I’m not trying to be cute with the title… This is a real short story. It’s under 800 words, so I guess the technical term is flash fiction. It’s also kind of sad. Sorry about that. It can be uplifting if you let it…
Peace One Day is coming up in a few short months. I’ve been thinking a lot about what brings us together and tears us apart. They ask the question “who will you make peace with?” and my personal answer is “myself.” Oh, wish me luck with that one.
It figures that now, at the end of my life, you’d show up and try to tell me you love me somehow. And with these tubes in my throat, you know I can’t ask you the hard questions. Where were you? Love me? You walked away with only your contempt to keep you warm and brave against your better judgment. And you’ve been together ever since. Where they hell were you?
They’re going to burn my body soon. I’ll be ashes in the wind. I’ve asked my family to throw a party, and throw me to the dolphins and sharks. It means nothing to me of course, I’ll be long gone. But I’ve told them it’s what I want because it’s what they want, and it’s what they need to hear.
I don’t think they will invite you, but I hope they do. They all want to know where you’ve been. They credit you with the breaking of my heart so long ago. I am dying to tell you so many things. You didn’t break it all, my heart. You tried so hard, and that’s what kept me from going over the edge. You tried so hard to ruin me, I felt the passion and love that struggled still, inside the contempt, inside you. You don’t have to tell me you love me. I’ve always known.
And then I discovered my own true heart. A place nobody can break, not even me. And I lived! Oh, the things I want to tell you. The amazing things I’ve seen and felt and done. The person is dusty and brittle, yes, but the memories, the slices of life I dished up, those will outlive us both. I’ve loved more truly since you left than I ever knew possible. The broken pieces of my heart were already weak before they shattered, and without them the best of me grew stronger. I came just a bit more alive with every month gone by. I’m sure you’ll hear some stories that will surprise you. That gives me comfort too. I want you to know I’m happy. I’ve been happy.
Oh where were you? I made art, and friends, and some damn hilarious jokes. I told you in all those notes I sent every month for years that I will never stop loving you. Yes, of course I love you still. And I forgave you, mostly, while you were still packing your things. I forgave the rest a little later, out of simple joy. There was no room left in me for the anger. I learned to live and thrive without you. I learned that pity isn’t healthy, and self-pity is a terrible drug addiction. I cured myself quickly. You were one hell of a shot in the arm.
And here I am, with questions that will never leave my lips, and with answers that you deserve to hear but never will. I can only look at you as you stand over me. You look old around the eyes now, but still so young inside, still unsure how to let the contempt slip away and leave you in the peace you so deeply need. I’d have been a better choice. I’m glad I can’t tell you that. It’s not what you need to hear. And so I’m glad for the notebook I left you. You’ll get it from my lawyers in a month or two, when the ashes have finally turned to soggy clumps and landed at the bottom, where sunshine is just a legend, and any food is good food. The notebook contains so many memories, some of us together, things you don’t even know you’ve forgotten. And many of my own memories of the years since you left. And it contains the forgiveness you may be ready to believe in. I know it will give you something to cling to, and I know sooner or later you will cry, and that will be the cry you need.
So I struggle to ask the one question that drives me to cling to life just a little bit longer. Just to hear your answer. I squeeze the words out and can tell as you lean toward me frowning that you haven’t heard me at all. I gather all I have left, and these will be my last words. I will live long enough for your answer, and then I will let go. With you leaning forward, I push the words through my lips, and I know they are good and solid, and you hear them, and you will answer.
“How are you?” I close my eyes a moment, and listen for your story. I hope it’s a good one.