Sixteen in Clarksville

Featured Artwork: Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, 1864 by Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)

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In Clarksville, they were just children — arguably too young to know what love was, but evidently old enough to know that they’d found it in each other.

They’d known one another for nine of their sixteen years. It was Thea’s sixteenth birthday when they shared their first kiss. They were in the old treehouse in Thea’s backyard, pressing thumbtacks into a map to mark the places they wanted to visit.

And when Autumn kissed Thea, she did it softly, in a way that allowed their bodies to melt into each other like liquid gold.
She’d ended up setting a precedent for the years to come.

In Montreal, they graduated from college. For an extra seven months and fourteen days, they stayed, narrowly gathering enough money to rent a shabby apartment with spotty WiFi and questionably loud noises in the dark.

Thea worked as a caretaker for a kind, elderly woman, while Autumn held an internship at a design company, along with a job as a cashier at their local grocery store.

And when the girls’ long nights would end, they’d return to each other as one in their tiny, twin-sized bed which was placed messily in the corner of their tiny, twin-sized room. Their limbs would intertwine as they held each other into the night.

In Galway, they lived on a mid-sized farm. It was run by a family of eight, along with four dogs and several other animals who spent their lives in the fields. Autumn and Thea would work a little every day, collecting eggs from the hen house, feeding the animals, and taking advantage of every generous learning opportunity that Miss Gloria had to offer. When they weren’t working, though, they’d find themselves in the town, surrounded by Irish schoolchildren who were eager to learn about America.

They ended up marrying in Galway, when they were both twenty-five. Miss Gloria braided pink Centauries into their hair as a representation of delicacy and felicity. Their bodies bathed in the satin of white, slip dresses, and around their necks were colorful pasta necklaces that the local children had made. Then they stood before their newfound friends, along with all the hens, cattle, and pigs, and somehow, they managed to fall in love all over again.

In Marseille, they found a lovely apartment near the sea. They also celebrated ten years of marriage, spent the night in a cheesy hotel with a heart-shaped bed.

Unfortunately, after twelve years in France, they began to fight. Autumn had grown to feel increasingly stagnant, bored by her never-changing routine, whereas Thea had found great comfort in the simplicity of her life.

It was this simple disagreement that led to argument after argument for the next five months or so. Autumn would say she wanted to go; Thea would say she wanted to stay. It was only when the constant fighting turned unbearable that they finally came to an agreement, one that provided Autumn with shallow satisfaction but shattered Thea into pieces.
Autumn went. Thea stayed.

In Munich, they were forty-seven. Autumn spent twelve years looking for someone like Thea, relentlessly searching for the ardent love with which she’d become familiar. She didn’t find it until she attended a music festival in Germany.

There, she and Thea shared a drunken kiss, one that had Autumn’s hands tangled up in ambrosial curls while Thea’s eyes shed salty tears that she’d been holding in for an eternity. This kiss was followed by a visit to Thea’s house, then two long years of waiting for things to return to what they once were.

Things were never the same, though this wasn’t a bad thing. Autumn and Thea never remarried, but they were perfectly content, for they were together. In fact, they were together for the next twenty-two years, when they traveled to São Paulo, Coimbra, Athens, and too many other places to count.

In Madrid, Thea’s bones weakened. It wasn’t until age seventy-one that they decided to settle down; their bodies couldn’t handle the constant adventure like they used to.

Thea passed away at the age of eighty-three, and not even two days later,  Autumn followed. The doctors said she died of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, more commonly known as Broken Heart Syndrome.

Nevertheless, Autumn didn’t die unhappy. She had traveled the world with the love of her life — what more could she want? The map from their youth stayed plastered on the wall of their humble home through their burial, although it’d suffered from the inevitable rips and stray marks that developed over the years.

And despite the fact that every single thing they’d done, every single place they’d gone, had somehow been reduced to messy scribbles and green thumbtacks on a map, their love still found a way to prosper, even as they laid six, long feet below the earth.