Rearview Mirror

by James McLendon

Never before has he felt the wind rush by his face with such force. It carries the smells of a life lived, the sounds of freedom constantly just out of reach. He wonders what it is about a moment like this that brings out the things that matter most.

He is a child again, running through fields of green. The sight of birds on the wing, the undergrowth rustling with secrets only imagined. The summers are long and the nights are warm. There is a peace here that once lost will never be reclaimed, but will always be remembered. The days and years are a blur, a seemingly endless supply of "firsts" his first day at school that seemed to last forever, the family dog he wished really had. There is a girl now, all rosy cheeks and pigtails. His first kiss, his first heartbreak, they seem like yesterday.

He blinks and he's a young man. The world is open before him and nothing seems out of reach. All that seems to matter in the world is the promise of tomorrow, with the details of today feeling like nothing more than stepping stones to a future that can't come fast enough. Life has been kind to him; he's fit and healthy with a ready smile and a light heart. There has been pain, and there has been happiness, but never too much of the former and more than enough of the latter. Sometimes late at night he wonders if the secret rustlings and sunlit mornings have lost their magic, if they still have a place in his dreams, but as his eyes grow heavy these thoughts fade into the night.

The years stare back at him in the mirror, with a gaze that hints at things left undone, a fear that maybe it's too late. He has no time for such worries though, there's work to be done and responsibilities to fulfil. He watches his children grow, the path before him is steady and sure. It's a time of laughter and tears, hopes not realized and gifts unexpected. The whirlwind picks up speed and all is lost to the onslaught of time.

The sand continues to pour, days and nights blend. Old friends come and go, the children he once knew have worries of their own.

There is a coldness in his heart the boy never knew, that the man never considered. She was not rosy cheeked and pigtailed, but so much more, a beauty that age couldn't mar. Even at the end she wore a smile on her face and a spark in her eyes.

He's close now, so much sooner than he thought he would be, memories worth a lifetime filling his soul and silencing his fears. The boy, the man he was then and the one he has become, they are all there with him. The ground rushes up, refusing to stop. It's all been worthwhile, better than he could've asked for and more than he deserved. He is smiling and he is ready.

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