The nights in Campania were almost always perfect. If the storm clouds stayed away, the sun lingered behind the volcano, turning the mountain purple while the sky above it darkened. In time our shadows disappeared. Stars smiled. A poison candle guttered on the table, its fumes turning away mosquitoes. Fireworks crackled above the town, almost every night. The amber flame flickered in a thousand tiny versions formed by the beads of condensation on the skin of my wine glass.
How do you want to be remembered? We’re rarely at our best. But for a while, there in Italy, I was living the life I always wanted. I’m glad you were there to see it.
And we talked late into the night, while a yellow comet crackled overhead and the sun shifted below our feet. I remember the night you were born, and nothing makes me feel older than the fact that you are now a young woman, with a mind sharper than mine ever was and a heart more open than mine will ever be again. I used to be sixteen. But that was before you were born. Years have a way of filing off the more tender parts of ourselves, a thread recoiling from the candle before ever touching the flame. When I was your age, the world used to talk to me, the way it does to you. But somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to hear it. This isn’t a tragedy; I got it back. It just took a lot of years and a lot of miles. Under the glowering volcano, I relearned what I knew when I was your age.
But you get it. And by it, I mean everything.
When I was your age, I was miserable. It seemed impossible to reconcile the beauty I glimpsed like a sky through bars with the life the world seemed designed to force me into. Feathers sticky with blood clinging to the cleaver; the abattoir floor littered with severed wings. I was hopeless. I listened to other people too much, and they told me that the best years of my life were already behind me.
They were wrong, of course. The bright sun and deep nights of Campania prove that. For that matter, so did Vancouver. When I was your age, I never imagined that life would be as beautiful and as strange as it has been. Even with the losses we all inevitably accrue as the years skulk past. Because of those losses, not in spite of them.