To That One Regret, I Open My Eyes

September 24, 2010
The leaves are falling to the ground, their trails like embers descending from the sky. Trees are barely able to hold them as the wind billows past, shaking and breaking branches within, splintering their heartwood cores. Clouds are passing, their hues a somber tone of melancholy in the auburn sky of this October night. The concrete beneath my Nikes is colder than the air about my face. Grass is dying beside the sidewalk, the once vibrant green a now sepia dyed russet. Small cracks are adjacent to the steps I take on the footway, minute areas where the grass had once wormed its way to a sovereignty. My fingers cling to my palms, my palms then digging into the micro-fleece of the pockets of the charcoal jacket embracing my figure. I notice a small area near the foot of a hill ahead that imprisons an evergreen in its tower like that of fairy tales whose happy endings have long since faded from the minds of the children who were once subject to their morals. It is a joyous figure that is locked away for no reason whatsoever other than to hinder others from witnessing themselves all the emotions it evokes in even the most impassive of hypocrites. My head turns from side to side, the thought whispering out my ear as I do. Maybe it will catch someone else’s cogitation. The steepness of the hill would be surprising had I not been traveling it more often in the past year than any other. Sure the tread of my Nikes feels strong enough, the balls of my feet push the start into my step. Muscles in my legs contract and expand as I climb the tor.

As I work towards my destination, my mind has a chance to wander. I know this place all too well. I’ve come to visit it so often as of late, today being an anniversary of sorts. I wonder how my reaction will be seen today. Depression? Anger? Nothing at all? I’m not sure which it will be seeing as how they morph into such great varieties. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since that day so long ago, yet so close as to feel it was just yesterday. Once at the hill’s crest, I peer into the now burnt umber sky, an occasional star glittering in these hours of darkness, and feel your breath against the back of my neck. My eyes shutter to a close, chill skulking down my spine along with a small hint of joy fighting against all the snow covered mountains inside my soul. I want to believe it’s you; I want to believe you’re really there standing just behind my back waiting for me to move about face to wrap your burly arms around my figure and whisper in my ear that everything is okay in that voice that only you can own up to. No one could ever steal your voice. But I know all to well of the lie my mind is trying to make me believe, and when I turn around, it’s almost as if smoke in the shape of you is simply carried away on the winds, the wisps of the smoke vanishing and dying on the zephyrs. A sigh manages to slither between my lips, almost catching on my lip ring. My body feels stiff in an almost rigor mortis, but I’m able to shake it off with mild force. My feet begin their trek once more, their destination in the distance: the Nottingham Bridge. I pull the hood of the jacket over my head, the inside warming my deadening ears, protecting them from the cold. With just a small, torturous expanse left, I am to wonder if this is the distance that killed us.


The bridge hasn’t changed since the last trip I made here, yesterday. The stone pillars holding it in place are enormous. I travel to one’s base, careful in my steps since the normal collection of water is down and the bank is left slick and dangerous. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to myself, or would I? Once I am close enough to feel the steam floating just above the water’s surface, I take off my jacket, set it against the base of the column, and take in a calculated breath. You would have guessed me to jump in at this point, I know, but I edge towards the side of the flying buttress that is furthest from land, the earthly attachment ready to be dismembered from myself. My hands are gripped against the arctic-like stone, and in that concentration, fingertips become numb. I can feel the miniscule rumble of thousands of cars idling by one another on the pavement at least some odd 3,000 feet above my head. Steam fills my nostrils with sanctity; you begin to filter into my sight again just as the water splashes against the ends of my Nikes, soaking through to my toes. Waves form around your bare feet on the water. Your extravagant grin pierces the thickening fog along with your headlights of summer blue skies. They always did bring the calmness of the ocean, didn’t they? Hands sit redundant at your sides; hair sits perfect atop your head in a fashion I had not the chance to see while you were still alive. It sits parted to the left, everything but that part short to the nape of the neck. That’s what you had to have done that night, am I right? You just had to cut what used to be longer hair than my ginger tendrils, didn’t you, Danny Stevens?

