No, I will not allow myself to fall in love with you.

I do not want to feel that light headed can't stop thinking of you floaty feeling. Nope, not going to do it. You can send me as many bunches of daisies or wildflowers or even roses that you like. Have them wrapped in pretty paper and delivered to my door.

I will not fall.

Golden ribbon wrapped nougat filled chocolates won't turn my head either. Nor will all the pretty compliments in the world. I've had all those things. They fall flat. I am no material girl to be bought with pretty sapphires or emeralds.

You can't make me fall in love with you.

That red mustang convertible of yours doesn't impress me either. You can take me on rides, let my hair flow wildly out the top. Turn up the radio and play me sweet tunes. All of these things will not work.

I will not allow you to turn my head.

But then you bring me to the mountains, take out your guitar and sing me a song that you've written. And then you pull a rake out of your trunk. (what an odd thing to have there) and you gather up some leaves. "Come here" you say with a smile. My feet shuffle through them, then you turn me whirling me round and round. You throw the leaves in the air about me and they are caught up in the vortex I am creating. Some get caught in my hair as I'm spinning. You make me giddy. I can't help but smile...

and then



One Autumn, a long time ago:

"This is why it's so bad," he says, collapsing, heaving, on top of me. His voice hot in my ear, his words like ice in my heart.

Why is it bad?

"There's no balance, no brakes. You can do anything you want to me, and I you. We don't need to talk, we just go on instinct. It's too much. It's like an overloaded circuit. It's wrong."

It's only wrong if you make it wrong.

"All I know is that I can't go on this way. It's too overwhelming. It's too good. We're too young to deal with these issues. I'm too young, at any rate."

You're not my first lover, that's true. Are you telling me that if you had these sorts of experiences with a girl, you wouldn't feel this way?

"No. I'm saying that I wouldn't feel this way at all with a girl. I wouldn't have these kinds of experiences. I wouldn't feel this way at all."

So what happens now?

"This is the last time for us," he says, still naked, still beautiful, still mine, "After today, we're just friends, all right? You know I love you, but ... I just can't do this anymore. It's not right. This is why everyone says what we do is bad and wrong. We could spin out of control, addicted to one another. Nothing could hold us back."

Your call. I think you're wrong, but I can't make you do anything you don't want to do. I also think you're punishing yourself for making yourself feel so happy simply because of who it is you're making yourself happy with. But what do I know, we're too young. Edge of seventeen, and all that bullshit.

"So now it's bullshit, huh? We're not adults yet. We don't control our own destinies yet. Well, you're almost there, but I'm a year behind you. If anyone found out ... no one can find out if there's nothing to find out. We've come too close before."

Which is why we always come here. To our little grove of aspen. *sigh* How will you feel twenty years from now?
I look up, above him on top of me. The leaves are falling, falling, falling like lover's tears gently shed. Reaching up, past his beautiful face, I catch one. Take the stem, trace it down his spine...

"Stop that," he says, quietly, muffled words in my collarbone, his unshaven chin rasping on my skin like a cat's tongue, "you're making me dizzy for you again."

This is the last time. I promise.

One Winter, twenty years from then

"I thought I'd find you here," he says, still beautiful, but no longer mine. The years have been kind to him. Or my feelings are being kind to him. Either way,
he is beautiful.

Of course I'm here. This is the only place. Looks different in the winter though. Pity we never came here during winter.

"I just want you to know," he starts hesitantly, "that I..."

Don't. You don't have to say anything. I understand more than you know. Let's just remember the things that happened here, and leave it at that.

"I can't do that. You wanted to know how I'd feel, twenty years later. I'm going to tell you."

You were afraid of failure. That the life you had planned for yourself would never come to be if you were with me. That you'd never make it as a professional athlete. You'd never get the gold. But you didn't anyway. You got married. You live in a smaller town than this one now. You failed anyways.

"That's not it at all," angrily he spits his words at me, his eyes pools of bottomless jade glaring into me. Twenty years since I've seen him and he can look past all of those years and see the boy that took an aspen leaf and traced it down his spine. He does it effortlessly. Because I let him in. "You don't get it do you? Everyone thinks they're afraid of failure. Not me. Success is what terrifies me. Don't you remember I told you I needed some brakes? Something to put a check on myself? You wouldn't have done that. You couldn't have done that. But she can, and has, and I'm happy. Much happier than I would have been if we had continued, I had made it, only to have the world find out about us and rip it, rip YOU, away from me. Neither of us would have survived."

I suppose so. I was willing to try. But we were just kids. She doesn't know any of this, does she?

"Of course not. I don't know how I'd make her understand. You were the first and the last, you know. I've never cheated on what we had. I hope you believe me."

I think I can do that. I can't say the same you know. I have him now. It's not the same as you and I, not even close. Every relationship is different, every love is different. I let go of you, and you didn't come back, and I moved on. So there we are.

