There’s an instant. It’s a subtle, but palpable, change in the wind. An inescapable judder in the rotation of the Earth under your feet.

I suppose, under different circumstances I might even have missed it. There have been times in my life when I would have; when the background noise was so loud, when I was so entranced by the chaos, that I wouldn’t have noticed the color of the night sky changing over my head.

It’s the instant when you stop thinking “Could Be,” and start thinking “Is.” The instant that will mark “Before” and “After.”

To say this time was different is a vast understatement. There was no way I could miss it. It was significant. An apotheosis. A moment.

I can’t say when the shift came for her; I know only that she has a moment of her own. For me, I know exactly when it was…

We’d just come from getting pizza at a little joint in Cambria. By the time we finally left our bed at a beachside motel in San Simeon, the pizza place was all that was open.

On the way back, we noticed a sign for the beach, and drove down to the parking lot. The beach was closed and dark and cold, but we didn’t care. We took off our shoes and walked down to the surf. The sand was freezing, so I had her climb onto my back.

I recited — from memory — the prologue to The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as I carried her down the beach, her face in my neck, the smell of her hair in my nose, and she listened, rapt; charmed by the absurdity of the situation.

After a while, I carried her back to the landing at the edge of the beach. The stairs we climbed up seemed different somehow than the stairs we had climbed down… the stars seemed slightly brighter. Everything had changed.

“Could Be” had become “Is.”


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