How we end it

I could never have imagined, one year ago, where we would be now. The first steps leading to the next, and how we all catch up to our ending, eventually. It’s never the big things, Ben. Never a catastrophe that starts it. That’s why they talk of butterflies and their wings. A tiny flutter, a small shift, and it begins.

A young woman accepts flowers from a man who likes to watch her dance. She’s been playing the Phoenix, rising and falling, living and dying, and he loves the way she moves her red wings. It starts and it stalls, and it begins again. She goes out for milk, older, tired, and doesn’t come home. He waits one morning, has always known where she is, these months she’s been gone. Some guy ties the laces on his battered red sneakers as this other man slips a knife into his pocket. Doesn’t even really think about the blade, just wants it there, against his thigh as the man in red sneakers ties his laces, one knot, and again. All these little movements pushing them forward. Toward each other.

Maybe it is fate. This catching up to what is waiting. The way everything seems to be connected. I can see that young girl, moving her red wings, hoping to be discovered, wanting to be seen. I can see the man, looking out the window, saying he’s never done anything like this before. Gone now, just ashes, like the dreams she had. And the other man, the one with grey eyes who is now buried under the ground, who covered her in the red of his blood, drowned in it, as she tried to save him. He was the one who saved her, of course. And she thanks him for it every day.

I didn’t mean to hurt you.

What exactly is it that we try to do, when we come into each other’s lives? Are we trying to rebuild our own? What made Maggie give up years of her life – seven, if Joe is to be believed – to live in the shadows of yours, Ben? What made Adam so careless with his own life, in his attempts to control mine? No doubt Anna’s God has something to say, but I find no comfort in God when the questions are as big as these. Fate, luck, faith, love. All viable explanations to how we got here.

But it is never the big things, Ben. Never the catastrophes that set us on our way. The catastrophe is how we end it. Our beginnings are a different thing entirely.

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