Words of time spent in photos and the stories cultivated behind them are what these gatherings usually consist of. Maybe it’s my age or resignation but I listen to these tales and only feel the joy I can see in their wild eyes, excited hands, or the way they turn from face-to-face as if they wish they could pull each of us back in to the moment to live it with them. I really don’t know what anyone else would really enjoy otherwise because I don’t feel envy or longing from the exposure. I watch the others forming the loose circle and see pain on my love’s face, polite interest on the petite souris-like face of another, and the story-teller’s companion echoing in movement the life of the account. The companion also feeds the fire we’re huddled around in a way the rest of us don’t feel enough to do.

When the tale ends the talk becomes smaller and our circle breaks like links in a chain so we can drift and form other short-lived loops. Hours of this do more for others than they do for myself. I enjoy the time with my love but otherwise wonder if I’m missing out on something when I see how life seems to drip like sap from a tree from these gatherings for the others, and when they take their filled bucket home I can only guess how long the sweetness of it keeps them full. What I do know is that when I return to the dark of my summer-heated apartment I’ll feel miles away from them like a stranded goose with a broken wing in late November. It doesn’t take long to remember how little the sweetness of those journeys and the tales that keep them alive as ghosts for the years afterwards do for me, but while I come down from the high of loneliness I feel it all the same. I light up my keys and dim my screen in the dark of my unlit apartment so I can speak in my own voice like I could never do with the chords in my throat. The night goes on, and by the time the sleep takes me I’m far from longing.

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