By Catarina Delgado-
You made me appreciate the cold moments before dawn.
Silence may seem dark and heavy, as if time stopped moving on purpose so you could fear it. However, you cherished those late hours during the night. I saw you lying on the couch, eyes full of longing, watching the silhouette of branches moving softly with the breeze. You whispered, half asleep, that my window looked like a painting. It was only then that I looked outside. The view had changed drastically. It wasn't the usual lively neighborhood filled with people, the past echoes of sounds. Instead, it was a rare, fleeting moment of quiet. I noticed the trees in front of the house grew taller in the past few years. They used to be so little, easily stepped over by a distracted mind, but now they block the sunlight at a specific time of day.
When I was very young, I would leave the window open, hoping the changing seasons would offer me a souvenir, a soft reminder that time had passed. I remember seeing crumpled paper and dried leaves scattered on the floor. I always imagined that both got tired of dancing with the wind and decided to rest, letting the breeze decorate the space. I collected countless books filled with dried leaves and flowers, but all of it is now forgotten inside cardboard boxes, locked in the suffocating attic that no one dares to enter. It's perceived by everyone in my family as a portal or an alternative universe, as a place where memories go to continue living on their own.
You were lying on the couch wearing the hoodie I gave you when we arrived at the beach, accompanied only by rain. We parked near the abandoned cafe, confident the freezing wind would push away any voices nearby. The radio was still on when the first drop of rain hit the glass. You laughed out loud, bright and pure like birds sing when the sky is clear and blue. As the song faded, the rare relief I carried throughout the day discovered a new melody, giggling in a forgotten language hidden in my heart.
We stayed inside the car, listening to the radio, and laughing about everything that happened since the last time we met. We escaped our ordinary lives through a simple conversation, ignoring the tasks we were obliged to do in favor of a beautiful view under the first autumn rain.
Some strands of hair fell in front of your eyes, blue and comforting, a look I used to know so well.
The sun set quickly. I never felt more alive than in that moment, away from everyone, lost in overwhelming happiness. Our voices were louder than the radio, speaking and laughing about how things change. Shortly afterward, the rain stopped, and you jumped out of the car without explanation, wearing my hoodie and a mischievous smile. Too stunned to speak, you ran to my door, opened it swiftly, and carried me to the sand. With the sound of the waves in the background and your laughter in my ears, the late evening slipped away like a cinematic montage with memories from youth.
Except, we did not look like kids anymore. Adults carry around their younger selves all their lives, and sixteen-year-old me is still a part of me, even when I try to keep her out of sight.
Barefoot in the sand, we saw the colors of the sea and wondered if waves knew their age or if time could someday silence tides.
Nothing else mattered.
It got late before we could debate our next destination. We threatened expectations the moment we put our professional schedules on pause.
We spent hours together to fill a specific void, caused by the abandonment of what we once knew as a conviction. The comfort those plans held in our young hearts faded steadily, like a tight hug every sunny August, until nothing was enough to reassure us.
You drove quietly to my house, windows down, with the smell of rain still in the air. The night arrived in a whisper, warning us that our calm adventure was coming to an end. The usual conversation was replaced with soft music, as both were conscious of the inevitable goodbye. The sky above us looked like a vast ocean at midnight, moving and flowing in the dark with an overwhelming absence of life, a different kind of void. We arrived too soon, reluctant to say goodbye. You looked tired, eyes struggling to stay open.
"You can sleep on the couch," I said, wrapping my thin cardigan tighter around me, "I can make you coffee in the morning."
You chuckled at my awful excuse to spend more time with you. Goodbyes will always be painful, regardless of time. Still, you nodded softly with a tranquil smile. Moonlight painted your movements as you walked inside, recalling immediately where the living room was. It was strange seeing someone else walking past the door. Seeing you lying on the couch, I wondered what we could have done differently in the past. I was so cautious with who I loved that I never knew what it truly felt like. I pretended to know the feeling well but refused to let it consume my heart.
Now, all I have left is an image of you, half asleep in my living room, wearing the gray hoodie I gave you at the beach, telling me the window looked like a painting.
Catarina Delgado is a writer from Setubal, Portugal. She has poems published in the Portuguese literary magazine Eufeme and self-published her first poetry collection Fragmentos.