Willing Occupant of a Deadfall

cave

“Whatever you do, don’t hide away in your room. You will just continue to sink.”

Sound advice after I broke the news. I actually thought I had escaped the darkness that has been known to pervade my consciousness, to pull me down rung by rung until I feel I cannot climb back up out of the shadows and into the light again. And how I sank. For someone who has struggled his whole life to understand what it meant to actually love and be loved, who refused to use the the three word phrase for years, I surely felt that I had those feelings emanating from the pores in my skin. That is, until the floor was cut out from under me.

Your fingertips ripped holes
in my ventricles
And the fire in my chest
was over run by water
and extinguished
with the hiss of an inhale
that accompanies unexpected pain
air passing backwards between the teeth
And the umbra ran tendrils
from my heart to my head
and rooted me to the ground
I was infected.

I did my best to outrun it and it worked for a while. I spent a lot of time with friends. In fact, one asked me to come over and hang out for the first time in months the day after it all happened. I wasn’t dark then. I was still denying the fact that it hurt and it hurt like white hot steel between my shoulder blades, scraping bone with every simple movement. But eventually, the night caught up with me and I sank.

You don’t know what it’s like to mourn the loss of someone still living.
You don’t know what it’s like when a part of you dies
because you gave it to someone else
and they squandered it
stepped on it
My heart carved up by the heel of a stiletto shoe
Don’t worry about me
you never did

Nothing mattered. I slept until it was time to go to work when I did go to work. Most days I was able to muster up the energy to drag myself from my cave in the basement and get dressed enough to get to work. I tried to inundate my brain with as much senseless media as possible as a means to forget but nothing happened. And so I sank. The ceiling fan is a welcome distraction when it’s spinning and I’ve lost the motivation to do anything on my days off. I wrote to exorcise the ghosts. I fictionalized portions so it would seem less real and I realized I was only feeding the beast by reliving everything I thought I had gotten over.

I couldn’t write anymore. That’s how down I was. And when I did it was a subject I was so sick of that I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Every line about someone I don’t want to write about anymore.

And it didn’t help to stumble upon pictures of you and him. Just when I thought I had gotten over it, there you were. And my heart would stop beating all over again.

From here to asystole.

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The Goodbye

“My memory is defying me despite the increasing distance between then and now. I see pictures of her and this new guy and weigh the differences and similarities between us and I feel like I’m boiling from the inside. It’s not jealousy anymore. At least, not that I can put my finger on. It’s like a gap that, maybe a wound that closes near shut only to have the slightest perturbation of my body or state of mind. And only with the sands of time is it supposed to be healed but it’s been so long already and I’m tired of remembering. Does that answer your question?”

“… What question was that?”

“You asked me how I was doing.”

“Oh,” she leaned her head back as a sign of ascent, “yeah, now I remember. So, you’re still struggling with this, are you? We haven’t talked in a while. You haven’t come see me lately. Or I haven’t seen you come this way lately. I figured you had moved on to other things.”

“I guess you could say that. And it’s not all as dramatic as I describe it. At least, not all the time. But there are still moments, little camera flash moments in time when I see that face and balance on the ambivalence of missing it and wanting to destroy it. I got no closure, I got no real explanation. I was just the throw away and every now and again I will revisit that grave, I will mourn that corpse and I will lose my perspective for a moment while my heart drops into my boots. That’s when I have to cut loose and come here. And here is where I always find you. You’re like a ghost. You haunt this place.”

She froze. Not that she was moving much from where she stood but his statement seemed to freeze-frame her body where it was at. She didn’t respond as if in fear of shattering her dipped-in-liquid-nitrogen pose.

A slight breeze rustled the leaves in the tree above, just as it did a few wisps of hair as she stood in front of him, still faceless, still masked by the darkness of the moonless night. Not that they could see the moon anyway. They both looked in opposite directions as if to ignore the space between them, as if any proximity would give up the unexplained tension of the moment and it would snap, lacerating them both like a cable pulled too tight.

They both knew if they stayed in this dual of opposing forces much longer they’d see imminent collapse and so, like a movie taken off pause after a long moment they were able to go back into normal motion again. And they both breathed a breath to give away the fact that both of them were unsure as to how they should proceed. The silence was heavy, despite being carried on both their shoulders, they both looked down to better bear and bolster the weight of it as they listened to the leaves hiss and shudder against that summer breeze. And the quiet between them was a glass pane erected as a wall betwixt their bodies.

Until she broke it.

“I think… I think I need to tell you something.” She said, as she looked at the tips of her toes.

His brow angled towards his nose, he tilted his head. “What?”

“You… You described me as a ghost, that I was haunting this place. That’s not entirely true but there is some truth to it.” She breathed a heavy sigh.

