by David Tarpley
I love him. I think I… I do… Yes, I definitely do. He makes me laugh. He is a thoroughly reliable man. (Safe.) He is always on time. He is good to me and my family. He even mows the grass. So why is it, that when I look at him I feel nothing… less than nothing? I feel sadness. I feel as if every moment we spend together is a moment of my life wasted. I feel as if I am missing something by being with him.
It is cold out tonight. The fat puffy flakes delicately dance through the air as they suicidally throw themselves towards the fluffy crunch blanket which covers the ground. It is beautiful. I love watching snow fall. I told him once I liked kissing in the snow. He said it wasn’t practical. He said there was nothing sexy about being cold and wet. I think that was when I first started hating him.
I just smiled of course. But how could I love a man who didn’t believe in magic. Love is magic. Love is butterflies stirring in your stomach when you look at the one you are with. When I look at him I feel nothing. I pull my scarf around my ears. It is hard to do with one hand but I dare not let go of his hand with the other. He would just give me those sad puppy dog eyes and I would get angry. We will be having none of that tonight. He always holds my hand these days, as if he were holding on to some personal reality which upon release would evaporate completely. I believe he senses the end.
I think tonight is the night I will tell him it is over. We never talk about it but it lies heavy in the air between us like a comforter in the night. I can’t even see him any more. The man I fell in love with has vanished into thin air. It has become more about the struggle to create a definitive moment than the seamless ease it should be. Easy like Sunday… no more.
He tries too hard. He loves me too much. Good God it scares me how much he loves me. I am scared of what he might do if we were to break up. He is the sweetest, kindest man I have ever met, but he is also dark. He is so dark. I watch tru T.V. I know what can happen. I know that things are not always as they seem. You never really know someone.
The crowd is dissipating and the floats are almost at an end. He brought me to the Christmas parade but I can tell he really didn’t want to come. He is trying everything he can to save this thing. He only came because he knows how much I love Christmas. I can’t… I can’t respect a man who tries this hard. I want to. He is a good man. I really want to love him. I know I should, I know he deserves it but… I just can’t.
I feel so trapped.
He squeezes my hand and squints his eyes tight at me. It is this thing he does. It was cute when we first met, but now I know it is just because he can’t look directly at me. He doesn’t want to see what isn’t there. I can no longer fake it. I want to smile when I look at him but I can not. Surely he knows how miserable I am. He takes his glasses off and wipes away the snow with his handkerchief. I helped him pick out those frames. I built him.
He is handsome, sexy. At least, he used to be sexy. Now he is just a puppy dog. He looks at me with such longing, such desire… and when he does I look away. I can no longer make eye contact with him. He tugs on my arm and, thankfully, we begin to walk away from the throng towards his car. The sooner we leave the sooner we can get home, fake sex, and turn away from each other in the act of sweet, blissful sleep.
Man it is cold tonight. It is colder than a witch’s teat which by all accounts is pretty damn cold. I shiver in my long coat. I need a new one. This one is comfortable but it is worn near through. There are more important things to buy than a coat for me; Groceries for the family, medicine, automotive repairs which seem to never end. It is always week to week in my life. And he is in worse shape than me. I know he tries, but God Damn. It would be nice to be able to leave town without him always backing out at the last minute from lack of cash. Maybe it isn’t fair of me to think like that when he is working a 9 to 5 and paying his bills, but still. I cannot see a future with this man.
“The sooner we get away from all these crazy crackers the better…. Y’all Crackers Be Craaaaazy!” He shouts.
I smile. He is one of the whitest people I know. I love him for it. This is a shared joke between us. He is a good man and he knows how to crack a joke. I smile harder…
The Cracker cracks.
He grins his trademark goofy half grin and squeezes my hand. He is a good man. I wouldn’t have stayed this long otherwise. I squeeze back.
“That’s right dear… Y’all Crackers really do be crazy.”
He swings my arm as we walk. At best he is a goofy kid. I like the kid in him, but there are times when I need a man. There are times when I need to know that this is going somewhere, and here lately all I know is that I want out. The snow crunches underfoot as we walk away from the mass up towards Eighth where we are parked. The parade always draws a crowd and we had to park a pretty penny away. We pass fellow pedestrians, all wrapped up in their own little worlds on their own little ways. I wonder how many of the women we pass are going to break up with their boyfriend tonight.
