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Birds and Breaking hearts
I saw a robin today.
It made me think of you, you know it did. Isn’t that funny? How a thing is just a simple thing, until it becomes something. A snippet of a memory, a scene of a life. Lights, camera, action. Maybe that’s what your legacy was all about. I always thought it was capturing beauty in something, but no, you put something beautiful inside it yourself. And that time, it had to be you that you gave away for the beauty.
It was a funny sort of robin, not funny ha ha, funny peculiar. You used to say that all the time and now I do too. It hopped in the dusty snow, skidding and tripping over its own wonky legs. I thought it had hurt its leg, and for an instant, I was glad. Maybe it was the same robin, and this was karma coming back around. Then I thought, and I was ashamed. It probably wasn’t even the same bird, and really, who am I to wish pain on a tiny little bird? I took your camera from its pocket in my bag, and I took a picture. It wasn’t beautiful; there were no magical slants of sunlight across it, no artistic fading, no quirk to the robin’s head as it modelled for me. I always wondered about that; it was the most impossible thing about you; that you could tell instantly how to make something beautiful, the exact ingredients to bring out the perfection in something that you always knew was there. A dash of light, a dollop of colour. I never had that, but then I never saw that hidden perfection. Still, the shutter closes and the moment is sealed away forever.
Music sailed by on a breeze, and stirred a memory. The robin hopped away, dancing awkwardly like an unsure teenager at a party. I considered offering it alcohol; always worked for you. Then I laughed at myself. Maybe I really am losing it. Do you know what it is? If it was you, then I have lost that, haven’t I? Suddenly, the music soared loader, the notes taking off into the sky, and my mind stuttered.
‘…I don’t wanna close my eyes, don’t wanna fall asleep, babe, cuz I’ll miss you babe and I don’t wanna miss a thing..’
That was the first time I ever wanted you to take a photo. I wanted you to capture this beauty, even me. I wasn’t sure if even you could make me beautiful, but I supposed you had more of a chance than anyone else. I told you this and you laughed.
‘You’re perfect on your own tonight, angel. You don’t need me for that.’ But you clicked away all the same. I didn’t see the pictures until weeks later; purples and reds and pinks and oranges and every colour in between smeared across the sky, and a beach, empty of castles, of people, even of sand. Even the pebbles shone that night, surrounding me like crumbs I dropped to lead you to me. My dress was long and white and outlined me in the breeze, and I did; I did look perfect. Just in that moment, and I loved you more than anything for seeing that.
I smiled, and watched the shutter flash down. ‘What do I need you for?’ I teased, carefully walking over to you and reaching out.
‘Proms, clearly’ you said, and laughed with the joy rain has after a drought. It’s a good job you didn’t try to capture that laugh; I don’t think anything could. I tried, though. Locking it away.
It had been our own private joke for a year. Prom had been a year ago today, and this boy asked me to go, some boy I’d been pining over for an insignificant amount of time that felt much longer at the time. You accompanied me to dress shops, even though your friends teased you for being a girl, and you listened to me talk endlessly about it, and you held me when I cried when he never turned up. I loved you for that, as well.
And there we were. And you had made prom for me, and there were no words for it. In reality, it was a blanket and a radio on a beach at sunset, but to me it was everything. It was me loving you and you loving me and us loving each other.
The radio crackled, laughing with you, and Aerosmith began to blast from the speakers, crooning that song from Armageddon. You put the camera down, and you picked me up and we danced and danced and danced, until the stars came out and the radio batteries drained. And then you let me fall asleep on your shoulder, and carried me home…
The robin fell. It was always going to fall, I knew that, but it was a disappointment all the same. Because it was what you would have done, I scooped it up and cradled him in my palms and I let him rest. Funny thing (funny peculiar, not funny ha ha) was that I knew it would have made a spectacular picture, a young girl weighed with loss holding a broken bird in her hands, and up to the sky again. When critics would study it, they would call it a metaphor, and perhaps it was. Sometimes I used to think that you took so many pictures because you wanted to see inside everything, and if you looked long enough at each fleeting moment, you would see through. If that were true, you could have strung up the pictures of me and bared my soul to the world. God knows, I let you see it.
Red blossomed on the robin’s chest. I wished I could see inside it, to the heart of the problem. I told myself you would have known what was wrong, but you wouldn’t. It’s strange that, how perfect people and things seem when they’re gone. They take on that shiny gloss, like memories you play again and again. I couldn’t take my eyes from the red. It seeps across like paint, like blood. For a moment, the imaginary blood soaks across my fingers, up my arms and into my white shirt, almost identical to the one I wore when it was real blood, your blood.
The thing I loved most about you took you away from me. It wasn’t the robin, much as I’d like to hold the entire species of robins to blame for such a crime. If you hadn’t loved it so much, you never would have stopped to take the picture, whether a robin was shaking snow from its foot and sun was catching on its feathers, or not. But you did, and you saw that something you were always searching for. But you didn’t see the ugliness coming. That’s what I was there for, the antonym, the counter, the opposite. I should have kept you safe, but I was getting lost in that moment as well, in you, and it seems that upset the balance. Maybe it was my fault. I try not to think so. I try to blame the world, but my doctor says I shouldn’t, that doing so will destroy me. But I don’t understand why the world would make both of us so blind to the car skidding towards us, uncontrollably and yet let me see everything else when it was already too late. I saw you fly, and I saw you land, and I saw you bleed, and I saw you whisper you loved me, and I saw your fear, and then I saw your peace, and then I saw you die. And the camera saw nothing, nothing at all.