I met her at a gin joint, though only hipsters call them that nowadays. However, my whole life revolved around striding the teetering knife-edge between cool and an awful tie. I met her there, and I saw beautiful misery. She was film noir, sitting in the back of a DC bar above it all. Except it didn’t look like she was above it all, it looked like she was beneath it all. Beneath her jeans, weighed down by a blazer, crumpled beneath heavy bourbon lids. But it was the smile that weighed the most. She leaned back with a grateful white shirt cuff rolled back over her blue blazer and allowed a fedora to recline sexily on her black hair. She held her tortoise of the doctor’s favorite cure to her lips from time to time and sipped and watched the world. And she smiled, just a little, enough for people to assume she was being friendly and making herself available. But it wasn’t a real smile. And then every once and a while a man would saunter up to her and try and chat her up. I never heard what she said, but they all left quickly. Broken-hearted? Bitch? Lesbian? It was a Siren’s call of a smile to the average whiskey-tie hipster. And then she dashed them against the rocks. But why?
I walked over then. She brightened her smile, just slightly, to set the lure. But I didn’t smile back and continued over until i stood at her table. Cocking her head to the side she just looked at me, and volumes of silence were shared. She nodded her head and slid over, just two or three inches, to let me sit down. And she looked away, continuing to smile.
“You don’t have to smile for me; you aren’t happy.”
Her smile didn’t falter, it disapparated. I looked at her profile: Bond girl with short hair, hid in fitted suit clothes. She wore a few rings, turquoise and silver but no wedding band or conspicuous light skin where a ring was taken off. A costume of normality for something drowning. And then she turned to face me, and I saw her. I saw the eyes, and from them stared kings. Kings on fire, riding forth from bramble to die. My wonder withered and my heart broke. Out of those glossy green orbs shone bitter cold sadness, a hurt deeply felt and shouldered. The king wore a heavy crown and cried deep within her. Emergency feelings of empathy shook me deep; I’ve never met anyone with eyes that spoke for a soul. They declaimed pain and strength, they orated terror and love, they weaved responsibility and comprehension. They were not the eyes of a cold, lifeless wretch: it was one of royal love, who felt pain that others couldn’t.
I opened my mind to find words, but none came. I felt a fleeting wetness down my cheek and I sat, overcome by her.
“Who are you, and why don’t you run away like the rest?”
“Because you didn’t chase me. I am one who saw how heavy lies that crown shaped smile on your lips. I came to share you pain, I came to listen, and to ask you where you get your hats?”
She actually laughed; two jolts of sunlight filtering through an autumn canopy. She looked at me and took off her hat, shot down her whiskey, and handed the hat to me.
“You put it on.”
I did, and she slid sideways to adjust it on my head, slipping and dropping her hand into my lap to steady herself. She frowned, ”You need a bigger one.”
“Hat?” I asked coyly. She sniggered and i might have heard “boys” sub-vocalized. She then turned on all the charm, like a switch.
“So now what, am I gonna crawl over there and drawl into your ear?” She leaned forward further, getting close enough for me to feel the wind of her words on my face as she blew them in my direction.
“If i touch your cheek, will you build me a cabin, here in your jeans.” Her eyes twinkled in fervor, awaiting a reply.
“No, but I know a place. I can burn down the forest and build you a cabin. No one is using it. Then I’d like to hear you speak at length. I’d like to understand why your eyes cry burning tears.”
Her green eyes blinked, and blinked again. She lowered her chin a centimeter, like people do when deep in thought. And then “Okay, let’s go.” She slid to the side and stood in front of me holding out a hand to help me out. I stretched out my palm and said, “Peter” as I clambered out of the booth.
She turned her head back to look at me. ”I’m Chloe.”
“Where do you want to go Chloe.”
“I’d like to see this forest. I need a friend, and I think you are it. Never say goodbye to me.”
For the first time, I didn’t understand. I said so.
“Someday, maybe I’ll tell you,” she smiled at me, then turned and took my hand and walked us out into the chilly Friday night air.
I walked us to her car, I always walk to the bar since my car was a piece of shit and I don’t want to be seen in it. She had a nice green Japenese Acura or something though.
“Can you drive?”
“Oh course,” I said.
I got in a drove us towards West Virginia.
That was three years ago, son. I’m sitting in the waiting room of the hospital, waiting for Chloe, your mother to let me come back in and help. You are about to be born I’ve never said goodbye to her, and she never to me. But she told me why.
People think it is odd. But it isn’t about the words. Its about walking away from someone you love. Every goodbye is a death. It hurts that small child that lives inside everyone. Some elite liberal will tell you that you grow out of this and its called ‘object permanence’ but I refuse to believe in it. If you love those in your lives, if you truly feel the world around you, when those wondrous objects and people go away, something cries out deep in you. Grieve those tiny deaths, and hold close the moments. Each time you leave, each time you disappear into the night you feel sad. You are feeling a small death, a loss. Understand it, and smile and wave and cheer when those faces and those places come back into view.
Your mother never lets go of her old sadnesses, and she never forgets to cry when it’s needed. But it is these thousand deaths at goodbyes and the thousand returning welcomes that her eyes shine with the blood of kings.
Never completely shut away that child in you that cries out in pain or in joy. Listen to that child, keep him close. You will experience many deaths, slay many dragons, drink to the bottom of many cups, and greet old friends. And do them all with abandon: brooding melancholy and brilliant joy. And try to never say goodbye; every goodbye is like a death, a small death, but death eternal it be.
#death eternal it be #spilled ink #fiction #beautiful misery in the eye of film noir #stealing the tags #kings on fire #heavy lies the crown #emergency feels #hat sex #build me a cabin