I should really be working right now. Instead, I find myself thinking of particles and atomic structures. I find myself thinking that my body is 26 years old but my atoms are infinitely ageless. They were there just after the Big Bang. They were baked in the crucible of stars, strewn out when…
Reread some old writing of mine. I still like it.
The needle slid into his arm with the cool, calm steadiness afforded the nurse by years of doing this exact thing. She smiled at him as she swapped the area of his arm with gauze, the peroxide stinging a bit as it came in contact with the fresh puncture.
“That will numb the pain of the procedure, and make it a little less unnerving.”
Her smile swam a bit and he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will himself through the worst of the drug as it entered his system. When he looked again, he saw the gray toned wall across the room writhe a bit, just under the area of his focus. The nurse must have noticed his intense look, because she laughed and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Taking effect already? It’ll get a little weirder soon and then you’ll be fine.” He nodded to her in recognition of her concern, and his mind, for lack of anything to focus on outside itself, retreated inward. He remembered conversations held with people he loved, the reactions that this monster had returned, was fighting his body even as he spoke to them. He remembered the text from Kate the night before.
“Are you scared?” He had told her no, and in a sense he was telling the truth. He HAD made peace with either outcome, but of course he was scared to a degree. It wasn’t death he was afraid of however, but dying. If it came to that, would it be long? Drawn-out? Painful, both emotionally and physically? Would he be allowed to just go quietly? Would he ever let himself go quietly, or knowing hmself, fight it tooth and nail? He smiled to himself almost absentmindedly as he lay down on his stomach, the nasul-canula tugging a little uncomfortably against his face. If he knew the people that loved him, and he liked to think he did, then they wouldn’t let him get away with anything else. As he closed his eyes, other people came to the forefront of his mind. He remembered talking to Megan, about the monsters in both their lives. He remembered hugging Kate goodbye, and the look Anna had given him when he outlined what was going on. He remembered Ben and Aaron sharing a look when he told them and the rest of the Balls at the dinner table in the house on 16th street. He remembered the greatest and worst things of his life, and how they melded beautifully into a life of experience and emotion. He resigned himself to the fight ahead, no matter the outcome. He remembered a great phrase, one of his favorites. A phrase of great power and wisdom and consolation to the soul in times of need. As the lights dimmed and his eyes closed, it escaped his lips in a quiet whisper.
It’s impossible not to love you.
Not to hold you in my thoughts and pray my thoughts would turn to arms.
That memories would turn to lips so that we could sink ships with our own words,
because I know of no ships that can hold up the weight of love.
That my life would turn to a string quartet, glad to play all the way down.
That my love would be a lifeboat,
carrying us away from a scene of violent, crashing passion,
born aloft on smooth waves of time and proximity.
They’d find us tangled in each other,
our eyes and lips ablaze like the lights of the spotters combing the sea.
They’d offer us blankets,
but we would be warm from the fires inside each other.
I feel alone, as if in silence
I can be heard, as if in darkness
I can be seen.
Lonely, as if in solitude
I can be found.
To be found, carried away
To be loved and warmed and surrounded by
In what? In what has faith
in me. In what I have faith in.
Alaska had faith in me, as the
Labyrinth opened , the last handwritten words
On a waterlogged page…..
“Straight and Fast…”
Straight on till morning, faster and faster until
Where was she going and what did she see?
Paradise or Void?
Salvation, Damnation, or nothingness?
White daisies scribbled under a payphone at 3 a.m.,
White tulips on her mothers grave,
In her backseat,
Little rivers of crimson dropping worlds of carmine onto petals stark and pure.
Who was she really?
Secrets and questions buried deeper than Strawberry Hill in some forgotten field.
We may never know.
But as both light and dark, black and white, good and evil balance, so do all things.
We may never know, but I know this.
She taught me love.
She taught me loyalty.
She taught me beauty
And mischief and fear.
And she touched me.
Rest in peace, Alaska Young.
You beat the labyrinth, and you remind us
Of a dead mans dying phrase.
“Do not worry, we are all going.”
Rest In Peace, Alaska Young.
I remember coming over to talk with Jason because you were sitting next to him.
I remember thinking how amazingly beautiful you were.
I remember getting lost in your eyes, your red hair, your lip ring.
I remember the next time I saw you, you wanted to sit next to me.
I remember when I first told you I was falling in love with you, you danced around your room singing “He loves me!”
I remember the poems I wrote about you.
I remember skipping Fire Academy to see you.
I remember skipping all kinds of classes to see you.
I remember your flushed face and sweaty palms as you sat next to me, sick as a dog.
I remember your head on my shoulder, and a whispered “I love you.”
I remember my lies.
I remember my stupidity.
I remember your tears.
I remember your angry words.
I remember seeing you a few months later.
I remember you saying you wanted to see more of me.
I remember my second chance.
I remember how I fucked that up to.
I remember the numerous letters I wrote.
I remember the one I got in return.
I remember my faded voice on the line…”I love you Megan.”