You approach me, that smile bringing back small remnants of who you were reversing themselves into my soul. Your eyes calm what they can, but my emotions can’t be soothed for long. I want to yell and scream at you; I desire nothing more than the act of setting you straight and getting some answers from you. Answers to what it was you had been planning that night a year ago… to why you had to be on Nottingham Bridge when you knew it wasn’t safe. You’re so close to me now, body only an inch away from mine, but unlike how it used to feel, you’re nothing but sub-zero oxygen stirring the coals in the core of my being until even their smoke stops rising. Once upon a time, you could be six feet from me, and I could feel the warmth radiating from your pores. That’s not the case anymore. I close my eyes desperately and will you away. But when I open, there is something much worse in front of me.


“Why did you have to be on this bridge that night, Danny? Why did you have to die?” the last words barely make it out of my throat alive. You’re closer now, hand just barely away from my cheek, mouth dragging closer to my lips, and I hold my breath. One millionth of a second before our lips connect, that breath breaks free and sweeps you away like sands in a sandstorm. You were merely an apparition created by the grief welled up inside me. Nothing more. But my reassurances don’t keep my eyes from having the urge to water my skin. They don’t, but the urge is at the threshold just waiting for my will to break.



As I ease my feet back to the bank, toes are frozen to the core. My fingers delicately worm beneath what was once your charcoal jacket and lift it from the granite, slipping my arms inside and searching for warmth in every fold of the fabric. My march begins again, this time escalating with the rise of the bank turning hillside. The russet earth is crisp with new embers dying as they touch the ground. The breeze around my diminishing figure swirls into whirlwinds of inferno. Flames encircle me, but again, like you, only the nippiness invades my pores where there should be heat. I wander aimlessly about, bits and ends of memories filling my head for a moment before fading into darkness forever more. Like once when I was upset and you asked me, “Is there anything I can do to help?” And I gave you an honest answer. “You can kiss me.” And you did. I can’t seem to call back a reason that caused it, but I remember that scrap in particular. Especially how your lips melted against mine until they were nothing more than molten lava spilling down the side of a volcano together in unison, as one entity. I shake that memory away in a final farewell, unable to bear its weight any longer. The balls of my feet are getting sore, and I know that midnight is nearing in the waning dusk. I have to retrace my steps back home for now. And at the consideration, I begin backtracking for home, one errand left to run.



I’m driving down old forgotten roads of the past in my Jag. You always loved to ride in it like this; just driving, in the lost routes of the world, disregarding that everything else was even out there. The stars are shimmering against the hood of my car, a maroon that beckons my name. I glance away for a moment, and as my eyes meet the pavement once more, you’re there, crystalline eyes intense in my headlights. I smash into your sides, brakes screeching in the still air and see the fog of your being bending and surfing away on more October zephyrs. My vehicle spins a few times before stopping, and I guess I had not realized the speed I had been traveling at; just as my heart rate regulates, I see you fabricate in the passenger seat, the intensity in those cerulean eyes stuck on me, leaving me unable to breathe. Your hands near my face and I repeat my earlier question, hoping for any answer.


“Dammit, Danny. Why did you have to die and leave me here alone?” Tears threaten me all over again, but you’re swept away before you can answer, had you even been planning to. It seems that all you can do is disappear. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, but why can’t you let me be your start? Like you were to me… I turn the engine over, the car suddenly alive once more, and my foot falls like a brick on the accelerator. A jerk pulls me into focus around the winding curves until I can see solid pavement underneath my tires. All my emotions are rushing through me in one instant; then they’re gone and back a second time. I’m not sure what to want in these moments. More time with you? A chance to let my feelings be known? To have died with you? I have no idea. I wish I could at least know what it is I desire most. Lights are like blurry spots of color in the distance now, slowing moving into focus, one by one under the rays of morphing moonlight above the clouds. The evergreen I took interest in earlier is no longer there; only a stump remains, and it thickens the lump in my throat. Leaves are disoriented as I pass by, my lights now disfigured lines in the night. My previous trek by foot is a baseline to where I’m headed, but now I have to visit the place where you, Daniel James Stevens, went flying to your devastating death. My Jaguar is traveling like lightning down these roads that are taking me to Nottingham Bridge. Left and right, I’m passing other vehicles and receiving obscenities in return.



