“If I Fall, will you catch me?”
The question crosses the scant inch of distance between us, each whispered syllable shivering, quaking with desperation; the ragged words forming the question that needs, begs for the reestablishment of hope, for the reassurance of another's promise, another's heart.
Arms entangle me. Yours. My body melts, the darkness falls around me, the darkness is safe, the darkness is a mother's warm embrace in the fearful aftermath of a nightmare. But this nightmare doesn’t end, not when it seems that I will Fall.
We’re lying here again, in this dark that now has blunt edges, in this place, this place where promises were made, where forever was decided and fate was discarded, where we thought we were stronger, where we thought we could live. This place was a home, a shelter from the storm, a reprieve, a hope. This was a hope for shared life, a shared home, now it's a death sentence, a tomb filled with inevitability. Because I was fading, heartbeat slowing, light flickering. But I held on, I couldn’t let go, I survived and now I live on, now I live with you for a short time longer, just a little longer. Because now you’re fading, you’re failing, you’re falling even as you grip me so tight, even as I hold you with all the strength of my love and hope. But you’re falling and no matter how tight I hold you, no matter how many times my lips shape your name, filling the space between us, the scant inches of agonising and ever growing ocean, filling it with my urgent whispers, calling to your soul and begging it to stay, you will fall. We both know, soon, too soon, we will have to let go.
“I need you”, we say.
“I know”, we sigh.
There’s pain in our breath.
“You’re leaving me”, we whisper, our hearts breaking.
“You’re falling and there’s no one to catch you, to catch me, to catch us. Not this time, not ever again”. The lament is both of ours.
“I can’t leave you!” Our voices are agonised, our grips tighter, our conviction stronger, our souls breaking. Perfectly in sync.
Our eyes shine through the darkness, those steady stars, guiding each other home to our darkness and our hearts, the lights splinter inside them as the tears spill over.
“Listen to me”, this is your urgent whisper. “I stayed because I love you, I lived because you love me and I love because you are here with me, there could be no other choice when I am with you, I can only love you. I love you more than I ever have before, with my whole heart and my whole soul, I love you more than I ever have, more than I thought could be possible, more than I ever will again”. This is your proclamation and your promise.
Our souls are in agony as we stare down the darkness, into the eyes of the person we can’t live without. I know when I see the distance in your eyes, you’re almost gone. Our time is ticking so loudly I can hear it, beating against the pounding of my heart, taunting me, teasing me. When the time is up you’ll be gone, gone to a place where I can never call you back.
You’re trembling now and now I’m pulling you closer, cradling you in my arms. Your grip is strong as you hold me, even as I watch the weakness grow in you. “I’m so scared”, this whisper is yours and yours alone, but your fear echoes mine, vibrating in the space between us like a live thing.
“Shhh, all will be well”, my voice is as strong as your grip on me. All will be well. That is a hope.
“I am here and here I will stay”. That is a promise. The promise to stay, stay strong as you take your last stand in the midst of our home and our memories. As you make your stand I take your hand and together we love, together we remember.
“If I was Broken, would you fix me?”
“No matter what. You’re never too broken for me”.
Your answer is as simple as it always is, simple and inevitable. The reassurance is a warm welcome in this cold place we want to call home, in this darkness with hard, frigid teeth biting at our exposed flesh. I meet your eyes in the dark and you know. I recognise the understanding that flashes through your eyes and you know, you understand how I feel, how I think, how I fear. You know that I am on a precipice, on the brink of Falling, of passing a point of no return, because you can’t pull me back from this, only I can refuse to let go and hold on with all my strength and you know that despite your promise, you can’t fix what is broken about me.
I grip you tight, needing to know you are real and solid, I hold you as my anchor, hoping, willing, it to be enough to keep me steady, to keep me strong.
“Hey”, your voice is light as it swims through this heavy and oppressive darkness surrounding us, that no longer feels like a friend. You coax my head up and grin at me, almost blinding me with your light. I cannot help smiling back, just a little, your smile is impossible to argue with. “Don’t be afraid. All will be well. You’re not Broken yet”.
