I’ve decided, since it’s national short story month, to try and write a short story every day of this month of May. Or, not every day, since I’ve a few obligations that will make me miss at least ten. But I’ll shoot for twenty, okay? Twenty short stories for May: a herculean task, seeing as this is only my seventeenth spread over four months. But why not try, yes?
This one’s about love. And its fading.
Walk, and I’ll follow
You go on ahead now, for a while. I would like to follow you, for a while, the way your arms trail hallucinogenic in your stride, the way wind catches the hem of your dress and throws it ecstatically, a fluttering. And your hair! I would live in it, breathe in that scent always, if only I could be a louse, to scratch at your skin and live in the vines of your hair, the world of your skull. I would burrow in and remain always with you, even after you treated me chemically I’d die yet remain as a husk of myself amongst the luxury of your head.
Yes, the pier. Always the pier. We first met here, kissed first here, first lay entwined beneath stars covered regrettably in sand and saltwater, and then our first date and the way you smiled with almost puckered lips, full and rich and red. You were fond of lipstick then, when we were young, when we loved. That was the day you told me that god cries at the bottom of a well and I never even asked why, though I’ve always longed to know. To know what well, where it is, how metaphors or idioms work. Is the well each heart of man, or woman, as it were? Is god crying within us all and we’re deaf to its call or is god caught in a blackhole at the center and bottom of everything? Maybe it set the universe off in a glorious bang and then fell into its own supermassive singularity. But what about those who say each of us are gods? Is it simply us, alone? Our perpetual isolation, even from the ones we love, the ones we hold closest, is this our well that we cry in? Narcissism? Timidity? Perversity?
No, don’t bother answering. Answers rarely live up to questions asked. Isn’t it funny how that’s the way life is? We beg always for answers but find only questions, deeper and darker and longer. Even the answers we receive disappoint because our theories and hypotheses promise so much potential. Do you think there were those that died in despair when Newton named gravity? Before then there was always the possibility that we would float away, like those saints from long ago. Funny how the ecstatics never caught flight postNewton, no?
My father sometimes blames Einstein for relativity, says the universe had objectivity before him. I don’t think he understands the theory or world history properly but he says that was the beginning of it all, all the subjectivism and relativism of this last century that persists now still.
No, keep going, please. I just want to follow you, a while, as long as I yet am able. Don’t worry, darling love, just walk on. Oh, hey, yes, no, maybe tonight. Don’t mind them, just walk on. You heard how gruff and uncouth they are, talking of fornication and ribaldry right here on the boardwalk for all to hear. Did you notice–no, probably you didn’t, but there are children about, the kind I couldn’t give, the kind you always wanted, the ones you never had. Little girls with brown and red hair, little boys with blue eyes and wiry limbs. All the running, the laughing, swimming.
We used to dance. Do you remember? I remember. That’s what drew me to you even before you were you, the way I know you now. No, just onward. I guess I don’t care–the park? Yes, just let me watch you, following.
Your feet, so frail and pale, I worry still that the grass will break through your skin, but I do so love to see your heels rise in flashes of white, kicking the hem of your dress, revealing more and more of your skin.
Wet, this grass and so new, this green. Finally winter ends, but they say snow tomorrow. Can you believe? So late in the year and so new all this cold. It’s hard to imagine–when I look back, out to sea, it’s so blue and bold, so tirelessly rushing against the shore, the pier.
I heard a boy drown out there last night. I don’t think anyone else heard him yell but I did, somehow. Carried by the wind or breaking through the stillness of the night–in any case, it reached our window but you slept. I never do, no. Not like before. There were days, those days so long ago, when simply to know you existed, to know you loved me was enough to give me the first real and clear and full and restful sleep of my life. But now–but the boy’s screams: there’s surely a mother here, nearby, wondering what happened to her boy. Will he be washed up, cold, bloated, lifeless? Or will the fish, millions of them, tear him to bits till a shark takes the rest? What fate rests beyond for us? If we’re eaten by fish, will god ever find us? Even from the bottom of a well, crying?
Look in the trees–crows. It’s all we ever have here. Do you ever wonder why? Why these carrion fowl flock always at this port? I’ve never seen a dead cat or rat, so maybe that’s their function: to clear the wreckage of life out of humanity’s way.
Do you ever think it odd that we built this place, like so? We broke up the earth to make artificial lands? We dug out the beach to make the pier, blasted out the reefs to make port.
No, please, keep walking. My heart can’t take it when you stop. Just walk ahead, for just awhile longer. I have loved you so long and we have fallen so far, will you do me this last favor, please?
Okay, I’ll hold up my end and stop talking of things deathly.
I suppose I’ve not so much to say these days, with you, to you. When did we begin to blame one another? Do you remember?
No? Okay, I’ll stop but you keep on.
If I ever hurt you, I did it in self defense I say but keep inside. I watch you but I’ll say nothing, no longer. You’re a snake coiled round my neck and I love you still. I wish you the best, my snake. My heart’s in my chest but you can have it, to have and to hold, the way you promised. I give you my heart again, a thousand times over, for every day, for a year, for this short lifetime, and even one more. Take it back, my heart, still beating, for it only beats for you. Always has, even before I knew you, before I knew me. There were our two hearts, born in the eruption of the same star. We were atoms aligned together billions of years ago, photons and bits of energy waving together until finally we reached earth, took shape, and discovered one another again. It took me so long, thirty years to find you, and, now, only ten to lose you, to lose me. I have loved you so long, given you everything because it’s yours, belongs to you. And you treated me well. You held my fragility in your hands like a tiny bird but when it was time to hold me closer you threw me to the air where I was burnt by the sand, disintegrating to ash, blown away. To sand, to nothing. But that’s not fair: you were good to me. You loved me, made me feel beautiful for the first time in this lifetime, and even still, even with all this now between us, if I could live a thousand lifetimes, I would choose it to always be like this, with those perfect early years with you. If the price of those first four years was the other thirty six, I’ll pay it tenfold, forever, always. You are my tiny sun, my beautiful shining star. I have loved you and will always love you, even as I fall apart in your wake. You walk on, looking back at me, and I smile because that’s all I know how to do anymore when blinded by your light. But I fail, falter. I failed you and will continue to, always. I promised you a life and it slipped through our fingers, and my heart turned to dust, to sand.
My heart is a sandcastle and you are the ocean, deathly, and here I’ll die, and you: just walk on, eyes ahead–brighter days past that setting sun.