We approach a busy intersection and he stops. He hates crowds. He is practically phobic… No, drop the practically. He keeps putting himself in clubs and parties to please me, but he just gets weird every time. It has gotten where I don’t want us to leave the house.
He pulls me down a parallel alley which cuts up the way we need to head. I am O.K. with this. It will circumvent the crowd ahead and maybe this is as good and as quiet a place as any to tell him. I feel the sudden urge to blurt it all out. Actually I feel like screaming, but I will settle for breaking the bad news in this alley. I love this man holding my hand. I always will. But I can’t bear the thought of spending one more moment together. Halfway down the alley I stop dead in my tracks.
He turns and looks at me, confused.
I hold my finger to his lips. I look up at the sky. It is dark in this place, but I can clearly see the snow drifting down from the midnight blue above. On either side the buildings stretch up pure black, high into the night. Their solid nothingness assures me.
I look back at him. He has need written all over his face. He needs more than I can give. I open my mouth, expecting the world to spill out of it and his mouth drops to mine
This is it. This is the moment I have been waiting for. I must kiss her in the snow. She wants me to kiss her in the snow. Kiss her in the snow I will. I came to this parade expecting to hate it but it actually wasn’t half bad. I like letting her lead me to new places. I like being led. I like her doing the leading. But this moment is mine alone. This is the moment where I show her what love is. This is where I show her the power of love.
This is where I get all Huey Lewis on her ass.
Her eyes grow wide as my lips press into hers… hard, yet soft, practiced perfection. I will show her. I have to show her that there is still a spark.
I have to show her that I can make her feel something. She is surprised, I can tell. She backs up. But I press on. My presence will not be denied, and she will kiss me in the snow, and the moment WILL be magical. That is what she wants. That is what I will deliver.
She leans back and I lean into it… footing is lost and we fall. Through it all I think of the magic, falling lip-locked towards the snow. Surely she can see that I love her. My love for her is concrete in its total and all encompassing reality. I can see our cabin in the snow. I can see our burning fire. I can see us drinking wine on a rug and eating cheese. I don’t even drink wine but all this I can see and more.
I can see our children, Kaitlin Marie, and Jackson Byzantium. They are having a snowball fight outside while she prepares hot cocoa with a smile. I am fixing something. That is how I see my future, fixing something for her and the children as we all smile about it. It is why I led her down this alley.
It is why I kissed her with such passion. It is why we are falling into the snow.
I honestly don’t know what made me laugh when she first told me she liked kissing in the snow. And I don’t know what has taken me so long to do this. What could I possibly have been afraid of? What harm can kissing in the snow bring?
Can I make any clearer my desire? Can I lay out my hope for the future any more naked? I see what we can be as we fall, entwined, into the eternal night. I see all this, and I see the ground coming up fast.
It suddenly doesn’t look so sof…
Cold… oh so cold. I try to shake my head but it is stuck fast. I am wet and cold and immobile. There is snow in my hair. I taste copper and my head is wet. I open my eyes.
Her eyes stare back at me. They stare back through a fine dusting of snow. They are open and yet covered with snow. I try to jump back but the eyes move with me. I am lying on top of her. My breath is pushing through my nose. I can’t feel my face. I can’t feel my lips. The fall knocked me out. The fall knocked her…
I am surrounded at face level by a blanket of soft, cold snow. And my lips won’t open… my lips.
They are still kissing hers.
They are frozen solid. How long? How long have we lain here?
I look sideways down the alley. My face will not turn much more than the bare minimum to see the opening into the street from ground level. I see sporadic feet passing by on their way to wherever. Not many feet, but enough to let me know that is can’t be too late.
Nothing so audible as to be heard way down there… down there in the real world; down there where I once not so long ago was, where I so obviously am now not. I roll us off my right arm and wince. As I try to reach up to our lips my wrist explodes in a sea of hot pain. It is obviously broken. I have never broken my wrist before and I am not a doctor but this pain can be nothing less than shattered bone. I…
I wheeze through my nose. I am colder than before, and those eyes… those beautiful brown eyes. They will not stop staring at me. I twist with yet another pain driven wince and reach up to our conjoined lips. The soft, wet flesh has stuck flush. I can’t tell where her lips begin and mine end. Her eyes seem sad.
