Remember when moonlight was a mystery?
In that grass-stained pre-decade time of life when thunder was just a terrifying sound without a name, when everything was magic because nothing was science yet, and when tiger stripes on running shoes were legitimately awesome, because we weren’t anywhere near arrogant enough to wield irony.
To my next-door neighbour, I don’t recall anything I said to you.
Only my mother’s silk spun stories and occasional photographs have me knowing that you ever existed in the first place.
In these photographs, dusty and faded as your place in my mind, we stand near a crabapple tree and look at each other through a wooden fence in our backyards. I suddenly remember the first sliver my finger ever felt.
I imagine it felt quite a lot like this shard of memory, stuck somewhere inside.
Me, unable to retrieve it without my mother’s help.
Strange to think that back then, we only saw a fence keeping us apart; not the poor luck draw that made us best friends too early in life for it to matter to the people we’ve become.
Were you and I devastated when I had to leave the city? Did we even understand what was happening?
Maybe it shouldn’t bother me, because all I can see are a collection of happy non-memories that mean more to my mother than myself.
Do you feel the same way?
Has anybody even reminded you?
What we knew then was so precious little. Everything we couldn’t identify is the reason we don’t remember now, our own cognition the ignition in the vehicle that drove us away from the magic of reality, and the reality of magic.
If I saw you today, do you think we would know each other? Our linking fence is our missing link, and it was never anything strong as chain to begin with.
Tonight, when the moonlight reflects off your face, are you as beautiful as what our memories won’t allow us? Or is it dampened by knowing what moonlight really is – just a reflection of the sun – mystery burned up, tarnished like the creased edges of old photographs – See, I’ve been making my own sunlight, and I wonder if you burn as brightly on your side of the string, or maybe if you’ve burned out. Has your sunlight become a son like me, or a daughter like you, standing at their own side of a fence you’ll have to remind them of some day?
It seemed easier when moonlight was a mystery, and it didn’t take all these fractured steps to say that I don’t know you, but somehow, I miss you. It’s like I know all the lyrics to a song I’ve never heard. I want to feel that sliver again, taste the regretful flavor of crabapples. I want to remember you like my mother does – thrilled about the few years I had before the world had its way with my mind.
You could be anybody today, and that strikes in such a humbling fashion to realize that, whoever you are now, for a brief moment, I was part of it. Just as you were part of me, and are now standing in writing to prove it.
But who are you? Are you alive or dead? Artist or Engineer? Have you spent your time building fences, or tearing them down, and do you remember why? Do you think we would even still be friends?
When I step outside and look up at the moon, I know it’s the same moon we’ve always shared. I wonder if you see it too. I wonder if I’ll meet you there.
But I’m older now. I know enough that I can’t bring myself to believe that it’s possible.
I can, however, keep some solace in knowing that the mystery of moonlight still lives in you.