A few nights ago, I found myself lying back, looking up at the stars, in the middle of the desert, next to the person I hold dearest of anyone I know. We were young together, once, this woman and I. We were not much more than girls, then, really. That night, though, in the desert, even though we felt young, it was just an illusion. It's easy to feel young when you're flat on your back, under a vast sky, with a beautiful woman for company.
************************************************************"Damn it," I mumble, under my breath, trying not to yelp in pain.
"Your back?" she asks.
"It's ok," I answer.
"Can I do anything?" she asks.
"I'll be fine," I reply, "I just need not to move for a little while."
And so we don't move. We lay under the stars for a good, long time. We see a planet. Saturn? Maybe Jupiter? And shooting stars - lots of shooting stars. We see the waxing crescent moon, and the clouds slowly rolling in to block the moonlight. We hear coyotes and an owl. When we can no longer fight exhaustion, we stand up - me slowly, methodically - and head back into the warm house, where we don't bother turning on the light. Instead, we make our way to bed in the dark and, without words, we kick off our sandals and jeans, and climb in under the covers. Sleepwalkers - that's what we are like. Already asleep, for all intents and purposes, and just looking for a warm place to do our sleeping horizontally.
It is not much later when I feel her stirring, and then sitting bolt upright.
"Damn it," she says, under her breath, trying not to wake me, forgetting we're in this thing together.
"Your back?" I ask.
"It's ok," she answers.
"Can I do anything?" I ask.
"I'll be fine," she replies, "I just need to sit up for a little while."
In the morning, the sunlight streaming through the window wakes us both. Each of us wants to ask how the other is feeling, but neither of us does. Instead, we just lay still, letting the warm sun shine in on us.
I make a move towards rolling over to face her, but change my mind as I feel a twinge in my lower back.
"I used to be so strong," I say, dangerously close to sounding pathetic.
"I remember," she replies, "I used to be strong, too. I used to move so easily when I danced."
"I used to be able to move furniture. Now, I can barely hold myself up."
"We're not young, anymore, is all," she says.
"I'm not sure I know what to do, now that I'm not The Strong Girl, anymore, but The Woman With The Crumbling Back."
"We'll both do the same thing," she answers, without hesitation, "We'll hold each other up."