When I was very young, just turned 19, I fell in love with an older woman. 28 years old, she thought I was a boy; I thought she was a goddess. Nonetheless, there truly was a spark between us. We worked at the same computer lab and we spent our shifts sharing confidences and mocking the same people.
One of those beautiful fall afternoons, I took her for a walk in Wyman Public Park and told her how I felt about her, how attracted I was to her. “I don’t know,” she said. “No. I don’t know.” She was still in the final throes of a tumultuous and abusive relationship; she liked me, but there was the chasm of age stretched between us. “I don’t know,” she repeated. “No. I don’t know. No.”
Then she pointed out over the little pond we were standing next to. A large dragonfly was hovering a few feet away, a few feet above the water. “Look,” she said. It wasn’t a dragonfly, it was two dragonflies, flying locked together, mating. “They’re fucking,” she said in wonder. “They’re in love.” She held me and whispered in my ear, “Take me to your apartment.”
Later, naked next to me in my narrow bed, she told me. “It was them, it was the dragonflies.”
Two years later, we were saying goodbye. We had been together, broken up, reconciled, again and again. Now, she had moved in with someone else, I had moved 60 miles away for work. It was truly over.
We were on the National Mall and that summer, the cicadas had hatched. The fat-bodied, cricket-like insects hatched by the billions, flew around clumsily, living their brief lives, and now were dying off. I had gone to meet her with every intention of begging her to give it one more chance, to leave this new guy and return to me, just as she had left the previous guy for me. Once we met, on the sunny Mall, amid the tourists and dying cicadas, I could see on her face there was nothing left for me to say.
The last moment I live, I will remember sitting there on the steps of the Capitol Building, watching her walk away. She always had a swaying, feminine gait, and now she picked her way among the innumerable brown husks. I thought about the delicate lively dragonflies and these grim corpses, and I let her go.