Haunt
kitten   December 20, 2000

Editor's note: While I realize that the majority of stuff I've written is angsty garbage, this one tips the scales. It's here only for legacy reasons, and bear in mind it was written years ago, by the typical angst-ridden teenager I was at the time. -- kitten

A year.
Has it been that long?
Sometimes I still wake with the dreams. I know I shouldn't; I know it's not healthy. I know that sooner or later, I'll have to come to grips with the fundamental reality of the situation:
She is no longer mine.
Yet sometimes I still awaken at night, alone, with nothing but the fading dreams to keep me company. The final frozen moments of our symbiosis, recalled in digital detail in my memory.
I've tried everything I can think of to stop the dreams - or are they nightmares? - from recurring. I've taken the pills, I've done the "meditation", a fancy word for daydreaming. I've tried alcohol and I've tried loveless sex.
Nothing works. The crystal vision of her exodus haunts me, night after lonely night, even those nights when I'm not alone.
She did the right thing, I tell myself. She did what she felt was best, and I've always maintained that one can do no less. Still, the lifeblood that I had willingly intertwined with hers was not given time to prepare for departure. I feel that it still reaches out to that which I once held sacred, that which I'll never have again. The feeling of love next to me in bed, a love so complete that it somehow felt my most inner thoughts and was disturbed from sleep by them. A love so pure that it pierced through my cold exterior to find the inner warm spring of emotion that runs deep throughout my entire being; she found that spring and valued it. My love was once worth something to her, and so was I.
She did the right thing - I tell myself this night after night.
She did the right thing.
But at what cost?

