"Reunion" is the final chapter of a series of shorts titled Loose Ends that I wrote for a college course sometime between 2000 and 2002.
All these miles traveled, all this time spent for nothing.
I stand alone, afloat in this sea of lonely. Empty, with nothing but this smoke and the fire everywhere, consuming everything.
Then, ghostlike, she appears—a solitary beacon dividing the gloom. More than a ghost, she is an angel in waiting.
From across the lawn and through the blown out windows my eyes find her as she’s holed up inside the room, weeping and screaming in vain. Her face is sunset-red from sweat and the effort.
She wears a once wedding-day-white but now dust-gray T adorned with tiny blue flowers, blue jeans shredded at the knees, and tennis shoes with no socks. Her hands are balled into fists at her side and her hair is wild - she is hardly the homecoming queen I remember.
A strap from her shirt has fallen from her shoulder to reveal the curve of her breast. Her eyes are green and wide and staring; frightened, yet bright and fierce, alive. Fighter’s eyes with an until-death gaze.
I see these eyes every time I close my own, haunting all my listless moments. The sun will never set in those eyes, but midnight is upon us and in my last moments I remember why I chose to be here, now.
Her skin is the smoothest of silk reflecting the colors of the fire like a master painter’s portrait, burning red and yellow, orange and gold; every hue imaginable and so many more.
Blazing teardrops mar each cheek. She is a goddess, just as I remember, stolen from my every dream.
Another lifetime since I’ve last dreamt.
My pain, once unbearable, is moot. Nothing matters now outside this moment. This perfect, painless moment.
I cry her name as I race onward. My breath is fire in my throat as I hurdle a toppled, smoldering mess. Through a burning rosebush. Over the railing. Onto the balcony. Into the flames.
Ignorant now, my hands bloodied from thorns, wire, shrapnel, whatever. Tripped up and stumbling I steady myself as I burst through the foyer doors and into the heart of this inferno.
My breath is heavy and forced and only fans the flames faster. I scream again, the same burning breath, but my voice fails as my lungs fill with fire.
I’m burning now, both inside and out.
Tears sting my skin as they clear a passage through the soot on my cheeks. The air is filled with the stench of singed hair. My stomach shudders and does back-flips. I'm nauseated and dizzy.
My skin reddens and blisters from the heat as another of those fucking rocks crackles past my ear and imbeds itself forever into the ground. Forever into our earth. Assaulting our home.
The wooden floor beneath my feet shakes and stops, shakes and stops; an amusement park ride but worse. An earthquake, but worse.
Once vibrant, alive and breathing but now lay dying, our world.
Asthmatic and unnatural, our world.
I feel that I now know what war and hell must be like, and how thankful I am that both are forever finished.
Not hell maybe, but who can do anything but wish in a time like this?
Like there’s ever been a time like this before.
Through the smoke I can see that her face is bruised and swollen. I can see clearly the grit beneath her fingernails, the scars that adorn her arms and legs. I realize that this is the last I will ever see her, and that she is perfect.
Always, forever perfect in my eyes.
She looks up, her eyes bewildered, scared behind the tears. There is no recognition in them of me. Deep inside I hear my heart tear open—a familiar sound, for it’s not the first time she’s done this to me.
That I’ve done this to myself.
Sometimes it’s harder to hold on than to just let go.
Then, blessedly, there’s dawning. Her eyes widen and she knows—oh god, she knows! I don’t have to say another word, even if I could.
The smoke thickens and smears everything charcoal-black, making the air impossible to breathe, making everything so abstract and so far away, but we don’t care. Not anymore.
There’s this fat-frying sizzling sound coming from all around as more of those stones come roaring into the landscape to spray debris everywhere as they end their eons of journeying through the emptiness of space and time and nothing, to land here, to die here in our soil.
All those miles of travel, all that time spent for nothing.
The heat, the smell of burning everything - these plants, this ground, the house. Me. Everything is fire everywhere. All of us ending together.
The distance closes and I can almost feel her, but time has stopped. It’s that dream where you’re being chased and you try to escape but you’re running in slow motion and you can‘t wake to save your life, but you still run because there is nothing else. It’s the only thing left for you to do, so you do.
It’s been years since I‘ve last laid eyes on her. It’s been eternity. But it hasn’t been more than a heartbeat as time doubles back on itself and suddenly we‘re at the site of our graduation party, drinking and laughing and crying together as friends within the warm glow of the bonfire, ready to take on the world and we’re scared shitless, but excited. We’re going somewhere. We are real life in motion. We‘re going to live forever. We are perpetual machines. Immortality is only found only in the young and naive. We’re going to be rich. We’re going to be famous. We are going to rule the world. We will employ drivers and own private jets. We will eat caviar with mother-of-pearl and sip the finest champagne. We will witness evolution from on high. People will wear our clothing and sing our songs and dance as we keep them in fits of laughter or in tears. Whatever we want, we will have. We know this as truth because they need leaders. Because they need saviors. Because everyone has to feel saved. We will soar through the stars and heavens. We will be immortal in the hearts and minds of our fans. Heroes for all ages.
But now we’re all the sudden everyone else—another log in the fire. In a time like this it’s easier to be more frightened of the unknown than of any tangible evil.
Like there’s ever been a time like this before.
The heat all around is unbearable but it doesn’t matter, then or now. We continue on. Life continues as it always has, even when it’s crashing down around your ears.
Somewhere, someone is living for the very first time. This time, it happens to be me.
The pad of our fingers touch and my dreams solidify.
Our hands meet, then clasp. Her slender artistic fingers wrap into my larger, more calloused ones—as perfect a fit as I've always imagined.
Her breath fans the flames. Her heart next to mine as our bodies collide. Our sweat and our essence mingle and I'm in love all over again. I am fourteen years old once again, always and forever now.
Our eyes connect and hold steady as I reveal that I love her.
Crying, she says she knows.
Our lips meet as the world is consumed by light - violet and brilliant and real.