Tuesday, October 4

A Tragic Love Story

She moved left and right, arms up higher, higher, spreading herself out wider under the green sheets, feeling light flooding and flowing over her through their thin gauze. Summer was in the air, the sun blew open the curtains and spread the flowers out in the garden. Voices drifted past, laughter and smiles wafting through the room. Time froze and melted intermittently, building and smashing the days as a smile fell across her face. Great tides of colour washed into the room and left.

Hear me out, he thought, just let me try and explain. It’s not the way it seems, I’m not the person you think. I’ve tried to find things about myself I can show to you, I’ve tried to be reasonable. I’ve tried everything but speaking, and I can’t do that, you know I can’t do that. I am weak and you are so stalwart in everything. I bend like reeds in the wind; you are a brick wall to dash myself against. He opened his eyes, stretched out under the green sheets. The window was closed, but winter crept in, bent the edges of the glass and rattled the fixtures, blue and white pressing inwards, gripping the bed and lifting the sheets, penetrating and shrieking through the cocoon he fastened around himself still tighter, tighter. Silence moved these thoughts, goaded them on, and behind silence lay death, unquestioning, fervent.

Long days of nothing, tall grass and short sleeves, moments in memory splashed together, flowing thick scents, heady, vivid fires drifting strange smokes to the north. The summer fell away; leaves fell charred, unopened, into autumn. The world ablaze, struck new moths pursued by older birds. The wind gripped the trees, pushed them this way then that, clenching them in a fist and twisting them into new shapes, bitter, splintered forms. Birds left, called away perhaps, or shooed outwards across the barren sea. People moved through the garden, and the weeds thickened beneath the hedgerows, strangling, choking the new growth across the pale, freezing sun.

He came as she went, and the same room knew them both; it saw the change in them both. Perhaps it moved them to it, sending one on as another arrived, setting one in the other’s wake, but at the end of it they both made choices there, for better or worse.

Knit together like the air and the fallen leaves, pulled tighter as her lips in the cold air, she moved closer to him. All the time he grew, a looming figure, only ever behind her, fleeing as she turned yet on her heels if she looked ahead, moving closer and penetrating the canopy she took shelter beneath. And for him, she grew before him, a light to be chased, a dancer, a world to explore, to conquer. In his solitude she grew to her full size, and in her company he built walls to look down on her from, a child, a ship which sailed to distant shores. Remembered letters and her forgotten notes, fascinations, he picked them up and read each one. He edited and shook her feelings, crossing out words and replacing them with cold, stark images, leaving her naked and unprotected. And with every leaf that fell, she became less of herself, more of him, and so more of nothing. She fell apart a little each day, as the winter came into her body and pushed past the defences she thought she could hold.

Look at this picture: a photograph, newer than that which it portrayed, shouting words that it could not speak clearly, transparently, though coherent and lucid. One dim figure in the background, looking sideways across at another, behind which flows a sea of lights, moving, pulsating almost with the days and weeks. She moves back, and he steps a little closer to the camera, larger, filling his side of the picture and spilling over into hers (a little won’t change much, each day a little doesn’t amount to so much), drifting out of focus, breathing into her, moving his hands through the fibres of her dead body, making her real, fleshing her out into something he can touch. Each day she buries herself further, burrowing backwards into time, pushing past the abandoned barricades of memory, slipping between cracks in long-forgotten pavements and climbing down into abandoned cellars, stripping back layers of wallpaper and waiting by streams, sifting through the debris it washes down to her, desperate to separate the illusions of him from her own disembodied memories. Her head and his heart a little fuller or a little emptier, until neither could tell which way they were moving.

Never meeting, their hands never touched, but their infection was subtle, fickle, a little dulled by the years. At the end of it he felt: in his mind he felt her clearly for the first time, and in a leap he abandoned hope. He had moved for good, with his good intentions. Progress, change for the better, becoming something more than oneself: He aspired, and for what? What did she have which he could not have made in her? And she fell, frail, crushed, but not by his supercilious hands. He still hadn’t seen the reasons, indeed he had glanced straight past her motives. He built himself into her oppressor, her fantasy, her lover, and she never knew him. She never thought of him, not once, and she turned and pressed on herself, gripping with his hands, climbing with his body, but without reflection, without self.

And as they both slowly turned away from the world, each towards the other a little more, they lost what made them human. They fell, young, but years apart, they knew nothing of one another. They should have known and perhaps they should have felt it; and they never could.


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