By Way of Death
“That sure didn’t go well,” I groaned, hanging my head below the sun yet again. It had been the perfect place, the perfect timing … the perfect girl! Why is it so hard to talk to girls, to tell them the things that are so easy to explain to the guys? I walked forward blindly, numb, yet so characteristically so that I hardly winced, hardly cared, just letting my body fall limp like that, just like that.
I waddled forward, dragging my feet along the gravel-dirt road so that my wishy-washy steps were interrupted by occasional crunching as the little pebbles drilled down into one other, grating slightly on the edges. Every so often, I would trip up on a larger stone, limping like the loser I was towards whatever building I was heading towards. Heck if I knew which building that was.
All of a sudden, I was shaken as my face rammed into something soft but organic.
“A-ah? Sorry,” I muttered.
“Dang, man, you look hosed,” came a voice, sort of low and unpolished for a girl, but far too feminine for any boy to achieve. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m alright,” I lied. “Don’t worry about it.”
I suddenly felt a firm hand on my chin, pushing it upwards; I turned my head away – I didn’t want her to see that I was about to cry. “You’re not fooling me, buster,” she said. “Come on, it’s lunch hour. We can talk over food.”
Without giving me a chance to respond, she clapped her arm around my shoulder and pushed me along like a hockey puck towards the goal, which was a small splintering picnic table coated with haphazard splotches of burgundy paint. She pointed for me to sit down, which I did, and she then proceeded to launch onto the same side, displacing me by half a foot.
I looked at her directly for the first time. She wore a wide, boyish smirk; her hair was mid-length but completely wild, held vaguely in order by some hair clips that looked like they were trying to flee from her head.
“Ha ha, checking me out already?” she quipped, punching me in the shoulder.
But instead of hesitating, I just replied, “Oh, cut it out.” This caused her to laugh even more, but I found myself laughing with her. She was a complete stranger and a girl at that, yet somehow I found so at ease being close to her and talking to her. “So, what’s your name, anyway?” I asked. “I’m Chris.”
“Oh, my name’s Lily!” she said with that bright grin, grabbing my hand forcefully and shaking it vigorously. “So, you gonna tell me what’s up?”
“Oh, that. I’m sure you can guess.”
“Really now?” she asked. “Hmmmm …,” she said with her lips pursed in inquisition, staring at me. “I bet you got rejected!”
“Don’t say it so bluntly!” I countered. “Or loudly, I mean.”
“Ah, it’s no big deal!”
“Yes, it is!” I retorted. “It’s been nine times now.”
“Wow, nine,” she said with wide eyes of bewilderment. “You’ve gotta work on your technique.”
“Are you sure you’re not some devil trying to torture me?” I deadpanned jokingly.
“I don’t know, what do you think?” she replied, winking, but it was just too cute to resist, and I felt my heart and breath leap. She suddenly turned forward, staring at the vastly blue sky. “You know, the sky’s too gorgeous to be moping around. You’re very lucky to have it, so you should be thankful for it!”
“I guess,” I said. “It’s just the sky ….”
“You don’t like it?”
I shook my head. “No, no, that’s not it. It’s just … the sky’s the sky. What I feel inside of me is what I feel.”
“They’re hardly disjoint like that, man, it’s like, it’s like,” and she stopped to make this ridiculous twisting gesture that involved kneading her two hands together. “It’s like they’re making out!”
“The sky and my feelings?!” I said, snickering incredulously. The thought filled me with mirth, and I started to just follow her lips because they were so beautifully active as she spoke.
not now,” she said.
“Not now?” The lips moved so elegantly.
“No, dude, the ones making out right now are the you and me in your head, sicko. No wonder you get no luck with the girls!” she exclaimed. She gave me a tap on the head that was a bit more powerful than I was expecting. “Don’t think things like that about me, dear Chris, or else.”
“Or else what?”
“You really want to know?” she asked deviously.
“I’m dying to know,” I said with a chuckle.
She licked her lips unprovocatively. “Funny you should put it that way. Oh well, there’s no helping it, ha!”
“So? What is it?” I pressed.
“Not telling!” she stated haughtily. “Anyway, what was so great about this girl that you wanted to confess to?”
“I can’t quite explain it,” I confessed. “But there was just something about her that made me want to know her better. What does it matter now, anyway?”
“It matters a lot,” she said seriously, the first time her tone of voice had dropped to such a level of quiet determination. “Because she should mean a lot to you, still. Unless you found her rejection particularly rude.”
“It wasn’t rude … she just said we should be friends.”
“Yes, and is there anything wrong with that?” she asked.
