The Evening Sun...

March 31, 2008
By Riley Payne, Orem, UT

The evening sun sets the sky afire, the horizon a sea of blazing pigments. It's almost as if the heavens are a mere canvas of the Maker, His strong hand brushing gentle strokes of flame across the skyline. My brother stands before me, his stalwart figure silhouetted against the orange sky, awe-struck at the staggering beauty of the scene.

We hover in peaceful silence as we drink in the sight before us. Minutes pass, and he dares to step backward and place an arm around my shoulder. He looks at me and there is excitement dancing in his eyes. He flashes me his awkward, toothy grin and I return it. He is in his element, nothing between us and space but the chill of the autumn air. With a sigh, he allows himself to collapse to the ground, and he pats a patch of grass beside him, motioning for me to sit. I oblige, and as I do so, he bops me lightly on the nose.

"And now," he says as a soft, playful smile falls across his lips, "we wait."

'Waiting for what?' I wonder silently as I fall backwards against the earth. The grass is cool, tickling the base of my neck and my bare arms. I exhale softly and shut my eyes, though I can still see the color of the sunset from behind my lids. My brother joins me, and quietness seems to fill the air to bursting. I turn my head to catch his eye, but they are squeezed shut, and his face serene. He seems to be at such peace that I don't dare utter a single syllable, afraid that even the smallest sound will make the tranquility shatter into a thousand tiny pieces, like shards of broken glass. I don't know what else to do, so I content myself with waiting in the stillness.

Soon the blazing orange of the sunset has faded into blackness, twilight descending into nothingness. My brother finally smoothly opens his eyes, like the winter gracefully awakening into spring. He lets out a complacent sigh as he stretches, gaze turned to the heavens. His elation cannot be suppressed, and he turns to me eagerly.

"Just look at it," he breathes in wonder, and I can see tiny pinpricks of the stars reflected in his irises. "Doesn't it make you feel small?" I cast a glance upward, and feel my jaw slacken slightly. The sky is awash with light, millions of stars dazzling before my eyes. I shiver, wrapping my arms around my knees as the smallest comprehension of just how insignificant I am hits me softly in the chest. It's hard to drink in the sight, like each pinpoint of light holds its own tiny weight upon my shoulders. I can't understand why this strikes me so profoundly, but my heart aches and I am at a loss for words. I only nod in reply.

He smiles back at me and scoots closer, wrapping an arm around my hunched shoulders, giving me a loving squeeze. "C'mere, Leah, I want to show you it." I ask what, and he ruffles my hair. "The comet, you goof!" He says it knowingly, like he's repeated it a thousand times to me, but he hasn't.

He presses his arm against my ear, guiding my gaze with his extended pointer finger. "There, do you see it?" I don't; I am too busy drowning in a sea of stars. "It's the bottom right star in that big triangle, fuzzier than the rest," he says patiently as I struggle to sift through the sky. Finally, I see it, like a veil of confusion has finally lifted from my eyes. A blurry speck amidst a haze of clarity.

"That's it?" I ask, baffled. "A fuzzy dot? That's the comet?"

"What do you mean 'that's it'?" replies my brother, puzzled at my lack of enthusiasm. "This won't be there again for years. I wanted you to be able to see it." He pauses, and his tone becomes serious as he struggles for the words to say. "I just need to be able do something special for you. I want to be there." He says this last bit softly, sincerely. I can see in his eyes how much he yearns to be a stoic older brother, a force of strength to fall back on when I need it. I can almost feel the hurt emanating from him as he strives to simply be enough.

I bite my lip as I regret speaking up at all. "Sorry, I just...I just thought..." I start, but my words feel empty compared to his, as inane as a single grain of sand. I feel heartless for not bridling my tongue, for not absorbing the hopeful elation that has been in his eyes since dusk. Before my insecurities can completely sweep me away, my brother steps in. He doesn't murmur a word; it is a reassuring hand upon my shoulder and a ruffle of my hair that tells me things are all right. He sighs and lets his head fall back down, the grass his pillow. I exhale and follow suit, and my heart is aching, but for different reasons than before. Compassion pulses through me, and it is as if my body will burst from all I feel, like not even the endless seas of the universe could contain my emotions. I stare at the sky, ingraining the comet, our comet into my memory. I try to make the moment stretch across as much time and space I can, relishing in this soft, unspoken secret. Finally, I rest my head against his chest, and the world is without sound except for the constant beating of my brother's heart. For the first time in a long time, I feel nothing but white serenity. I am home.

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