And There an End, But Now They Rise Again

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The stars burn in the sky, illuminating the darkness and shining their lies down upon him.  Lucas sits in silence, his back pressed against the cold wood of the bench.  His head tilted back as he stares up into a lie.  The stars don’t burn in the sky, or rather they do but his eyes cannot see them.  Each one deleted by the haze of the city’s light.  He imagines they are there, waiting for him to ask them a question.

With a sigh he leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees and cradles his head in his hands.  His face wet, the tracks of his emotions drying salty against his cheeks.  He sniffs loudly and closes his eyes.  With no one around he can be alone with his thoughts.  He smiles coldly at the perfection of his tears rolling out from within his imperfect frame.

The noise in his head battles with that of his playlist, striving for dominance against the soundtrack of the scene.  It argues its point.  It argues against the faint veil of happiness that surrounds his daily life.  Being loved is all very well but only if the images align and both read from the same page.

Across the city, in a room battling his own demons, his boyfriend exists.  His current actions unknown but Lucas has a good idea of what they could be.  The thought is enough to form a smile but too little to bring an interval of silence.  The noise continues and the stars still await their question.

A year ago he would have numbed the pain.  Brought about silence through a line, a glass, a bottle.  Several.  He would have drowned out everything and left the voices gasping for air, their questions unanswered as he kissed the lips of oblivion.  Now he faces it unarmed and naked.  He stares it straight in the eyes.  Oblivion replaced with oblivion.

Using the back of his hand, Lucas wipes his face.  Blinks out the last of his tears and looks back up at the night sky.  You fuckers, he thinks.  You’re all fucking lies.  Burnt out and dead before you reach my eyes.  What good are your answers?

Just as good as your own, the noise buzzes, vibrating through his mind.

Fuck you.

Fuck you too.

Lucas shakes his head sharply from side to side.  Lets out a groan and slaps the side of his face with his hand.  Just leave me alone for one minute.  One minute would feel like a lifetime.

With a shudder he pulls his leather jacket closer against his body.  Crossing his arms he allows his focus to blur.  Staring into nothing whilst his mind spins through a series of thoughts, not lingering on one long enough to gain a meaning.  What good will this all achieve?  What do you think will be the outcome?

Lucas shrugs his shoulders.  You tell me.

Nothing.  Nothing like you are.  Nothing like you have always been.

A sigh.  Lucas closes his eyes and tilts his head backwards, before allowing it to drop all the way forward where it hangs limply.  He focuses on his breathing.  Taking long, slow, deep breaths.  He ignores the noise, cutting short each thought before it finishes each sentence.  It takes all of his energy, the bubble of frustration eats the final crumbs and he resets the system with a punch to the side of his head.

“Fuck this,” he spits.  Easing a Pall Mall Red from its box, he lights the cigarette, his hands trembling.  The inhalation pulls the smoke deep into his lungs and he holds it there.  Counting to five before exhaling slowly.  “Fuck this.”  He takes another draw of the cigarette, this time counting to ten before releasing the smoke through his nostrils.

Lucas gets to his feet and stretches.  Adjusts his jeans and takes another look at the hazy sky.  He imagines one star and smiles.  I have a question for you.  No, not a question, an observation.  Doesn’t it suck to be hidden…  “Oh, fuck this.’  He cuts the thought short.  “What is the fucking point?”

With an eye roll he throws his cigarette butt to the floor and crushes its corpse under his Dr Martens boot as he walks away.

“I guess it’s just something I’m finally ready to face up to.  I’ve been ignoring it for all my life and doing so has got me nowhere.”  Lucas lights the end of his cigarette.   He stares into the space in front of him, clenching his jaw tightly as he thinks over what he has just said.

His boyfriend Alex adjusts himself on the sofa, watching Lucas’ profile intensely.  His hand placed firmly on Lucas’ leg.  “If it’s something you need to do then I support it fully.  I just don’t know how you’re gonna go about it.  Without stating the obvious, I guess the decision is down to you.”

