Epilogue (Part V)

Previous: Part IV


V.

“The earth is on fire” used to be a metaphor.

Something to dramatize, to clarify, something to make things real in the way we understand realness. Now, it’s just truth. Now, the forests burn, the fields burn, the books burn, the waters boil and the plants die and the heat chokes up our perfect, invincible, powerful bodies and there’s no going back.

There’s no going back.

There’s slowing, and there’s adapting, if we care enough to do that. But the fire is here to stay.

“Metaphorically speaking,” you prompt hesitantly. And my first response is to laugh.

“You’re a writer,” I say. “So you tell me.”


Next: …

Epilogue (Part IV)

Previous: Part III


IV.

You want to tell your grandchildren that you did your best one day – well, have you? “It’s not about you, it’s about us…” This isn’t a relationship. It’s abuse.

You try, I know. But it’s hard for you to understand that simple fact, the simple state of things, because you’re the one in power. You get to choose what you see and don’t see, what you do and don’t do. You get to decide who lives and who dies. And we don’t. With one flick of a brush you unknowingly consign hundreds, thousands, to their deaths before they even lived, before they even got to view this insane, beautiful world with their own eyes, and meanwhile you can’t stop talking about how much you value human life as if the two questions are not the same, as if the answer is not the same. The courts of the world to come will lock you up for child abuse and murder, and you’ll still be as confused as ever. That’s not me, you say before your ancestors. I didn’t abuse my children. I didn’t kill anyone. But you already have.

We are all perpetrators. If I repeat myself ten years from now, will you then understand?

If the words spill out of the mouth of your beloved grandchild, will you then understand?


Next: Part V

Epilogue (Part III)

Previous: Part II


III.

I know what you’re doing.

I know what you’re doing, and I need you to stop. We need you to stop. I see you scripting your self-fulfilling prophecies and pasting them on the wall, both of us watching as they burn slowly and fill your room with ash. I see you waking up every morning to your own new version of prison, of hell, and you’re like a writer resigned to death row, asking for the pages upon which you sign not your admission of guilt, not your embarrassed apology, not even your suicide note – you just ask to sign your last goodbye. I want to speak to you, to show you that this works, to show you that it can be done and that even if it can’t we have to try, but you won’t see me. You have the right, you say. To not see me.

Well, fine. You have the right to not see me. And you have the right to die. But you don’t have the right to drag me down with you.

Open your eyes and start trying. I still believe in you – even if you don’t.


Next: Part IV

Epilogue (Part II)

Previous: Part I


I don’t know how to talk to you.

I don’t know how but I know that I need to. There is no other way. But when we face each other I can’t figure out how to speak without hurting, how to listen without hurting. I’m afraid – for you, and for me. Listen, you whisper, and I stop listening because I don’t want to hurt, I start speaking because I don’t want to hurt, and you gaze at me with dull, empty eyes. Waiting. Watching.

You listen to me, I say, what’s wrong with you? After all these years you still can’t get it through your thick skull that the sun does not rise for you, that the stars do not shine for you, that this world you live in was never yours. You didn’t create it yet you’re arrogant enough to end it – how stuck-up and entitled can you be? You can’t understand that we are all one, that borders are our failure and our lasting legacy is shame, that hatred is a construct you embraced just to make the story more exciting because all you want is action, all you ever cared for is entertainment, you hold onto your power and pleasure with your dying hands and even the screams of your children won’t convince you to let go.

Maybe I’m the arrogant one. Thinking that I can succeed where your children have failed is absurd. I stop abruptly and you still stare at me in silence, unmoving, unreadable. And behind you the wildfires rage and the books burn and I wish, I just wish you would just turn around to see it but you don’t.

Well go on then, I say. Your turn. Write the next page – pick up your pen and write.

I dare you.


Next: Part III

Epilogue (Part I)

As the human story is being scrawled on the wall by empty, desperate hands I reach for you. Because it’s not too late but it’s also not forever. We write until our hands bleed, until our pencils and pens and paint run out, until our wasted ink pools at our feet like blood. This is it, you say. And I can’t help but laugh.

We’re fools if we think we won’t be stopped. In the realm of eternal life, there is no room for writers.

