With You (The Letters)
“You were never mine for you belong to Death.”
My heart is pulling me apart. I can’t go, but I can’t stay. I can’t follow. Your words, they betwixt me and I fall into them again every night. The dream ends and I wake. I’m empty and cold.
I died inside out when Lady Death took you from me as she did once before, only now I remember every word, every sigh, every kiss, and every breath you uttered inside me. And the memories, they kill me all over again.
I don’t know how long it’s been, years I suppose, long enough for me to die again each night, long enough for me to run out of tears, long enough for my heart to shrivel into a withered dried stone, long enough that the scar runs too deep to ever heal. My heart. It’s forever malformed into something else. I will never smile again. My heart is a cold dead stone in your absence.
When one dies and returns to the world of the living, something happens to you. People don’t see you differently, but you see them…you see everything differently. People passing by, wasting life on tears and hate and unaddressed traumas…people succumbing to the numbness that pain leaves behind. People fighting, hating, killing, cheating…People don’t see. People never see. Me, I stopped looking and became one of them.
I lifted my eyes from the paper lit by my bedside lamp and gazed out the window. The evening’s breeze rustled my curtains and I felt the cold slide up my nightgown. I would have shivered if I hadn’t died once before. I dropped my eyes back to the paper and decided to write again tomorrow.
I placed my pen and paper on the nightstand beside my bed, dropped my bare feet to the wood floor of my room, and turned off the lamp beside my bed. As I pulled my silk bathrobe up around my shoulders, I walked to the window and gazed up at the starless sky. My thoughts drifted back to that night.
Your kisses on mine, your arms around me, your hands all over. Then cold screams and shadows. I remembered the first moments of my Hell as I woke and saw that you were gone. I had no doubt. She had taken you. Lady Death whose deal we broke. I closed my eyes against the pain evoked by the memory of those screams. Angry at the hurt, I closed the windows, and went to bed.
Again, I would dream of you. Again I would wake, curl up into myself, and cry until my tears ran dry. Again, I would relive that hellish night in the morning. Again I would die all over.
The forest returned as it did every night and, as before, you found me. The scene changed and we lay on the cabin floor making love through the night. Death’s eyes lingered in the shadows, and then we ran, but you wore chains that held you down. You couldn’t run. I wondered why I hadn’t noticed the chains before. Then Death was there standing over you. You gazed at her with such hatred, and she returned the hate with an invisible hand that sent you writhing in pain. I was free to go, but how could I? Through the pain, you found my eyes. You spoke my name and I woke from a chill and the sound of your voice.
You spoke my name again and I looked to the foot of my bed and I saw you. I gasped and then you were gone.
“No!” I screamed and scrambled, throwing myself at the foot of my bed. “No! You were here! I saw you!”
I fell off the bed and searched my room all the while screaming your name.
“You fucking bitch!” I cried at Death. “Give him back to me! Give him…”
I fell to the floor sobbing and pulled at my hair. “He was here! I saw him! Give him back!”
Like a cursed banshee, I stood and ripped the sheets from my bed. I pushed over the armoire, stripping every shadow desperate to find you, to see you again. From the corner of my eye, I saw you gazing at me from the mirror. I turned. You were there and gone before my gasp had ended. I fell to the mirror while calling your name. You were there. I saw you. I screamed into the mirror.
“Give him back to me!” When she didn’t answer, I took up my shoe and threw it into the glass. The glass screamed and fell to the floor like diamond droplets, and I pulled the curtains from the window. I was certain you would be there, and when you weren’t, I cried all that much louder.
Broken by my grief, I fell to my knees and punched the floor.
I had done this once before, stripped a room in search of you. Death was toying with me. I imagined her safely tucked away in her shadow smiling with delight.
This existence was killing me. This life was a hallowed death. I had been dead once before. I knew what lay on the inside of life. I knew the road to get there. In this life, breathing, loving, losing, and dying all hurt more. Inside of life, emotions were numb.
If she would not free him, if he could not come to me, then I would go to him.
I lifted my hate-filled eyes from the floor and made my choice. I knew just where to go and how to get there. I grabbed my shoes from the glass and ran out the door eager to leave this life behind.
It was cold and empty, being here. I stared out over the cliff and looked down into the ravine below. The water trickled over stump and stone. Around me the forest sang. I had been here only once before. With you, you held me in place on this cliff. With you, the bullet pierced my heart. With you, I left this life and died.
Like sleep, I woke again. I listened to our tale. I had died and you had bargained with Death: your memory of me in exchange for my life. The deal was sealed, the contract signed, and Death returned my life to me. We had one night. I was gone before the night departed and, with it, your memory of me. From the shadows I watched you, unable to live, unable to die, caught between my life and yours.
It was then that you found me. Too weak to stay away, you ran back to me and told me the truth. Your memory was never what Death took from you. Her price was so much worse. Death thrives on pain and grief. She needs it to survive. This is why she kills and so eagerly rips loved ones apart. She needs the grief to feed.
To live unloved while you watch me live and watch me love without you. This was her true price. But, unable to live without me, you loved me. And in my bed, your deal was broken. Death would never forgive.
This time there would be no goodbye. No letter. No warning. No ‘the last time.’ I woke to a life that would force me to relive my death each night. That would be the grief she eats.
“Grieve no longer,” I said as I looked over the ravine. With you, I was certain I could fly if only I stepped out from the cliff. The wind picked up and took my breath, and all at once, I smiled. I would see you soon. I felt the grief lift and all at once I could breathe.
“Just wait my love,” I whispered. “I’m coming.”
And just like that, I fell.