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Of What Could Be Lost

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It's something about the way the snow falls. The flakes are fat and slow, and drift towards the ground like down. Like very cold down, that melts when it strikes your face, like a hundred thousand fairy-kisses.

That's the kind of thing he'll say, for the look I'll give him, for my disgust at the soppy, tweeness of the fancy.

It's something about the way the snow falls that brings the memory. It falls like ash fell before, and like rain, and like a thousand snows before. It opens up a hall of memory that stretches back far beyond my birth, at least into this body.

The feeling is enough to make me want to laugh, laugh like he usually does, at the endless spiralling ironies of the world. We've gone through university with that laughter, and my eyes rolled at it. Everyone knows he finds everything funny, even the things that bring others to their knees in grief, or their feet in rage. Very few people - maybe only I - know that most of the time, he's laughing because he sees something in it, some piece of greater humanity, greater creation, which is so fractured that laughter and tears are very nearly the same thing, anyway.

He's told me before that there's something very wrong with the universe. Something so wrong with creation that probably the only way to fix it is for God (whatever that means) to wipe it out and start over. But that God can't, because of love.

It's the kind of thing he says. It's the kind of thing he says with a very solemn expression that you know even after a few hours of conversation means he's fucking with you. He lies a lot, my heart does. And that's one of them.

He means every damn word he says. It's what I think will kill him, in the end.

Except that now I remember that it has, and it hasn't, in a way that stretches back behind us in lifetimes and worlds. It's the kind of thing he'd think, the kind of thing he'd say.

And I'd say to him, are you trying to tell me we've had lives before this one? And not just in this world, but in others? That you swear exist? Do you realize that you sound like a bad New Age (note: pronounced 'newage', rhymes with 'sewage') romance novel, or a fraud psychic trying to get my money? Do you think I'm fucking stupid?

Then he'd make a pun on the fact that no, I'm fucking him, and he's actually quite brilliant, he's got the papers to prove it. And I'd try to hit him. And fail.

Instead, I'm the one who knows that it's true, no matter how it sounds, and that it's something about the snow that tells me, and that I've got to make a choice again.

I've always got to make a choice. It's one of the truths about us.

 

My hair is black. My eyes are brown, and so is my skin. I'm not particularly tall, and my eyebrows are too thick for fashion. I refuse to shape them. My mother pierced my ears at birth, and now that she's moved back to Mumbai each time she visits she brings me enough silver jewelry to drown a small dog if you strapped it to him and tossed him in the river. I know some of these things are always with me, however they change with the rest of the life I'm born into: my hair is always dark, and my eyes are always brown, and I am always a little bit outside of whatever normal is, wherever I am.

His hair is whatever the hell colour he wants it to be today. But his eyes are always green, and he is always taller than I am, and he is always trying, by design or accident, to save the world.

I know sometimes, some lives, he's better at it than others. Some other lives he's too worn and too bitter. Some of them too powerless. Some of them too lost. But he's always helpless before the impulse, and in the end it always kills him, or would if it weren't for me.

(Often, it kills me, too.)

I know that I am always . . . me. That this is part of what makes us, in the end. He is mutable, changeable, always made of the same elements but wrenched and carved into different shapes, made and remade by the world around him. I'm . . . not. I'm always me. Angry and resentful, stubborn, resisting change.

I know that he's always lying, and I'm always seeing through.

I know that each time, I have to choose. I have to decide whether or not he's mine. Whether or not he belongs to me. Whether or not I want him enough to save him.

Tonight, in the snow falling down in wide, fluffy flakes like fucking fairy-kisses, he calls me and says, "Come with me tonight. We should see this."

The Movement is his thing, not mine. I've told him more than once I think he's stupid for getting in this deep with it. With everything I know now, I say, "Okay. But you're buying my coffee."

There's a law, somewhere, about me and my prickly shell.

 

We take the train. So does everyone else. How could you park anywhere near? And would you want to risk your car? Everything could go wrong tonight. Liminal spaces aren't ever safe.

I know that with this new, older, vaster memory I have. This is a liminal space, today. Everything could go one way, everything could go another. Uncharacteristically, I don't even get to pick which way to go. Not yet.

(There's always another liminal moment, as long as you're alive. Experience has taught me that, too.)

Today his hair is pale blue and gold, and his overcoat is patched in every place. Mine is simple, practical, and has a hood. I have it up. It's fucking cold outside. He holds my left hand in his right one, and my other hand has my mitt on, and holds my other one.

