For so long (I don’t even know how long we’ve been at this. Moments? Millenia?) he was always
every time I slipped. I walked into one doorway and out of another; in the inbetween moment I always heard shards of a song mixed with a kettle whistling, or maybe it was a scream — it was quick, and then done — and I saw, just for one second, a moment of his eyes, but he was always just barely ahead of me. Sometimes, I reached out my hand, I grabbed for him, and once, I swear our fingers almost touched.
Didn’t matter. Every time I ran faster, he was further out of reach. If I didn’t know him better I would’ve thought he was doing it on purpose.
I burned through a dozen doorways that night in a matter of moments, hoping to catch up; the shockwave hit me like a fucking freight train, and when I staggered into the apartment, I got hit by something worse. Not the first of infinite regrets. I never should have let go of his hand. He never should have let go of mine.
I found him on the floor.
His teeth were scattered by the impact of the bullet; for a moment, I hadn’t recognized his broken smile, his forever darkened eyes. What was left of the back of his head was still smoking. I was too late by instants, but it didn’t fucking matter, because it was still too fucking late.
I couldn’t bring myself to look at him once I realized that it was him. I ran for the window, clambered out onto the fire escape and threw up until I just about turned myself inside out. When there wasn’t a thing left inside of me, I went down the fire escape, and found a different doorway, slipped again.
The trouble was, I kept finding him too late.
Under a bus, smeared over thirty-seven square feet of asphalt, left hand reduced to shards, white shirt and black tie irrevocably turned into red paste.
In three side by side dumpsters, mixed with restaurant shit, shipping shit, rat shit.
Beneath the wreckage of the fire escape outside the apartment. Rust mingling with blood, so much iron in the air I could feel it on my tongue.
In the charred remains of the apartment’s closet, a strange collar around his throat, fused with what was left of his neck, amidst ash that had once been a collection of monochromatic suits. I had promised to take scissors to them.
Each time, I found him, not too far away I found the remains of at least some of those who had come for him. Still-smoking holes in their chests or foreheads or through the eye. He knew how to kill. That’s not all he was, but it was something he could do.
And then I found him obliterated, rendered unto so much pulverized nothing, painted all over the wall, the rug, the doorframe.
As far as we knew, there was only one someone who could’ve done that.
That night I ran.
That night I ran as though I would never find him again, burning through doorway after doorway, slipping from one inbetween to the next. I couldn’t fucking take it. He always acted like he assumed I was stronger than I ever thought I was. I don’t know what he’s seeing, always a step ahead of me. I don’t know how many times he’s had to see faces, bodies. I don’t know if he’s seeing himself. I don’t know, but I hope it’s nothing like this. The thing is, I know he’s stronger than me, but that don’t mean this shit isn’t fucked up.
This last time I found him, he didn’t have a mark on him. He was whole, and warm, but he wasn’t breathing. I looked to see if he’d choked, pretended I had a clue about what I could do if he were poisoned, and then I put my hands on his chest and I tried to make his heart beat. I put my mouth on his and I breathed into him as I kneeled over him and I told him if he’d only open his stupid fucking eyes he’d get a good upskirt and we’d have a good laugh.
The finality of that kiss, the cold of the smoke on his breath, afterimages of scotch burn remembered when I demanded his lungs exhale so I could fill them again, and again, and again, trying to make him remember, re-memorize the motions of living — it made me angry.
His lips got colder, and his skin got colder, and I got angrier, and I pushed harder, and when I heard a crack…
(I remember dreaming of a phoenix, a warehouse, the roses, a key, the marbles, the dust, the rats, the guns, a thorn, blood to open the doorway, and the way he sounded when he said my name)
…I don’t remember much of anything after that except it was dark when I finally got up and got to the doorway. I felt for the rip, for the thin place you can find in a corner of every doorway, where we’d learned to pull ourselves through, and I tore into it, stepping, slipping through, and I said goodbye, out loud.
Still with the taste of him on my lips.