The vision is a fairly straightforward one. Nothing but the facts, ma'am, nothing but the facts.
It was snowing lightly that evening, as it tends to do from time to time in this city. The sound of traffic and distant Dopplering sirens was virtually nonexistant, absorbed by the frigid precipitation. Even the harsh buzzing of the florescent lights of the service station we stood outside was muted from the ambient chill. The only sound I heard, focused and crisp, was her sad contralto voice, speaking words that would mean my death in any sense that counted.
"I've been thinking about it for a long time," she told me, which didn't help. It only made me feel worse that I could be so blind to her that I didn't see it coming.
Under the lights, tears began to form in her midnight eyes. I marvelled at them, how they remained warm and liquid through the tundra that our city had become, if only temporarily.
"It has to be this way," she continued softly. She blinked several times, hard, as if she hadn't had much sleep lately.
"No," I replied, meaning I know not what, "it doesn't. We can make it work."
She shivered in the chill atmosphere and moved a fractional step closer to me for warmth, but afraid to actually come into physical contact with me.
"Things change, kitten." A pet name she'd adopted for me long ago, and had been at a loss to explain why. I didn't question the name then, and I don't question it now. "People change."
"Some do," I said, voice wowing and fluttering like a warped record. "Others stay the same."
And as soon as I said it I realized that perhaps that was the problem. While she had been growing as a person, evolving, age allowing her perspective to shift, I had remained stagnant, never changing, always expecting things to stay as they were. And perhaps I was wrong for it.
In between her fingertips was a cigarette, which she put to her perfect lips. Those lips, icy and almost colorless now in the cold, opening into the warmth of her body as she put the cigarette to them and inhaled deeply, the end of the lit cigarette flaring briefly in the arctic air. Her transluscent skin, made even moreso by the cold, retained the vague definitions of pale blue veins, running from the corners of her mouth.
"You see why it has to be this way," she said. It wasn't really a question. I felt like a motorist pulled over by a cop, begging and pleading, Please Officer, give me one more chance, I'll be careful this time, I swear.
Officers of the law are rarely forgiving when it comes to traffic violations; tickets are quickly written for minor violations, and arrests are made for major infractions. If there were such thing as Emotion Police, I would probably have deserved a life sentence for the turmoil I'd put her through, though I didn't realize it at the time. But there aren't Emotion Police; the upset I put myself through was probably greater than any conceivable punishment that could be doled out from an outside organization. Whether this is a good or bad thing, only time would be able to tell.
I shook my head at her, trying to convey this to her. Verbalization failed me, as it always does, but I had come to realize that she did not require spoken words to understand my thoughts.
She exhaled the smoke, her breath crystalizing into vapor in the freezing air. The condensation of her breath continued as she spoke to me.
"I didn't want this, kitten. But I can't continue watching you destroy yourself."
I remained silent, no rational thoughts coming to mind.
"You have to make your own choices in life," she added. "I tried to help and you didn't want my help."
"Whether I wanted it isn't relevant to whether I needed it, Kathy," I replied. "I need your help, and I need you."
"No, kitten," she said, overtones of desperation creeping in along the edges of her voice, "you never need anyone but yourself."
It was a thought she'd expressed in a variety of fashions before, but never so simply. Kathy was a firm believer in the power of the mind to overcome any emotional or mental obstacle. I, on the other hand, have always believed that if the heart was not completed with its other half, then the mind is virtually useless.
It was an argument of intellect versus emotion at the most base level, and intellect had linguistics on its side. I couldn't argue with her, no matter what my convictions were.
The wind was beginning to clear out small portions through the fractal patterns of clouds, and I looked up, to see the few stars visible in the crisp December night.
I once named one of those stars after her, but she never knew that.
She took a hestitant step towards me, and then another, more confident, and wrapped her thin arms around my body for the last time. I settled my face against her dark hair, relishing her intoxicating scent.
"You have to be strong," she murmered into my jacket. "Don't give up on yourself."
"Even if I don't see why it matters anymore?" I asked into her hair.
"Even if."
"I'll miss you, Kath," I told her, feeling that it was futile to convince her that what she was doing was wrong.
"And I you, kitten."
She broke her embrace from me, stepped back a bit. Her face turned upwards towards mine, and in her expression I saw despair, but also an elation borne of freedom.
She touched her fingertips to her lips, briefly, and then to my own. I kissed them lightly, automatically, without thinking. It seemed the only natural thing to do.
She held those fingertips to my lips for what seemed an eternity, or perhaps it was just my own mind clinging to the memory, desperate to retain every detail.
Then, she pulled her away from me, sharply, as if what I had given to her just then was not an expression of deep and unwavering love, but blood. Blood on her hands.
She stood for a few seconds, her mocha eyes not meeting mine.
I fingered the thin elastic hairband encircling my wrist. Her hairband. I had kept it there at all times, just in case she were to want it.
Her eyes, charcoal dark, matching the color of the sky, heavy and seemingly infinite, filled with sadness.
I stood in place dumbly as she walked to her car, and tried not to be hurt by the aching geometry of her outline, her long wool coat flaring out in the wind. She turned her gaze towards me one last time, held it, and disappeared into her car. I watched the car rumble out of the parking lot, over the curb, down the avenue. I watched until the tailights vanished over the horizon, and in a few moments, the falling snow had covered the open patch of asphalt her car had left, erasing any physical proof that she had been there at all.
"Don't let it end like this," I whispered, hoping she would hear me. But it was hopeless, and I knew it. I turned, and walked back along the avenue, crunching snow and gravel beneath dull black boots. Back through a muffled, quiet snowscape of gentle wind and ice. Back home.
I never saw her again.

I never saw her again, except in my dreams, late at night. Sometimes I awaken and think the dream is pure fiction, that everything is okay, the empty space in my psyche is just an overworked imagination; she'll be back soon. But her hairband is still around my wrist, and the memories linger, far too vivid to be attributed to mere dreamlogic.
Sometimes, when it snows, I look out the window. From here I can still see that service station, buzzing lights and cheery neon.
Sometimes I imagine I can see her car pulling back into the parking space she always used when coming to see me.
She said one day we'd meet again, along the avenue.
But somehow, I doubt we ever will.