"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."-Anatole France
I sit silently, watching the sun peer over the horizon and the waves lap at the shore. I don't really know how long I've been sitting here but it has been long enough that I've watched the tide go out and come back in again. I stand, stretch the stiffness from my legs, and take in the early morning sky. A soft reddish-orange burns at the horizon. Varying shades of pink and gold flood forth like paint spilt on a canvass, resurrecting daybreak from the dead of night. The sight is so breathtaking that I almost miss the sound of her delicate footfalls approaching from behind.
"Morning, Raven." I say without bothering to turn around. She says nothing at first and for a moment I wonder whether I have offended her in some way or if she is simply shocked to see me out of bed before noon. I turn to face her. "Beautiful morning, isn't it?"
Without a word, she continues toward me, her face as blank as a freshly shaken Etch-a-Sketch. It isn't until she is beside me that she speaks.
"Is everything okay, Gar?" She asks, her voice rough and gravelly from disuse, "This is unusual, even for you."
I choose to ignore the thorn hidden within the roses and concentrate on her concern for me rather than the insult. "Yeah, I'm fine. It's just… Well, I've spent so many hours on this rock. Thinking, skipping stones, watching the birds circling overhead… It occurred to me last night that I had never watched the sun rise from here. I didn't want to miss it. Besides, I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway…"
She nods in reply. I don't need to say anything more. A while back, a team meeting was called. Robin informed us that, after six years leading the Teen Titans, he was ready for a change. We couldn't blame him. At 20, he was hardly The Boy Wonder anymore. He wanted to cut away from Batman's cape-strings and move to a city he could truly call his own. He told us that he would find a replacement, but before too long, Starfire informed us that she would be leaving as well. She claimed that the throne of Tamaran could not be left on the backburner and that she couldn't afford to neglect her duties any longer. It seemed like a reasonable argument, but the timing of her announcement made me feel it had more to do with Robin's departure than anything else. Again, it was announced that a replacement would be sought out. Once again, though, before one could be named, Cyborg told us of his intentions to leave the team. Star Labs made him an offer he couldn't refuse, heading up their research and development department. Behind my smile and congratulatory hug, I hid my sorrow. With the majority of the team committed elsewhere, Robin undertook the task of recruiting an entirely new group of young superheroes to serve as the guardians of Jump City. And with that, the fate of the original Teen Titans was sealed and our days in the Tower numbered.
"Let's take a walk." She says. I'm more than eager to accept. For the longest while we say nothing, allowing the sounds of home—water kissing the shore, gulls cawing overhead, the distant hum of traffic from the city—to settle over us. After a while, we find a spot in the grass on the opposite side of the island and stop for a rest. We sit side-by-side and look out at the city—our city—as though we are looking upon it for the first time.
"Gar…What's really bothering you?" She asks evenly, "You don't seem like yourself."
As I look upon her in this light and at this moment, I feel a swell of emotion surge through me and I cannot tell whether I will laugh or cry.
"You know how well I adapt to change." I reply, forcing myself to chuckle.
At this, a faint smile graces her lips. "That's ironic... Who would have figured that you were a living contradiction?"
I can't help but laugh. "What can I say? I've always hoped that you would realize how complex and mysterious I am…"
She rolls her eyes good-naturedly. I'm pretty sure that it has become her default reaction when dealing with me over the years.
"I dunno." I continue, "I guess I just feel a little blindsided by the whole thing. One day everything is fine…there was no talk of leaving the team or starting new someplace else, and the next day it's like the world's been turned on its head. I can't believe that the years have gone by as fast as they have…and I can't believe today is the last day we'll all be together…"
A cool breeze catches us. It lifts the delicate scent of damp earth into the air around us. I breathe it in deeply, greedily, savoring its subtle charm. Raven, lost in thought, simply pulls her wind-whipped locks behind her ear.
"Gar, you are not subject to the whims of others. Just because Robin, Starfire, and Cyborg are leaving doesn't mean that you must. The new recruits are going to need an experienced leader; someone who can mentor and guide them along the way."
I suppress a laugh, not wishing to offend her. My face, however, betrays me.
"What?" She rasps, clearly peeved.
"I appreciate it, Raven, honestly I do." I say, hoping to diffuse the situation, "But we both know that I'm not the leader type. I'm probably the worst possible person for the gig. Besides, sticking around to baby-sit a bunch of young-ins while everything that makes this place special walks out the front door? No thanks. Nobody wants to be the creepy old guy who hangs around with teenagers."
"It's not like that is your only option."
"Yeah," I chuckle, "I guess it is never too late to join the circus…"
Her eyes pull to mine. They burn with white-hot intensity. Instantly, my smile fades and I shrink away, feeling like a scolded child—meek and ashamed.
"Don't even JOKE about that…"
"I'm sorry." I murmur. I nervously rub the back of my neck to occupy my hands. "It's just… I've been here before, Raven. I've been part of a team that has moved on without me. Every time, it's like losing my family all over again…" I swallow hard, trying desperately to hold myself together. "I... I can't stand being alone..."
"Do you really think that we would leave you behind without a second thought?" Her voice quavers and her face is entirely unreadable, "We would NEVER do that. How can you be so…"
The words die on her lips, but I know what she was going to say. "Stupid?"
She says nothing, but her silence tells me all I need know. I shrug it off.
"I know that you would never abandon me." I manage, "But no one ever intends to fall out-of-touch with their friends or family. It just kinda happens. It's like going on a diet, I guess. One day you promise yourself that you are going to make the change, that you are going to start eating right and exercising more. And then things come up—first one thing, then another, then another—until, before you know it, you're sitting on the couch sobbing like a two year-old and eating ice cream with a shovel. I've seen it before…"
She shakes her head, dismissing me. "You're exaggerating…"
"I'm not. Life gets in the way, Raven. Sometimes, even though you don't mean to, you neglect the important things and take them for granted. Like friends. Who's to say that in twenty years we won't be near-strangers who share only a common past? Or what if we only see each other at weddings and funerals and we reminisce about the past, promise to stay in touch, and then never follow through? What could be worse?"
The next thing I know, her hand is in mine. "You worry too much." She says reassuringly. "Nothing lasts forever, Gar, even if you'd like it to. Take the sunrise, for example." The two of us look to it once more. "Would you have appreciated its beauty as much if you were awake to see it every morning?"
I mull this over, knowing deep-down that she's right.
"Besides," She continues, "Change can be good…necessary even. How would we grow as people if everything stayed comfortable and familiar? If we never had to challenge ourselves?" She gives my hand a squeeze and she turns back to me, the light of the sun dancing in her eyes. "How could we discover what we care most about if we're never made to decide what truly matters?"
A smile stretches across my face. I throw an arm around her and pull her closer to me. Together we sit, holding each other, listening to the gulls and the waves and the breeze; the passage of time only evident by the sun's position in the sky.
Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life… And I think I'm ready to embrace it…