It was a long time ago, that I used to believe in things. Things like God, love and family. But after he left me, I'm not so sure I believe in anything, even that he, my phantom, existed. His eyes, glacier blue, seem as distant to me as God. His skin, soft and smooth is a memory, no, less than that. The feel of his skin is a dream to me now. I have nothing to believe in but these dreams, and they are more insubstantial than the wind, less filling for a starving man than air. I walk amidst beauty, I am aware of it but as an outsider, a child who sits at the clear glass of a window watching children play, knowing he can never join them. My hand knows not the comfort of the sun anymore, only the cool chill of that pristine glass, through which I can see everything.
It is not the most cruel torture one can endure, but for someone like me, who has had nothing but love and luxury all of their lives, the pain is unbearable. My mother worries for me, and often asks where…he has gone. I can't answer her truthfully. If I knew, I would have gone there long ago, to see if he really does exist somewhere other than my heart. I stop now; I've wandered somewhere distant and far off, inexplicably beautiful. I look up at a dome of trees curving gently over the small dirt road I've been walking on. I see nothing of it, only for a moment I think I see his smile shining through the leaves. The foliage was green last time I looked. Now the large leaves are fantastic reds and golds, sunset oranges and mottled yellows. One floats down toward me. I put it into my pocket as I wonder, "Are the leaves turning where you are? Do you have a star shaped leaf in your pocket?"
I do not know. I will never know.
My friends told me that the pain would end. His leaving me would hurt for a while and then scar over. That was a year ago. They were all wrong. I bend my head to the dirt at my feet, which I see now is scattered with leaves. My heart is scattered in pieces with them. I can sense it beating somewhere, buried in the autumn colors of the forest, resting coolly in the dirt. I can't move because I might step on them, so I stand still, trying to feel the wind, cool on my through my hair. My phone rings, the sound comes from a distant place. Even after a year, I hope to see his familiar number on my screen.
"Hello, mom," I say.
"Where on earth are you? You were supposed to be here hours ago!"
"Where?" I ask.
"Honestly, you're ridiculous. The church, love, for the baptism," She says.
She's much calmer now that she knows I'm alright. She doesn't see that I'm not really. I'm hurting everywhere, in my head. In my heart. In my soul and body I ache.
"What baptism?" I ask, disinterested. She sighs, a grave lament full of disappointment.
"Your cousin's baby, love," She snaps.
"Oh…" I murmur softly.
I close my eyes. It's best to look at him with eyes closed. I see my dreams more clearly then. His eyes. His lips. His face. Fragments now, where once they made the most beautiful image on earth.
"Are you listening to me?" my mom asks.
"Yes." I say.
"Be here soon. I mean it, no lollygagging."
The phone clicks and then beeps in my ear. I can't move, but I must. I have to see a baby be drizzled with water. The church is tall and beautiful. I don't remember how my feet took me from the autumn road, but here I am. I reach out and spread my hand over the building, imagining myself sculpting it from the ground. Unfortunately, I lose my will, and instead I stand there, my hand raised as if to block the glory of the sun. I let it drop, and walk inside. Filtered light makes its way in through stained glass windows. People are here, soft murmurings penetrate my dark, lonely place. I hear laughter and the child inside of me wistfully whimpers from behind the cool glass of my pain. I find a seat, and claim it. I close my eyes. His skin, his eyes, his hair. Fragments. I sit in the pew with my mother on one side, and my grandmother on the other. My hands rest on my thighs, wrapped in one another. Each hand is warmed and protected by the other. What am I to do one leaves the other? Where will my other hand go? Where has he gone?
I open my eyes long enough to see my mother's weary face bent and praying. I too bend my head, close my eyes and pretend to pray. I try to picture my dreams. Faded fragments and feelings make it through. Sunshine on a cloudy day. Glacier blue eyes both freeze and boil me. My blood and heart are hot within my frozen body. Soft black curls tickle my fingertips. Then a distance. I see his whole figure, blurry and out of focus, as if through the lenses of an amateur's camera. I want to walk closer… I want to see him so badly.
"I'm sorry. I don't feel the way you feel... It won't work between us."
"I just can't see myself with you."
"I don't think we could ever have that kind of love between us."
"Why?" I asked, confused.
"Isn't it obvious?" His sarcastic laughter rips me apart. Why must everything he says and does affect me so deeply? I don't respond.
"Look it just… It wouldn't work out okay?"
No. I travel onto a happier dream. My phantom reaches out towards me, cups my face in his hands. My God, have I ever felt anything like this? If love exists, then it's filling not my whole heart, but my body too. Mind. Soul. He is here with me.
"Sweetheart. Darling!" his voice.
"Hey!" no… My mother's voice.
I hear her as though I were at the bottom of the ocean; miles of water separate us from one another. I roll my head over to her.
"Sam, you should go home," She says.
I hear her, I leave before her. But it still seems like some trick of the mind, some illusion, when I find myself standing in my room at the foot of the bed. Was he an illusion only? Perhaps. But I would rather sleep and dream of my phantom, than stand here, staring at the abyss of my demented mind and memory.
