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On Sunday evening I grabbed a small cigar from my illicit and dwindling hoard and headed out to the dam at Lake Georgetown, above Cedar Breaks Park. As I arrived, the sun was a turbulent red ball hanging just a hair above the jumbled horizon of hills.
The park itself is closed to visitors at sunset, which I find darned inconvenient. But I know a secret place. It is hidden in plain sight at the top of the dam, but no one else seems to notice it. Just on the right as you climb up from the south to cross, there is a triangle of pavement with room for 2 or 3 cars, in front of a locked gate to nowhere.
At the apex of this triangle, behind the barricade, there is a gap just wide enough to admit a pickup. It is the highest flat spot around, and offers an unobstructed view of the changing light on the lake.
I have been there many times, and have begun to think of it in proprietary terms. All it needs are a few small tasteful signs, like "Bob Parking Only", or "If you be not Bob, be Gone".
But of course there is no such thing.
A pity, for when I pulled up this evening there was an empty convertible back by the gate. First time that's happened. I stopped uncertainly in the middle of the empty road, shocked. I quickly considered my options. The sun would not wait. There wasn't any other place to park up there, unless I wanted to look through a fence. And there was still plenty of room to squeeze in, though not without becoming the stopper in a bottle.
On the other hand, if they're off stomping around down in that oak and juniper thicket, they might not be back until well after both sun and cigar were ashes. I could always move. I wasn't going anywhere else.
I looked back at the convertible again, and at that moment a pert blonde head appeared, just above the passenger door. Uh oh. In the failing light all I could see of her face was a dim white oval, but there was no doubt she was looking right at me.
I have received that exact same quivering upright fierce appraisal from a prairie dog - perhaps willing to cede the power to stay, but not the right.
Now added to my irritation at the usurpation was the sense of being a skulking trespasser. But she certainly had the pride of place, along with that other whose presence was palpable but unseen on the driver's side. So I let off the brake and slowly moved across the dam, considering the unwrapped cigar on the dash.
La Gloria Cubana. It wouldn't do to smoke it without a sunset.
Then I remembered a trail on the north side, down to the city pump station. Maybe there.
It wasn't the same. Lower, and nowhere to sit. Nonetheless I squatted on the bluff and watched the finale, as sky and lake progressed from crayon colors to pastels to daguerreotype, and finally to a glass plate negative.
There the solid surface of the water glows, like a flat rock in the moonlight, and the rocky shore beyond is a deep absence, dark and enigmatic. That's what happens in the night. Every night.
The world turns upside down.
No doubt the lovers up above are no longer watching. Their eyes turn inward. But they came here with the right idea. They came to share.
I came only for myself. That was a sin. I hope they are still there, and have forgotten me. I wish them well.
For it is clear to me they own the night.
The rest of us are renters.
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