“Well, given that I can hardly talk to her, I’d say so! What good are friends who can’t talk? And you think we can suddenly talk after that kind of awkward moment, huh?”
“Sheesh, don’t get so defensive. But I just don’t get it – why can’t you talk to her?”
“ ‘Cause I can’t talk to girls without getting all tongue-tied!” I cried.
She glared at me, pointing at her chest. “And just what do you take me for?”
“But … but, you’re different!”
“Geez, that’s kind of you,” she said, trying to be difficult.
“Oh come on, don’t get girly like that on me. I know you’re not like that,” I said.
“That’s the spirit!” she said, laughing. “Just be easygoing like that with them. Girls aren’t that different from guys.”
“Yes, they are!” I insisted.
“Look, we speak English, we have the same teachers, we wear pants, we like parties, we get horny. It’s just that most of us are more subtle about it. But once you talk to a girl candidly, you’ll find that you’re a lot more like her than you expected.”
I nodded. She certainly had her points, although I felt she was slightly skewing the facts for the sake of argument. To tell the truth, I had tried talking to girls many times before, but it just never quite worked out. Until now.
I leaned my elbows onto the picnic table, closing up my empty lunch box. Why hadn’t I ever thought about comfort before as the deciding indicator of my feelings? Oughtn’t it be that the one girl out there for me, I would have no trouble speaking to about anything?
“You look unconvinced,” she said, looking at her watch.
“Is lunch almost over?” I inquired.
“Yeah, five minutes til the bell,” she said. I looked at my watch – it was 1:25. Ten minutes left.
“Um, is your watch off or something?”
“It’s 1:25 right?” she said tentatively. Was something slightly amiss here?
“Yeah, so we have ten minutes left …,” I said, trailing off a bit towards the end. “Oh, no matter.”
She just stared off into the distance. “Oops,” she said. “My bad.” But she was no longer the confident, outgoing tomboy. Her voice had turned melancholy and foreign – foreign enough that she seemed otherworldy, not to mention not from our school.
“I really don’t think I’ve ever seen you at school before,” I said simply.
“I know,” she said.
“But I don’t care,” I said. She looked surprised, returning somewhat to her normal self. “This has been the best hour of my life, sitting here with you. I can testify to that because I’m not stuttering at all, not calculating any of my lines, not expecting anything in return.”
“There’s no point in saying things like that to me,” she said. “I only came here to cheer you up, because you mean something to me as a friend.” Her hands fidgeted as she said it, as if trying to tell me that she was lying.
“Even if that’s number ten, this time I’m not giving up, because you’ve changed my heart. You’re right that I let all the others get away because I refused to communicate, to dedicate. Even if we’re just friends, I want to be next to you … -”
“Don’t say it, you retard!” she shouted at me, clamping her hand over my mouth. But I shook it off.
“-forever,” I finished solemnly.
All of a sudden, gorgeous violet and lavender flowers began to sprout out of the ground around the table, the sky succumbing to an onslought of gray clouds. I felt my breath leaving, and I desperately held onto myself with my right hand while reaching out to Lily with my left – but at the same time, I was floating backwards, away from her, away from everything, so I could never reach her sleeve.
I started to fall, descending into the ground as it disintegrated into a vague mist. Gorgeous colors streamed upward, swirling about like newly hatched dragons flitting their first through the skies. With that youth and vigor, the colors drew away all sound and feeling; in one fell gulp, the sky swallowed them, and I landed on the ground in a vast, static grayscale plane.
In the distance, I saw a figure, the only object in the expanse over an inch in height. I ran towards the small dot in the distance, hoping it would be something of help. But when I arrived over there, I gasped, realizing that it was Lily, only dressed in the most traditional of gowns.
“I only seduce the old and weary, not the young and lively. I gave you one chance to save yourself, so why didn’t you care? Why didn’t you heed my words? I’m not a girl – I’m a monster … a demon … no, not even that: I am the impersonation of nothingness itself. Why didn’t you heed my generosity?!”
“I did heed it. That gesture – who could not fall in love with that kindness? What does it matter, how long life is, unless it has that one moment of pure happiness? Does it not count if that happiness is in the final hour and breath?”
“I don’t have the time or capacity for love, so any delusion of happiness was just that – a delusion. Whatever, it’s none of my business anymore. Well, enjoy your time here, I guess.”
She started to fade away.
“It is your business!” I shouted, hugging her fading figure tightly and shedding tears upon it. “I love you, and I always will.”
I sat down on the dusty gray ground, trying to think up a way to pass the time. I contented myself with a single memory of her smile, and to this very day, aeons past, it is still enough to fill my soul, dreaming about that one who saved me by condemning me with her endless beauty.