Even though it was a dream, she knew it was true.
Standing at the landing of the second floor staircase of Swift Hall, there he was, walking down the familiar gray slate steps; the leaded glass window casting his face in shadow. She knew by his lope, it was him.
The joy welled up in her, she thought she would whoop and holler. Instead, she smiled so hard her jaw started hurting. And she jumped in his arms. Always a few inches taller than she, he wrapped his long arms around her rib cage and swung her around, boisterously. With both surprise and reunion joy, he said her name over and over…
As they came to a stop from their swinging, she steadied herself by grabbing his forearms.
“I knew that you didn’t do it. I knew that you couldn’t do that to yourself. I knew you were still alive. You’re alive.” she practically panted, so many words spilling out her mouth, trying to capture her shock, disbelief and utter relief that all the pain could be wiped away.
“Of course, I’m alive,” he said, almost half joking, as if the torture and grief that she had known for so many months could not possibly have been started by him. “I’d never do that to you. You think I could just leave like that?!”
“I knew. I knew you were alive,” she whispered in awed wonder at his presence before her.
And then the scene changed.
She is lying in a hospital bed in a sterile, white room with two beds. She is in the bed by the window and the sheet divides her from the other side. She feels fine but she knows that he is in the other bed.
She stands and pulls the sheet back. Surrounded by tubes and lights, he is lying unearthly still. She knows that he is dead.
She is so angry. She crawls on top of him and starts pounding his chest.
“NO! NO! Come back! Come back! Don’t go!” she cries, her voice cracking with pain.
She can say no more, her mouth is full of tears. She shakes him and clings to his face, trying to yell him back from the dead.
He is gone.
And yet, they are still 17.
Although life still seemed up in the air-there sitting there on the scalded sidewalk, slouching up against the impending Performing Arts Center.
A pair of headphones broken so each could have an earful of music. A melancholy song of lost love and of wanting a reality that is more than words.
They each had other people taking their attention and bringing individual soap opera drama to their lives. And yet there was a level of comfort with each other like an old couch in a back room surrounded by others smoking and talking. A peace that appreciates what one moment has to offer and nothing more.
They would have to go soon. A light mist was falling. Her hair still in pink, sponge curlers for the night’s show, him still in work out clothes. They drew up their knees to avoid the rain, and she laid her cheek upon his shoulder.
They sat in silence under the weight of all they did not know. They did not know that they were both being betrayed by false loves. They did not know that show business was not in their futures. They did not know that in a few short years he would read Crime and Punishment and hang himself. She would never read Dostoevsky again and not imagine the book lying in his closet. The rope. How could he let his family find him? What changed? Where was her peaceful friend then?
So, she clings to her memories and makes them more than they are. It’s for sanity, for peace. She cries.