October 31, 2012 by Wayne.
Written around March 2009.
Will get around to editing it before the end of the year (2012).
This is a picture that only I can see.
It does not exist in the strictest sense of the word. No one else can see it, but as long as I can, it exists to me. I am not sure of the exact date of this photo but I know a few things about it.
It is the year two thousand and eight. It is humid and the Sun is shining brightly, though it’s hard to tell from the picture. Somewhere in the middle is a crooked tree basking in the heat, its limbs gnarled and twisted into unnatural yoga positions. Close to it are flowers. I suppose they’re tulips – it’s hard to tell. The petals are looking coquettishly away from me.
At the bottom of the picture is a flat plain of lush, dark green grass that somewhat resembles the turf you see in football pitches. If you were to look solely at the grass, you would never guess that it was a hot day.
Amongst the grass, weeds have sprouted up. The weeds stand proudly in thick clumps, tall and arrogant, pushing the grass out of the way. Half-hidden by these weeds are two halves of a BB gun bullet.
The two halves are close to one another. One is facing upwards and the crevices are irregular and almost chaotic in their jagged patterns.
It is, I’m quite sure, 4.04 pm in the evening. The Sun, at this point, hasn’t made up its mind between shining as brightly as possible and clocking out for the day. It casts subtle shadows on the crevices of the pellet. They look almost like craters on the face of the Moon.
Next to the half on the left is a girl.
Her head is tilted slightly downwards and her mouth is very slightly agape. Her expression cannot be read from her mouth. I suppose she’s pouting. There is a wrinkle of a smile at the corners. It is barely noticeable. It might not be there at all. She told me once that, “illusions are sometimes the results of reality playing tricks on us.
Her eyes look like they are staring into me.
There is a polished, glazed look to them. They are slightly unfocused, as if something caught their interest and the picture caught them just before they turned to see what the distraction was.
Her lush hair protests the tilt of the head. It fights the pose in quietly ferocious curls and twists that reach away from the pull of gravity. They remind me – they always do – of the first time I saw her.
She was rushing past me, wearing an oversized T-shirt crunched up at the shoulders, and very short pants. I noticed her hair first though. It was black – but at first glance, it seemed a rich, dark brown. There was something about it that made me start and stare at its waves of movement. I caught a glimpse of her face as she passed. Her eyes had that same glazed look she has in this picture.
This is a picture that only I can see.
The curls of hair are partially hiding a figure in the background. It’s a blurred figure walking away into the distance. The tilt of the shoulders is exactly the way Josh’s shoulders tilt when he walks. Josh was a particularly close friend of mine back in high school, but we slowly drifted apart since then. I’m told it’s a normal part of life – it happens to everyone. That doesn’t mean much to me. Death is a normal part of life too.
The last time I talked to Josh face-to-face was a couple of days after he broke up with Angela. He was bitter and cynical and clearly drunk. He mocked her and cursed her and wept and I tried to console him, but he got angry. He mumbled something about envying my relationship, and I brushed it off then. Secretly, I felt proud. I was a fool. With the precious gift of hindsight, I see the truth. Every relationship is fractured in its own way, and no matter how you try to tape up the cracks or ignore the fine spidery lines, they’re always there.
In any case, Josh was in the midst of a furious bout of swearing when I tried to calm him down. He pushed me away and accused me of “consorting with the enemy. You’ve got it all wrong, innit? Friends, goddammit, nothing but enemies you’ve yet to discover.” And that was the last thing he ever said to my face. It was a rather coherent sentence for a drunken man, come to think of it. I suppose Josh wasn’t as drunk as he made himself out to be. I don’t blame him. He used to be crazy about Angela.
The first time I met Josh’s ex-girlfriend was when he brought her to a party. We exchanged a couple of polite words, and she told me a joke – but the thumping music drowned out her words. She looked rather comical with her mouth wide open, laughing at her joke that I didn’t hear. All I could focus on was the relentless pounding at my eardrums, and I became uncomfortable. I left soon afterwards. Josh retold the joke to me as he followed me to the door, something about the people at Harvard using Yale locks. I didn’t find it that funny, but I laughed politely and told Josh to tell her it was a fabulous joke and it was a shame I didn’t catch it the first time. I wondered about them when I got back. What did either of see in each other?