I fall onto the bed. I think I may be sleeping now, but these days it's so hard to tell. I wasn't always like this. Once I was alert, awake and blissfully innocent. Before he came into my life, I was a rose freshly bloomed, glistening with dewdrops that reflected the sunlight of my happiness and innocence. The only problem with my rose was that it didn't have thorns.
I can dream these dreams of my old self only very vaguely. Trying to remember life before him is like a blind man attempting to remember color, when all he ever knew was black and white. The sights are familiar, the memory real, but lacking in something you can't quite describe. It frustrates me because I know it's wonderful. I walked with my friends to school on that fateful cloudy day.
"Aw man, Sam, did you do that damn French assignment?" I forget whose voice this is or what I replied because right then, everything changed. I know it wasn't he who brought out the sun. It only seemed that way to me, as I looked on him from a distance. I; walking resolutely through the gray mugginess, and he; standing by the school, bathed in a single shaft of light. It was the light itself which had drawn my eye to him, and almost just as quickly as I saw it, it disappeared again. In that brief second, it was like the world suddenly switched from a silent black and white film to vibrant color and clear sounds. In that brief moment, I saw his eyes, blue, as he squinted against the light, boring into my own. I saw black curls falling onto a smooth olive forehead, full lips creased into a smirk as he noticed me staring awestruck at him. Only that moment, and then the sun hid behind a cloud and he turned and walked into the school. I looked to the boy beside me, whose name I've long forgotten, and asked, "Who was that guy?" He changed my life. I felt like the blind man whom Jesus gave back his sight. I wished to throw myself at the feet of the strange man who saved me. I wished to see him again, one more time.
"Who?" the boy asked.
"The guy who just went in," I responded. Tell me! For the love of God, let me know who that is!
BEEP…BEEP…BEEP! I guess that explains why my alarm didn't go off at seven this morning... I had it set to seven at night.
I sit in my bed. It was dream and a very vivid dream at that. I think that while I was sleeping, I saw his full face again, but now that I'm awake… Nothing more than fragments. I sigh and lie back down on the bed. I am gazing upward at the mirror my sister inexplicably nailed up there before she had gone to college. I admire my own face, wondering what he ever saw in the plain boy musing down at me. It is me. The very same green-brown eyes look out at me that have always looked out at me. The same blond hair, though a bit more grown out, sprouts from my roundish face, the face which I had fussed so uselessly over when I had a bout of acne in middle school.
This is the face of someone plain, someone who deserves to be left behind.
"I promise you this, though. I'll remember you, but you won't remember me. If you do, I'll be only as a dream to you. You won't even be sure if I really existed at all." His hand let go of mine, leaving it cold in the fall wind.
"It wouldn't have worked out anyway okay? I tend to hurt the people I love. I pray to God you won't remember me."
One thing about my phantom is that he's no liar. I watch my face, blank and expressionless, until I can bear the temptation no longer. I close my eyes and remember what happened in this very room, very near the bed I'm lying in now. I roll to my side, to get the same vantage point which I had, and fix my eyes on the empty space in front of me, where he had once sat. I reach out, hoping to conjure him with my fingers, praying that they meet soft black curls. My hand falls through the nothingness which is there now.
I close my eyes, and try to remember the way it felt to have my hand in his hair. His hand is clutching my wrist, sending a pulsing magnetic wave through my body which drew me nearer to him. I wish to lean down, to rest my lips on his hair, but I don't. I don't want him to hurt me again.
"Look it just…It wouldn't work out okay?"
Daggers, bullets, death.
"I really love you," I murmur. He sighs. I can't see his face. His hand tightens around my wrist, making me want to weep with happiness.
"I love you too, I guess," He says. My heart just might burst.
I open my eyes. How is it that I can remember the way his hand felt, but I can't feel it the way I feel my heart bursting? Why must only the painful, bitter memories leave scars that never fade? Dimly I hear someone shouting downstairs. I hear my name, and assume that they're calling for me. However, when I am at the top of the stairs, I realize they are not calling for me, but fighting about me. The daggers do not penetrate really. They are only small pebbles bouncing off of the pain that already resides within. Their cruel remarks are gravel attacking a mountain.
My mother glances up, and blanches.
"Sam…How long have you been standing there?" she asks.
"Since 'He's just not normal anymore!', you know…" I murmur. I murmur a lot lately. It just takes up too much time and energy to try and speak properly.
"You need help." I need him.
"I'm taking you to see a psychologist." Take me to him.
"We'll fix what's wrong with you." Piece him back together so he can exist again…
Maybe he'll come back, if I can remember him properly, instead of in fragments. If I can just recall…
"You'll be better, soon."
…His face…His name…
"Sure," I mumble.
If I could just remember…
"Oh, my baby! I'm so happy you're making a change in your life."
… His name…
"Thanks for your concern."
His name is…Mal… Mal! Malachi! His name's Malachi, or Mal for short. Oh, Mal, I'll remember you! And when I do, I'm gonna find you God dammit! No more of this moping around. I know you love me, and once I remember you fully, once I'm sure you exist, I'm going to come out and I'll find you… Malachi.