“I’ve already thought it through.”  Lucas turns his head to look at Alex.  “I know what I need to do and I’m going to go through with it.  It’s just going to be hard.  There’s a lot I have to consider.”

“Have you spoken about it in therapy?”

“Yeah, I have, at length.”

“And what was the outcome?”

“My therapist is all in favour of it.  Thinks it might do me a lot of good.  At the end of the day, I guess it’s about facing up to my fears and the reality of it.”

“That’s easier said than done.”

“Everything is easier said than done.  It’s not a question about ease; it’s about necessity.  This is something I need to do rather than just wanting to.  It could go either way; open up so many closed doors.  It could overwhelm me completely.  But, as I said, I need to do it.  I need to visit her grave.  I need to see it.”

Alex sighs, rubs Lucas’ leg and then withdraws his hand.  He sucks on his bottom lip, searching for the right words to follow.  “If it’s something you need to do then do it.  Is there a timeframe?  I mean are you aiming to complete the journey by a certain point?”

Lucas sighs.  Blinks his eyes.  “This is only the beginning.  I know I want to see it on the anniversary of her death.  I know that much.”

“Okay.”  Alex closes his eyes briefly before reaching for his Pall Mall rolling tobacco and quickly rolls himself a cigarette.  Click.  Flame.  Inhale.  He breathes out slowly.  “As long as you feel ready to do this.”

‘I don’t, but I guess I never will.  It’ll never be the right moment, the right time.  I just know I can’t go on like this.”

“I know how you feel.  I was the same when I visited Rose’s grave for the first time.  I was overwhelmed by the feelings of guilt that it had taken me a year to face up to the reality of it.  The guilt and anger ate away at me before I went.  Then I saw it and everything melted away.  I faced the reality of the situation.  The real world pulled back the curtains and I stood staring at it.  The realisation hit like a car crash, and I went spinning out of control.  The gates opened and all I could do was fall to the floor and cry.  She is never coming back.  She never will.  Never will she be proud of me again.  I’ll never hear her voice, her laughter again.  It all hit at once and silenced every voice in my head.  I felt her arms come out and hug me.  I hurt the most I’ve ever have but at the same time…” Alex’s voice breaks.  “At the same time I felt so at peace.”

Lucas watches Alex’s eyes mist over.  He reaches across and squeezes his leg.  “I’m so proud of you for how you did that.  You faced it all alone.  I can’t imagine what you went through.”

Alex smiles.  “I just hope seeing your mother’s grave will bring you the same release.  Since going the flashbacks have subsided.  It’s like in those three hours I spent just sitting and talking to her she gave me permission to move on.  She consented to the continuation of my life.  It was so strange, Lucas.  Being close to her body gave me the same calm she always brought out in me.  It was as thought she was sat with me.  That she forgave me.”

“Forgave you?”

“Forgave me for not being good enough to save her.  That she knew I did everything I could.  Fuck, Lucas, she’s never coming back.”  A tear drops from his eye, he wipes it away with his finger.  He coughs.  “But that doesn’t matter.  We’re not talking about me.  I just wanted you to know that I have some understanding for what you are going through.”

“Of course it matters.  I love you so anything you say is important.  But thank you for sharing it with me.”

Alex smiles and blinks his eyes.  “The same applies to you.”

“I have something I want to ask but you don’t have to do it.”

“Ask away.”

“Will you come with me?”

“Of course I will.”

“I just want someone there with me because I don’t know how I’m going to react.”

“You don’t need to give an explanation.  I’ll do whatever you need me to do.  I just, y’know, wish I could take the pain away.  I’m so worried about you.”

“You don’t need to be.”

“I’m your boyfriend, of course I need to be.  I rarely feel anything for anyone, so you should feel grateful,’ Alex jokes, poking out his tongue like a full stop to his sentence.

Lucas’ eyes water as he is consumed by emotion.  A bombardment of different thoughts.  He allows love in and for a moment it pushes everything into the shadows.  “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

The sun hangs heavily in the sky, its rays pleasantly warming, a slight wind keeping the temperature tolerable.  The gates of the cemetery are closed and Lucas looks at the barrier, his heart beating hard in his chest.  With a sigh he brings his hand to his mouth and holds it there.  He feels sick, his stomach churning, threatening to vomit up his breakfast of cereal.

