“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” ~ James Dean
If today was my last day, I would put away the screens and the music and the strings of ones and zeros that have come to build up entire lives. I would set my alarm for dark, and watch the golden sun color the land and reflect thousands of shining ‘could-be’s’ off of the trees and back into the sky.
I would wake you up and grab your hand, and tell you to come with me. We would run, enjoying the air. It’s crisp and cold, and it burns a little as we gasp it down, but it’s life, and it’s living, and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I would take you and bring you down to the river where we can do all of the stupid stuff that makes us laugh, and we could do the stupid things that we’ve never done before, and it doesn’t matter what we look like, because after today it wouldn’t matter anyway.
We would get in a car and go to someplace that we’ve never been to before, and we’ll stop in small towns, and talk to the old men in the diners, and stop at road-side stands where we’ll try too many of their free samples, but won’t buy anything. We’ll go out and we’ll steal things from over-priced grocery stores and we’ll get desert at lunch, even though it’s barely past noon and we’re already full.
We would stop by the starving artists and ask them to play for us, we’d dance along, and never stopped spinning until we’re about to fall over and puke. We’d give them our change, and then I’d grab your hand, and I’d tell you to take me somewhere else. We’d run down the street, stopping into musty old antique stores that hold fooseball tables and rocking chairs and records, and nothing we can afford. We look at things, and sneeze for the dust, and take some of the indecently old lemon drops from the check-out counter, before sneaking off and away.
We’d run until we could hardly breathe, and then we’d pant, pulling in lungfulls of air and remembering. This is the clear bite of fall mornings. This is the warmth of the earth after rain. This is the cool basement refuge from the stifling heat of the summer. This is the heavily-perfumed too-sweet air of flowering grasses and sun.
We would play in the river and feed the ducks and try to catch the songbirds in the park. We would go down the kiddie slides, and then climb back up, pretending we were five again. We would stop and greet all of the people walking by, and we would ask to pet their dogs. We would drive too fast, and go too far, and run out of gas, and then we would walk to the nearest town, hand in hand and smiling. We’ll wave at the people who pass us, and make ourselves wreaths out of the grasses on the side of the road. We’ll get to town and catch a train or a bus, or hitchhike, and we would sit in the back and talk to the people in front of us, and share our own stories, and make friends with people we will never see again.
We’ll stop and buy the terrifying cheap gas station candy that we’ve never heard of before. You’ll make me try coffee. We’ll both take it black and choke it down like shots. We’ll ease it with cheap diner pie, and we’ll sit on the curb of the sidewalk as the shadows grow long and the sky flares orange and pink and lavender.
I’ll kiss you softly, and you’ll let me as we hide from the chill and growing swarms of insects.
I’m not dying today. So instead I’ll do my homework and I’ll greet you in class, and we won’t speak a word of what could be. We’ll keep our heads down and prepare for tomorrow, forgetting that we were meant to live. Today.