Boys will be boys will be men.
We could see the world from there, our perch at the edge of everything. The earth indeed curved, and the river below bent toward a destiny we could not fathom, its surface twinkling like a million stars in that summer sun.
We waited like Sirens for our future wives and mothers of children to drift by. A smile and a wave and maybe a “Meet you at the diner at 5:30!” No apple pie would have tasted as lovely as the one we’d share, she and I. But we never saw canoes in the distance, they never slowed down. (We would have waved first, I’m sure).
The only way up was to climb. Hand after calloused hand, step after step. We never asked for help, but we’d cheer one another on. The hootin’ and hollerin’ would have been enough to make the girls laugh. And right back down we would have gone, a picnic on the shore.
Ten boys on top of the world meant quite a ruckus. Innocent ribbing. Dirty jokes. Dreams of tomorrow and the day after that. And once, only once, a playful fight ending in a bloody nose.
We’d always have five minutes of silence before it was time to go back, and they always booed me for asking. But everyone enjoyed the quiet that followed, each in our own way, all lost in thought as the wind whistled or hummed in our ears.
I would close my eyes and listen to her laughter. Smell the apples. Block out the clanking of dishes and just look into her brown or blue or green eyes. I would feel my body crashing into those stars that had fallen from the sky.
We traded our tanks and boots for other tanks and boots. Cut our hair. Pressed our lips against our mothers’ tears and left. We brought to life what we had only acted out in our backyards. Fake wounds becoming real.
We were boys. We never got to be men.