I match you stroke for stroke so we can glide forward in that opaquely clear water. But really I want that glimpse backwards again. I'm the one that can see you, but I'm the one that's uncertain of whether you're actually with me. Like Euridice trailing behind Orpheus as we ascend to the land of the living. Do you resist looking backwards because you know you'll lose me in an effort to reassure yourself? Or have you forgotten that you came down to the underworld only to draw me out?
Sometimes when we're together, I put forward a finger to lightly touch your skin. Some small connection. Some small proof you exist. Some small reassurance. To ask directly for that substantiation from you would invalidate it. So I content myself with a finger on your shoulder. A brief hand brushing your elbow. A forehead pressed to your cheek. Enough to know that you're there. Not enough that it's oppressive.
Grasping to keep it will only make it crumble slip out of being. Like teeth degenerating in my mouth while I dream, insecurities and hidden hopes that will only reveal deformity when I open my mouth to speak them. And so I drink in the sight of your back in front of me. The sky, the water, the world opens before us. Thinking of the future makes the present tenuous, wavering. There's a fear that what's to come will corrupt what I have in my hands now, this paddle that matches you stroke for stroke/the bright full awareness thrill of my finger on a body angle. It's a foreboding that distorts this ethereality. It's a self-fulfilling prophetic vision. But is the Cassandraic doom inevitable whether it's shared or not?
I want to tie a golden thread to your wrist, but even as you meander through your maze, there's no guarantee you'll follow it back to escape. And even if you emerge from your labyrinth, you'll find yourself tethered to an inanimate solipsistic container.
Ahead of me now, I see your back. And then, once more, you give me that glimpse backwards. This time, the dipping sun is behind you, casting your features into a gloaming. And I know that if I tried to take a picture of this moment, the lens would be blinded by that surrounding light and your silhouette would be darkness, like a cutout or an absence of being at this time. As if someone removed you from me. It wouldn't capture your eyes, your expression, or the way you're looking at me. This sharp vision is already gathering indistinction from the instant it happens, but I don't try to hold it closer. I don't grieve over the fact that it's here or gone or past or disappearing or hold in thrall that this moment could never be duplicated, remanufactured for any reason.
Instead, I put out a hand as if to block out some of that light behind you before reaching out a finger to touch you right there in the shoulder.