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The Dark Side of Heaven

She pulls her arms tight around her body to brace herself against the cold. The window is open but to close it would be suicide. She needs the cold air, the new air. Every chilling breeze is a welcome purifier, sweeping the old air out into the night. The crisp cold stings her nostrils, but her lungs crave the new air, the air that is not heavy and soiled with iniquity. She is perched on the edge of an ugly Victorian sofa that remains in the house only through the will of her grandmother. With her head resting in her hands, she distractedly fondles the sore spot on her temple that caused the unseemly notch on her reclaimed barn wood coffee table. She knows, of course, that the spot really isn’t sore anymore. That little incident was too long ago; years ago, lifetimes ago. But still, whenever she spots the small imperfection in an otherwise unblemished household, she reaches instinctively for her head, remembering. She had long ago realized that the most wicked curse of her highly appraised intelligence is her uncanny ability to remember. She remembers the names of all her high school friends, the scores of every test she’s ever taken, and can even remember her first step. Her co-workers at Data-I flatter her with jealousy, for she is always the first considered for promotion. But they do not know that she would gladly trade her six-digit salary for the gift of sweet forgetfulness. Too sharp are the images of her pain, and too eager to scramble to the facade of her mind. She remembers the rough hand on her arm. She remembers falling. She remembers the familiar taste of blood.

She is restless and cannot bear the gravity of the room, so she forces her legs to carry her down to the basement. The sudden staleness is oppressive but a welcome distraction. She inhales the humid odor of mildew. This air is different from the fusion of cold night and still memories upstairs. It is rich with the tales of past generations. It reveals her young brother sneaking downstairs to play with her dolls in the shadows. It holds the scene of her beloved grandfather limping down the stairs to the pining arms of her grandmother, with German blood on his hands and in his veins. It remembers the indignation of her ancestors when news of the Great South’s defeat permeated these very walls. She kneels on the cold stone, as if in prayer, and allows History to drown her. She presses her eyes closed to save herself from the torture of sight. She only has to feel. She can feel the pain that is not her own. She reaches into herself and into the air and clutches the pain of her relatives. It is like she is dangling from the edge of a cliff and if she were to let go, her own life would catapult her to the bottom of a rocky canyon. She thanks God for her unstable family and the relief it brings, and she is able to rest her mind for one glorious moment.


The stone is grinding her knees and her head begins to droop so she raises herself off the floor and stumbles up the stairs. She trips on the top step and notices a folded piece of paper stuck in the baseboard. Normally, her bad house-keeping skills would have allowed her to pass it on her way to bed without a second glance, but, by Fate’s cruel joke, she reaches down and plucks it out of the crease. It is wrinkled and damp, but she notices a date scribbled in the corner; April 15, 1997. The significance of that date immobilizes her and a flash of recognition hurls through her gut like a tornado. She cannot believe the specter she is holding. She cannot believe it survived her furious genocide of memories. She curses her weak will-power as her slender fingers open the photograph. As her eyes gaze upon the face that breathed life into her and then so easily choked it out, she is filled with that indescribable emotion that follows tragedy. She wants to cast the smiling face into the most obscure depths of Hell, yet she cannot stop herself from falling in love with those mercilessly green eyes. She remembers those green eyes shining up at her between tanned laugh lines and long eye lashes. She cannot stomach the tenderness she feels as she envisions those green eyes and the way they sank so perfectly into the face of an angel. Her heart betrays her as it aches with desire. It beats faster and faster as though wishing it could escape from its biological prison. Hysterics take over her and she tries to beat her chest to make it stop. If only it could stop; stop beating, stop pulsing the blood through her body, then, perhaps, she will find peace. She falls to her knees once again, convulsing and howling like a trapped fox. But her heart doesn’t stop, even as she cries and wails, beating herself, willing God to relieve her the burden of life; her heart endures.

She feels a tiny hand on her shoulder. A touch as soft as a feather yet profound as a lead weight. She grasps the hand and loves the perfect milky skin. Then a cherub’s melody flows into her ear like holy water. “Mommy?” it whispers. She turns her face toward the light and finds herself inches from the most beautiful green eyes set behind long, dark eye lashes. She gazes into them greedily and has the urge to scream curses at herself for imagining the man in which these very eyes once resided. But she forces a smile, because, though she would die for a memory, she must live for an angel.





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