"…Just as the Sun was Rising…"
The house is dark when he stumbles in. The house is always dark when he stumbles in. He doesn't know what time it is, but he knows it's very late. When he's like this, the cats always seem to be friendly. The dogs, wary. He is drunk again. Though he never refers to it as such. It's always, like this, or, that way. He wonders vaguely if this is a sign he has a problem. The thought flickers for a moment, like a dull flame, then dies. He shrugs his shoulders and the cat does figure-eights around his ankles. Standing still he gets dizzy, so he sits down. The kitchen never looked so big and so empty. He rubs his eyes until he sees bright spots. Under his breath he calls her a whore, then regrets it. It's just the drink talking. It's always just the drink talking.
What the hell was he doing? She'd kill him if she knew what he had become. Then again, maybe that was his motivation. He hadn't heard a word from her since…it seemed like years. Maybe it was. Maybe it was only months. However long it was, he felt as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Atlas had no idea what life felt like, wrapped and bound to you when you didn't want it. So to pretend the weight wasn't there, he took a swim. It seemed like every night he was casually greeting oblivion.
Without warning, he stood from his chair and pushed everything on the table to the floor. Then he flipped the table. The cat hissed and ran from the room, and he wished he could do the same. Just run from it all. Since he couldn't he continued his rampage, throwing everything off of the counter-tops. He slammed the cupboard doors so the glass cracked and shattered. Moving to the living room he tore the pictures from the walls, lamps off of the little tables that were so inconsequential. What was the point of a table so small it could only hold a lamp and a coaster? In the dining room he scratched and ripped at the wallpaper, he broke out the windows, he cracked the mirrors.
He moved upstairs and pulled the curtains down, he upended the bed, he pushed dressers on their side. In the bathroom he threw everything out of the medicine chest. He found her make-up and wrote obscenities on the walls. On his way downstairs, he dragged fragments of the bathroom mirror along the walls. The glass cut into his hands, he wiped the blood on his jeans. Out in the garage, he found the gasoline.
This far out it would take at least forty-five minutes to an hour for anybody to realize that there was too much smoke for just a bonfire. By then the whole damn thing would be up. He stood out in the yard, the dogs on his right, the cat somewhere gone, and he watched the flames lick the night sky. Sober from the drink finally, he was now drunk on the fullness of destruction, of invincibility. He wondered if this was how she felt. When she finally let go of all of it, when she was finally finished, done, when she was her own problem. Did she feel this accomplished, this powerful? This unbreakable?
For so long he had been in her shadow, and then suddenly he was her shadow. He had never really been sure why he let her go. He knew she needed to go, to be gone, he had known long before she had. And maybe that was why, but it was only part of why. Just as she was only part of him, whereas he was her entire. He let her go because she needed to be her own, with part of him, not all of him. She could never be her and someone else at the same time. She wasn't that simple. But then, now that he could understand just how much she was suffocating under all that dirt, he knew how to climb out of the grave. He didn't need a hand to pull him up. If that was true, than why the hell was he standing in front of the flames? Shouldn't he have been walking through them?
He doesn't have to look to know she's there. He doesn't even have to hear her speak. He's felt her nearness for centuries. Close enough to touch, he doesn't reach out. For the first time he's afraid she may not be there. He's had these hallucinations before, but he had always been, that way at those times. Now though, he's positive she's there. But he doesn't know if she's here, there. He watches the flames climb higher, and he thinks of water.
I made it myself
He speaks so low he isn't sure if it isn't a murmur. On his left, always on his left, she smiles.
So did I
He doesn't have to pass through the flames, to walk through them. Out in the forest behind the property, he brushes his fingertips across a tree. Birch. He knows because it's soft. In the moonlight she looks so unpale, so warm. He knows the flesh the color of nutmeg. The eyes, so much greener than the blue they were made to be. Her face is clean, no stains of lipstick, no smudges of mascara. And he smells like smoke. Like fire.