A crack appears on the surface. I am beset upon by a thousand angry eyes and faces. I have to hide, and so I do. It is shameful. I can’t tell if I am awake or dreaming. I plead for mercy, but your mother, she says I have broken her heart. When I hear that, I know I don’t deserve forgiveness. I sink deep into the floor, seep through the beams that hold this house together, and trickle through.
Sunshine, and the feelings of hope that come with spring. The ramshackle park bench where we sat. Your friends engaged in a polite conversation, but the words that fall from their lips don’t have any meaning. I listen attentively, making effort to find familiar syllables. Trying hard to fit in, I bite into the cake, but it turns to oil in my mouth. I gag there are the table, while the faces and voices around me spin. Nobody notices, at least not for now.
Frantic phonetics. The train. Swishing lights back and forth, flickering over my eyes. The lights so bright that I have to look away. Tears. Not mine. Outside is dark, and when I look through the window I see myself and the empty seat next to me. I lock eyes with my reflection, searching my face for meaning. If I close my eyes it still feels like you’re there. The train passes another flickering town, judders to a stop, and I file out, dazed.
Bitter broth, a sweet sickly stillness in the air above the bed where we had laid some night, under a different moon, in another time. Static sounds in the air, the hum of a fan, shadows cast from blue lights. The trees, the trees that bend and twist under the moon, the trees that go on forever. A hand reaches out, like a fever dream, the words clinging to my lips, I turn to you, resting my weary head against your chest. Your ribcage extends out as you sigh, and when I look you are gone.
This is the house where we grew up. We filled it with laughter, with friends, with time. But there were spaces that grew in this house; gaps in the walls, cracks in the skirting boards.
Those spaces were filled with ghosts, ghosts that would leak out into our hallways until the air was so thick we could hardly see each other. A hazy miasma would slowly fill each room, and soon we would only feel the dim flicker of our own mind alone, not able to see the other. The haze pulled us apart, and through the fog of time years leapt. I found myself in new houses, but as I looked in each mirror, it was you I saw, reflected on the bathroom tiles, a shadow.
Guided by an unseen force, I found myself back at the house. This house, where we grew up. I remove each charred pebble in the fireplace one at a time, and start the flame anew. A light, a soft glow, a simple warmth. Gently, each ghost fades away, and I can see you again, smiling back. We tend the fire together. This room is safe.
We will walk through this house again, and shine light on each room. We will drive away these ghosts together. It will be our house again.
My house is full of cough syrup and painkillers that are too strong for you. You tell me the syrup tastes like bubblegum, but the packet says it is orange flavour. You laugh at how my kitchen counters don’t match, and how I have never noticed until just now. I tell you that sometimes when we see things we only notice what use we can get from them, we don’t always notice what they look like and how they feel. There is an awkward silence. You take another spoonful of syrup and then you leave. I choke down two more painkillers and hope I stop feeling my heart break.
I have a dream that we go out together to the lake. We take our bikes, secure them to the car with the rope that you bound me with earlier that night. We ride around the water together until sunrise, soaking in the calm and the peace. I smile, you smile, we’re content. I put my hand to the lake, and the carp suck at my fingers. The sound of water rushes, the fresh smell of water drifting through the air. You watch the stars. I look at you, and you trace your finger in the air, Ursa Minor. When I start to tell you the story of Kallisto, you smile. I touch your cheek, draw a kiss, feel your hair brush lightly on my skin.
In my dreams, I can say “I love you” without being afraid of what you might say back.
When you get tired, we tie the bikes back up, I drive us both home.