Where you careened off the bridge is just ahead. I’m not sure what it is about this place that makes my heart leap over hurdles every time the shifting steel meets my feet, but now layers of metal and four rubber tires separate the two. I have to see the site where your life had its last contact with the bridge, the last earthly grounding you knew before bereavement took your eyes for striking. And I can’t help but think of you in the stop-motion pictures that give the impression of being me in these moments before; all the ties we had that broke on that night, all the clandestine words we bartered that have nowhere to bathe in their fifteen minutes of fame, and all the extremities we faced at one another’s side. I know naught of what I’ve done in the past year without you. I’ve waited for you since you’ve been away, wondering if it’s all just a dream, or rather, a nightmare. Maybe a practical joke you set into motion that I would kill you over be that the truth and I could do as previously stated. But as the time has waned, it has become more and more real that you are gone today. I can feel the inertia in the still air around me, everything around me in slow motion while I sit on fast forward. The lights on my car create longer flawed lines, streaming in the standstill of a near moonless night. You’re close to me now, wind almost bringing the Jag’s tires just off the ground in the vicinity of where the accident took place, and as I enter a center perimeter around it, time is reversed. All the stillness about me is what I was, and I am them, each rotation of a tire in its longevity. Only a miniscule amount of pavement is between the vehicle and where you flew away into the wings of an angel and where your name will be forever engraved into the metal just in front of the railing.


“I’ve tried being a start when you’ve already shined to me, a beacon in your afterlife, but fake light shines darker every day in this world we live in. There are things I couldn’t tell you before, feelings I’ve had for so long. Maybe it’s time you hear those words leave my lips in these final moments.”


I can feel the jerk of my Jaguar as the metal rails bow against its weight, acceleration forcing it past the barriers as my body is flung forward against my seatbelt. The guards are being torn to pieces, the sound emitting from them a screech to challenge nails on a chalkboard, but the vehicle isn’t simply gliding by, it is being cut and destroyed in their might. Metal is scraping past my leg and I can center my attention around tendons that are snapping apart, blood pouring in the defecating throbbing. The front end is already on a downward headway off Nottingham Bridge. Other cars in the rearview are breaking and becoming frantic in the suddenness of this so called ‘accident’. As my vehicle passes the last of the rails, the descent seems to act along in what could be considered a medium between fast forward and slow motion but not quite reality. I’m veering off into the air, an arc being made if a line were to be forming behind me. A deep breathe purges my lungs. I’m not sure how to word exactly what I want to be revealed in such circumstances.


“You know I love you, d-don’t you? I mean, I suppose love is quite a strong word to say, but you were always so much to me, Danny. You were like a light in the darkest of my h-hours,” my voice breaks, not from tears, but from the pulsating in my leg in which every pulse sends another surge of blood into the floorboards. “Maybe you d-didn’t know, and that was a regret of mine from the moment you died. I’m not certain about this distance that killed us, but it feels like that’s what it was that led to your demise. I cannot help but wonder what would have happened had I been with you. Of course, that is my one regret above all others; not dying with you.”



