When I opened my eyes, I knew something was different. I blinked them to clear the fog. It didn’t work. Whatever mist surrounded me was complete and thick; gray. I felt weightless, floating free. I tried swimming my arms and kicking my legs. I couldn’t feel them or see them. I tried to touch myself but couldn’t. Death. Cold and emotionless. Then I thought of her. I could see her eyes, her smile, her long brown hair. I felt that. The sadness I had run from returned. Without any physical ability I was unable to pound my fist or pace around the room. I had nothing to throw, no mouth to shout. It was worse than before. No way to vent my feelings. They swelled in my head. Her touch, her taste. I wanted to cry but no tears would come.
“So how did it work for you?”
The raging thoughts vanished when the voice came.
“Who are you?” I said or thought.
“So how did it work for you?” the voice asked.
“What? Did what work?”
I knew the owner of the voice. Not so much who as what. The voice spoke with all the authority of the owner of all. Not only did I hear it, I felt it, I saw images that defined the words.
“Why do I still feel? I hate the hurt. That’s why I did it. I couldn’t get the hurt to stop. Why won’t it stop?”
“Did you love her with your feet? Too bad, because your feet didn’t make the trip. Did you love her with your eyes? Too bad, they didn’t make the trip either. How did you love her?”
“With my heart,” I said.
“That’s not true. Your heart didn’t make the journey either.”
“I loved her with my soul,” I said. The power of the depression that washed over me was almost too much to bear. “I loved her with my soul.”
“And you are your soul. You can run from it as much as you can run from your shadow on a sunny day. You can mold it, you can polish it, it is you. You can damage it, shape it, ignore it, love it, but you can never get rid of it. It transcends time and space. It is now and forever yours and you are it.”
“I can’t. I can’t live like this. I can’t carry around the loss. I loved her more that I could stand.”
“You made the choice.”
“I didn’t know.”
“You did. You said as much.”
“Please! Please, help me,” I wailed.
“And you know what else?”
Then she appeared before me out of the mist. I hovered above looking down at her. She sat at a desk. I didn’t recognize it. Maybe in her new place? I couldn’t see her face. It was buried in her arms, crossed on the desk. By her movements I could tell she was crying, not little hitching sniffles but sobbing. My soul ripped.
“Is she crying because I’m dead?”
“No. She doesn’t know. Read.”
I saw a book open on the desk. It came toward me like a camera zooming in. The first page was filled.
Did I do the right thing? it started. I read on.
I love him so much. I would jump off a cliff if he asked. That’s not right. I shouldn’t feel that way. Am I crazy? Nobody should affect me like that. It’s not normal. Am I no longer myself?
I have to break it off. I have to be sure I still am me. Four days. I need four days to clear my mind.
Day 1. I promise to do this. Four days is nothing. I can do it. But it’s difficult. I want to hear his voice. I’d know it even if he tried to disguise it, if he used helium. The sound of his voice, soothing, removing all fear and doubt. Joking, making me laugh when all else seemed futile. I want to call to hear his voice even on his machine but I can’t.
Day 2. God, this is so hard. Not only his voice but his touch. When I feel his hands, I feel every line, every whorl of his finger prints. Every muscle in his arms, I’ve memorized this and how the engulf me. I know exactly where they touch, I can feel them now. If he tried to sneak up behind me, I’d feel him from 3 feet away. His lips, they fit so perfectly on mine and on my neck and on the crook of my knee. I’m crying every hour but I have to be sure, I have to hold on. I am sorry for putting him through this pain but I must be sure.
Day 3. Please, please make time move. I thought being away would clear my mind to see but it’s clouded my thoughts. Maybe it is just meant to be but none of my friends describe a love like this. He’s an obsession I must sate.
“I didn’t know,” I said.
“When she finds out, you know what she’ll do.”
“What?” I ask but I knew.
“She’ll follow you.”
“Will we be together?”
“Suicide is a lonely business. The result is a lonely end.”
“So I’ve killed her.”
“Killed her and sentenced her to forever alone wanting me.
“Is there nothing that can be done? Can’t you stop it!? Can’t you dull her pain?”
“I would if I could! You know that.”
“What are you willing to do?”
“Are you sure? Anything is a big promise.”
I stopped for a moment to feel the magnitude of what I proposed. Anything, who could predict? But then I looked at her heaving back and listened to her sobs and I felt low, very low.
“anything,” I whispered.
“Help her past her misery. Let her find another, live a long life.”
“Can she love another?”
“You said so yourself. Time, time, the great healer, the doctor you refused to see.”
“What about me?”
I knew what the voice meant and I realized the price of anything.
“Okay,” I said. Such sadness filled me, more than I had ever known, more than I believed myself of being able to carry.
“Stick your finger down your throat,” the voice said.
I imagined it digging deep where it hit the gag reflex.
I woke up in a puddle of puke and dissolving pills. I pushed myself off the floor and looked around the house. I didn’t want to think about what just happened. I staggered to the shower and stood under the spray denying and replaying the whole thing over and over.
I sat back down in front of the computer and read what was there. Then without touching the keys, words appeared.
Past time, beyond space, a soul cries out.
If I only knew.
But I did.
I sit in front of a new computer now, years later, many. Sometimes I’ll bring up her pictures on Facebook. I’ll see her with a tear in my eye. I’ll brush my fingers across her face feeling the smooth glass of the screen. I’ll decipher her expression as she sits with her two children and her husband. I’ll see the look of love that passes between them and try to gauge its depth.
Promises kept, promises kept. I wonder what would have been had I hung on instead of trying the easy way out. Would it have been the greatest love story of all time or faded as the clock spun its dial, fade like her love for me? I had called and told her I had taken a job far away. She told me she had made a mistake and loved me beyond hope. With all I had, I told her we would make it work somehow. My first lie to her but not my last. I moved as far away as I could and began the slow and painful task of building the wall of distance, letting her down slowly, softly, all the while hugging myself to keep from exploding. The price was too steep to fail. Promises kept, promises kept.
A tear dropped on the keyboard, wetting the control/z key. I wiped it up. The screen cycled.
I wonder if she still thought of me? I wonder if she shared the same love with her husband she had shared with me. I looked up at the clock. The minute hand shifted one to the right. Help me to midnight. I looked back at the blank screen. It was no longer blank.
Past time, beyond space, a soul at rest.
I don’t know how.
But I did.