If I'm quieter than normal (which is hard to tell, because I often let him chatter anyway, and limit my comments to my expressions, which he says speak whole libraries anyway), he fills in the gaps without noticing. And I find it -

I am more endeared to him than normal, and he seems more precious. I remember from a thousand lifetimes that I'm . . . .I usually don't get to see him this young. Like this. This hopeful. I usually come later. I'm usually the answer to despair.

A part of me that's thousands of years old in cynicism suspects this means that this life is going to be one of the worst ones.

Another part of me reminds me that I haven't made my choice yet.

 

Sometimes you call humanity a sea. Sometimes, it's the only word. A sea is different from a mob. A mob is a living thing, a hungry thing, an angry thing. It seethes and boils. A sea is different.

An ocean of people ebbs and flows, has tides and currents, eddies and whirls. It draws people into the centre and spins them back to the edge (or spits them out).

There are other people we know here. Of course. We're university students, and this is a moment for universities, for students, for the people who've had enough education to think they know how to fix the world, or at least stop this part of it being so fucking broken.

Not always the same thing.

There are other people we know here, but they're part of the human tide, and we're not. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Well. At least, not me.

Today, we'll win (for a little while), or today, we'll all die. I'm not sure which yet. But for the moment, he gives himself to the sea, and I watch him.

He'll get older. I know that. The bitterness will come. The pained wisdom, and the letting go that comes after the bitterness itself gets a little older, a little wiser. This might be the last time he can ever do this.

And I know I'm always the same. I know I never really change. I know I'm always myself, and it's always my choice, and I always hold the world in my hand.

I let his go, so carefully he'll never notice, and I walk away.

 

It's easy to get lost, and I do it on purpose. The tidal movement around me turns me this way and that way, leads me and leads me, and I'm always moved by it, not part of it. I'm never part of it. If his curse is love, is all the pain that comes from loving the world the way (maybe) God would have to do not to have destroyed it already, mine is -

I'm always myself. I'm never part. I'm maker, I'm creator, destroyer, judge, enemy, saviour, I'm a thousand things, but I'm always myself, and that means I'm never part of anything. At least, not anything I haven't made.

So right now, I'm a single body in the ocean that's made itself around me, the single swimmer lost at sea, as voices hurl themselves at the sky, and hands start to reach towards stones, barbed wire and fence-posts, and young men and women with firearms at the top look at each other, warily, lost for orders and having to decide themselves what to do.

What to do about this.

We all have to make choices. I know that. It never stops. Each single heart-beat of the universe, a choice, or the choice not to make a choice. I know that better than anyone else, because it's my purpose. It's what I'm for.

I choose. I make the choices. Sometimes the choices no one else can make.

 

There's a cross outlined by the light. If you don't realize that it comes from massive spotlights meant to expose anyone trying to creep across so they can be shot, it's almost ethereal.

It's not a symbol that means much to me, but I've lived surrounded by it, and I know what it means to others. And in its way, it, too, is the symbol of a choice.

Mine is now. I could leave. It might be the last time I can. I could leave and become a memory, live out my life in probable peace, possible prosperity. I could leave, learn to teach, find a home, maybe marry, maybe have the children I've always wanted. Leave a legacy untainted by anything too big, too ambitious (so ambitious it becomes poison), a memory to be loved until it's forgotten.

I could leave and trade what I know (what is always) suffering and loss and, if nothing else, endless fucking frustration (each life, every life) for calm, and peace, and contentment.

I close my eyes, lift my face to the snow, and as the soldiers on the wall put down their guns and climb down, to become part of the crowd or to disappear into it and flee, as the destruction (all of things, none of people, not yet) begins, I laugh and open my arms.

I could, but I'm not going to. I never do. I'm not that fucking stupid.

 

My hair is full of melting snow, because my hood fell back on the way. It's cold and I can see my breath. The crowd is moving now, the ocean swelling up its tide to overwhelm the beachhead, but he's standing waiting for me, no longer a part of it, eyes searching through faces because he can't find mine.

Every life I make a choice, and each time the choice is real, but it's never been different. I know what's mine. I know who's mine. And I know the exact worth of what I have.

His eyes are always green, and from the first time we meet his soul always belongs to me, and it is worth more than anything else could ever be to me.

 

He rests his forehead against mine, when we have to break the kiss to breathe. They're still moving around us, and we can hear the voice of the human sea, the tumbling of rock and joy of what is, for now, a single joined human soul.

"I thought you left," he tells me, and I smile, tilting my head up to look him in the face.

"If I ever leave this insanity," I say, "I'll have knocked you out and stuck you in the trunk first."

I've never done that, I know.

I wonder if he'll ever remember. Or if it's my turn.