There is only the space between then and now. The gap between what was and what will be shrinks down to this instance, this moment she holds in her hand. She looks away, first one way and then the other. Over her left shoulder lies the past, some of which we shared. Over her right shoulder, lost beyond the horizon of this moment, is the future. I do not know if she believes I will be there, in the future, for much longer.
I too, only a few brief moments ago, looked over my shoulder back through the past we have shared. I have also looked back beyond that moment we first met, back to those times where I wandered alone in a desert of time and space, searching.
I thought that with her I had found all that I was searching for. For a while now, she has been my oasis in that desert. But now I look back away from this oasis into the future, and I see yet more desert. Although, like her I cannot see beyond the horizon to what will be.
All I know is that I feel the urge to be moving on. There must be somewhere out beyond this desert. It cannot stretch off into the future, not forever. There must be some fertile valley somewhere out there waiting for me. There must be a place waiting for me to make a home there.
She too must have some place for her, waiting out there for her. But whether her valley will be my valley, or whether she will become just one more face on a city street, I do not know.
We both know it is time for moving on. But we do not know whether it will be us moving together into that land that lies beyond the horizon or not.
She looks down at the space between our feet. She sees I am wearing my dusty, battered boots, made for walking. They are the same boots that bought me her to her across the desert of our empty lives. She looks up into my eyes and sees that I stare off into the distance of the future, looking towards what is unknown.
‘It is time?’ she says.
I nod, still not looking at her. ‘The future will not wait forever.’
I think she knows what I mean. Time here has been an eternal now. It has been a time outside of ordinary time, almost an interlude. We know we cannot stay here.
Already the desert encroaches on our oasis. The winds blow sandstorms across what was once our place of refuge. Soon this sanctuary in time will be gone, lost under the heaping sands of time that cover everything.
It is time to go.
I ask her the question only with my eyes,
She shakes her head, turning towards another direction, to a future I will not share.
I nod and see that we are holding hands still. Her hand is cool in mine, despite the heat of the desert that surrounds us.
I have never been good at goodbyes. The desert of the past blows sand around my boots almost as if it would bury me here, the sand heaping up around and over me. Just one more statue in the desert, a memory carved out of the sand.
I turn to go, but she does not let go of my hand.
She turns back to me and then takes one more look at our oasis as the wind blows the sand of forgetfulness over it.
‘We will go together,’ she says, looking off towards that horizon and all that is unknown.
‘Yes.’ It is all I need to say.
We start walking, together.