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The sun was setting but it wasn’t beautiful.
The grass peeked through the girl’s toes, green on tan, casting tiny black lines of shadow across her feet, shadows that grew smaller as the sun sunk lower. She squinted, then widened her eyes, then stared so long that everything blurred out of focus. The pink glow of the sky matched the color of her cheeks.
She wondered what had happened. Summer sunsets used to be the perfect close to perfect days, days of waterslides and cherry Popsicles and long, swinging ponytails. She leaned forward and it felt like she was trying to see through the giant heart suspended beneath the clouds, slipping farther and farther down into the horizon. It looked like a penny falling slow-motion into a piggy bank.
“Wait,” she said aloud, knowing nobody was around to hear the words, and if the sun heard, it didn’t listen. She only had moments before it would be gone and she would have to wait another day to watch it again and try to understand.
She thought. Her mind raced through its records of the past few years. An invisible arrow waited to be shot, the target being that one moment when things started to shift, so she could pin it in place and analyze it. Her brain was looking, but it didn’t know what to look for. It was getting tired. She blinked heavily, concerned she could have already breezed past the correct memory. If she only had a second brain to work alongside the first, filtering through the discarded information until it caught that one seed of the moment that changed everything.
It wasn’t working. There was too much to recall. Too many insignificant snippets of memories mixed in with the important ones. Too many days that were never even stored in her mind, seemingly unnecessary and repetitive, that she now realized could have been more valuable than she’d thought at the time.
Her brain was tired. Her lips parted and she took a cool sip of the air, its temperature dropping as the night grew nearer. She remembered the lightness of her heart when she would jump off the diving board into the water. She had just a few seconds to enjoy the moment before she had to scurry to the side of the pool so the next kid in line could jump. She remembered the way her heart sped up when the cute lifeguard would wink at her and say “Glad you got out of there quick enough,” and offer his hand so she could climb out of the pool and get back in line to go again. She remembered the way her heart sank, the way she sank into the water after jumping in the pool, the way the sun was now sinking into the earth, when she looked back from her spot in line and saw the lifeguard winking at another girl, a much older girl.
And her heart felt confused. All of those moments were equally important in the course of a day, equally unimportant in the course of a lifetime. If only she had a heart that was immune to disappointment, one that could cancel out the best and worst moments in life to instead create only neutral emotions, so she would never feel too much of anything.
Right now, her heart was blank, and all she felt was the grass underneath her feet.
Only a slit of the sun remained, and it watched her as she watched it, and it shone like the brightest eye she’d ever seen. She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and hugged her knees and feared she would never know what had changed around her, within her, that made summer a reflection instead of a future. If only she had the courage to add new memories instead of sifting through the old. If only she had the courage to gently push her old heart aside to make room for a new one, ready to be filled with joy and pain alike. If only she had the courage to wake up tomorrow watch the sun rise instead of set.
And the grass was like emeralds, lines and lines of emeralds, and there were no shadows to be cast in the dark.