“I don’t believe in ghosts. It was a metaphor.” He looked at her quizzically as best he could at her shadow mask.

“Like I said, there is some truth to what you said. I’m not really ghost. Think of me as a… projection. I am an apparition of your mind’s creation. I’m not really here. And to save you from people thinking you’re crazy for talking to the air, I only appear when we’re together here.”

“So, you’re saying you’re some sort of delusion or imaginary friend. Crazy people have those. I’m not crazy.” The pitch of his voice increased slightly from the thought. Am I crazy? Was what happened all those months ago the trigger that set me off the edge?

“No, it’s not. See, I am part of you. I know your thoughts but in order for this to work your mind had to create something to substitute for reality. You went through a a lot of emotional states because of her and you needed someone who would listen and could understand your point of view without judgement or derision. I was your brain’s way of taking care of you. I became your confidante and I also had all the characteristics of a woman you’d trust, maybe even be interested in in certain circumstances.” She sat down on the park bench and patted the seat next to him.

“So, why tell me all of this now? I mean, now that I know doesn’t the power inherent in the illusion disappear?” He stared at his hands as he rubbed the spot closest to the knuckle on his right ring finger.

She laughed, “Obviously not, since you’re still talking to me like I’m real.”

He managed a chuckle, “I suppose you’re right. So, now what?”

“Now is the farthest I can take you, unfortunately. You’ve managed to get through the tough stuff without serious problems. Sure, you have your rough days but that’s going to happen to anyone. And you know that because I know that.”

He nodded his head, “Will I ever see you again?”

She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “Oh, I’m sure there will be times when the turmoil becomes difficult. But you have to remember that I’m always here, really.” She tapped him on the head, near his temple.

He stifled a laugh and a bit of sadness and stared at the pavement. He could only nod as he could not think of anything else to say.

“Don’t worry, kid. You’ll do alright.” She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek which was the most human touch he’d experienced in months because it terrified him so much. He felt the ice inside him melt a little bit. He turned to say something to her.

But she was gone…

The Stoplight

He found both solace and torture in music.

There, were, of course, certain songs that he had shared with her that specifically breathed life into the memories he had been trying so violently to kill. So, he did the exact opposite of what would seem logical in this situation. Most people would avoid those songs that they had shared in such a situation but he dove head first into the deep end, trying to desensitize himself to times that the songs would bring up. This was the soundtrack to his heartbreak but he didn’t care. He wanted her purged from the folds of his brain so he could move on with his life. He had no other choice at this point since she acted like he no longer existed. Trading lacuna for lacuna, he trudged forward.

What he realized was, of course, he could listen to almost anything after a while without feeling as if she were sitting right there with him, especially when he was alone at night in his car. But one time out of a thousand her hands would grip his neck and a song would take him back to the place where here eyes would light up the darkest night. Then the dam of his eyelids would have to fight to hold back the overflow of water. Most would change the song but he couldn’t. He needed this, to get over this. This was his music first. It had been there before her and it would be there long after she was gone.

His car rolled to a stop. It had just rained, so the reflection of the red light made the soaked streets look like they were oozing incandescent red blood cells. His eyes were too focused on waiting for the light to change and his mind too wrapped up in the music to notice his newest passenger.

“Why do you do this to yourself?” The ghost from the park was in his passenger seat, facing forward and lightly bobbing her head to the song on the stereo.

He jumped and slammed himself up against the door, bumping his head against the window as if he could somehow permeate the steel and glass. Actually opening the door hadn’t really occurred to him.

“How’d you get in my car?” He stared intently, waiting for her to turn and show him glowing eyes and then evanesce into the ether somewhere.

She didn’t say anything. She simply reached for the door handle and opened it. “You left the door unlocked.” She pulled it shut again. “You didn’t answer my question,” she said as the track changed to another tune to which she felt she could move herself to in the tiny space of the passenger seat.

He was slightly put off by this but he pulled himself back into the regular seated position he had been in previous and then just stared at the center of the steering wheel. Or maybe he stared through it. He looked up to see the light was still red.

“I can’t let her take this part of me with her. This music is what keeps me together on days when nothing else can. She already took my heart and broke it. I can’t have her take this and misuse it too. This music is mine.”

She nodded her head. She seemed to understand better than most. This seemed to be the running theme in their conversations and his curiosity was piqued but she seemed relatively unattached, as if she were just there incidentally. He wondered who she was and why she kept showing up in the strangest of places.

The light was still red.

“Music is like that for a lot of people. She’ll take it regardless and she’ll think of you whenever she hears it. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is a question you may never get the answer to. But keep fighting, crusader. You seem to be doing much better than when we first met, much calmer and with thoughts more directed and even a little happier. Keep going. You’ll get your question answered.” She picked at her nails then patted him on the thigh.