My Jaguar dives headfirst into the wind rolled waves with nothing but starlight and the moon’s sliver to guide it. Water begins filling the cavity as the maroon pushes slowly into the whirlpool it created. My feet feel it first, then my ankles and shins. Air bubbles escape through crevices as the level is almost to my neck. Goosebumps cover my flesh, adhering to every patch of open skin to crawl upon. The top of the water disappears before me along with the reflections it contains. Cold. Absolute zero creeps up my spine, causing my body to convulse relentlessly, as the water reaches my lips. I lift my head and gasp for breath, the action a reflex in such a situation as mine. As it moves to just under my nostrils, I inhale the bubbles that just squeezed past my teeth; finally it is over my lids and all I see ahead is delving darkness in the long expanse of water below me. My eyes are straining to stay open, and exasperatingly my breath is billowing past in torrents of suds. I know that holding my breath is stupid, but I can’t not do it; I can’t not hold my breath underwater. In some foam, I see you again for the fourth time today.
You’re in my passenger seat, your hand approaching my cheek, and I have to close my lids to those dilating pupils of yours. Everything in the air-like water between us turns to stone as my eyes go from painful squint to peaceful shut. An instance and I’m ready. I have to whisper to you though, even in my thoughts, before I vanish into the murky waters about us for a final encore.

“I won’t forget you yet. I’ll sleep again. With you in these murky waters tonight.”


“Danny, where are you?” You were supposed to meet me at my house at least twenty minutes ago. I wait patiently for you. You said you had an important date you couldn’t miss, which I later found out was a hair appointment so you could chop it all off. I am still mad at you for that; for ridding yourself of such wonderful hair. I decide to flop onto the couch and turn on the television. I hit the power button and the news is on. Someone got into an accident on Nottingham Bridge and went flying over the edge. It says they got rear-ended and their car tore through the side railing, which obviously did some serious damage to the vehicle. But they were thrown into the water below and rescue teams are acting now. I’m not sure how long ago it was, but that’s probably what is holding you up. Traffic. I watch intently for a few minutes, wondering about you. They start lifting the car out of water and it looks terrible. The sides are torn up and so is the front end; for a moment the vehicle strikes me as familiar, but I shake it off and continue to worry about you. It gets taken to the shore where the cameras get a much closer look. And that’s when it hits me.

It’s your Chevy Cobalt.

Tears thread down my cheeks as I wait to hear them say you escaped. I begin to tell myself that it could be one of the thousands of people driving. There’s no way it could be you. I take a breath while believing all is fine… until they pull a body from the driver’s seat… and I see you, Daniel James Stevens, with your hair much shorter and parted to the left, a small trickle of blood escaping your ear. Glaze covers your once perfect blue irises in the close up they give you. I can’t even breathe when I see all your drenched clothing and bluish colored limbs. The clock has turned to take you away, the minutes count hours, and those miles separate. And I can’t describe how it feels to see someone that close to me in such a state. It’s more than words could ever prepare someone for. But seeing you… that demolishes me to my very center, my core being; for this distance to be the one that killed us. And all I can whisper to myself in shattered syllables is “W-why? Why-y? W-wh-hy?” stuck on repeat like the most broken of records.


I’m ready to open my eyes to see you and be with you again. I’m waiting, savoring the moment for when I’ll witness the irises I need again to see. I won’t have that regret of not dying with you now, because I’m sleeping again. With you this time. It may have been a year, but I haven’t forgotten you yet. And now, Danny, you know how I feel about you. Nothing could go wrong. Now we can be together. Suddenly, I hear someone that isn’t you, and feel pinches in my arms, fingers grasping my own, and mechanical beeping all around me.

To that one regret, I open my eyes.





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thepreechyteenager said...
Sept. 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Ok, so this has the potential to be a very moving piece.  It has some promise, but long story short, you're trying too hard!!!  Excluding the last three paragraphs in this, there is a major overload of adjectives and detail in this.  There are descriptive pieces, and then there is way, way too much.  All of those adjective take away from the basic story, which is a good one!  But the descriptions really make a reader work to understand this piece, which also ruins any... (more »)

 
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