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His Brackish Tears

I remember now. Ignorance is bliss. Wasn’t that what he said when I begged to come? And now it has become my most resented truth. Does that only reinforce my cowardly nature?

In my dreams, we make it in a timely fashion avec style. The spotless marble floor that split and cracked under the pristine chandelier, instead of being broken, echoes with our footsteps, untouched. The columns -that in real life I saw collapse down upon one another- stand regal, still, unaware of their impending doom, their crowning, delicate glories bright with hope not yet shattered.

We run at a leisurely pace so bitterly different than the desperate scramble against time that is my reality. My perfect, dream-self smiles with self-assurance, the words not pounding through her head like an overheated freight-train: Ignorance is bliss.

What will happen if you fail? I ask her. The answer is nothing. Because there is no possibility of failing. Not the slimmest, slipperiest, slimiest chance. Nothing will happen because nothing could ever happen.

Uh huh. I tell my clone. We are so different. But one thing binds us together: neither of us would be here if I hadn’t made the choice.

Next to my alternate self, he runs, face unmarred, untouched still by the shards of colored glass. The glass that still merges beautifully in a delicate, light-catching facade. In real life, it looks better shattered.

The dream version of him looks at my dream-self, eyes not clouded with the saddest, brackish tears. Mouth not crumpled into an unforgiving line. He is not burdened by the realization.

Had I not decided to come, I still would’ve failed to save what matters most. He still would lie in a mangled heap of broken flesh and bone. Only not before me. I would have heard about it from an outside perspective mingled with pity and censoring. Or would I have? Perhaps I would not even be alive to hear about it. I would die, unknowing of his fate. Or the world’s, for that matter. Ignorance is bliss. So says the accelerating freight train.

But that is not what happens. My dream-self is not the truth. With his unmoving body before me, I do the only thing I can do: latch on to the next fleeting hope. Like a trained dog. The alternate, dream-like story races through my head, an evil punishment concocted by a brain that has already turned on me. What might have happened if everything had gone as planned.

I trip on his body, as if it means nothing to me, nothing at all, and what’s left of his final breath hisses from his lungs like a poisonous dart trap targeting my poor, abused heart. I roll by reflex, my feet finding purchase by some cruel roll of the dice and I stagger up to stop the thing that matters most. To others. To me, I have nothing left. Just a service for others.

I stop it. Yes, the world does not end as it might have, had I not made the choice to try and stop it. Had I not been lured by the chance to prove myself to him.

It means nothing. Oh, it means something to the others. They welcome me with infinite gratitude. He is pitied but not really cared about, leaving all the caring to be done by me.

I hold out my arms to the years ahead of endless thanks and ceremonies. My deed will never be forgotten. I will look at every smile, every expression of awe, as a reinforcement of punishment for my ultimate failure. My failure to save what matters most. Him.

I am selfish. I wish I had never asked to join him. He still would have died, yes. And so would have I. And everyone else. But it would not have been of my own hand.




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