The day they found you the river was cold, slushy and grey and frosted at the edges. Snow hung in the air like time had stopped — hadn’t time stopped? — and the air was sharp in my mouth and lungs and it hurt to inhale, though that may have been the ache in my ribcage, and the sky was high and colorless and clear. An extent into nothingness.
The sky had been different that day two years ago when the storm came, that swirling spring storm that blew out the power of our little green New Hampshire bubble. The sky had been bright and warm and deep, almost purple, so heavy you could feel it on your lips and in your hands and in each breath.
When the storm came I was sitting on my bed in my third-floor corner room, both windows thrown open to catch the slightest bit of May breeze. The air betrayed the bright sky’s intention; there was an electricity in the heaviness of the day, a heaviness somehow intensified by the sharp turn of the breeze and the sweetness in the humid air. When the thunder began shaking the building and the wind blew the sky dark, I ran out of my room and down the wooded road to the river.
The rain caught me before I reached the boathouse, warmed my skin, wet my hair, and when I got to the boathouse porch I smoothed the water across my skin and curled up in a chair and felt the wind blow the rain across my face while the sky emptied itself into the river, water meeting water in a curtain so thick I could not see halfway across, a body I knew so well obscured by itself and illuminated every few minutes by the crackle of lighting and the deep roll of thunder down the valley and under my feet, and the porch shook and I watched the sky cry itself out. A funeral and a baptism; anger and pain and forgiveness and catharsis.
And then I remembered I had left my windows thrown open to catch the breeze that had built to a gale so I ran barefoot through the rain back to the darkness of my dorm that electricity had abandoned, to find that the storm had blown the papers off of the desks, spattered the comforter on my bed, knocked a picture frame off the bathroom window, scattering glass across the floor.
I found you as the rainfall turned to a slow bleed, a leak from the sky that pulled at the heavy dark sweetness of the clouds to reveal a bright mist and a sky simultaneously lightening and darkening with the end of the spring day. We walked down Webster Avenue to where the pavement ends and half-climbed, half-slid down the embankment through the trees to the torn-up little path that runs from Pine Park to the Ledyard dock. We talked about everything and nothing. I took off my shoes so I could feel the rocks and roots and dark wet soil under my bare feet. Water droplets clung to our cheeks and shoulders as we pushed past leaves, branches, fallen limbs all dripping rain. The sky was paper white through the branches above us, the brightness smearing itself into the surface of the river.
And the river had drank its fill from the sky and rushed past us through the trees, deep and green and full of life.