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It did not matter that the summer was stiff and the skies gray, or that the meadows were thirsty all of that year. I was dry too. There was nothing above me and only concrete below, like a wall turned on its side so that a closed room could turn into an open path to anywhere.
The walk had been short--just a mile south to the crystal windows and copper doors, an open invitation. I had not wanted to leave home for a place so artificial, to feel like a lab rat in some bar-less one acre cage for even a day, where escape and constraint meant the same thing. It was not the freedom I thought about on the way there, for I would always have that outside. Nor was it the realization of what fate I was choosing. Rather, it was that I was not strong enough to bend backwards. Too brittle and inelastic as brick.
He pushed me to it, shoved me into the deep end even though I had never swam before.
The lights tinged my skin yellow but the curtains beside the bed were blue like the infinite waves that rolled onto grains of sand. When the wind shifted by the open window, they billowed as though dancing, shoeless, at a beach a hundred miles away.
He took me there once, to the little cove beneath the carved bluffs, where we picnicked on red strawberry blooms and buttered bread. When the sun set, I had slipped too and ancient rock cut a deep line into my brow bone. As I fell, I waited for his hands to wrap around my shoulders, to keep my sanity and body afloat. I was so sure, but the only force that met me was gravity.
But now--now. Here was another plunge he was leaving me to, when it was too late to save me and too late to watch. Sunset can only be pushed off for hours and strawberries can only be so sweet.
-- “Miss, are you sure?”
--“The procedure cannot be undone, do you understand?”
The woman in white and mint scrubs nodded seriously, her gloved hands by my temples as she pushed away the hair from my eyes to begin step one.
That touch, like a bolt of electricity, flooded my veins with urgency and the harsh uptake of cold air that followed felt like a thousand pinpricks in my blue lungs. A million memories flashed and for a second, I could imagine what my neurons looked like, firing off to their neighbors in a final goodbye, ready to be erased. And in a final blast of electrical impulse, they would be altered and his low voice, his violet eyes, and his bold words would forever be deleted.
Affection is a funny thing—nothing but the illusion printed by sensors and cells that tell the heart what to feel. And the same goes with fear, purging nothing but electrical impulses in the deepest recesses of the mind. If anything, I was short-circuited, about to burn out.
Would I really give it all away? The only man with violet eyes, fading. The fireside nights, the empty ballroom we spun in, and the bliss of flying, wings spread and secrets untold. The midnight moon and last summer’s swims, when strawberries were still in season and we sang in unison. And when he said that time was infinite? When he said…he said…
What had he said?
The candles were snuffed and the two windows shut, leaving only a wisp of consciousness and even then, I could not be sure that it ever took a breath.
The moonlight stroked my face, breathing gently beside my ear with a touch like a dipping rose petal. I willed myself to wake. The hours melted like wax.
Sunrise was beautiful the next morning. Like a fog that lifted, I could see only with clarity from my window. Blazing reds and yellows painted the clouds and I watched for hours while eating a bowl of sweet strawberries the nurses gave, until the color of the sky matched the color of the curtains and I knew that it was time to leave.
As I walked from my room, there was nothing but Possibility. I could have lifted the sky and sang with a chorus of raindrops. I was a balloon, anchorless and flying to anywhere life took me. And I think I was so content that I wiped away a happy tear.
And by the door, a young man’s voice floated through the silence.
--“Here, let me get that for you.”
I looked up and smiled shyly at the stranger with curious violet eyes, who had risen kindly and pushed the heavy door open for me. The air was cold.
--“Thank you, sir.”
--“Yeah, no problem.”
Inside, the man sat down again in his worn-out chair and began to read quietly. Outside, I stepped onto the concrete path for a home I had always known.