It is a sad thing, this November twilight. As the sun sets and the crows call and the cows come in from the pasture, a sad, beautiful thing is ending. It has been ending slowly for some time, this lovely thing, but it really closes quietly only now, like the last humble day of summer, as gilded rays shine gently beyond the shaded hills. Tomorrow, the world will draw itself out and November will again become sleepy, a haven for all filled with chills and changing colors.
But, for now, I too am a sad thing; standing here, I watch my star fall below the horizon as I always do at this hour, in this place, preparing for darkness. My time as the man I am now is ending, and as the horizon fades from crimson to lilac, so my own afterglow seems to be less brilliant the lower I sink. It is this task ahead, this farewell, that leaves me like this, and I glance around in hopes of finding a different resolution.
She stands beside me, ever peaceful, eyes closed and heart folding open, allowing the warm wind to tousle her hair and acknowledging the anxiety of goodbye. A faint sunbeam rests softly on her face as the last bit of light falls away – she is radiant with happiness, a joy so huge she can barely breathe. Her smiles reminds me not of the way she was, but of the way she almost was; now, poised here with me in the cool and the falling leaves, I see the way we almost were, and the way she will be without me.
“I’m sorry, Ruth.” She gazes at me, still smiling, as I solemnly apologize.
“I know you are.” She turns to look back at the sunset, a single glittering tear streaming down her cheek – from anger, from sadness, or from joy, I don’t know.
“What I did to you. It’s been – well, the guilt of all of it has been hanging over my head for a long time now.” I feel a warmth on my cheek and realize that I’m crying now, too.
Her smile is gone, replaced by blackness in her eyes I hoped I wouldn’t see.
“You think I care how you feel? You think that your guilt has any bearing on my life at all? This is the kind of self-centered bullshit I’ve been talking about for so long.”
She never curses. I’m a bit frightened.
“Sanford, I – I don’t know how to tell you about all of the ways you’ve messed me up. My life has been complete hell for the last eight months and you expect me to feel sorry for you? You deserve it.”
As my head hangs, I observe an earthworm digging in the soft soil. How could I have done this? How could I have been so horrible and not even seen it? I just want to push down into the earth and resurface once everything is over.
Instead, I raise my head to stare into the sky. “I didn’t ask you here so you would feel sorry for me. I truly wanted to apologize, and honestly, I wanted to see you again, whatever that says about me.”
Ruth tosses her short hair and reaches for a nearby pine branch, softly stroking the verdant green needles. “San. I know that you think that you’re sorry, and I know that you feel guilty. But apologizing to me isn’t going to just make this go away. And I also know that if you could go back and do everything again, you wouldn’t hesitate.” She pauses, her brilliant smile returning for an instant. “I don’t know if I would either.”
“So,” I ask, “where does that leave us?”
As she turns to leave, she gives me a long look. “Just because I’m accepting your apology does not mean that the slate is clean. Correction is different than erasure.” Stepping nearer, she kisses me fully on the lips, leaving a faint scent of apples in the air around me, and turns away again to disappear into the dusk.My skies will never be clear again; there will always be a cloud or two reminding me of Ruth. But I can look up and see those clouds as harbingers of rain or reminders of it. As I stand and regret and remember, a sad, beautiful thing is ending, here on the edge of the November twilight; but tomorrow something new will begin, wiping away the night and painting the world gold.