The memory fades from our minds just as you fade from my arms. We look around in this darkness, in this place, our place and we spend your last moments as us, together, as one. We watch ourselves from long ago and there is light in our eyes, the reflections of years of the soft candlelight that illuminated our lives, candles that have long since burnt out. We see the years of smiles, laughter, happiness and comfort in our shared life. We smiled for everything then, for the sheer joy of seeing each other, for the love we shared, for the hope we cherished and the constant shield of happiness we lived behind that protected us from the world. The ghost of a smile curves our lips as we watch and remember.
The memories flip faster now, like a switch pressed to fast forward, time is slipping away from us……..
We watch and we remember.
Nights and days filled with hope, love and laughter that reverberate through the intervening years. The whispered secrets shared beneath the sheets, the dark, empty, endless nights when we had nothing but each other and that was always enough, the nights filled with light where nothing felt like everything. The cold, tense times filled with anger and sharp words, the shared tears, thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes, loves, lives. Our life flickers before our eyes, every shared moment, every moment, tiny, infinitesimal, a snapshot of the whole picture, each one an unforgettable experience, fading comfortably from the mind to saturate our picture, our life, with warmth and with cold, with light and with dark, with balance.
The memories flicker like a candle running out of wick. Now the tears are mine only, they sparkle with my pain as I look down at you. You seem so small in my arms now. You look steadily back at me, your eyes free of tears, you smile and I know, I know, you know and you accept.
“Your eyes”, yours is a whisper, indistinct and feathery. “They are like stars to me my love. You are my love, my one, my only love. I love you”.
“As I love you”, mine is a choke.
“You are the star that will guide me on my way towards the heavens”. You smile again, your very, last one. You sigh your last breath. You close your eyes one last time and drift onto an endless sleep.
You are gone. Gone. The tears fall and I do not stop them. They drip onto your face and it looks as if you must cry but I know you never will again. I clutch you to my heart, still beating though yours does not, as if your heart may hear it and learn to beat again, learn to beat against the silence of your death. Rocking us back and forth, I hold us, needing your slowly fading warmth, desperately, desperately, needing you too hold me like you once did. But you lie limp and still in my arms. The tears fall thick and fast as the weight of your death and your eternal absence crashes down upon me. I’m keening, howling, begging you to come home, to come back to me. But you are gone, gone to a place where I cannot call you back.
At last my grief is silent and my pain weighs downs on me so heavily it feels like I lift the weight of the whole sky, the stars and moons of the universe, as I slowly, slowly, release you, release you as if you were merely sleeping. I lay a kiss on your head, the tears slide down my face silently as for the very, last time I kiss you goodbye and leave you, peacefully sleeping, in our place. In our home.
The door creaks and groans as I shove against it, pushing away the aching stillness it has endured all these years. It opens ever so slightly to reveal a place I haven’t seen for a lifetime, our place. Nothing moves, nothing breathes, nothing lives in this hollow and empty place. It is a tomb, a haunt for those old ghosts of the past, my ghost and your ghost.
Everything is boarded up and sealed off, keeping in the history and the past, keeping in that feeling of terrible inevitability, of death. It is so much the same, this place, every material facet of our life together laid out exactly as it was the day I left all those years ago. Yet it is so different, this place no longer knows love, nor laughter or happiness. Those shared emotions and dreams that lit up our life, spilling emotion and heart into every inanimate object, every wooden plank set into the walls, every pane of murky glass that hid us from the outside world, no longer are here. I cross the room, my footsteps stirring up the layers of dust that have settled here, those inescapable particles of unremembered objects, forgotten emotions and of the unwanted past, they float down upon everything, muffling the sounds of the past and the screams of the ghosts. My body and the bed are of the same voice as I seat myself upon its ancient, desiccated surface, I am old now and inexorably weak, every creaking joint and withering bone protesting along with springs of the bed that have not seen movement for many long and endless years.
“I’m Falling now, will you catch me?” My question is for you, so much the same as it was, yet it asks something entirely different. “Always”. Your answer is the same, exactly the same, because you have not changed, the passage of these weary years has not changed you as it has me, you are the same as the day your soul slipped from my arms and made its way, dancing, among the stars. The dust whispers as you settle yourself next to me, you know and you have come to me again as I knew you would. I turn to you and your smile is there, here, right here, next to me, you are right here, by my side as it should be.
