It had been twilight for days, the slow dance of sepia afternoons spinning with moonlit nights and dipping into misty, gray mornings. The only hints of summer in the sweat upon my brow and a glass kept full of gin and lime pulp. I heeded the latter with lazy awareness and left the former to the careless drip of its own device.
There was a bird in the garden, reckless in its focus, kicking with both feet like a jackhammer upon drought-dried earth, turning turf for the treats that it hid and devouring them in rapid pecks before tilling again and the twigs sent flying. I sat with a book in my hand framing the world so that it appeared the bird bounced atop a page, digging for meaning beneath the words that I read. It felt an empty escape into a timeless moment with nothing to do but be warm and barefoot, light with drink and content upon the back porch as the bird kicked again at one phrase and feasted quickly on another, for what is a story if not the give of plot and soil?
It dawned on me then, when my family was safe and engaged in their own pursuits, and the land was leaping forward despite terrible actions spurred by cries of ignorance and hate, that something had found me there in a place I had long stopped looking—on a random date on a meandering timeline, and perhaps the final notch at that—I had said my piece and then some, too: I was happy.
That isn’t to say I have not felt happiness in bit and bouts. I have seen it here and there, picked it up and carried it for a while, even worn it like a mask and more often armor, but then, when no one was paying me mind and conversations had turned from my own defense I would put it down again, just as I had found it. Then I would watch it run away, free toward places I need forgotten, and let myself deflate like a balloon untied from a string freshly broken.
This was not that. This was not a feeling but rather a being, it was happiness loose and unfettered, an old companion that had long promised to call again suddenly showing up unannounced to remind me of its missing. We sat together, lost in the comfort of one another, until our eyes grew heavy with time and tonic. To any that glanced my way they would see nothing save a bird on a page, a curious smile and a sky now bright burning itself upon the fumes of fading melancholy—the kind of sunset made for the riding off into, and so we did.
There was laughter in the distance, and it rolled nearer upon the tiny feet of tender thunder. I stood and I turned to greet it.