I promised to let you leave gracefully. You promised not to look back.
One of us lied.
Your footsteps kicked up dust in the yard. I followed you out, my fingers catching at your sleeve.
I will leave the door open for you. I will leave the porch light on.
I was seventeen the first time I died. It was gentle, like the dying of a star. My heart stopped, you said, for fifteen minutes.
I died a thousand times between then and now. I died again at nineteen and twenty-two and thirty-seven and a hundred and three; I died in war and in bed, with valor and in obscurity, alone and in your arms. All I remember is the dark and the shape of my name, how it fluttered against the wind: a kite tugging on a string.
Next time, I think, next time I will bring a knife.
Some nights, you set up the telescope. Tonight, we lie on the blanket instead.
“Cygnus. Cepheus. Cassiopeia.” Your arm follows the sweep of the sky, like a caress.
Four inches from your hip and light years away, I hardly dare to breathe.
Some stories are not meant to be long. A few words scribbled on a napkin. A name. A number.
Some stories are written in the dark, read under neon lights. A few strokes of the pen.
Some stories end before they begin.
The War was over, they said. You said, don’t slam the door. Don’t wake me if I’m dreaming. Don’t raise your voice.
Night after night I matched my breathing to your measured steps. Maybe this time you’d come back to bed.
The War is not over.