Tears spill down my cheeks before I can stop them, I feel so clearly this difference between us and my already failing heart must shake apart for the pain of this love and this knowledge, this fear. Your smile is so gentle, so beautiful, so warm, like the sun peeking out from the horizon on a gloomy and clouded day.
“Shhhhh”, you implore me and gently wipe the tears from my wrinkled and leathery cheeks, your hands soft and unblemished. “All will be well”, it is a promise, your promise, as it was, as it has always been, your truth is strong and inescapable and I know, you know, that this time, here, in this place, in this world, in our place, we are at an end.
“You’ve been so brave”, yours is a whisper, rich with pride, echoing with a deep, eternal sorrow that it was your passing that made my bravery all the more important.
“I had to be, for you, and for him”, mine is a choked and broken plea, needing you to know, to understand, that the tears I never cried were for him, for the small and helpless child, our child, I loved so dearly, and that the life I lived was for you, for us, for the life we should have led together. Needing you to know that I never, ever forgot.
“I missed you so much”, mine is a breath, just a breath, but one filled with pain and longing.
“I know”, your answer is simple, your voice soft and like feathers it floats across the inches and years of distance between us.
“Why didn’t you come for me sooner?” The question is childish, petty and I know the answer but I cannot deny the small, hard core of anger and hurt that now resides in my heart. You don’t answer me, the answer, the truth, the story is clear in your eyes.
“Do you regret it?” This question, your question is painfully curious and there is a wall behind your eyes that wasn’t there before, ready to protect you from the answer, from my answer. Like you, I do not answer, only take your hand; setting my wizened palm against yours, still soft, still smooth, a condition of the past and I think back with you. I let you see me and my life. I let you remember, we remember this life that I led for both of us.
“Do you regret it?” The words echo in my head, in my heart, in my memories as we remember. My answer, my answer is no. No, I could not regret this, this life of love despite your absence, a child, a son, up and gone, dreaming of his life and his love. I could not regret him or his beauty, he was a gift to me and my gift to you, to the world. No, I could not regret him. Nor could I regret the life of dreams completed, of days and nights spent swimming in the light and the stars, wallowing in happiness and in sadness. This life I lived for you was full, bright and silvery. I lived this for you, for us. No I could not, would not, ever, ever regret this.
Now your eyes gleam with tears, sparkling mirrors holding my reflection, my soul, within them even as they shimmer and fall away into nothingness, because nothing of yours will ever make a mark on the physical world again.
I look at you and I know. This time has come to an end. This time, is mine. It is my time. It is my time to stand, to make the final stand, hunched and wrinkled as I am, and fight the last battle, the very last one, the very last fight. But it is your turn to take my hand as I did in that other life time, to lead me from this world and into the next. “I’m so scared”, this whisper is mine and mine alone, as it was once yours to utter.
“Shhhh, all will be well”, your voice is strong, grounding me even as you set me free. “I am here and here I will stay, forever”. There is just a slight variation in the promise I made you so long ago, because now there is certainty within the words, the absolution of eternity in a way there never could have been that lifetime ago.
Arms entangle me, yours, and my body melts. I am free, light and insubstantial, floating like a feather on the wind. Your touch is freedom and flight, release from chains, filled with the light from the sun and moon, endless, endless, eternal moments that will never, never end. You touch coaxes me from my old and mortal form, the heaviness of age and time that bore me down for so long is lifted, I am lifted up and away with you. The fear I felt is no more but the sadness remains in my heart, in my soul, sadness for the face I will never see again; the boy that loved and was loved so fiercely, for life which was all I knew and now know no more, for the unknown which lies ahead of me, ahead of us.
In the end, in our end, we are together.
In your end we could not be, could not stay, together and I whispered my goodbyes to you and your soul sang your farewells to me, even as you were flung across the cosmos away from me.
This is the end. My end. In my end we are together, however fleetingly, once again. In this end our goodbyes are whispered and sung, only for each other. But this end, is our end and we are together. Together, always, eternally together as one, as us. In this end we both must bid farewell, not to each other, no, never again. We say goodbye, to the world, to forever and to fate, we must say our goodbyes .Because for us this is the end, we are at an end.
Now, as one, as us, we Fall aimlessly, happily amongst the stars.