My family walks down to Sunset Point on nights like this where the sun is above Chambers Island and the clouds have blown away. People are strewn across the small cliff and rocky beach like spectators at a sporting event. The sails of a Chinese Junk and the hull of a modern boat drift into place as the perfectly picturesque scene goes in and out of focus with the clicking of camera shutters and the passage of time. Floating above the horizon, tonight I shall see you set and tomorrow I shall see you rise as one day gives way to another.
Even though the twilight’s life is nearly over, the tempered sky is filled with your diffused flame. I see the furnace above me, yet your warm embrace cannot penetrate my woolen armor. And though you sink beneath me, as warm and flaming as ever, I must comfort myself from the wind’s biting breath. The gradual departure of your glimmer is matched by the onset of night’s shadow. Alas, the land grasps onto your dying light in a desperate attempt to ward off the fleeting of the day. There you stay in the center of my life, and roll so slowly in gravity’s plane while the Earth is speeding to hide your light from me. Transition summers are always filled with dreaded anticipation, as every sunset carries time one day closer to the start of something new.
I know where I am but I still look towards the sign for reassurance: Sunset Point. I’m still here, and yet this sunset feels as queer as missing a step or regret or the sound of your voice, heard for the first time. Every one becomes silent as the glistening orb dips near completely behind the distant island. Why do I celebrate your passing when it is I who is moving on? Perhaps it is because I see the same sphere glimmering in the clouds like a flaming pearl never to be laced while you see the swarming anthill like a child who sees a great opportunity for a genocidal enlightenment. Countless times you’ve seen the waves carry your light to the shore and countless times you’ve seen mankind clap to your great bore, but never more shall I see you hide behind the fluff and flitter of the clouds of Door. I’ve seen this same sun set countless times in my life, but never has it left me so helpless. I’m starting college at the end of this summer and I’m running out of time to come to terms with its implications.
You finally leave the horizon, and the remaining embers flicker into the blackest of charcoal. The spectators clap in awestruck amusement at the beauty of everyday occurrences. Please do not leave the sight of your audience; the memory of your warmth and the knowledge that we both lack control over our movement is not enough. I know the consistency of the changing sunset while you know the constancy of buzzing hordes. Do you know how to notice a life by the silvering of hair or the birth of a fox or the ring of a bullet, for I have never taken notice of such slow occurrences of quick phenomenon, but maybe you have the time to reckon ages as the dripping of water in a dark cell, chained as a prisoner to your stable wall, only moving the slight distance that chains allow. I too am a prisoner, but chained within the cage of my own doubt. This is supposed to be a time of great opportunity in my life. I see it only as an opportunity for great failure for I have not yet accepted that one thing must always give way to another as the sunset gives way to the night.
My family, the rest of the audience, and I walk home with the final glimpses of daylight in our memories. With each step the darkness becomes more pronounced and I find myself asking “Why did you leave me stable maiden of the daylight hours?” Your dance throughout the day is too slow to recognize and my life too short for you to take notice; are you to go through life only being comforted by waking eyes in the morning and humble clapping at night? I am only a customer of your life, and from my perspective, your purpose is for my wonder, and I do wonder why you had to leave me with the rock substitute that longs for love and taunts me with the same view night and night. I grow bored of the Moon’s constancy, but not of the kind you offer. Sun, Moon, time, they are but partners in the constant dance of change. My senior prom gives way to freshman orientation, and acceptance can be the only buffer between the two.
Lying in my bed and gazing up into the starry yonder I realize that there are others like you, but during the day you are the only one I see. There are others like me, but I am nothing worthy of being noticed. I can only live and turn along the plane I was given, and you can only stay chained in the center of it all. We are all captive to a captive’s lot, and the earth must spin and summer must end. The images of a sunset past, painted remnants of a forgone light vanishing with wispy streaks and shadowed peaks crashing lightly against the rocky bluffs, are but bearers of a sunrise in some other place. Dorm rooms can be so lonely, and the workload can be so strenuous, but I cannot allow the worries of tomorrow prevent me from going to bed tonight. Summer is the night between two days, and as I sleep for my night, you shine upon another’s face and on that face you mark your life and from our lives you mark your moments that are but dotted stars in your eternal sky.
Matthew Dernbach lives in Naples, Florida and spends his summers in Fish Creek. He will be beginning his first year of college in the fall.