I remember the text message that arrived a few minutes after we hung up…”I love you too.”
I remember us.
I remember you.
Do you remember me too?
We were together again, laying on the floor of the stereo room in a house you have never actually been in. I was laying back, propped up on my elbows, and you were kissing me in that way you used to, gingerly and with such raw emotion. I could smell your hair again, the shampoo you used. I could smell the fabric softnener in your clothes, these aromas that when smelled anywhere you weren’t made me stop and look for you. You laid your head on my chest and I saw you raise this little red thimble sized cup to your lips and drink. I asked you what it was and you just calmly replied “Heroin.” You handed me one and I didn’t want it, but I wanted you. I wanted things to be back the way they were, to forget the past year and have us together again, like it was for the past four and a half years. So I took it, and you kissed me more passionately.
Then I awoke to an empty bed and the taste of you on my lips still. And another day without you began.
No sooner had we passed that door than I felt his hand on my shoulder. “You’re not up to full strength yet. There’s still something you need.” And gently guiding me, he led me back to the door. Confusion must have shown on my face, for he smiled and spoke. “You we’re angry, blaming yourself, me, and them for the things that happened. You’re heart is not truly healed, and won’t be for some time, but we need to get it on the right path.” He opened the door, and we stepped through. The closet was much the same, large and with it’s sweeping dirt floor, and again filled with the named skeletons. I felt ashamed of myself, of my previous actions against them, almost as if I had let them down again, ignored what I should have learned. The aspect of my mind smiled at me, and taking off his coat, retrieved two shovels from his bag. “Here. Let’s get to work.” Grasping the shovel, I glanced around hesitantly. “Are you sure they will rest this time?” He nodded, the smile never leaving his face. “You didn’t have me, last time.”
The digging was laborious, contemplative work. Each skeleton got its own grave, and after what seemed like hours, we were down to the last two. He paused in his digging and looked at them for awhile. He turned to me. “Remember these two?” I nodded. How could I not? The oldest and the newest skeletons in the closet of my heart. He got out of the grave he was digging and sidled over to the oldest one, taking a few paces around it. “I was thinner then, I think.” And hefting it up, he gently laid it to rest in its place, and started to fill in the hole. That left me with the newest, the one I had so much trouble facing before. Picking it up, I held it close as I laid it gently down into its grave. Tears flowed freely, I’ll admit. After awhile, he came over and helped me fill in the last foot of earth. I began to place a placard on the grave, a small piece of wood with the words “Never Forget”, but he stopped me. Taking the placard, he put it in his bag and knelt down next to me. “You don’t have to build a shrine to guilt. They’re a part of you now, and you can never lose that. You’ve come to terms with it, but they’ll always be in your heart, but now at peace.” And with that, he retrieved his shovel. “Now, I believe there is something we came here to retrieve.” Plunging his shovel into the earth, he started digging. Not knowing what else to do, I joined him, digging along side the aspect of my mind for what seemed like hours. We were almost in over our heads when my shovel came down on something hard. Scraping the dirt of the top, we unearthed a coffin. “What the hell?” I was genuinely surprised. My mind smiled at me. Using his shovel head like a crowbar, he pried the top off to reveal….me. “There he is. Now, let’s wake him up.” And gently shaking the coffin with his foot, my mind awoke my heart. Heart’s eyes fluttered open, and weakly he pulled himself out of the coffin. Shaking his head, he looked around then back to us. “How long was I down here?” My mind laughed “Oh, I’d say……..ten years or so.” Heart nodded, and then did the unexpected. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me in tight. “I’m sorry. Sorry for everything that’s happened. Mind and I failed you when you needed us both. And now look what’s become of you.” I was astonished. I felt I should be the one apologizing. Heart let me go and clapped me on the shoulders. Turning, he pulled a bag from the coffin and started to climb out of the hole. Once we had all reached the top, he helped us out. He then jogged over to the door and glanced at my mind. Mind nodded and Heart opened the door into a howling maelstrom. Yelling over the din, he motioned for us to follow. “Come on! It’s time to take back your soul!”
“So I never forget.” My voice echoes. I’m not back in the hallway, and when I turn around, the door to my Heart is gone. Taking in my surroundings, horror dawns. I know where I am, and I know I’m not ready to face this. But there is no way out and only one way forward. The giant Cathedral stands at the end of a gravel lane, and I pause at the door, hand trembling just above the handle. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, then fling the door open. Inside it’s all dust. The pews have lost their bright mahogany shine and the votives are no longer lit. Stepping in, the old wooden floor creaks and in that sound time stops.
