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We Will All Live Forever
This way lies the abyss… “Stop thinking rot,” he said to the drink before him. “There’s nothing to that.”
He downed his drink as he sat that the end of the bar, he was a little drunk. The bartender, breath like mustard gas and roses, asked if he wanted another fine.
“I’ll take another. Leave the bottle.”
The bartender’s eyes rested on him a moment longer before doing as he asked and turning away. I have become a wasteland and I am indifferent. It’s very peaceful in the ruins of my life. He capped himself off and grabbed the bottle. What can you do but drink?
He stood, weaved out to the parking lot, and drove to his empty apartment. Voices sounded from within. Throwing open the door, he stumbled in to discover he’d returned to the bar. Everyone he’d ever known was singing but it was all gibberish to him. His mom stood with his father, together, near the front of the room. Behind them were his friends from before. They were all waiting for him on their green, polyester bar stools and standing tables. In the very front was her. Perhaps a miracle brought her to him.
“How goes it soldier?” she tossed to him lightly. Being in love is hell on earth.
She’s dead. He made a strangled noise at the back of his throat, but entered the room. There were a million things going through his mind, but it was worse- he had nothing to say. The door slowly closed behind him. Of all the ways to be wounded… I was heartbroken when she left me alone. I am an old folk now, no youth left.
“There’s something I need you to see,” she told me softly. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. But you need to understand.”
Her short hair glowed from the television’s glare above the bar. She pressed play on the remote as they continued to sing their gibberish song and fade away from them. Tears came instead of words to him. They seeped.
Images on the screen: images of the past and words seemingly random. ‘I believe in war’. Dead children. ‘Falling into ruin’. Senseless slaughter. ‘There’s nothing’. Boiled schoolgirls. ‘Poot-too-weet’. Sitting in our graves. ‘There will never be peace’. An explosion. ‘Just babies’.
“What’s going on?” he asked as he reached out to her. She allowed him the small caress but reminded him, “This is a dangerous moment. You need to decide: accept your past and move on… or stay with me.”
“I can’t think about it. I can’t- it kills if a man just thinks about it. People aren’t supposed to look back.” I’m certainly not going to do it anymore. “I just want to know how to live in it.”
I took a swig of the scotch, enjoying the burn as it went down smoothly. “You’re always drinking. Why don’t you just talk? It’s why I’m here.”
How do I not know what to say? “There’s nothing left. They’re all dead. I should have died with them.”
The television screen had a moment of static before switching to the memory of their deaths. He and his comrades looked up to see the fighter jet flying by. A small speck flew from it- a grenade. Together they ran to the nearest cover. An explosion landed behind them and the screen went black for several moments. When the picture returned, he found them all dead: It was senseless slaughter of children. He walked for miles across the barren desert left behind and didn’t see another living soul until he reached a kind innkeeper. “I shouldn’t have survived,” he announced. “All the real soldiers are dead. All of my comrades… I’m the pitiful one left to get along without them. We use to joke about what we’d do when we got back. We use to say we’d all go out gambling, get ourselves some women and have a good time. I wanted to get back to you…”
His eyes searched her face for understanding. “Don’t worry,” she told him, “I understand completely. I’ve seen you’re future, though and I know what you’re going to do. There’s nothing you want to see there. Just forget- let it all fall away.” Her eyes met mine and it all became clear to him: everything I didn’t want to remember was reflected in her eyes. I heard something in the distance and turned, only to be stopped by her hand on my cheek. “It’s nothing,” she whispered to him. She handed me the bottle of scotch. “Drink up. Lift the bottle.”
He took a large glug and was awarded with her smile. His hand rose of its own accord and tipped the bottle towards his mouth again. I learned to drink in the army. I learned a lot of things.
“I love you,” he told the apparition.
“I know. I love you too.”
Each swig brought him closer to the life he wished to return to. Time reversed: the grenade was sucked back into the plane and it flew backwards away. His friends were alive and told him stories of returning home, and then they were home. They ran backwards through the open fields in their hometown, he took a flower from behind her ear and placed a flower back into the ground. The beautiful last days of summer became the first days of spring and then the bite of winter before returning to their first meeting. He told her that everything in the universe happens for a reason.
“Really, does it?” she asked.
“Of course. Right now? This was supposed to happen.”
“But why should all this,” the years flash by and he’s alone in his apartment drinking himself to death all alone and cold and empty and indifferent, “happen to you?”
“Why me? Why anybody?”
He smiled, as though glad the end had come. He stayed with her then, before the war, pain, and death. They leaned against each other.
So it goes.