I look back at the picture.
Her T-shirt is a slightly faded black and, in bold, white font, the letters MCR are scratched onto it. I can’t stand most of their songs. We actually argued about it once. She insisted that I listened to their music and I just couldn’t. It was bad enough that I had to hear it on the radio everyday. She pretended to be angry, but I really was annoyed, and after a while, everything felt real, and we didn’t know who was pretending. We fell silent for a few awkward moments, then she said, “I’ll take it off if you want,” and she did. She laughed and planted her lips on mine firmly, as if to shake off the moment of uncertainty. We had sex then, and she smiled contently afterwards and we snuggled up and talked. I loved those moments after sex – we used to talk about our future and our dreams and our secrets.
In her left hand, she is holding something. I can’t see what it is from the picture – her hand is tilted away from me. I think it’s a card. Her hand is holding it very tightly. She gave me a card once. It was a faint purple card, with lush ink lines forming words I can no longer remember. It gave me a funny feeling when I opened it; an abrupt blossoming of giddy, uncharacteristic gleefulness that fizzed through my body and plastered a silly smile on my face.
Her other hand is open awkwardly. Her index finger is curled further inwards than the rest. There is a BB gun on the ground near her feet. It is a mock pistol that shoots tiny plastic spheres that sting when shot at close range and leave light bruises if you’re unlucky. I bought one once, but I left it somewhere with all the other junk that we tend to collect throughout the years. They are not meant to be part of our lives; we simply take them along for a short time before realizing that they do not belong. Before her, my life had been an amalgamation of irrelevant details.
We had a big fight about a month before this picture. I can no longer remember what it was about. We made up afterwards. I think that above everything else, we were both terrified of the prospect of losing one another. She said it this way, “It’s like – you share this part of yourself with someone else, and if he leaves, you’ve lost that part and you’ll never get it back, ever, and I’m just so ****ing scared of that happening.”
I wonder how we managed to smooth over every conflict and pretend afterwards that they never happened. Is that what the clichéd ‘love is blind’ means? I do not know. Perhaps our quarrels were the only real thing about us. It is a Bokononist thing to say.
All those dreams we shared while we lay there, holding each other tightly, were they lies? It does not matter, but I can’t help wondering nonetheless. I think, what I think is that the truth is nothing but a cleverly disguised lie. It is a work of fiction dressed up smartly in a highfalutin tuxedo. And this life is just a dream – neither a good one nor a bad one – just a figment of someone else’s imagination. And the one Dreaming will wake one day and everything we know will vanish. Was it so wrong then to want an end to this absurd joke? It was not a selfish thought; I did not seek such a solution for myself. But I could not bear to let the one I cared so painfully about suffer the similar fate. Do you see now? It was the right thing to do.
I look back at the picture.
There is a spot of crimson on her shirt that I did not notice before, near the bottom right corner. It is a blemish on this thing that I hate, but am forced to like because she is wearing it. I understand her expression now. She isn’t about to crack into a smile. Her mouth is simply open in black, expressionless shock. The right side of her mouth is smudged with a faint wisp of smoke that trickles downwards into nothingness. She is, I think, staring at me accusingly. Her glazed eyes are screaming, saying I trusted you why did you I do not understand-
I think I see a speck of red in her mouth.
-why did you I love you–
It is the year two thousand and eight. It is a humid day and the Sun is shining very brightly and the glare hurts my eyes. It is giving me a torrid headache and the silence is painfully noisy but it can’t drown out the loud thumping, the relentless pounding of my blood around my eardrums, the faint barely visible wisp of smoke trickling out of the heavy pistol I’m grasping tightly in my quivering hand, a real pistol, a loaded pistol-
-why did you shoot me?
It is precisely 4.05pm and as I let my gun drop to the ground, I fall to my knees and cry.