(This one is another reworking of themes I have been playing with, so some might seem familiar. Thanks! I’ve enjoyed this class!)
After the collision, when the dust is still swirling, there is a moment of haunted silence, suspended between what was and what is about to be no longer.
In the ER I could not see myself, only the reflection of myself in your face, the way you were trying to keep eye contact without accidentally seeing what they were doing, the steel brushes to scrape out gravel, the masking tape to remove glass dust from my eyelashes. Your eyes told me you wanted to throw up but you held my hand anyway. Later you would tell me: I saw your bones. I saw your meat.
In the aftermath there are only two choices. You can embrace the arm that still works, the fact that you have all your teeth. Chunks of glass can stay beneath your skin forever like strange rocks, and you can touch them like worry stones. Feel that you might say later to friends over cocktails.
That first night when half my ribs were broken and my lung was collapsing you stayed, lulled by the rhythmic sounds of machines while I was visited by not one but two angels disguised as night orderlies.
But sometimes you are the one holding the hand, the one watching the machines, the one crying in the cafeteria. And demons walk the halls alongside angels, the dark lives inside the light, what is enchanted is also haunted.
In the aftermath there are only two choices: love what’s left or be broken, unable to look in the mirror, desperate to avoid what’s on your plate. I watched the demons take you, at first slowly, then swiftly while I was caught in limbo, pacing the hallways of sorrow. You can only walk the hallways of sorrow for so long before they come for you, too.
And that’s how it finally happened, me sitting on a warm stoop, and the demons, ready to make their move, barking in the forests. Once I made the decision it was made. Once the deal was struck it was over. You might think this is a romantic ending. It’s not.
When they came for me I was ready. I was smoking a stolen cigarette on the stoop when I heard the first scuffle, the hiss of a cat. Then the shadow moving up the sidewalk, eyes locked with mine. Could you hear the scream, the quick silencing pounce, the way we folded into the sewer drain, or were you still grieving your own life when they came for me, too, when the full feral smell filled my face?
Strange, but what I remember most from that evening was how beautiful it was to be alive. The sweetness of lightning bugs. The silent, witnessing stars. The crickets, pausing when we passed. My last breath of free air and my final glimpse of the world, framed through the circular sewer pipe and bluish with the moon. Leaving only dust motes swirling where we both had been.