There is nowhere for my fingers to dig. My fingers are weak. I am a righty. Everything is cold.
I look down the alley again. No feet. I have to get out of this snow. I put my left hand on her forehead and pull back with all my might. Even though they are numb, I feel my lips stretch as my face backs away from her. I tug my head back with all my might until both my arm and my neck are shaking with the effort. Then I stop, exhausted. My nose flares harder than before. There is no budge or break. Flesh is fused. We are one.
I take my finger and gently push the snow off her bare eyeballs. Then I close her lids. I can look in those eyes no more. They accuse. I try not to cry. I know it will only make my situation worse. I try with everything that is in me but I am overcome with emotion and the tears flow. I can feel them begin to freeze as they roll down my cheek.
Fuck this. I can grieve later. Grieving now is death.
I reach my left arm out as far as I can towards the end of the alley and dig through the snow for purchase. I cup her body with my shattered wrist, holding on with more arm than hand. At first, my hand slips and my knuckles scrape on the asphalt below.
But then I find some solid nooks to sink my fingertips into and I tense every muscle in that arm, pulling our combined weight towards a place more traveled. We move 2 inches. Then I let go with my aching fingers and reach forward 2 inches farther grabbing more concrete under the snow. I tense again and pull my aching cold body and her corpse 2 more inches. I can feel the sweat all over my body. It is making me colder.
I reach out again. My other wrist is killing me. I use the pain to drive me. My fingers dig down and find concrete. Once they are locked in unseen crevices I tense my arm and pull with all my might. I feel a nail snap and as the unbalance of torque snaps my grip, my hand pulls along the asphalt breaking a second nail.
I collapse, in defeat. The pain in my hand is all encompassing. My head would fall to the ground but it is held in the air by hers. I breathe through my nose and cry. Another set of feet pass the edge of the alley.
They do not come back.
I can no longer feel my legs. I never thought she would be the death of me. I wanted to live my life with her, but unless I can find a way to let her go this will be the end of us both. I lean into her hoping for some warmth, anything. I feel nothing. My body is now numb. The snow keeps falling, pretty in its death dealing. We will soon be covered.
I look to the other end of the alley. It is no closer to anything, darker and longer. Why had I felt the need to give her this kiss?
The desire for what could have been, and not what was.
I sigh through my nose. I thought my kiss would change something, could change something. But deep down, I know. I know it is over. She left me a while ago. I have been dating a corpse for a long time. I look down at the ground. I can’t even look at her face anymore. It causes me too much pain.
There is blood on the ground, a little snail trail spanning the four inches or so we moved. I can see the jutting rock the back of her head hit when we fell. It is crimson from its bath. The dark brown looks pretty in the spare light of the night juxtaposed against the soft white of the snow. She is bleeding, was bleeding. Her wound has probably frozen over. Her hot blood melted the snow surrounding the rock.
… Her blood…
Her blood is hot!
I reach up my left hand and, ignoring the pain of the ripped nails, thrust it deep under her head. I finger the gaping hole in the back of her head where the rock cracked her skull. It is scraggly with a frozen texture. If I can dig deep enough… Her eye opens.
At least I garble something approximating a scream.
Get a grip. Her eye opened because I am jostling her head.
I look into that soulless stare. Do I see life? Perhaps the rock just knocked her unconscious. I stare longer than I dare. I feel the burn of the cold. I am numb and yet I burn. I do not have time to hope for life. I must sever this bond now if I wish to live.
I close my eyes and push as hard as I can into the scab. It gives like the crust on Crème Brulee and my finger sinks into hot warm mush. I push the digit as deep as the hole will allow and I hook my finger around a glob of whatever. I pull it out and smear the hot mushy life all over and around our conjoined lips. I dig again and again, pulling out more and more of my baby until I feel the bond give; not all at once but first one side then the other comes unstuck and pulls apart with a stretchy, slow ‘Spack!’.
I roll over on my back and look up at the sky, covered in her gore. I breathe deep my fill of the crisp fresh night air. The snow continues to fall from above.
It is beautiful.