tasteless ashes

“Forgiveness…? Why would I want forgiveness? I’ve never once been wrong. There is nothing to forgive.”

“How can you even say that …? You left the place in ruins. I can still feel the fire; I still have ashes under my fingernails and stuck to my lips. My hair reeks of smoke.”

At those words, your lips curl – that lopsided grin that once left me breathless –

(it does not still leave me breathless)

– and I am gaping, wondering how it is that you provided the spark, yet I am the one covered in soot and grime, smelling of your smoke. You look just as pristine as ever. Clean and untouched, seemingly untouchable. Your unbalanced smile could have been plucked from a Rembrandt painting.

“I think you have mistaken forgiveness for gratitude,” you say smoothly, that crooked grin widening –

(I am not breathless)

– as you move towards me.

(I am not)

“You’re welcome, love.”

(I am)

“Now let me taste those ashes.”


Winter Kisses

“What is snow like?” you ask, your voice dreamy yet eager. You’re a summer child; you’ve never known snow, not truly. To you, it is as whimsical and harmless as the white fluff inside a snow globe.

I decide not to ruin this romantic notion for you. “It’s soft, and cold. And very pretty,“ I say. You frown, far from appeased. “It’s… difficult to explain. Ah, here.”

Feeling bold, I take your hands and hold them. “Close your eyes,” I command, and you do. “Now, imagine. It’s cold outside, but bright. The sky is perfectly white. Falling from it are specks that blend in so seamlessly with the horizon that you can’t even see them when you look straight up. But that’s not how you notice the snowflakes.”

“How do I notice them?”

“You feel them. When you tilt your head up, something soft lands on your cheek. It feels like this.”

I take a few seconds to appreciate this moment: you, so still, so close, your hands in mine as you wait with your eyes closed. Holding my breath, I flutter my lashes across your cheek. You instantly laugh, and your face turns a brilliant pink. I laugh too, heart fluttering, and I’m sure my blush is twice as bright.

“Snow feels like a butterfly kiss?” you ask, one brow raised skeptically. You haven’t tried to pull your hands from mine, so I squeeze them more tightly.

“No, not really,” I confess. My ploy has become obvious. I never was very clever. “And neither does this one.”

I don’t think you mind that my kiss is nothing like snow.

typically nowhere

“It’s too abstract.”

You’re frowning. I’m frowning more deeply. “It’s not abstract enough,” I counter. “It still looks like something familiar to me. Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it look like something you’ve seen before?”

“Just who are you trying to reach with this?”

You ignore my question and respond with one of your own, as is typical of you. Even more typical is that I fall for this distraction technique head-on. “I don’t know. Anyone, I guess. Everyone who bothers to look at it.”

“And what are you trying to say?”

This is a much harder question. I spend several seconds thinking about it before I answer, which is incredible for someone like me. “I am not trying to say anything,” I say boldly. “And that is the point. This is art. Conceptual, abstract art. If there were words to accurately describe what it is I am trying to convey, I would be a poet or something. So, it’s not what I’m trying to say that matters. It’s whatever anyone who bothers to look at it gets from it that counts. It’s not about me; it’s about them.”

You make that face that tells me you are barely stopping yourself from rolling your eyes. I laugh. “I think you’re missing the point entirely,” you say, sighing.

“I don’t think there’s a point at all,” I respond cheekily.

You do roll your eyes when you see my shit-eating grin, and even though we’ve gotten nowhere with our conversation – typical us – I feel like I’ve learned something.

Dear ___ ,

Today is a special day, because it is my half-birthday and your deathday.

I’m watching snow falling through a semi-frosted window as I think about this. The trees are bare, the air is frigid and painful, even inside. This god damn space heater makes my legs feel like they are on fire while my nose is cold to the touch.

Everything is dying here.

I’m not trying to sound like I’m riddled with angst when I say that, I’m just stating a fact. In six months I will have made one more trip around the sun, will be just that much closer to the ‘after’. To wherever it is that you have been for an entire year.

I wonder sometimes if it works in reverse in the ‘after’. Do you age backwards? Do you grow smaller and weaker (or in your case, stronger – then weaker) until you unbecome, and then the cycle of life starts all over again? I read a book like that once. I didn’t like it. I hope that’s not what the ‘after’ transpires to be.

Well, I would continue to ask you these questions, but I know you won’t deign me with the answers. Things would be a lot less tragic if the dead could talk back, and the mysteries of the vast and confusing universe would not exist. Knowing you, you wouldn’t answer anyway, even if you could. You’d read my letter, consider responding, then toss it aside and say, ‘Eh, she’ll figure it out.’

(but I won’t figure it out, because nobody figures these things out, and really, that’s fine with me, because I’ve always hoped that death would turn out be an adventure rather than a prize or a punishment. And if that is not the case – if life really is just a giant game of Monopoly where few win and most lose, and that’s it – then I don’t want to know, because then I might spend the rest of my trips around the sun chasing immortality, and everyone knows that’s how villains are born)

I won’t write any more fruitless questions, then, but I’ll craft some hopes. Maybe they’ll get to you in the ‘after’, but I, naturally, have my doubts. I think I saw the last of you in a dream months ago where you told me your regrets, and I told you it was okay. That felt like a goodbye.

So, I’ll write these hopes out and set them up where other other people (the ones that are dying here with me, the sorry bastards) might be able to see them. They can join the glistening ornaments on the Christmas tree in the corner. I’ll adorn them in tinsel and lights.

I hope your pain is gone.

I hope you run, and jump, and chase.

I hope you smile all the time, the kind that hurts your face in the best possible way.

I hope you laugh often, the kind of laughter that comes from somewhere deep in your gut and isn’t easily controlled.

I hope you notice beauty, because it deserves attention, and I imagine that if beauty is present here – through the semi-frosted window of a dying world trapped in winter – then it must be present in ‘after’.

I hope that you are not being praised nor punished for a life that was chaos.

I hope you’re having an adventure.







At Night

“Demons don’t dance in the daylight. Keep your door locked at night.”

He turns to lo leave. I feel my heart leap like it wants to escape through my throat. I resist the urge to grab his wrist, to make him stay. “Will that k-keep them out?” I stutter out, because I can’t not ask. He looks at me over his shoulder, raises a single brow. “Locking the door?”

He shrugs. “Not if they really want to get in, no. But it sort of makes you feel better.”

He leaves. Fingers shaking, I lock the door behind him.

I don’t feel better at all.


“Why not?”

I can’t believe you’ve asked me to do this.

“Are you scared? Are you afraid of me?”

…I can.

“It’s not that I’m afraid of you,” I say. “It’s that I’m afraid of where you’re going. I see the path you’re headed down and I see that it’s in the exact opposite direction as mine. That’s what terrifies me.”

“How do you know which way I’m headed, let alone yourself?” Your voice is like velvet even when you’re angry. Smooth and just slightly condescending. It’s too rich for me. “You say yourself that you have no idea what you’re doing with your life most days.”

You smile, all white teeth and full lips, but it fails to sway me. Not this time. “I don’t. Not really. But I know what I’m not doing, and I can’t do that. I can’t follow you.” I shake my head and for the first time I turn away from you. A different path, the opposite direction.

“…I guess I was wrong about you. You’re nothing but a coward.” Your voice has become sharper at my rejection, losing its saccharine smoothness. Your words cut into my back as I walk away. “You’re just afraid!”

And you’re right. I am afraid, but not of you.

I’m afraid of what you’re becoming.