp; it pierces you in that way that it does in the Pacific Northwest, like a beam of ivory, slicing through broken clouds and chill air.
and you don’t have any concerns at noon, other than grabbing the right shoes for rock climbing and remembering to eat something before running out the door.
(the constant clicking of your bike chain keeps the world moving)
and you don’t need to think at noon, when the cars are rushing by and the air around you smells like the rain-soaked sun—when your earbuds are playing soundtracks to your life and you can forget that this isn’t your life.
because when that ivory sun fades away and the streets are emptier than the light-polluted sky, you know you don’t belong here.
you’ve camouflaged your history. the person you were 2 months ago has been packed away in a room on their own, where you try to keep them out of sight of this place. they’re the person that wears boots instead of sneakers, that teases instead of compliments, that speaks up where you’ve learned to stay silent (because we don’t talk about those things here).
that person doesn’t come out at noon. they hide from the sidewalks and city traffic, the family dinners and formal meetings. they hide from the false smiles and cluttered flatlands, the dirty water and crammed suburb lots.
that person only lifts their head when the salt is stinging your face and the rain is blowing sideways; when the gods are angry and the clouds are low and threatening. it’s when you’re standing on the deck and watching the wind tear across the tops of waves, when you remember the way your mountains were full of life, not apartments, and the grass in the fields was taller than your waist.
you remember your mother’s smile and your father’s laugh, and the embraces of your friends as they bid you farewell.
don’t die in flight school, he said.
i’ll do my best, you replied.
you remember your Places and your People—grumpy Ben up the road whose horses always got out, the cashier at orchard nutrition that recognized you every week, the friendly faces at dutch bros and the dramatic, passionate community at your studio.
you remember eating burger king for the first time and sitting beside a pool at midnight, concrete still warm from the day’s sun. you remember your best friend’s dorky laugh, and every variation of the handshake you made together.
you remember the windy, steep trail in your backyard that led to the river and the deep, endless space of the forest where you could get lost and yet always know how to find home.
and you remember the cards, the cribbage, the dusk excursions out to waterfalls and crags—the months spent with dirt under your nails and in your clothes, of calloused hands and shovels under a burning california sun.
it was a world 400 miles away and now 2 months gone.
so when you sit on your bed in that cold basement, when noon is long passed and nothing you know is with you, that person lifts their head again, and wonders what your People are doing back home.
only the darkness is listening when you rest your head on the wall and slam your fist against the finished surface;
because it’s not like it’s hard to forget who you are at noon.
About the Author
Ayla is a writer living in the mountains of Northern California, accompanied by wolfdogs and her obsessions of excessive earbud-wearing, classic rock, and yerba mates. A prose editor for Indigo Literary Journal, her pieces can be found on Write the World and The Heritage Review.