I loved you too much to let you go. Even after I died.
They say that it takes one to make one, but now I know that's not true. It was desire that made me what I am. Some alchemy in the blood, some transformation through a base transfusion. We made love until four in the morning, and I dozed in the crook of your arm until dawn. When I got up to make the drive into town for work, I could still feel you inside of my body, in my blood, your hand on the back of my neck, the smell of you everywhere. I'll take a shower at my apartment. I turned up the radio, loud, and sang along with Fleetwood Mac.
It was probably the stars in my eyes that blinded me. I never saw the truck in front of me, running dark, no taillights. The summer sky here is slow to kindle, stays navy until the sun throws back the covers of night altogether. And so Death was only a shadow, a shadow with balding radial tires and an exhausted man at the helm of an old Ford pick 'em up truck.
I don't even remember dying.
All I remember is waking up with the sheet pulled over my head. In a hospital, or something similar. Something that smelled antiseptic, of linoleum.
No, I thought. Wrong, I thought. This is where I belong.
And it was that simple. I found myself in your bedroom, standing beside the bed. I look on you, with your arm thrown behind your head in delicious abandonment, and slip comfortably into the curve from shoulder to hip.
Mmmm, you say. Mmmmm.
But I can feel myself fading somehow. Being drawn away. Like falling asleep when you don't want to, like waking when you want to stay in the dream. That kind of pull. Dysphoria, confusion. I am suddenly convinced I am dying, try to convince myself it's a midnight panic attack but no, no, no says the other voice, the one that's never wrong. You're already dead.
I shriek without sound, hold you tighter, you turn into me, in your sleep, saying Mmmmm? and then Mmmm! I kiss you, I only mean to kiss you goodbye.
But the pull fades, and I feel real and solid again.
I have stolen your breath. It pulses in me, warm and real, just as your body did only a few hours ago. I hold it inside. I know I can hold this breath indefinitely. I fall asleep as the sun rises.
I don't wake up until nightfall, and I wake up in the same place, the hospital place. This time I'm in a box, and I immediately begin to panic. I was always claustrophobic. But this time, I don't even have my heartbeat, my breath in my ears.
I try to wish myself out of here and to your bed again, but it doesn't work. I spend an eternity there, spinning on the axis of reason. Dead, alive, trapped, untrappable. I don't know who I am. The shock, the fear, it propels through me like an irresistible command, and I scream for you. Your breath unfurls from me like a kite's tail, and it carries us both home.
You're in bed again, but not asleep. You've been crying. You look dazed, skewed, confused. I'm standing by the bed, but you don't see me.
I reach for you, and you look up. I say your name.
You understand what's happened. You would, if anyone could. You see me, lit from within and dark-eyed with death and longing, and you know. You were never afraid of knowing.
I beseech you with my eyes. Love me, I pray. Protect me. Kiss me and keep me.
You look away.
"You're dead," you say, as if trying out a new phrase in a foreign language. "You're dead." Stronger now. Lifting your eyes, meeting mine. "I love you. Goodbye."
You drive the last word through like a stake, poised directly above my heart. And the pull returns, much stronger than before, in a chorus of whispers.
Hurry up please. It's time.
Now I know why that phrase always gave me the shivers.
Hurry up please. It's time.
And so I go.