Sometimes, we forget our words. Sometimes, we don’t remember how to mourn. Silence stands between us, a leviathan of unspoken grief. We linger in its shadow, waiting for the delicate whisper of rain.
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Before sunset, I light a fire.
Word after word I feed into the flames. Words like stay, and more, and please. The air is full of them: embers striving to be stars.
I feed your name into the fire as well, every syllable a promise. The trees thrust grasping fingers into the sky to draw down night’s blanket over us.
The ashes fall lightly on me. They stain my clothes, my hair, my skin. The ashes fall lightly, but they fall.
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.