He comes around to stand behind me, and his arms slip around my waist, no different than it was then, that final fall. His breath is still hot on my neck, and his words still slip into my heart like a dagger made of ice-cold diamond. "She doesn't know how much I need this," he whispers, "and she never will. She doesn't have to, this is for us," and then he's kissing me, just like nothing ever happened, just like when we were kids. And I let him.

I look up, at the sky. Overcast, the sky is gray. The first snowflakes begin to fall, coating our hair with a fine layer of snowy dandruff. I get dizzy all over again. I remember everything about him.

And then

For Chras4 ... with apologies for taking so long.

Nearly sixty miles through the blizzard.
Only someone else's dog to ride with me.
They called him Bear because no one knew his breed.
No one else would ride that night.
No one else shared my plight.

"Spare a smoke?"

The gas station was deserted aside from myself and the attendent. He stood there, smoking menthol cigarettes, while pumping my tank full of regular unleaded. He never flicked the ash. It just kept growing, dangling snowflakes from its ruins, and hanging on for dear life.

He gave me a cigarette and told me they sold cigarettes insides. I shook my head, telling him I only had enough money to get enough gas to get me where I needed to go. He patted me on the shoulder and handed me two packs for the road. "On the house. You have a long ride ahead of you."

Two hundred miles behind me. Merely sixty miles ahead. The road seemed longer the shorter it became. Everything I once held sacred was about to come to life again. Everything I once dreamed of and now feared told me it wanted to be part of the soon to be present. I clutched the sleeve of my shirt as I got back behind the wheel and stared into the falling snowflakes. If only I could go blind, perhaps beauty would cease to be a relevant part of everything around me.

The old man appeared as a vision to me once again. In life he had defied all conventions and defied those that defied the logic of fate. As he believed in my departure, he believed in my return, even as he was no longer alive to bear witness. Those who make a difference in the lives of others never really die. The memory of the living is but a dream in the mind's eye of those who have passed on. The old man taught me that and now he lived within his own sentiments.

It had been ten years since I had seen a snowflake. Photographs and moving pictures were no substitute for the real thing. My only true enemy, the nemesis of my immortality, that which railed against me with all its strength, was opposing me again. I smiled at my enemy. I would not let it win this battle. Too much was as stake.

I had lost too much in Santa Fe. A fortune gained was a fortune too easily lost. Fame rode me like a skirt even when the fortune of my undergarments faded into dust. There was not much time left. The only true pain that follows the soul when it departs from one train depot to the next is the pain of love unrealized. The watch I did not wear ticked away. I could hear every second melt away into the past. Too much time behind me and not enough ahead.

There were those who tried to convince me that the straight line was the fastest route between two points. They were the kind of people who failed to understand the ever changing nature of reality. What rests eternally in the heart refuses to change. That which is not true, and which is not born of faith and love, passes with time. Not all wounds are healed by time. Some grow ever deeper, stabbing at us when we are most vulnerable. I had felt the blade too often in recent weeks and knew the time had come to face my greatest loss. Even if I could not save the sails of my now tattered ship, I could at least bring them to my shores. Too late is but a perspective seen by those who would too easily surrender to the path of least resistance.

The power of my nemesis, the falling snow, increased its intensity with every mile marker I passed. When the landmarks grew familiar, they became obscured by the power of the blinding white. The vehicle under me gave much thought to losing contact with the road and taking me on a short and undesirable side trip. I insisted she keep her wheels on the road moving forward. I would not be so easily undone.

Like ghosts swirling in a mad dream.
Nothing brought against them would slow their dance.
I would not be undone.

I had to walk the last three miles to my destination. The roads had not been plowed and what could not throw me from the road refused to allow me to drive any further forward. Each step deposited itself in deeper and deeper snow. It was wet and heavy. My boots were no match for its depths.

But I was.

The house on the corner still had its lights on. There were cars in the driveway and smoke billowing from the chimney. Until I saw that plume of once they were known as trees I did not realize how cold it really was. There was no feeling in my fingers and barely any in my toes. Still, I was coming across the lawn of the house I once knew too well, and there was no stopping now.

She was gathering firewood from the pile behind the garage when my eyes first found hers. She dropped the unfortunate logs and said nothing. I walked ever forward, wanting nothing more than to pull the hood of her jacket away from her face and let her hair cascade against the storm. She took two steps backwards but I took five steps forward. She could not scream and she could not cry. The wind would have frozen her tears as fast as it could blow them aside. Her frozen face stood silent as I held it between my hands as my lips searched for the words that for so long had never been spoken. She no longer looked real. Her cheeks were too beautiful, resting between my ice cold hands, waiting to return to life. Too long apart. Too long held at different ends of a chess board by pride. Too long damned by guilt and ego. There was nothing that could be said. The snowstorm removed everything gray, from memory to anger, and replaced it with a silent and pure beauty. Were it not for the snowstorm we never would have kissed. Were it not for the snowstorm I would have had to keep walking. Were it not for the snowstorm we would never have had an excuse to give in to what we spent decades resisting.

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