Beside him Alex stands in silence.  Coolly looking around at their surroundings, the air quiet except for the chirp of birds hanging on the cable above their heads and from within the hedge that surrounds the graveyard.  He places a hand on Lucas’ back.  “Are you okay?” he asks softly.

Lucas shrugs his shoulders, his stare never leaving the closed gate.  After a pause he says, “I don’t know.”  The words whispering out of him.  He swallows saliva to try and moisten the dryness of his throat.  “I really don’t know.”

“Take as long as you need to.  There’s no rush, no pressure.  Today is your day.”

Lucas smiles without emotion, his expression strained.  “Thank you, Alex.”

Alex rubs Lucas’ back then withdraws his hand.  He sighs and takes a step backwards.  “You don’t need to thank me.”

“I know, I guess this can’t be easy for you either.”

Alex shrugs his shoulders.  “Like I said, today is your day.  I’ll be fine.  Don’t worry about me.”

“I can’t help it.”

“Well try just for this moment.  Focus on yourself.”  Alex looks towards the gates and bites his lower lip.

“Do you mind if I go alone at first?”

“Not at all.  I’ll wait here for you.  If you need me, come and get me.  If not, then that’s fine too.”

“Okay.”  Lucas looks at his feet and breathes in deeply.  He looks back at the gate.  He clenches his jaw and then makes the first step towards the graveyard’s entrance.

As the gate closes behind him with a dull thud, he allows his legs to guide him.  His last memory of the location a hazy silent movie shot when he was a child.  A blank, emotionless series of frames but enough for his body to remember.  He tries to focus on his feelings and shakes his head at the impossibility of it all.  He pauses when his feet command and squeezes his eyes closed.  He breathes in deeply again, and, after counting to twenty, exhales with a sigh, opening his eyes slowly.

His jaw clenched, he stares down at the carved marble gravestone.  His eyes read and re-read its simple epitaph.  Devoid of any meaningful quotes, no sentimental title.  Only the cold reality of a name and a few dates.  His eyes blur at its simplicity and close because it is not simple enough.  A tear falls and he blinks back the rest.  A life concluded by numbers and a surname he dislikes.  His mother lies buried before him, the closest they have been for decades, and now the link of a name is different.  The connection destroyed by the actions of those she wished to protect him.

He rubs his face with his hand and lets it drop limply beside him, mirroring his other.  Then, without warning, his emotions swallow him whole and he crumples to his knees.  His tears burning, his breathing haphazard, exhaled in rib moving sobs and gulped back in with shaking inhalations.  “Oh god,” he whispers as the reality of everything hits home.  In the absence of visitation over the years, faint dreams and wishes had clouded the facts of the world.  Comfort held in the impossible, that one day she would suddenly return out of the blue and make everything all right.  Those dreams disappear and the blanket of hope that had surrounded him is ripped away.  His body shudders as a chill runs down his spine.  She is never coming back, no matter how many silent prayers he whispers up into the godless void.  He will never remember his mother’s touch, her voice, her love.  Separated from each other when Lucas was two years old and her memory kept from him until later in life, where all that was offered were tales of her generosity and kindness.  He feels a rush of anger towards her perfection amid a sea of guilt for not being good enough for her memory.

He adjusts his legs and sits down against the cold grass opposite her gravestone.  His brief rush of emotion past, he struggles to feel the next, but nothing comes in its wake.  He feels at peace, as thought his mother’s spiritual essence has flowed through the earth and wrapped her delicate arms around him.  He does not know the touch of unconditional love, the tenderness of the woman who gave birth to him, but in this moment he believes this is what it feels like and a lump rises in his throat.  This is the peace that only a mother can provide, the protection from the harsh realities of life, just melting into the arms of she who gave you life.  He blinks his eyes and breathes in deeply.  He likes the feeling and wishes it would stay because for the first time he can remember his mind is silent.  No voices torment him, no negativity, just a white void that causes his muscles to relax and his shoulders to droop.  He wishes he knew for certain that this feeling is what he believes: that it is a truth born from a subconscious memory from when she had held him in her arms as a child, bubbling to the surface and exploding into his conscious thoughts.  A tear runs down his cheek and he wipes it away with a finger.

