Life is full of mistakes, it wouldn’t be a life not really, if it weren’t. We can only go forward, that’s what they say. That you can’t ever go back, that you can’t ever go home. And it’s true…in ways. We can’t bounce through time, but…we can remember. It’s the memories that haunt you. The look on her face, the tears that stained the curve of her cheeks, the sight of her heart breaking there in her eyes. I remember. I remember…and I wonder if she was crying more for the hawk, or for me.
It’s probably good that I don’t know.
And on the other hand, perhaps knowing would help ease the ache. The bottle doesn’t. The canvas is blank, but I hope she’s free. I hope she’s happy. I can live with the damage, I just…wonder if she can.
Life is littered with moments of indecision, mine more than most. Somewhere along the way I fell into believing that nothing would last and fearing those things that most promised a future. There was never a future in my career, though I liked to dream that there would be. There was never a future with the woman I made the mistake of leaving her for and there…I knew there wouldn’t be. But we can never go home again.
I just…figured out too late what home was.
Home was a sleeping roll beneath a canopy of limbs against the edge of a creek with the sound of birds singing in the background beneath the watchful eyes of those creatures she so loved. She could have been born one of those birds, her spirit certainly flew with them when she turned them to the skies and it felt…so strange, when trying to fit into her world. I think, looking back that the problem was simply that. I tried to fit, but I tried too hard and when it didn’t work, in the same turn…I tried to pull her into mine. What I couldn’t see, what I should have, was that…neither of us needed to fit anywhere, neither had to change when what we had, what we could have had was simply…what we made with each other.
The room is dark, save for the dull glow of a single lantern and light that pours unfiltered through a window stained and tainted with too much smoke. He’s smoking now; the slender fag resting between the dangle of elongated digits as his forearm rests against his knee. This is a room full of memories, full of the forgotten, full of the past and each face, each image haunts him. These are things he’s never allowed himself to get rid; though he’s gotten rid of many. These are the unforgivables. Unforgivable, because of him. His crimes. His sins. His burden.
His mother is there, his father; their imagines as stern and unforgiving in the smear of paint and the taint of coal as they had been in life. Where does the problem begin? His trail of disappointing those around him. Did it stem there from parents whom he’d betrayed, turning away from life and duty to become forgotten, a wastrel, the most despised of all creatures in the gilded world through which they’d moved. He’d become an artiste.
Perhaps it started before them, in the soft blue eyes of Margrette when he’d fancied himself in love that wasn’t. He hadn’t know what it was then, but did he know now? What sort of man does this? Wraps himself away in tragedy, shrouds himself in memory and then, still longs to forget when those things he’d run from remain in the very place that should have been his sanctuary. He’d left her, ruined as only a man can ruin a woman and alone as only the lost of that first love can leave you. He’d never looked back.
Would it please her, would it please any of them to know that he looked back down? Tendrils of black frame thin gaunt cheeks and eyes of emerald have lost their shine. His skin holds the parlor of one who’s been too long absent the sun and denied a hot meal one time too many. They say misery loves company, but there’s none that he’d pull into this Hell. None that cry louder than that which he’d loved on summer’s day, with only God to sit judgment. Such wonder he’d seen upon her face, such awe in the cries that fell past her lips. Such love.
It was love, wasn’t it. Too late realized, too late knowing. And there are too many canvases upon which she rests. The glory of her smile, the warmth in those dark doe eyes. Too well he remembers the curve of her neck; the crook of her smile. She’d tried to show him a world beyond the gutter that he’d lived in and he had been a stubborn fool. But he remembers, and he wonders… Some things are too precious to forget.
And there’s a trader coming through the town on Monday. Perhaps he’ll ask, if he can work himself past the fear of simply…speaking her name. But it’s not the name, not really, that he fear’s speaking. It’s the answers that might come instead. They say you can never go back.
He can’t go forward.