Somewhere between history and memory
-Where are you, she asks the darkness.
His voice didn’t come again tonight. Neither did any other part. It was missing under the stars. She stood on the porch and the wind barely blew but she still shivered in the dual absence.
Many more words are on the tip of her tongue, in her very next breath, but she bottles them away, keeps them inside herself until the moment comes. All for when he steps out of the eternal shadow and into her arms.
It has happened before, he told her long ago, and it will happen again. Patience is the key. Patience is how you enter the final house. Patience makes the oppressive doors, gates, and walls crumble and turn to dust.
Until that day arrives, it would hang around her neck like a stone. She drags that particular form of restraint through the town like a bastard child. It was written into every pore of her face and it made men avoid her and women deride her.
-Life is too short, said her friend.
-You’re acting like a silly, stubborn, child, said the town mothers.
In truth, she was terrified that they were right. But in no less equal truth, she couldn’t afford to wilt or crumble or become someone else. Someone different. Someone who caved to pressure and forged an expected path with the overly familiar stops and signposts that yawned ‘yes indeed, you are being socially responsible, a right proper cog in the gears of this community.’ To choose this was not a vile alternative. It was not ugly or base. It was simply not her. She could not see herself in those hands. She couldn’t risk that leap. If it all fell together like it should five seconds after she turned her back on what she wanted…
How do you make those decisions? How do you throw glorious possibility into the ash heap? How can people make decisions that break the spirit in two every single day?
These questions shook awake the ever-present butterflies in her stomach and limbs and forced her feet to work. The streets were empty. It was like that this time of year. After the sun goes down there was no reason to stray outside. Not for fear of cold or dangers, but out of the lack of need. Function dictated, bodies obeyed.
Yet her she was, arms folded for warmth, walking nowhere in particular, loving an idea that should be made solid. Loving a dream that could awake. She could imagine these possibilities. She could build elaborate fantasies of them. How much more difficult would it be to make them simply real?
Real. Reality. Overrated but necessary.
She heard the birds fly.
Conversations rattled in her head as she passed each house. Not full conversations. Just thin shards of retorts and drunken slurring. Rarely about her. Or maybe it was all about her and she couldn’t properly pick it out.
It was not long before she was out of the small town and among the heavy trees and their looming shadows over the ever-thinning dirt road. But breathing was easier here. The glares that broke down walls and hung over heads were weakened. Practical words went up like smoke. Her past and future stood over the trees, looking down on her curiously, wondering how her present would reshape them both.
What spits change upon you cannot be covered with razor sharp words or silk sheets. It does not come at one’s beck and call or dying wish. Wholly other, change comes with great accident in the guise of purpose.
She found it lording over her as it leaned against a tree. Shapeless, pointless, it scuttled up the trunk when she caught it with the corner of her eye.
-You, she began, but having nothing more to add let the word ripple out into the night alone.
-Me, the wind agreed.
She knew it wasn’t him. Things were not going to be that easy. Change was not him. But change was a way. A method. A utility. A force that could be manipulated to bring her to him or him to her. A vehicle of restless power that collapses belief and replaces it with wonder. The symbolic, sacrificial mother that died every moment so the new world could be born.
And other words to that effect.
Rhetoric was another tool in its toolkit. She couldn’t have cared less, her goal was the goal. It didn’t care at all. Selling the antidote before the poison. It all balances out in the assumed end.
She offered what she had and it counted it out on her soft hands. The fingers were predictably fresh but the texture was of quality stock. Lotions and potions. No reason to sample the goods. Clearly prime stuff. Make the sale.
-I can show you, the leaves rustled, there are hidden things I can uncover.
-You can reveal, she breathed.
There was nothing more to say. She went willing and laid down beneath the branches. Staring through the spaces between the leaves at the black night sky far above. Change came onto her like the snapping of fingers. The sky became the earth and she left that, too.
Another time, another place. Back where words were nothing but punch lines.
All it was were number fours and she knew they really meant nothing. A moment of emptiness. Just a moment. Then.
Then it all became hopelessly traditional. The pinchers came and did their work without a sound. She was different now. She was ready. She waited in new darkness. Change was still beside her, lying naked smoking a hypothetical cigarette.
Her own breath startled her in the stretching silence.
-What is this? What am I? Where is he? What is happening?
The leaves shook. The branches swayed. The answer fell to the ground like rotten fruit.
-I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
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