“What question are you talking about?” He turned to look at her as she reached for the door handle and pushed the door open.

“Aliquid stat pro aliquo…” She shut the door before he could ask her what she meant.

Then he heard a horn beeping behind him. The light had turned green.

The Dialogue

“You wonder if she has a conscience at all?” This ghost of a girl took her normal post next to him on the bench, smoothing out her skirt.

“It’s one of the biggest questions on my mind and it’s been driving me crazy. This is far from the first time something like this has happened to me but this one just feels so much worse than the others.” His gaze dropped to his shoes and he took a deep breath that gave him away as someone who bore the weight of his sorrows on his shoulders.

“Have you talked to her since…?” She trailed off as if mentioning the event itself might drop him like a right hook to his glass jaw.

“No! No… absolutely not. Such is my dilemma, I guess. She told me she wanted to be friends-”

She cut him off, “She actually told you that?”

“Yes. The real issue for me is that I feel like I was the one who got shafted in this whole ordeal. So, if I’m the first to make contact and tell her I wouldn’t mind being friends I feel like I’d be legitimizing what she did and give the false impression that I don’t care at all that she broke my trust. I don’t trust many people anymore, I just don’t. And when that trust is broken coming back from that should not be my responsibility, should it? I mean, if she actually has a conscience then shouldn’t it strike her in such a way that, while she may be content with where she’s at, she should be sorry for stepping over me to get there? I can’t even begin to comprehend the whole thing but if I’m as important to her as she claimed, enough to stay in contact after she kicked my heart in the ass, then shouldn’t she be the one coming to me in some form of contrition? Aren’t I owed at least that much?” He stood up, took a few steps and stopped to let the question float out on the summer air.

He glanced back. She was sitting forward with her hands on the edge of the bench, clasping it while staring at her crossed legs punctuated with sandals on her feet. She looked like she was absorbing the words he had just sprayed into the air. She was not used to him aerosolizing such invective but was willing to absorb it because that’s most of the reason she was there as far as time as time had allowed her to reveal. To him she was still a specter, an unknown. He didn’t know her and she had not introduced herself. That was important.

“This is the awkward part of these situations. You have to remember the one who is allowed to control the conversation is the one with all the power. So, yes, you would be yielding a lot of healing power and catharsis if you were to engage her in conversation to let her know that she’s important to you as far as friendships are concerned. I think you’d also be opening yourself to a lot of ache as you watch her run around with your, uh… replacement.” She looked at him to check for any emotional response. He was solid, statuesque, and staring off into the landscape of the park into the city street in the distance.

“Yeah. I can’t deal with that right now,” he said. His voice was flat.

“So, maybe you forget about her as best you can and work on you. Don’t hope for any great miracle, just know that if she meant what she said that she’ll make contact. If she doesn’t then it’s her loss. It was her loss in the first place, in my opinion.” She shrugged her shoulders.

He couldn’t see it because he wasn’t looking at her. His head dropped and he put his hands in his pockets. He took another deep breath and exhaled as much negativity as he could. He still had enough stored to last him for quite a while.

“Yeah. Yeah, maybe you’re right.” No affect. As flat as the pavement he stood on.

He started walking back to his apartment, not looking at her as he walked past where she sat. She watched him from the veil of shadows she sat within and didn’t say anything. Sometimes, there are just no more words.

A Girl Named

I wish you’d stop taking up valuable real estate in my heart and mind.

devil girl, here’s my heart to melt if you’d like… you see I’ve singed and I’m ready to hurt again… pathetic girl, here’s my heart to melt if you’d like, but doesn’t it burn when your words lose the flame? I would never run and turn my back, I think in fact, I’d scream is straight to your face… the cries were merely lies to turn my eyes from an all look girl… you’re such an all look girl… and I’ll say it to save myself in the end again and again and again… there will never be a you and me because you lied to me at the same time you cried to me, and all the while I died to see that you chose me the one to be… the one that you used, I would’ve done anything for you… it’s so like you to drop one thousand words and eight hours at the wonder of a face behind a screen type typing away… you living is a waste of a perfectly healthy heart… you showed me what love is, a fairy tale that fades with age… I’d open my wrists to mend this hearts hurt to a bitter end if I dare again… your starlit silhouette on the side of a car light bright interstate I regret… for every kiss I regret, for every day I regret, for every apology that I regret, there’s one thousand times the regret for giving you the time of day… I hope this ruins you ’cause I regret every ounce of you… and it seems the rain only brought more smiles and more happiness at that… and its safe to say I won’t forget your face, but I can honestly say I won’t forgive you