Still, you keep turning the pages like a reader enraptured by the book, lapping up every word, excited for the next chapter that isn’t there. You shoulder the sky and write your own, urging the story forward precisely when it doesn’t want to, and before you know it you’re writing your own epilogue. Our epilogue. You look back at what you’ve created and only now do you realize: this isn’t a drama. It’s not a fantasy, it’s not a thriller, it’s not even a crime novel. It’s just an utterly predictable tragedy.

“I didn’t mean to,” you say. Well, you wrote it. And you of all people know that stories can’t be taken back.


Next: Part II

I Will Carry You (Part V)

Previous: Part IV


V. Conclusion

So much has happened up to now, but the only thing that matters in the end is that I am here – here, now, with you. We are as alive as we can be, and we are as compassionate as we can be, and under the strength of this bond between us, everything else falls away. Here, now, together we rule. Time itself submits; life kneels before us, pain collapses at our feet, the wind and waves sing at our command. We can gaze at each other for as long as we want, hold each other for as long as we want, live together as long as we want. Nothing can stop us. For once, it’s not an imaginary universe, not fake news, not human arrogance, not a crippling lie. It’s a metaphor. Can’t you see?

And don’t you go trying to name it again. Really, enough of that.

Within this metaphor of ours, anything can happen. The day can break a thousand times, you can ruin the moment a thousand times, we can say good-bye a thousand times – and in the end we will still be here. Here, now, and together we rule. Metaphors are funny things.

“Metaphors are funny things,” you say. And I think to myself, so this is what it means to live.

So this is what it means to live.

Once in a while you still repeat your old plea, “Promise you will stay with me,” and I know what to say now, I know how to reply. “We are going to make it,” I tell you. The words ring in my ears, borrowed from music and memory and the lives of those before us. She repeats it hesitantly back to me, and closes her eyes.

We are going to make it, you and I.

That one isn’t a metaphor or a lie. It’s just the truth – our truth – and from this moment forward, we will carry it together, walking hand in hand on our own loving path towards eternity.


I Will Carry You (Part IV)

Previous: Part III


IV. Goodbye

“Close your eyes,” you whisper, and I do. I can hear you shuffling around. Abruptly you grab my hand and start pulling me along; I nearly trip over myself, my eyes still shut tight. There is a level of trust here that even I can’t comprehend – but I have always been this careless, so there is no cause for concern. I am the last person to be concerned about, these days.

Time closes in and then expands, and she says at last, “Okay, open them.” As I let in a clear, crisp view of the sun setting over the ocean, I can feel my body instinctively flinch. But it is not the bright golden light that has me taken aback. It’s her.

There is only one reason she would bring me here today.

We sit together on the edge of the overlook, staring out at this natural wonder. For the longest time, neither of us have words. Deep in that silence, I imagine a little girl in a hospital room, and a dying man with an arrow in his chest, and a musician stretching out her hands and wrists in preparation for a performance, and a pair of mothers taking a walk on the side of a reservoir. There are so many things, so many possibilities, so many what-ifs and had-nots and could-have-beens. With our two lives, it could have gone any other way.

“I’m not going to lie,” you confess, breaking me out of my conflicting dreams.

“Okay,” I say.

“It would be nice… it would be nice to say that today, the sun’s not actually going to set, and we can just sit here forever, and you can hold my hand forever and everything’s always ever going to be alright…”

“That would be nice,” I agree. “But you said you aren’t going to lie.”

“I’m not going to lie.”

The silence comes back, but now there’s a pained tension – tension and compassion, too, which tempers an almost overwhelming feeling of grief. We both sense it, and we both want to break it. “Hold me,” you say, and I hold you.

“The sunset is beautiful…”

“Let’s do this together,” she says. I nod. I can feel her breathing, the slight rise and fall of her chest, and my heart hurts. We watch together as the sun bravely, adventurously, gently dips below the horizon, here and gone in an instant – and I watch alone as you follow it without looking back.

Today, the sun’s not going to set and we can just sit here forever and hold each other forever and everything is going to be alright…

No. Today, the goodbyes we exchanged are eternal.

Metaphors, after all, don’t have to be lies.


Next: Part V

I Will Carry You (Part III)

Previous: Part II


III. Ruins

I don’t know what to do with myself anymore.

I never thought this day would come, this beautiful, horrible day in which I watched as you traded your life away, and it was gone before I could answer your desperation with my faulty attempts at lies, gone before I had the chance to even open your eyes, and I…

I don’t know what to do with myself anymore.

Please, tell me how to live.

