The sun was halfway into the horizon when he spoke, his voice soft, hesitant to break the silence. “What… Happened to you?” he asked, turning to me. Uncertainty swam in his irises.
I cocked my head to the side, confused. ‘What happened to me?’ I was right here. Nothing had happened, I hadn’t moved or changed in any way, so what was he talking about?
He bit his lip and stared at me for a moment, squinting a little. He clasped his hands together to keep from shaking and muttered “Never mind.” as he turned away, pulling his knees up. His eyes returned their gaze to the maple tree. There was a twinge of fear hidden in them, a fear that ran deep into his heart.
I took a wild guess. ‘How did I die?’ I spelled out. He only scribbled out half the letters, then noded, glancing at the ground for a moment. I couldn’t tell if he was ashamed or embarrassed to have asked.
He looked up at the tablet, but refused to meet my eyes. I noticed his hands were clasped in his lap, resting on the notebook. He kept adjusting and readjusting his fingers around the pen, which was awkwardly trapped between his palms.
‘I fell into a river and drowned.’ I spelled out, glancing at him between each letter. He didn’t write any of them down–didn’t have to. ‘I was alone and I had never learned to swim so…’ I let my hand drop to the ground.
An image manifested in my head. White frothy water. The mudbank next to it. Looking back at… something. It’s blurry now. Everything spins. There is no sound but I remember the splash. I’ve forgotten how to feel yet the memory of the gelid water lingers.
Rocks rush to meet me but I tumble away from them. The sun holds out its hand to me but the rocks return before I can take it. Over and over again the same pattern repeats until small black dots appear before my eyes, erasing everything and consuming the memory, drawing me back to reality.
“Oh.” he said, letting the pen drop from his hands. It came to rest next to my fingers. He turned his head away, but not before I caught a glimpse of a solitary tear rolling down his face, illuminated by the sun’s decaying rays.
“I’m sorry.” he said, and I couldn’t reply. I sat beside him with the words ‘It is okay’ sitting in my fingers. I watched his shoulders shake like my mother’s had when she buried my father, and again when she buried me. This was the second time I had felt the suffocating inability to help.
He got up a short while later, packing everything up while keeping his head down and sniffling occasionally. He took away the only comfort I could give him as he stood, still refusing to meet my eyes.
He was several feet ahead of me when he stopped. He hesitated for a moment, standing stock still before mumbling “I’ll be back tomorrow” in a low, thick voice.
Those were the words I had yearned to hear yet they did not calm me. They did not steal the sadness and the loneliness from me like I’d thought they would.
Instead those words tightened the noose around my neck. A stake was driven through my intangible heart–one of hopelessness and despair. It brought along the recurring desire to disappear, one that never really left. I thought Adam had taken it from me with those words yet that same sentence brought it back.
As I watched him disappear around the corner, I almost wished he would break that promise, once and for all. I almost wished he wouldn’t returned, that I would be left alone once more.
I regretted that wish almost instantly, praying to the god that had forsaken me for it not to come true. I didn’t want to be alone again; I didn’t think I would survive on my own anymore.
I needed Adam. Without his companionship, without his sweet, welcomed words, I’d go insane. I’d be plunged back into a silent world of loneliness and despair. I would spend the rest of my days in that wretched world, wishing for nothing more than to disappear, to truly die. I would pray to cease existing; the one thing I feared most.
(Please excuse this being a week late. I was having a bit of trouble with a part of the manuscript and it took a while for me to come up with an appropriate response to the issue. Sorry for the delay. I hope you enjoy!)