The thoughts that dominated his mental landscape as he sat out on the football field’s empty lawn at night with the moon above nothing but a sickle and the early Fall breeze nipping at his sweatered self was one of those nameless, shapeless thoughts, the ones that lose all meaning precisely when you begin to describe them.
But he was out on the lawn at midnight, and very thoroughly alone, and he believed he had some time, so he decided he’d name the nameless and give shape to the shapeless.
If he had to give it a shot, he’d begin by classifying it as a thought that entered into The Nostalgic Zone. It was a sweet sorrow, an innocent remembrance tainted by intervening years and perspective. It felt like missing a time that was never yours, remembering good old days that happened years before you were born.
But that wasn’t right either, so he started over. He had time before the arrival, if there would be an arrival at all.
Maybe he wouldn’t have to describe it. Maybe remembering the reason why he was here at all, sitting in this empty football field at midnight on Halloween would classify the thought for him.
As dear as that first memory was to him now, it remained incomplete; frayed at the edges. Her costume was a blank, and so was his. He could only remember the way her face glowed in the night, the way the lamppost light caught her Halloween-shadowed eyes and seemed to stop him in his place every time their eyes met.
How he took her around the old block, showed her the houses you could count on for a good haul, the ones that were prime egging targets for a very different type of trick-or-treater.
How they feasted on sugar and laughed at the moon, the years ahead of them indistinct and so not real, not any more a marker of who they were than the costumes they were wearing.
They made a pact then on that first Halloween, as they sat there beside each other on the ample field, the lights that were usually blinding on gamedays now off, and so looking like mechanical husks of towering monsters that once were. The moon was a sliver on the night that they made the pact.
It was a simple pact, the kind that only the innocent and youthful can make, a promise so seemingly simple and yet so hard to keep. Every Halloween, at midnight, they’d meet right here at this spot. It didn’t matter how old they were or where life had taken them, the pact was binding and final.
And for a few years, that’s exactly what it was. They’d meet right at midfield, their pasts and futures equidistant as they’d sit, and chat, and share candy, and after a few years had passed and pubescence took its toll–kiss.
Junior high came and went, and still they had Halloween night. Districts had them in different high schools and friends kept them busy, but they had their night, and their sliver of a moon, and their nocturnal time kept bubbled and safe from the effects of ordinary passage.
The apology was enough the first time he missed it. Campus was far away from the old hometown, and not just spatially. He’d make it next time for sure and make it up to her.
The year that followed was swift and brutal, without the amniotic bubble of their time together beneath the sickle to give any sense of what had come before and what was yet to be.
In a matter of seconds he’d graduated. Five minutes past that and he was out on the coast, struggling and searching and rarely finding. Ten minutes beyond and he was on the other coast, with no equidistant place to keep it all together. A half hour later and he was on the flight back Home, knowing that if he didn’t find her beneath the sickle now, he never would.
And so here he was, the past as hazy and indistinct as the future once was, checking the hands of the Timex he wore Back Then, a token of a past time where not knowing where to go was exciting and not suffocating.
He didn’t have to figure out the thought that took up so much of his mental landscape then, or didn’t want to. Maybe both. Those hazy remembrances told him more than a nameless, shapeless thought ever could.
He took in the air and the moon, the hulking mechanical wrecks and the distant endzones before and behind. He took one last breath and got up. Turned to where he’d come from.
Way out in the shadow of the night, beneath the sickle of a moon was a shape. A glimmering shape even in all that night, a shape that the years couldn’t hide from him even if they tried. And as the shape approached and the sickle’s glow gave it form, all thoughts of labeling it vanished. He saw, and he knew.
They walked out to midfield together in silence. Took their time with each step, decompressed before they’d come up and out of all the intervening years and reach air. They had no costumes on, but it was still their night. Their time. They sat down in the grass and looked at each other then, both of them captured still and weightless there beneath the sickle.