His head cocked to one side Lucas stares at the gravestone.  What is he meant to do?  How should he be reacting?  Lucas’ mind flashes to a conversation he had had with Alex upon his return from visiting his best friend’s grave.  “I just sat and spoke to her, brought her up to date with my life,” Alex had said.  Maybe that is what I should do, Lucas wonders.  His mind fashions the words “Hey mum” before his mouth refuses to say them.  How could he converse with her?  He has no memory of doing so; he does not know how she would respond.  In his mind all she appears like is a photo on a pedestal, silent and unmoving.  His only memories are his hands flipping through mute photo albums.  He doesn’t even know the sound of her voice.  How can he have a conversation with a silent ghost?

His hands ball and he clenches his fists tightly.  He feels jealous of Alex.  Jealous of his memories, all vivid in high definition and surround sound.  Jealous that he had an outlet for his grief, a release.  Lucas looks at the ground before him.  The most important person he desires is but a stranger to him.

He rises onto his knees, moves and repositions himself cross legged and off centre to her gravestone.  Who was she? he wonders.  Thinking about what he knows does not comfort him.  He realises he only knows part of her, the good, and even that is not from his own memories and experience.  She exists as a historic queen portrayed only by her virtues; as he sits with the sun warming his body, this isn’t enough.  He wants to know the real person she had been.  Her faults, her unabridged personality.  Most of all, he wants to feel her touch, to remember her soothing words lost away in the recesses of his infant mind.  He feels himself bite his lip.  His vision blurs.  He feels pressure in his mind as his thoughts readjust themselves chaotically inside.

All the things he has missed out on.  Things stolen away by the cruel hand of fate.  The love of a mother is like no other and he had been denied that by life.  All he wants is to talk to his mother, to see the pride in her face as she reacts to descriptions of his achievements, to hear the soothing whisper as he cries in her embrace.  He looks at her name and seethes with new anger at all that he had been denied, and he snorts with frustration as he realises that he cannot be angry at her.  He cannot be angry at anyone for the loss.  Anger without target burns through him and he wants to scream.  How can he be angry at his life when it was not his that took her away?

He sits in his silent rage, letting it run its course, burning itself out full circle at the conclusion.  All of these emotions aimed at one target, an unknown that he wishes was not that way, but that is a wish that will never be fulfilled.  To him she could be anything he wants her to be.  He could focus all his negativity on her for everything her death denied him, for all the memories his is missing, the moments lost; or he could focus on what she gave him: life, the most intimate and loving act she had provided for him, because of that she had allowed him to experience the growth of his humanity, and although others in his life had treated him badly, her gift has allowed him to find love in his own way, to live his life as he had wanted.  Without her and her death, he would not be sat here and experienced that moment.  The quiet, blissful peacefulness, the quietest his brain had felt in his memory.  He lets that silence swallow him once again, and with it there an end.  The noise will rise again but for now.  Peace.

Drained, he rises to his feel and once more looks down at his mother’s carved marble gravestone.  His eyes read its simple epitaph. 

“Thank you,” he says.  “Thank you for everything.”

The stars burn in the sky.  Lucas sits in silence, his back pressed against the cold wood of the bench.  He stares up at the sky, and although he cannot see them, he knows that they are there, somewhere, hidden by the haze of the city’s light.

His jaw clenches as he thinks.  Thinks about that moment of peace experienced at his mother’s graveside.  The one memory she has given him is the memory of peace; if only fleeting, it was enough.  Now the noise in his head is not so frightening, he knows it can be silenced.  And in that silence he experienced what it is like to be held in a mother’s arms.

And There An End, But Now They Rise Again was published in 2015. Available as a free ebook from Smashwords and Apple Books

Copyright © Dominic Lyne, 2015