I can’t say with any certainty what first drew me back to those woods. Was it a morbid sense of nostalgia? Years had come and gone since my carefully planned walk beneath the branches. Was it a desire to see if I could recapture some piece of her? Whatever the case, old flames are best left extinguished, unless one is prepared to risk an inferno. A man can easily find himself seared by a fury of his own making.
It was near midnight when I awoke, a poor night’s sleep interrupted by an unmemorable dream. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and sat up, my feet recoiling from the cold floor beneath them. Whatever visions had plagued me were lost in translation as I roused, leaving me only with an acute sense of fright, and a scent in my nose… Her scent. Not a perfume, but the natural smell of a human being, indescribable, inimitable, and in this case, unforgettable.
What about her was forgettable? The day that she has faded from memory entirely is the day that I will have to concede that I’ve spent too many days on this Earth, and though it would bring its own measure of peace, it isn’t a day I desire, or deserve to see. Shaming her memory to bring myself a measure of comfort is craven. I am a better man than that.
The decision to walk, or rather, to hike, was an unconscious one. My boots were laced and I was out the door before I had truly come to terms with my course of action for clearing my head. Something within me was shaken, sleep would not embrace me again unless it was stilled. I wandered into the night, lost in thought. Inevitably, I found her within my thoughts. Dead, gone for over a year now, yet her specter remained in my mind. A haunting visage of love unrequited. How had we gone so wrong?
Furthermore, why was I never able to set it right? Was I truly unable, or simply unwilling? Too wounded and self-absorbed to see the truth for what it was? Doubts are dangerous things, capable of hounding a man to his grave, if he isn’t careful. My own were a howling pack, keeping distance as they trailed me, waiting for me to tire,
I stumbled, my foot grasped by a stray root in the pathway, and despite my best efforts, I stumbled, my hands failed to break the fall, and my face met the earth with a dull thud. Slightly dazed, I gathered myself, gingerly returning to my feet when I realized where I’d led myself. This path, and ahead, that clearing. What a night that was…
It was a simple task, for one pot-loving teenager to convince another that their next smoking session that night would be better held in the woods. A beautiful autumn night, a full moon lighting the pathways, it sounded simple enough. Say what you will about the wisdom of my plan, my disguise was perfect.
So we walked, we talked, laughed and shared smiles that lovers reserve for one another. It was easily the longest, and most pleasant hiking experience of my life, though it couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes before we made it to the edge of the clearing. A humble affair, no more than a few feet across, with a surprising break in the canopy to reveal the moon’s grace above us. Nothing stirred, save my heart as I made my move.
A faux stumble, a quick spin, and my trap was sprung. The little jewelry box was open and presented before she realized I was on a single knee. Revealing the beauty of a diamond as I asked for something even more precious. Her eyes, seemed as large as the moon itself, their chaotic hazel coloring mystifying me as it had since the day we met. A few seconds, an eternity passed. In those few seconds panic and doubt had taken root, only to be ripped away by a simple “yes”.
A tearful kiss, a warm embrace. Our vows were sealed as we made love beneath the moonlight.
Years had passed, and the pact made that night went unfulfilled. Drugs, infidelity, the infinite tragedies wrought by two flawed persons, incapable of understanding the magnitude of the damage their actions inflicted on the one they loved most. On again, off again, the cycle repeated itself until love itself was buried under the bitterness of the wounds we’d imposed. The one who got away, was ripped away. The only one. The only love, the greatest source of pleasure and pain. She tore herself loose from this mortal coil. The tragedies of her life were too much, and her own medication took her. Her passing defined my life, just as her presence had done year prior.
Tears flowed freely as I relived it all, realizing where I was, and what it all meant. My despair was interrupted as something caught the corner of my eye. A flitter of something, pale as the moon itself, insubstantial down the path ahead of me. An impending sense of dread gripped me, inexplicable, but undeniable. Something awaited around the bend, I felt its call within my mind, a siren of the trees, spurring me onward. Each step was an internal battle, my desire to turn my back on what had been steadily losing ground to an indescribable desire to recapture some piece of what we once were.
I cleared my eyes as I reached the clearing, our clearing. Wiping the last tear away, sniffling, I came to rights with what awaited me tonight.
There she was, as exquisite as the day I first laid eyes on her. Ethereal, her porcelain skin differentiated from the gown that clung to her frame by some wickedness that defied perception. Horrific yet alluring, there she stood, her feet resting on thin air as her arms weaved patterns in the spring breeze. It was as if she hadn’t noticed me, still preoccupied in whatever business held her attention. Transfixed by the impossibility of what I was seeing, my entire body shivered. At first in fear, and shortly thereafter by the cold. Winter’s chill had taken hold, and the breath escaping my trembling lips was visible.
The silence was unbearable, I stood before something that could not be, and the strength of will to even speak seemed beyond me. The search for the power to create syllables was arduous, an effort that consumed me to the point that I almost forgot the inconceivable circumstance I’d fallen into. A minute passed, or possibly an hour before my body was willing to respond to my wishes. A single word passed my lips.
To be addressing her felt unreal, she couldn’t exist. It simply could not be. I’d read the reports, I’d seen her ashes before my eyes. Yet there she was, animated, and now seemingly aware of my presence. She smiled, the same smile that once melted my heart as a youth, froze it solid as a man. Those eyes, the windows into her soul in which I’d peered for hours retained their coloring, yet reflected only the abyss that awaits beyond the veil of death. The pain in her stare was palpable, and try as I might, I could not break her gaze. She bore a hole through me, as though her eyes were not taking the measure of my form, but the substance of my soul.
Her lips moved as if to speak, but all that met my ears was a gurgle. Blood poured forth, a crimson river flowing from the core of her being, dotted with islands, capsules, tablets, the drugs that had taken her life flowed freely, seemingly innumerable. Nothing could stem the tide as she approached, hovering towards me, an inescapable avatar of inevitability. Death itself was encroaching upon my personal space, and I found myself unwilling to flee from its macabre splendor.
The face of everything I ever loved, half tainted by crimson stains, its mouth an ever-flowing fountain of bile-coated pharmaceuticals drew ever closer to my own face, as though she were leaning in with one last kiss. Our lips met, and her lifeblood washed over me as the world spun, fading to black as weightlessness overtook me.
I returned to the world, finding myself safely in the confines of my own bed, the smell of blood and vomit clinging to my nose. Willing to write off the harrowing night as a particularly terrible dream, my hands went to my face, rubbing away the remnants of a sleep that felt like a coma, only to feel sticky, covered in scarlet proof that I hadn’t just been dreaming. The coppery taste on my lips only served to corroborate the terrible truth, and I fell back onto the bed under the weight of its implications.
Bereft of the ability to deny the impossible, I’ve but one prudent course of action. She waits for me still. Unable to move on in death without me, as I am unable to continue in life without her. My affairs must be in order, few though they are, for at the next full moon I depart this world. A rope will sever my ties to this world, and bind me to my lover in the hereafter.
I ask you who’ve found this post to pray for me. Not that I may be forgiven for what I must do, but that I may be the man for her in death that I couldn’t be for her in life.