A great roaring ushers the dust into the air, choking me, blinding me. I can’t get a breath, and dropping to my knees I find I can’t get beneath the roaring, choking dust. But then time restarts, and I feel the kick-thump in my chest as my heart skips a beat. Inside the Cathedral, something has changed. The pews have been polished, the votives are lit, and he’s there. Standing at the far end, in front of the altar, waiting. Rising to my feet, I feel the malevolence radiating in the room. I’m scared, and I know it, and so does he. It takes a couple steps towards him to realize the malevolence I feel is coming from me, and it’s weighing me down. Struggling, I come face to face with my past self, and the overbearing weight of everything I’ve become in the time since then crushes me to the floor. He crouches down, close to the floor and regards me with his blue eyes for a time. Finally, in a voice that belies compassion and love he says “Get up Scotty. You’ve come farther than you think.” The pressure abates a bit and I pull myself up into a sitting position. Looking at him, I manage a sneer and snap “You know I hate being called that.” The smile fades from his face and he stands. “You act like a petulant child and you shall be addressed as one. Now stand up.” I rise and brush myself off, and looking at him with his smile returned, I feel the anger and malevolence fade, leaving weariness and fatigue in its place. My voice chokes up. “I’m sorry. For what I did to you. What I made you become. I let fear, laziness and greed take over, and it all but destroyed you.” He tears up, and puts his hand on my shoulder. “But you sought me out. Destroying the skeletons you’ve held onto, you called me out. And now it’s time to do what you came here to do.”
The knife is in his hands in the blink of an eye, hilt first, offered out to me. Taking it, I glance at him. He nods and takes a step back. I place the tip of the knife over my heart, and wait. Trembling, breath coming in ragged gasps, I consider the ramifications of what I’m about to do. Then before I can take the easy way out, before I let what’s inside me talk me out of it, I plunge the knife through my ribcage and into my heart. It’s cold, and I cry out in pain. But the pain fades, and I’m still there. He walks over, puts his hand on my shoulder and looks me in the eyes. With his other hand he wrenches the knife free, and the pain inspires flashes of color in front of my eyes. Red, yellow, orange, colors floating in my vision as warmth flows through me and I collapse. I feel lighter, better, can breath deeper. I sit up and glance down at my chest, and there’s no wound, no blood. Looking back at him, he answers the unasked question. “You’ve purged yourself, of anger, fear, greed.” He kneels down in front of me. “But this is only the beginning, Scott. We are far from the end. It’s no longer about who you are, but who you were, and who you could be again. Finding the will to do something was never a problem for you. Keeping that will was. There are people out there who looked up to you, who still do. People who remember, who call you a hero when you aren’t around. Be worthy of that, now. Be worthy of them.” And then he was gone. The Cathedral of my mind was dark again, the votives having burned down to nothing. I stayed there on the floor like that for what seemed like hours, until a slight breeze came through the open door, carrying on it a voice from the past. “I believe in you.” I stumbled up to my feet again, feeling bone weary and slightly dizzy. I walked out the door and closed it behind me, taking the gravel path away from the Cathedral towards where I started. A door was there, but I walked right past it. As I kept going, I noticed he was there on the road with me, with a bag over his shoulder and a tattered old red cloth in his arms. We nodded to each other and kept going. There was one more place to go, and it would take everything we had to make it back
The closet that my heart has become lies opened, a sea of skeletons stretching on into the dusty confines where the hall light won’t reach. A glint of color reveals the location of what I’m looking for, and wading through the dead secrets and living lies, I come to the first and oldest pile of bones. Tied around its neck is the tattered, faded remains of everything I was, so long ago, before I became jaded, became fickle and foul. Gently clearing a space, I lay the skeleton out to rest, and untying the ripped cloth from its neck, I unfold it and shake out the dust. It does wonders for its appearance. “Maybe it’s not as faded as I thought.” I muse to myself. I look down at the skeleton, laid out like a pharaoh at rest, and I see the names. All those names, carved into its bones. Thane. Melissa. Leah. Brandon. Eddie. Lori. Mike. Ben. Aaron. I trace my finger over every name, and I scream them out, a pitiful, high pitched keening of sorrow and regret, anger, remorse, and loathing. When I quiet down, I sit there by this skeleton, rocking back and forth, ever so slightly, remembering each and every one of them. I remember how I let them down; how I started down the road I’m on today. And that’s when I get angry. Leaping to my feet, I crunch back through the skulls and rib cages of shuttered secrets and languishing lies.
When I return to the closet of my heart, I place the large spotlights at the door, illuminating the sea of skeletons. They all have a name, and I stop. Whispering to no one but the dead in my heart, I say “This is my sincerest apology.” And then I’m upon them. Rending and snapping, crushing and stomping, I obliterate everything in my path. Swinging a femur into the door frame I cry “I’m sorry.” Crushing a skull beneath my foot, I choke out “Please forgive me.” Soon the room is empty, except for two skeletons, a tattered piece of cloth, and the grave dust floating in the air. I turn and see the skeleton closest to the door. It’s the newest one, and I can’t look at the name on it. I know it, but can’t bring myself to see it. So I take it down and lay it next to the oldest one, and I hear the voice in my head ask “Why keep these two?” I shake out the old red cloth one more time and hang it up by the door, leaving the spotlight trained on the two skeletons. Turning to leave, I shut the door and answer the voice of my mind. “So I never forget.”