I kiss my nephew goodnight, and gently remove my sister’s glasses from her sleeping face, setting them down on her nightstand. I slowly, carefully, close the front door before making my way to my usual nighttime walk route.
It isn’t usual, not at all. I light a cigarette to distract myself from this turn of events, taking deep breaths to remain calm. The cold and nicotine does a decent enough job, swirling in my lungs.
Instead of the mega-store where almost all of our daily essentials are purchased, there’s a cliff, a chasm, and another side, populated with old, low buildings and noise.
I feel a longing stir within me for the scene that plays out, of people enjoying themselves and each other, of people stumbling and falling and moving and staying still.
Of smells, sights and sounds. Of artists and consumers.
But that chasm, Scylla and Charybdes. A pit of fire that raises smoke to my nostrils. There is no bridge, no way over it. I must go through it.
Is it worth it? The thought of turning back is almost worse. Almost. So why not turn around?
As I contemplate, a beacon reaches the sky. I am being called. I am missed. I am real, important, valuable.
I take a deep breath and make a decision.
I climb down into the pit, eager to reach the other side.
I walk past the people and places of my past, some I’ve said goodbye to, and some who’ve said goodbye to me.
My feet feel heavier with every step, until they are unburdened as my impractical shoes fall away, exposing my tender feet to the terrain made uneven by the skeletons that have escaped from my closets to lay here.
My feet ache and bleed as I wonder if they will carry me to where I’m so desperate to reach.
I stop, breathless, in the face of a home I used to occupy. I see myself in the windows with those I love. It’s Christmas there. The lights turn our dark eyes into mirrors. My next step is a stumble that ends with my hand on the wolf teeth of a half-man. As I did in the past, I scream in pain and horror as the flesh of my hand curls away from the wound.
I know you can do it. Keep going.
I look away from the gore for a moment to see her standing just beyond the happy home. Eurydice.
The flames around me turn my clothes to wisps. I can barely grab a shred to cradle my injury before they are gone, and I am naked.
I forget about the world on the other side of the chasm as I pull myself up, walking towards her.
She watches patiently, sadly. I hear sounds behind me and know I am being followed. I don’t care. I barely glance at the house, even when the front door, the one on the left, bangs open and a child runs to me.
Stop! Wait! She screams, her small legs working hard to move her as she drags a large object behind her.
I don’t stop, only slow my gait to allow her to reach me.
Merry Christmas. The child smiles shyly with large front teeth. Her mirror eyes no longer hold Christmas lights, only the flicker of flames around us. The object is a sword, glittering and menacing. As soon as I bend down to accept it, the child is gone, front door banged shut.
Eurydice’s eyes form a question that does not move to her mouth, and I shake my head. I, like the child, drag the sword behind me, the sound adding to the resumed march of my followers.
Exhaustion is an emotion all its own, looking into her eyes as I ask her my own silent questions.
The flames rise higher, burn hotter. I’m afraid to look down. I’m afraid to break the spell. The smoke turns everything into shadows. Her eyes are all I can make out because they’re all I want to see. The wind whips our hair into our faces. It pulls tears from our spellbound eyes. The more I walk, the further away I feel. The footsteps behind me are louder, closer. I don’t dare to turn around, to shoo them off. I don’t dare wonder why she’s standing so still.
The footsteps stop. I stop. A great roar pierces the air. I can’t see, won’t look, but I know a bear when I hear one.
Eurydice blinks. I frown, twisting my fingers around the handle.
After all this time? You wanted me to come here for this? I yell into the chasm, and it echoes back, nearly drowning out her answer.
After all this time, could you truly blame me?
The tears in her eyes are no longer from the wind. Neither are mine. I clench my jaw and stand still, willing myself to hear.
The bear appears on my left, roaring into a face that won’t turn to meet his. I stare still at Eurydice, who looks at her feet.
I hear the subliminal within the roar.
You’re ugly, fat, worthless, unlovable. Untouchable. I will break you, I OWN YOU.
Eurydice still refuses to meet my eyes. I’ve heard these lies so many times. I touch the left side of my neck and make a sound I didn’t know I could make. I swing the sword, and the bear makes a sound I’ve never heard; head separating from body, rolling along the ground.
I don’t hesitate. I pick it up and make purposeful strides towards her.
I finally reach her, and kneel at her feet.
Your highness, a tribute.
She doesn’t touch it, or acknowledge it, but I am suddenly wrapped in a heavy cloak as she takes my hands and lifts me to my feet.
The flames die down, and all I see in her eyes is myself. I assume she sees the same.
Princess, this is no place for a woman of your caliber. Please allow me to escort you home.
Eurydice nods. You know you can’t look back?
I don’t. I lead her up a pathway that cuts through stone, I trust in the lessons I’ve learned from mistakes I’ve made before.
I’m well into the beaconing civilization when I turn around. Gone.
No. NO! I didn’t look back! I didn’t look back!
Tired, I don’t wipe away my tears as they fall. I walk to a body of water, wade in, fall asleep.
I wake up in the pool of her eye, pale masculine limbs wrapped around me.
“Whoa, I said relax, not sleep.” He says, giggling in his way.
“I’m sorry. Guess I was more tired than I thought.” I climb out of the tub and start drying off.
I get dressed and leave, confirming when and where we’ll meet again. I feel weird. I walk, thinking of my dream and how real it felt. I think of how she always felt otherwordly, but how nice it would be if she could feel real for once.
I walk down Pirate’s Alley to my favorite bar.
I see her.
I stop, mouth gaping, breath gone from my lungs.
“We really need to talk about your definition of ‘cafe’. And also, one o’clock.”
I smile, tears forming at the base of my cat-shaped eyes.