Sober

Standard

“Overwhelmed as one would be, placed in my position.
Such a heavy burden now to be the One
Born to bear and bring to all the details of our ending,
To write it down for all the world to see.”
Rosetta Stoned

“Why can’t we not be sober?
I just want to start this over.
Why can’t we drink forever.
I just want to start things over.”
Sober

The ability to survive lies in the potential of creating a future in a lie.

I am old. I work seven days a week until the late hours of vampiric nights. I am Atlas but with sunken muscles and a blanket over my bones that hangs loosely, acid bubbles burning holes through it, tired tears seeping from it. The sky falls, long shadows dawning on sober faces and desperate gazes.

My wife Evelyn, back when I first married her, used to greet me in bed after a long day’s work. She’d tell me “my name means rebirth, so here, tonight, I kill you, and you get born again in the morning.” And that promised legend became a reality and a curse.

My wife Evelyn didn’t know that during the day I didn’t daydream about her.

My wife Evelyn never knew that I never dreamed about her, that when her hand touched me, it wasn’t her caress that I yearned for. But I was faithful, and for all that time, I held the sky above me and above her.

But such selfless blindness does not deserve a story.

My wife Evelyn, she sees a boy on the streets, through the windowpane, breaking a girl’s heart and blames the whole male sex for a heartbroken world. A boy becomes the boy.

“Leave him alone, he’s just trying to give himself meaning,” I tell her.

“Give meaning? By hurting that poor girls like her?” her eyes never leave the girl who’s stone-still on the sidewalk. As if that girl needs stares from a weathered woman with creepy eyes, glaring through a windowpane with inevitable disappointment; that old eagle-eye glare every generation gets from its elders, disappointment, awe, dismay. “If he has any sense of decency, he’ll come back to her and hold her hand, whisper in her ear, walk her home, anything. It’s not right to leave a girl like that on the street. If he has any dignity, any love, he’ll come back, just like you came back to me.” Her words, like shovels desecrating a grave in which the flesh of a corpse is yet to decompose.

“We all feed on tragedy,” I mumble, collapsing all the vowels on each other.

“Boys these days, they’re all corrupt,” the girl on the street is still stupefied under Evelyn’s gaze. “What is she to do now?”

“At least it’s not raining,” I cynically remark.

“I would’ve made you go invite her in if she had been crying under the rain.”

“You don’t even know if she’s been crying. Anyway, how would it seem if an old grumpy-looking, pathetically wrinkled old man had approached a young girl like her and invited her to his house? People don’t appreciate the same gestures anymore. Whatever I did twenty-seven years ago, I certainly would not have done today if I were that boy and you were this girl.”

“What is that supposed to mean? Do you regret coming back to me?”

“I think after twenty-seven years, it’s irrelevant whether or not I regret it. And, remember, you came back for me.” Wrong words make the wrong bells toll; wrong words make us travel in time to that evening when she came back to me.

She had come at the right moment, but she never knew it. She thought I had always been waiting for her to come back, a true heartbroken soul. She could have survived if she had not found me, and I knew it. She left me to prove something, and she failed.

“Look,” I say, moving towards the window pane, “she is not you, and will never be you. The boy is not me and will never be me. These are different circumstances and different times. If you want to know what I think, I’ll tell you. I’ll say it straight up, because it sure is more realistic then your nostalgic projection.”

Somehow she found me walking back home; street-lights were not lit and the few cars that passed by rendered the darkness around us visible, like a momentary flash of lightning that only exacerbates the intensity of night. We both saw familiar contours. She hugged me like a child reaching out to its parent, wanting to be picked up, supported. That embrace showed a crack, a crevice. And ever since, I’ve been finding a future in this lack.

I put my hand on her shoulder and speak calmly; there’s no need for conviction in my voice. Somehow she’ll know it’s true. Somehow she’ll know that she’s lived it. “This boy here has probably left this girl for another. Another girl he may not love as he loves this one in front of us. But the other girl, he needs her. The other girl, she needs him. And that works. But we’re just observers, trying to be omniscient of what is only seen, not even heard. The distance between us and the crying girl is an immense gap. We just know our stories. I just know mine. If I keep myself in that gap between her and me, I might fade like a sigh, nostalgic, barely moving, insignificant and inconclusive.”

She looks at me barely satisfied with my possibly-heartrending words. And I hug her even though I’m not sure she wants this. I feel the lack and know that because of it, me and her, we’re more than just the sum of our parts.

I grab Evelyn’s hand and we walk together to bed. I am old, but I am sober and it will be a good night.

So good to see you once again
I thought that you were hiding from me.
And you thought that I had run away.
Chasing a trail of smoke and reason.
Third eye

Inanna_1_by_GeirrodVanDyke

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