Teach me how to live and love at once because they seem so contradictory.

Give me answers for why I hurt so much, why I must relive this day, this pain, unto eternity.

That, at least, makes you immortal. But you never wanted to be immortal. You were just like me – we saw the trap there, we warned each other of it. I guess none of that matters anymore. You’re immortal whether you want to be or not. Endless life is just as much a prison as certain death.

Now, I can’t seem to remember… those words you said to me that day… the last words that spilled out of your mouth before you gave them the order to choke, and it’s so ridiculous to me, I’m so caught up in them. A lifetime of words between us and the ones that seem to matter now are the ones I can’t recall. People make such a big deal, such a fuss, over last words, last moments, last letters, but they aren’t always salient. Sometimes they don’t exist.

Though if there’s any consolation, I guess you were able to choose them all. Most of us never have the chance to plan out our deaths the way we stage theater plays, but you – you took complete control. And if all the world’s a stage, life itself was yours for the taking.

What hurts is that you chose to take it without saying goodbye.


Next: Part IV

I Will Carry You (Part II)

Previous: Part I


II. Daybreak

The sun gilds the horizon like it’s painting a line on a canvas. I stare at it – in awe, in horror. I was never meant to be here, I tell you. And you whisper in reply, I know.

Around the world there are many of us who are living out extra lives. Extra years, extra time we should not have been given. I say so even though I can really only speak for myself, because somewhere deep in my heart I want to believe that I’m not alone. I’m desperate for that feeling the same way I am desperate for you – but to this day, of those two haunted objects of my yearning, I have been granted only one.

One out of two. A half. Zero-point-five. Fifty percent.

There’s an irony hidden there, buried in the facts of my life. You may not see it, but I feel it. When I stare in the mirror it springs to life, a magical world beneath an artist’s brush, and therein lies another surprise – that artist is in fact you. Scientists discover a great many things by accident – this, I think, is the same. Whoever says creation is inherently intentional is a liar. You, of all people, now enforce my existence without ever realizing it.

This kind of bond is a fragile thing. Too often it ends up shattered into a beautiful array of bloodstains on the floor. But sometimes, when I close my eyes and see your face it occurs to me that it is not as fragile as I once thought. If I can conjure up a dead person to bring myself back to life, it surely must be one of the strongest, most powerful bonds in the world.

You open your mouth to give this new power a name – but don’t, I say. You mustn’t ruin it.

I Will Carry You (Part I)


I. Introduction

We are going to make it, you and I…

Even now, walking the paths of our childhood, I find myself gazing into your eyes. Blue, green, purple, and silver. Words rest on my voice but there is no sound. I might as well be staring at my own reflection – and as you reach for my hand I know I cannot tear myself away.

I don’t want to be a liar.

Our futures hinge on dreams and promises we cannot keep. You know this just as well as I. There is an expectation there for both of us, a kind of resignation, but I am not resigned. That path leads up to death and I will fight it. Somewhere out there a young boy is falling to the floor at the hands of someone who hates him for being different, for thinking different, and I have held him in my arms too many times to let him go.

“What if,” he begins, and I cut him off gently with a single word: “Imagine.” He shuts his mouth and I close my eyes, and together we are free. In this case, it does not have to be a lie.

You wrap your fingers in mine and pull me along. I do not know where you are taking me because it does not matter. As our feet slap against the walkways of our shared memories, the silence between us becomes heavy, and the resulting realization strikes me hard. One of our lives is about to end. I think we both know it.

Somewhere close to us I hear her voice, breaking, choking, drowning in sadness within the depths of her song, and I know she is sending us love. It is healing but it gives me no courage. You stop abruptly, spin around, and look directly into my eyes, and I struggle to meet the fierceness of your gaze. The fierceness means that you, too, are struggling. Just as I do not want to lie, you do not want to ask a question that will force me to lie. So we stare into each other in an uncharacteristic silence. For a long moment, all the world converges into that thin, charged space between our bodies and our hearts. And I think to myself, so this is what it means to live.

So this is what it means to live.

The storm expands around us in rhythm with our contraction of time, and by twilight we are still standing. But in that moment, just when I least expect it, you fire.

“Promise you will stay with me.”

As these words reach my ears I unwillingly drop my line of sight from your blazing eyes. It is not anger or hatred that I feel – but something in me is now hurting.

I did not think you would be the first to break.